Guest Post: Next Generation BSS - agile 'order-to-cash' systems

Barbara Schmiedinger, Head of Residential Product Marketing at Telekom Austria, will be talking at the Telco 2.0 event on 4-5 Nov about how their quad play product offerings are using a sophisticated BSS platform from Infonova to help them in a very competitive market.

Infonova's 'order-to-cash' platform has been specifically designed to support 'Telco 2.0' business models: whitelabeling, rich wholesale products, and innovative partner models. We particularly like the fact that the wholesale angle seems to have been baked in from the start, rather than bolted on as an afterthought.

At the same time, Infonova's platform helps to optimise existing business models and allows flexible interchange between 'legacy' and 'next gen'...all at remarkably low cost levels.

We asked Andrew Thomson, Director, Infonova Solutions to elaborate on the market opportunity for agile systems like this:

Indisputable facts

Most telcos' front and back office systems are "hard wired" for the original business proposition and are unable to support new functionality without significant investment. For example, many operators have made significant investment to support additional functionality for complex enterprise customers or triple and quad play bundling.

Disappointingly, much of these additional investments which have often included efforts at systems consolidation, have not delivered the necessary results. And it is going to get worse, as the future will require telcos to orchestrate a wide range of propositions from many suppliers for their customers.

The majority of telco business cases to date have been based on the margin achievable by packaging and selling products and services. This is why most front and back office systems are designed to support traditional one-sided business relationships where services are sold either direct to the end customer or as wholesale to another operator for them to re-package and on-sell.

What has changed?

The problem is that multiple overlapping factors are dramatically impacting the traditional telco business model: deregulation, competition, margin erosion, network services commoditization and particularly IP convergence. It is becoming clear that survival will require that telcos operate both Telco 1.0 and Telco 2.0 business models simultaneously. So what does this mean for most telcos' front & back office systems?

Most telcos have already commenced expensive programs to integrate and consolidate their front and back office systems. Most have also discovered that upgrading these systems to support Telco 1.0 triple and quad play services is very expensive and often results in significant complexity and higher cost of operations. When the consolidation is "complete" most telcos still need to use some smoke and mirrors and a lot of hard work to deliver and support the functionality desired.

Two-sided business models fundamentally call for a capability to manage a multi-layered business model. On the one side to aggregate multiple suppliers into wholesale and retail offers, where those offers for example include NextGen, legacy and other products and services including all types of devices.

On the other side, multiple retail operators and channels will brand those offers and bundle them with their own services. Each of these virtual operators may require different charging and revenue sharing models simultaneously. This needs a complete re-think as current front and back office systems design are designed to support single sided business models.

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For example, new channels like supermarkets and equipment manufacturers (ie Apple) are also seeking order-to-cash propositions which they can brand as their own - but most operators do not have the front and back office systems to support this whitelabeling functionality. Simply put, most legacy systems only support a "one brand" functionality and cannot support multi-whitelabel branding scenarios.

The changing world described above is a challenge for 90% of the world's telcos! With the lack of front and back office systems capabilities, telcos are not in a position to even trial these ideas. This is why IDC commented: "It's likely that Telco 2.0 will be the engine to drive the industry's growth over the next several years, but without the right BSS (front and back office systems) to support these initiatives, service providers may stall right out of the gate."

So, given that Heads of Strategy and Marketing are increasingly expecting to pursue radical new Telco2.0 business models just as the Heads of Operations and the CFO are struggling with the complexity and the mounting costs of re-structuring IT systems to support of Telco 1.0 business models...is there a silver bullet solution that can provide the business capabilities and functionality to deliver both business models simultaneously?

Infonova's Next Generation BSS is a technology neutral front and back office business platform that has been designed to support multi layer business models. It supports white-label order-to-cash operations at wholesale and retail levels simultaneously, providing highly automated real time order fulfilment for suppliers, customers, channels and end users. Both the wholesaler aggregator and the virtual operators get their own product management configuration, customer management, fulfilment, billing and collections capabilities.

From one perspective it provides the service layer to manage and aggregate application services (eg IP Telephony), next gen (Broadband), legacy (Mobile, PSTN) and products (eg devices such as handsets etc) as well as commoditized network services (eg wholesale traffic) from multiple parties. Its multi-layer functionality enables a telco to choose what services, products and pricing are made available to each retail operator. In turn the retailer can define what products and offers can be sold by a channel.

The platform partitioning enables each retailer to operate their own brand of product bundles at their own pricing - and of course they can also add in their own products into the mix (which for example would enable Apple to define, launch, and market their own branded products and services and bundle them with other products and services on the telco's multi whitelabeling platform).

Infonova's product management also enables the operators to individually define their own pricing and revenue / loyalty sharing definitions so that the user of a service can be a beneficiary from payments by another entity. It can also be used as a non-intrusive overlay to telco's hardwired systems to deliver Telco 1.0 and Telco 2.0 business models simultaneously.

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[Ed. - The Infonova team will be demonstrating their capabilities at the Telco 2.0 event]