Guest Post: Richard Mishra, Amdocs - In All the Excitement, Do Not Forget the Basics

There is always something to be really excited about in the information and communications industry; Next Generation Networks, Media Services, Service Delivery Platforms, IMS, Service Orientated Architectures, Software as a Service, Virtualization, there is so much to look forward to. The public face of our industry has always focused on service and service delivery, and now we want to take this further and focus on the whole customer experience.

This is great, but it's only half the picture. If we throw into the mix a deep and global economic recession, then 'may you live in interesting times' starts to look like the curse it's claimed to be. So who is looking after the dull old fashioned business that pays most of our salaries? Where is the discussion about managed, optimized investment? Is the shareholder and the service provider getting good value from what we have in the ground today?

Here at Amdocs, 'Interesting times' is not a curse. We see it as an opportunity to remind the industry that we cannot get away from good old fashioned telco values; close and accurate management of our assets and services.

What do we mean by 'close and accurate management'?

  1. An inventory of the resource assets and services, held with sufficient accuracy to plan the resource growth and automate fulfillment.
  2. Process integration to ensure speedy execution of business processes and, even more importantly, to ensure that the inventory is kept accurate and up-to-date
  3. A lifecycle process that directly couples the Service Provider products to the resources deployed and continually feeds back metrics from service management to ensure the product specification matches the customer experience.
  4. We call this the 'Full Service Provider Lifecycle'. It couples all the major product, resource and service management operations into a single lifecycle. It aligns the business to the customer experience of service while ensuring value to both customer and Service Provider. Resource investment is directly coupled to the experience it delivers, not driven by the urge to deploy the latest 'must have' gadget.

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    Yes, Customer Experience is important, and yes, the next iteration of services will be delivered from data centers to consumer electronics. They will be delivered using resources that understand the need to differentiate and groom for service performance. Operating a full lifecycle will help to achieve this, but more is required.

    1. Data centers, servers and applications will need to me managed with the same attention to detail that is traditional for networks in the communications service provider.
    2. Customer Experience Management will need to emerge as an engineering and IT discipline, with its own metrics, business processes and management tools.
    3. Specialist management systems will emerge from a flurry of innovation. They will be essential in delivering and quality assuring the next generation service, in the data center, the data network and the consumer appliance. Traditional management systems will need to integrate and interoperate with them.

    Different Service Providers will have to learn to work together to deliver these services, not at arm's length, as is the way today, but as closely coupled as the systems within the Service Provider. Content, communications, access and media transport providers, wired and wireless, will have to work together to deliver a single service to a single consumer. Quality will have to be managed, not in each provider, but across all the participants, including the customer.

    There is a final, critical enabler for all of this. We are faced with the proposition that we must have process integration, which means full system integration for existing and new management systems. We must rapidly integrate and evaluate from an increasing population of new resource performance, service quality and customer experience systems and we have to integrate management systems between participating Service Providers.

    Do we really expect all of these interfaces and all of these integrations to be customized for every service provider and between every pair of SPs that need to interoperate? The prospect makes no business sense. Without standard interfaces, none of this will happen. We need to stop thinking of telco standards as an afterthought for dull people. Standards helped create the telecoms and IT hardware industries. Now, standardization needs to bring these two together. It is the critical enabler for innovation in the next phase of communications services.

    Whatever Telco 2.0 turns out to be, we can be sure that the Service Providers who implement it are the ones who can excel in today's economic and competitive climate. They will be the ones who are running a tight ship right now; operating integrated processes and integrated systems with standardized interfaces.