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BSS Is BS, Says KPN Tech Boss

Iain Morris
5/16/2017
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NICE, France -- TM Forum Live -- The billion-dollar investments that operators have made in billing support systems (BSS) represent a colossal waste of funds, judging by comments from KPN's chief technology officer.

Eric Hoving says he cannot understand why there is any need for BSS in the modern age, and that the industry should not conflate operational support systems (OSS), which he calls the "central core system of an operator," with unnecessary BSS.

"We've spent zillions of dollars on BSS but who is in need of a bill?" said Hoving during a panel session at this week's TM Forum Live event in Nice. "No over-the-top company sends a bill and nobody ever uses the data of the billing system. Why do we have a billing system at all?"

The comments triggered a round of applause and peals of laughter during a morning panel discussion, despite the obvious implications for executives working in the BSS area.

Hoving expressed puzzlement at the use of the term OSS/BSS 2.0, which was included in the description of the panel on which he spoke, and said he could not understand why operators used the terms almost interchangeably. "OSS and BSS have nothing to do with each other," he said.

He reckons those systems were originally linked only because of billing needs associated with certain old-fashioned telephone services, implying that operators today could unravel the stitching and dump the BSS.

Hoving's assessment received a surprising degree of support from Ulf Ewaldsson, the head of digital services for Swedish vendor Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), which has prospered partly by selling OSS and BSS technologies to service providers worldwide.

"Like everyone we have legacy but we are now looking to the future," said Ewaldsson. "The table stakes have changed and it is now all about customer experience management."

Ericsson's OSS and BSS business last year suffered a big drop in sales that was blamed partly on the decline of legacy products, and Ericsson is now looking at potential takeovers to bolster its new-look digital services unit, Ewaldsson told Light Reading earlier this week. (See Ericsson Eyes Takeovers to Bolster Digital Services Unit.)

Acquisition targets could include companies developing more dynamic revenue management and customer management systems, said Ewaldsson, as well as players in the analytics and automation areas.


Want to know more about cloud services? Check out our dedicated cloud services content channel here on Light Reading.


Phil Jordan, the CIO of Spain's Telefónica , urged some caution on the topic of digital transformation, pointing out that "legacy technologies underpin a multi-billion-dollar industry," but similarly envisages a post-BSS future.

"We need to kill some of these old terms like OSS and BSS," he said. "I think we can get rid of the billing engine at some stage and charge in real time like digital companies."

But Hoving's attack on the current state of the industry was not limited to BSS, also targeting some of the other practices that are in widespread use.

"We ship SIMs to customers and then have to activate them but why? Who came up with that idea?" he mused. "Why can't we pre-activate SIMs? The philosophy is just wrong."

Another Hoving gripe is that the industry has been too focused on the consumer market in the past and that operators need to think more about B2B as well as B2B2C opportunities.

Jordan said operators to take steps to ensure they can address opportunities in the B2B area.

"There is not a magic wand -- we have a lot of legacy and have made the business complicated and now we need to re-engineer," he said. "Is it enough to create a winning proposition in digital consumer? Probably not. But we have still got huge value in B2B."

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/27/2017 | 9:41:31 AM
Re: BSS
It may very well be true now that the industry needs to consider more seriously that "it is now all about customer experience management." Customer service or lack thereof is probably an area that most can take more care to see how they measure up to the competition.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/22/2017 | 9:49:43 AM
Re: BSS
Legacy businesses are a mixed bag of good (predictable revenue) and not so good (more often than not based on outdated stuff). It's really hard to blow up what works, even if the end result is marked improvement. It's pretty clear that older CSPs know their back-office systems are holding them back, but the cost and effort to replace them are scary.
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/18/2017 | 7:57:43 PM
Re: BSS
Old, established companies think in old, established ways, even after those ideas are long outmoded.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/18/2017 | 7:19:02 PM
Re: BSS
Phill_britt,

And the challenge is that the automation is a completely solved problem and deployed on Massive Scale in places like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.  The problem is that this works in no way that a Carrier would work.  And that is the problem.  You can't build a virtualized network company this way.  But they already exist...and everybody is ignoring it.

seven

 
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/18/2017 | 7:11:11 PM
Re: BSS
brooks7, 

You are correct that all of these services under the same umbrella should be automated. The key word here is "should." Companies have been attempting to automate these for years, but are still trying to solve issues of how to achieve this.
SeniorMa17343
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SeniorMa17343,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/18/2017 | 5:41:38 AM
Time for Telcos to do away with BSS
Read my point of view here - http://digicaas.com/blogs/post/Telcos-Dont-Need-BSS/
GypsumFantastic
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GypsumFantastic,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/17/2017 | 12:50:48 PM
Re: "B" as in "Business" ??
You and a few others beat me to that obvious point :-)

Been in IT departments of UK telcos since 1996 and since then BSS has always meant Business Support Systems e.g. CRM and BI/MI/Data Warehouse are different functions from Billing and are often classed under BSS.

And ironically Billing systems themselves are one area where I've seen some exist in OSS instead of BSS e.g. wholesale rating. Mediation (my SME subject) is another 'beauty' where I've seen it classed under BSS, OSS, or as a Billing system...(my personal view is that the modern Mediation system spans them all and should be classed more like an integration platform).

Regarding doing away with invoice-based billing, the reality is that post event batch file based processing and invoice generation for billing isn't going away anytime soon. I'd happily bet it will still be around in 10 years. In many companies in the UK there are still billing records being generated by ancient TDM voice switches that are still creating revenue and those switches certainly won't be interfacing in 'real time' for billing. In fact I seem to recall as far back as 15 years ago those old TDM switches would all be gone within 5 years if you believed some commentators... :-D
Head,Com71314
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Head,Com71314,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/17/2017 | 12:01:01 PM
BSS is passe
The dichotomy between BSS and OSS is artifical. Some components of present day BSS like Billing are fading away with OCS taking over . Enterprise catalogues and quoting engines and are more relevant than ever; Orders have to be managed, decomposed and executed. Front end systems are in the cloud on the SFDC model, Billing goes away, order management reaches further downward.. huge investments into BSS are a thing of the past. 
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/17/2017 | 10:28:06 AM
Re: BSS
 

I think what he was driving at is that the products sold under those umbrellas are problematic in the future.

Those past systems were inward facing towards operator personnel.  New systems want to have service selection by customers.  In a business setting having the ability to track tickets,manage services, and manage users through a portal is where we are headed.  Automation is intended to replace human action within the service provider.

Think about NFV (or any virtualized framework).  These need to automatically add themselves to all business flows, whether they are triggered by customer choice or by network imperative.  This includes Billing, Network Operations, and Customer Service.  That is very different than the way that tradition would have it.

So, at that level...yeah it all needs to get tossed.  All the existing frameworks are useless.  Many of the concepts and protocols can work.  But we need to start with an assumption that there are no service provider people involved and see how that impacts your view of OSS/BSS systems.

seven

 
James_B_Crawshaw
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James_B_Crawshaw,
User Rank: Blogger
5/17/2017 | 6:33:32 AM
BSS
Operators can abandon most of their Business Support Systems if they become state owned utilities. For those that remain commercial entities I think BSS will remain a necessary evil. However there is clearly scope to simplify and improve BSS. Perhaps that is what Mr Hoving meant to say.
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