OSS: The Missing Link

LONDON -- It doesn't happen too often (yet), but just occasionally a group of telco folk will chime with the pitch of Light Reading's Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) Manifesto and talk about the growing importance of telecom software and the link between OSS developments and carrier revenue generation. (See The SPIT Manifesto.)

It happened in London this week at the OSS-BSS World Summit -- particularly when Ibrahim Gedeon, the CTO of Canadian carrier Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), had control of the microphone. He talked about how SPIT software -- specifically, operations and business support systems (OSS and BSS) -- can, when utilized to their true potential, help service providers "monetize their networks."

Not only that, Gedeon reckons it's the OSS specialists within the carriers who are the key figures in terms of new service creation. "The people best suited to applications development are the OSS guys," he stated.

It's not that easy, of course. To enable the full potential of a carrier's OSS systems, you need a physical and cultural integration of a carrier's IT and networks capabilities. And while, according to Gedeon, the IT and networks teams, and the CTOs, recognize the need for such integration, there's a major roadblock in the way: the product marketing team. According to the Telus man, they are the folk still being seduced by vendor marketing pitches that promise a quicker and easier route to service creation and revenue generation.

That's not the only speedbump slowing down a CTO's transformation efforts, according to Gedeon. There's also the challenge in getting new SPIT system deployments and developments signed off by the CFO. "It's tough to sell a new platform to the CFO, because we've lied to them for so long," jokes the Telus CTO.

Risky, expensive, and threatening
And those SPIT deployments don't come cheap. In fact, Greg Jacobsen, global head of Capgemini 's Telecom, Media & Entertainment division, said major OSS transformation projects are "risky, expensive, and potentially career-threatening -- so why take the risk?"

A rhetorical question, of course. Jacobsen noted that while the drivers for such major transformations differ from carrier to carrier, some factors remain constant -- namely, cutting costs and speeding up service creation and delivery times. And, of course, if the transformation is successful, it makes the project manager look like a hero.

Jacobsen also noted that after years of talk about the potential of service delivery platforms (SDPs), there are signs of increasing carrier investment in the tools that can (in theory at least) help operators develop a more coherent approach to applications development and fulfillment, and with shorter times to market.

The Capgemini man cited Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) as one of the carriers leading the way, most notably in its Latin American operations, where it has reduced its time to market for new applications from six to 12 months to six to 12 weeks. (See Telefónica to Go Global With Huawei SDP.)

OSS and the cloud
George Nazi, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s president of the 21CN (yes, it's still the 21CN -- more on that in a moment...) was the first, but not the only, presenter to talk about cloud services developments. Nazi said BT is preparing to cope with, and benefit from, two major drivers in communications services -- video, and the demand for cloud services.

For the BT man, there are three main requirements for the provision of cloud services: the virtualization of servers (virtual data centers); connectivity (which Nazi seems to think is no longer an issue -- many would beg to differ); and the ability to write applications to the cloud.

And for the latter, noted Nazi, you need the appropriate OSS and BSS systems to make those applications available and usable, and you then need to be able to charge people to use them.

Nazi said BT has identified 23 distinct OSS and BSS platforms needed for the assembly of the required APIs (applications programming interfaces), which, he added, need to be based as much as possible on standard, reusable building blocks. BT's aim is to have old code comprise 70 percent of each API, with the remainder made up of bespoke applications and assembly code.

As for BT's next-generation network plans, laid out some years ago by a group of executives no longer with the carrier, well... Nazi said that while the "vision and objectives [of the 21CN] didn't change, how we went about it did change." (See BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project and BT's 21CN Meets Its Skeptics for a flavor of the original vision.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to the kickoff event of our Service Provider IT Global Event Series, The 360-Degree Customer Experience. The conference will focus on how, via revenue management and service management, service providers can exceed customer expectations, increase retention, and drive new revenues. To be staged in London, Oct. 12, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

digits 12/5/2012 | 4:23:50 PM
re: OSS: The Missing Link

I remember a few years back when some folk from Granite (now part of Telcordia) were talking about how an inventory system could be used by a carrier's marketing dept to help plan campaigns, and that idea was regarded as far-fetched.

Well, we've moved on somewhat from those days. I think Gedeon is right - there's a lot of pent-up expertise amongst the OSS teams and developers, especially those that have been working on product and service catalog systems.  

The hard part, of course, is putting the ideas into practise in more than just an isolated instance -- building a repeatable process appears to be the big sticking point, along with access to accurate data and code. 

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:23:49 PM
re: OSS: The Missing Link

Good points, Ray. Our research shows that telcos don't have to be convinced about the benefits of getting their OSS/BSS houses in order, but mustering the collective will and commitment to getting that done remains a huge obstacle. It's tough to embark on a massive plan to reengineer a support infrastructure when your short-term goals (profits for shareholders) get in the way.

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