The characteristics of consumer telecom BSS stacks will prevail for enterprises
The following article features within the recently published report Future Enterprise Billing, by TM Forum
5G is a platform for innovation presenting new ways of doing business, driving growth and creating value. Entirely new solution-focused services are transforming enterprises, ranging from relatively obscure use cases like monitoring propane “leakage” and alerting propane owners of possible theft to more mainstream use cases like drone surveillance, predictive maintenance, remote operation of machinery and asset tracking.
Ericsson’s Market Compass 2030 shows the CAGR for industry digitalization revenues for ICT players is forecast to increase by 12 percent by 2030 compared to a 0.75 percent for current existing services. It’s anybody’s race; service providers run the risk of being bypassed, so it’s time to take advantage of global reach and unique centrality by optimizing value chain positioning and facilitating ecosystem partners that 5G and cloud create, going beyond connectivity. Smart factories, ports, hospitals, and cities are all visible in nascent form. The challenge is successfully monetizing new business segments reached by 5G with real-time capabilities, supporting multi-sided business models, simplifying the Enterprise experience through digitalization and self-service, supporting new currencies and catalog-driven billing architectures.
BSS is the engine responsible for accelerating and realizing value
Enter BSS, enabling CSPs to monetize the network as a platform, serving enterprise customers, facilitating ecosystem partners, supporting dedicated networks, IOT platforms, connectivity, communication, and collaboration. 5G is a compelling event demanding more automation to manage volumes and scale.
BSS will have to provide partners with tools that can request network capabilities, present configuration options, determine prices, and orchestrate the order—all in real time and without human intervention.Mats Karlsson, Head of SA Business Support Systems.
Telecom BSS needs to facilitate experiences for all those within enterprises purchasing, consuming, monitoring expenses and paying / settling bills. For ecosystem partners, BSS must process transactions and facilitate engagement quickly, accurately, without delays and with all the relevant information automatically passed to where it needs to be, accessible to many. In addition to partner management and multiparty settlement, BSS needs to:
- facilitate selection of products and services
- trigger activation and deactivation from orders, changes and updates
- unlock intelligence and enable data-driven decision making
- advance operations, automating data flows
- manage and conceal complexity
- create agility to progress beyond responsiveness to predictive and prescriptive actions
Enterprise BSS and Consumer BSS traditionally form separate stacks
Separate stacks serving entirely distinct service lines were often put in place because the products and services offered to businesses, especially large enterprises, were very different. Many were fixed-price services with little change for long time periods (e.g. leased lines). Large enterprises were traditionally managed with a human touch by account managers with white glove treatment. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) followed a minimum six to eight-week cycle with prices and rates negotiated until the entire contract reflected the uniqueness of the deal.
Businesses want to do business in a more agile way
A new breed of digital natives simplified engagement, breaking down journeys by centring on customers, removing friction from experiences until one click gets results, fast. These heightened expectations are leaking into procurement departments; business buyers expect the sorts of experiences they have become accustomed to elsewhere. And enterprises find an increasing number of suppliers can engage with them digitally, faster and with shorter cycle times to activation, further fueling expectations that more suppliers operate this way.
Services are becoming more dynamic as physical components both increase and decrease
Vast tracts of hardware are becoming virtualized, while more physical devices are becoming connected as part of overall service offerings. As services become more programmable and dynamic (and complex), the pressure is on user interfaces and engagement systems (e.g. CPQ) to operate in real-time with automated flows both to neighbouring OSS for activation and from networks for charging.
How many product catalogs does it take to serve the enterprise?
At the intersection of product creation, ordering and charging, the product catalog needs to be accessible to multiple departments and to partners. Leading lights know they are headed toward app store-esque interfaces with plug and play services where products exist in isolation, with pre-packaged combinations (of services, infrastructure, devices) originating from multiple sellers with different delivery and pricing options.
To become an innovation partner to third parties, leading operators such as Verizon are creating “app store”-style partner marketplaces with plug-and-play services that can be quickly scaled up and down.
Moving toward “zero-touch” removes bottlenecks from the carrier-partner relationship and allows new use cases to be explored quickly and efficiently.
MIT Technology Review Insights, The 5G Operator
If a single or unified product catalog is not realistically attainable, a master product catalog is the next best thing, integrated with data automatically distributed to the embedded catalogs for product definition and ordering, with solid connection points through OSS to orchestration and activation, automating quoting, order capture and activation. Catalog-driven charging architectures owning a single repository of online charging system resources that can be re-used and exposed to external systems consuming catalog information as needed, can save on the cost and effort of manned workstreams. The prospect of offering a suite of different services from hundreds of different partners demands both simplification and automation.
AI enabled personalization can replace the personal touch
So much that’s useful has been created to serve the masses in the consumer realm in the pursuit of efficiency and low-cost, effective relationship management, to upsell new products and services and to target customer segments for new products. Whether to support enterprise self-serve experiences or to assist account managers/CSRs engaging with BSS systems, personalization to the masses is possible with AI, meaning personalization is affordable for all businesses, irrespective of size. Along with the largest and most lucrative enterprise customers, the long tail of SMEs and SoHos can come into sharper focus, without needing actual white glove treatment.
Thinking back to the differences between traditional consumer and enterprise stacks, two aspects stand out. The first is enterprise hierarchies reflected in charging and billing information, the complexity of which vastly outweighs its equivalents on the consumer side supporting domestic family hierarchies or perhaps enough for a SoHo or SME. Anything more might necessitate specific TMF-SID aligned entity extensions, with real time billing for unbilled usage monitoring and shared plans.
Secondly, serving large enterprise mandates contract creation and frame agreement creation with tracked signature management. The BSS must connect with contract management and digital signature management passing through enough information to enable automated contract, frame agreement creation, and signature management.
Monetizing relationships with new stakeholders in the broadening 5G marketplace
Legacy solutions delivered core network communication services directly to enterprise customers. With the broadening applicability of 5G and on-demand network slices, CSPs must be ready to form coopetitions with industry vertical solutions integrated with edge and cloud providers, while engaging delivery and setup through newly emerging device manufactures and installers. To enable these interactions, BSS for 5G B2B environments must newly address:
- Greater business flexibility to monetize new service types and new industry vertical solutions, manage groups of devices, handle new identifiers such as QR codes, and rental devices with short duration charges or subscriptions.
- Multi-party billing to monetize and handle partner settlements with new 5G stakeholders including automation of billing for test/trial periods, SLA-based agreements, and multi-national and multi-currency billing
- Always-on, real-time billing experience for enterprise B2B customers and ecosystem partners providing real-time situational awareness and analytics as achieved today for consumers
- Cloud scalable architectures to handle massive numbers of new devices including unattended IoT.
While many existing consumer BSS deployments offer a streamlined billing experience, the emerging needs of digital, real-time billing for B2B and B2B2X may provide cause to re-examine how to best address enterprise billing for tomorrow.
Do separate stacks for enterprise and consumer make sense anymore?
Is it sensible to draw a line in the sand and start focusing on the commonalities instead of the differences? Could they reasonably be a single consolidated stack in the future?
Speed and agility will require the integration of IT, network, and business functions. The business agility required in the 5G era—innovating at scale, rapidly launching new offerings, managing network slices and an explosion in the number of connections—will need an increasing integration of IT and with network and business functions. Carriers are considering changes to organizational structures, putting together cross-functional teams, or adopting DevOps principles to create the agility, speed, and partner-centricity they will need to succeed in a 5G era.
MIT Technology Review Insights, The 5G Operator
A compelling case for cost reduction in the throes of digital and cloud transformation is the removal of the many repeated instances of similar products, e.g. the multiple raters, product catalogs, customer engagement systems, order capture and billing systems, sometimes dedicated to service lines or customer segments, with complex, often customized connections added over the years in an intricate, interwoven, interdependent conglomeration of connected and similar components.
Going forward, Enterprise BSS stacks, even if still separate, need to be more like consumer stacks to successfully monetize new services with clean, intuitive engagement and partner management systems, multiparty settlement, and a master product catalog that’s open and accessible to partners and other integrated systems using TMF’s standardized open APIs, with personalization, prediction and targeting automated by powerful analytics and AI.
Read the full Future enterprise billing report
Watch the webinar: Future Enterprise Billing
Download the Market Compass 2030
Read the MIT Technology Review Insights, The 5G Operator: The 5G operator: Platforms, partnerships, and IT strategies for monetizing 5G
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