Charging is changing – what about time to market?

Written by on February 3, 2016 in Billing & Payments, Opinion with 0 Comments

time to marketTime to market should be measured in days, not months. If you had read that sentence, buried in an everyday article, your reaction would be ‘of course’ and you would move on. What makes it interesting is that it was the reaction of operators to a survey by Openet last year (the discussion paper is available here). Back in September the real-time specialist surveyed 101 operators for their views on how they will move to digital. Time to market was key.

Sadly, though, most operators (65 percent) still measure the time to market for new services in months, when they believe that two days to one week is the ideal. Indeed, 11 percent of operators believe the process should be carried out in less than two hours.

The barriers for operators have been discussed many times. They include large system transformation, which take too long (and are high risk adventures), adapting legacy systems, capex restrictions and limited space within the (let’s face it, rather old fashioned) IT road map. Reading the list in the context of a digital world makes you realise the enormity of the challenge for operators.

But the will is there, operators now see that there is no alternative to ‘becoming digital.’ They want to bundle offers in conjunction with content providers (and some are), they want to offer time based data bundles (even though there is still the fear that data will become a commodity) and they want to offer sponsored, personalized and ‘digital life’ products. It is tough and frustrating.

Help, though, is now at hand.

300x300-openet-charging-is-changing2Virtualisation is a very practical way of achieving many of operators’ short term goals. Operators (almost a third of them anyway) believe that virtualisation will deliver faster time to market (and capex reduction because it releases operators from expensive proprietary vendor ‘lock-in’). As Openet CEO Niall Norton told us in a recent interview, “we haven’t answered an RFP in two to three years that hasn’t asked for some level of virtualisation. And if you are competing against the big guys, being first to the punch with what carriers need is how we have survived and prospered.”

As well as various external helping hands, such as the recent Telco announcement from the Open Compute Project, there is a sea change in attitude within operators. As has been said many times, the most difficult thing to change is the culture within an organization. The default setting is to hope it goes away and make it someone else’s problem. Yet, the discussion paper – available free here – cites a recent Heavy Reading survey that shows that nearly 70 percent of operators have plans to expose certain network elements to third parties such as content providers. The paper suggests that a sensible approach is to ‘provide partners with a controlled portal in which they 
can amend their offers and view business intelligence.’ This would allow them to view the performance of joint offers and then, presumably, improve on the next iteration. It is also a pointer to the increasingly important need to provide intelligence around offerings, through analytics (and common sense).

Once operators grasp these initiatives and get out from the treadmill of IT road maps (critical for some operations perhaps), then they can become innovative and make their charging systems into market enablers. And innovate they must. It is, according to Strategy Analytics, ‘central to the survival of operators in the evolving competitive 
landscape that includes over-the-top (OTT) companies grabbing customer mindshare.’

To become as agile as they want to be, operators do not need ‘their ability to monetise digital services tied in with the rigid delivery and upgrade timescales of a large vendor.’ They are shaking free and we should welcome the more open approach with, well, open arms.

Without doubt, operators have now found the will and impetus to do what must be done to become digital, and, as Norton says, “what we find exciting at the moment is that the need for innovative systems and business solutions is getting faster and faster, and this gives us greater and greater opportunity.”

The discussion paper is well worth a read, and available here.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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