What do CSPs and ocean liners have in common?

Written by on November 24, 2016 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Ocean linerAs every communications service provider (CSP) has realized, their existing business models are under threat and they have to radically modify the way they operate to be serious players in the new digital enterprise ecosystem space. Building and operating super-fast communications networks is simply not enough to warrant being the center of any digital ecosystem.

The key is switching from an ‘egosystem’ to an ‘ecosystem’ mind-set – understanding the role of becoming a digital business enabler and taking a slice of the bigger digital ecosystem pie. Embracing ‘platform-based’ business models like Amazon and Microsoft is the most obvious option, but the time window to make this shift is very short and requires significantly different skills to those of the typical CSP. If CSPs don’t pursue it now, or haven’t started already, they could find themselves running aground.

The same applies for enterprises that see the digital services providers (DSPs) like Amazon Web Services, Salesforce and Microsoft as their preferred choice for cloud-based services that appear as easily accessible and provide a reasonable entry cost — far lower than they could expect to achieve alone.

Even though CSPs typically have strong existing relationships with many enterprise and corporate customers, and have the infrastructure to support their entry into digital world, they are not always the obvious first choice. Why? Is it that they are perceived to be ‘behind the times’ or lacking the foresight to be more than simply a utility provider? Or is it that they are unable to open up to third parties and become a true business partner with options to address all the concerns of enterprises needing to go digital?

While the DSPs may have the march on their CSP colleagues, they are also finding the demands of fast growth and customer expectations an issue and they, too, are having to review their core processes to manage the demands that the likes of IoT is throwing at them.

The trillion-dollar opportunity

Research cites enterprise IoT as an $8 trillion market opportunity, of which 15 percent is made up of enterprise-enabling services – in CSP language the “OSS/BSS” layer of digital ecosystems. Simply providing the digital platform to businesses is no longer enough; they will demand business support systems to help them on-board quickly, charge and collect payment for their products and services, enable speedy settlements to suppliers and provide a transparent environment for their own partners. Wait a second: Isn’t that what CSPs have already mastered?

That $8 trillion market creates massive opportunity, but for CSPs it requires a radically different mind-set, and setting a different course that includes being comfortable enabling others to make money. If they have already implemented, or are currently developing, the next generation of OSS/BSS infrastructure for digital ecosystems then they will also be in a unique market position where they will not only provide for enterprises but also, combined with their communications network, be a vital partner for any DSP ecosystem partner.

That, in turn, will depend on how easily the different players can connect with each other. Maybe, just maybe, the CSPs’ obsession with adopting common processes will make sense to the DSPs. That’s precisely why TM Forum has been working with standards bodies and a slew of tier one CSPs and DSPs to update its Frameworx suite of standards. Its set of 18 REST-based Open APIs – that will expand to more than 30 by the end of 2016 – already facilitate rapid, repeatable and flexible integration among operations and management systems, making it easier to create, build and operate complex innovative services. Combining all these and a Digital Platform Reference Architecture will enable what can be best described as ‘Lego brick’/SOA (service-oriented architecture) service flexibility.

Enabling success

It is becoming increasingly evident to all parties in the digital enterprise space that one ecosystem will probably not dominate and that the ability for multiple platforms to work seamlessly together will be the most favorable outcome. CSPs are well-positioned to become digital services enablers and play the digital service provider role overall. Their ability to easily access and share services across any number of platforms will be necessary for them and their individual enterprise customers to succeed.

Those that provide the most seamless customer experience will flourish and those that sit back and wait will most likely ‘miss the boat’. CSPs that have already ‘raised the anchor’ are leading the way and will be best positioned to avoid any icebergs on their route, and enterprises will be attracted to those that demonstrate the best navigation skills.

Unlike those unwieldy trans-Atlantic behemoths of the past, today’s high-tech ocean liners are sleek, speedy, manoeuvrable, self-contained, floating cities that provide the most comfortable and best customer experience for long-term travel — and progressive CSPs are following the same course.

Written by Nik Willetts – Deputy CEO, TM Forum. First published at TM Forum Inform

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