The issue of centralizing IT, particularly BSS, brings with it some interesting issues. Not least of these is who is responsible for customer data when it resides in a different country. Some years ago, a particular example emerged in Switzerland – a land known for its discretion – where the physical billing system had to be in Switzerland. There was, it seemed, no way round this, and contracts were lost as a result.
It seems as if the rules are not quite as strict now, but BillingViews sought the views of leading law firm, DLA Piper. The company has a practice dealing in privacy and data protection. According to partner Andrew Dyson, who heads up the department, “it is actually about managing risk.” Within reason, data can be kept in most countries, but “the responsibility for it will always remain with the company providing the service to the customer. Thus if a large telecoms company in the UK chose to host its billing system in India, they could do so, but there would need to be satisfied on the risks of hosting data offshore and put specific contractual protections in place to manage the provider. The liability for what then happened with the data will ultimately always sit with the telecoms company in the UK, not the Indian one.” Presumably, therefore, this is also a caveat to choose your partners wisely.
The rules, according to Dyson, are fairly consistent and stable across Europe, while they are maturing fast in emerging economies such as India, Latin America and China. Strangely, the U.S. regulations are reasonably relaxed. “You can process data reasonably freely in the States,” says Dyson, “although there are differing regulations from State to State and the landscape is beginning to harden.” We did wonder whether, with the recent news of data being scrutinized by national security agencies, companies would still want to transfer data to the U.S but that is their choice.
This is good news for international carriers who want to centralize billing while allowing local operating companies to manage their own version of the software. As long as the local company – who is providing the service to the customer – takes responsibility for the maintenance and management of the data there is no problem. That means that the local company is free to innovate with new value based pricing, provide local services, manage local taxes and currencies, while the main billing ‘engine’ can (with appropriate safeguards) reside somewhere else. This will also be good news for vendors such as AsiaInfo Linkage who are strong advocates of this approach to maximizing the efficiencies of IT systems.