Nothing simple about it

Buying big business systems, particularly for the back-office , has never been easy but are we making it a lot harder than it needs to be?

When decision-makers in service providers and enterprises are confronted with a bewildering choice of options for their IT or back-office operations they often turn to research firms like Gartner and pay handsomely for information that they believe has been accurately researched and disseminated for their consumption by experts.

Others turn to industry bodies that, for a fee, will check over software to ensure that it complies with whatever standards or processes it has developed. And that’s great if the buyer has an operation that also conforms to those same guidelines, otherwise a mismatch might occur.

A third option is to hire a team of experts to thoroughly analyse the requirements of the business and produce a definitive list to be sent to selected prospective vendors and even complete the vetting process themselves. That’s all well and good but it can take a long time, use up a lot of resource and cost a lot of money just to get the closest match.

Then there is the option of going to conferences and exhibitions and taking a look at what’s on offer and producing a short list of vendors from those whose wares are attractive or promising, or simply those that have the best hospitality and ‘benefits.’

Sometimes the easiest and simplest decision is to stick with an existing vendor and upgrade, go with a big name vendor with a sound reputation or give up completely and outsource the whole shebang to someone else.

Whilst all these processes have their merits, it is difficult to pick out a ‘best practice’ method or one that can guarantee that the system bought today will not be tomorrow’s legacy system. Big IT investments now have to show a return, and in an increasingly shorter time.

In a recent Openet survey on operator BSS strategies speed was listed as a main driver, and not just with regard to networks. Speed, it said, “is accompanied by another adjective, ‘agility’, used to gauge a company’s ability to respond to the market with flexibility. Indeed, the pace of innovation has increased by an order of magnitude and will continue to accelerate for the foreseeable future. Yet operators bear the burden of legacy systems in their BSS environments that may apply limitations to their agility.”

If agility really is key, where does that leave the selection criteria listed above? Are we overdue for a major rethink of not only how systems are selected but whether we should radically revamp the way we do things?

The newer digital players that telcos increasingly find themselves competing against or partnering with are almost exclusively going for simple subscription and pricing models. Simplicity and agility go together, but for many both translate into risk, and that is something that does not bode well for the ‘99.999% gang’. And what if agility is just a fad – back to square one?

There must be a better, cost-effective, timely, more agile and simpler way of selecting new systems. Do you know of any?

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About Tony Poulos 48 Articles
Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, been contributing Analyst for IDC, a freelance writer and is a columnist and video anchor for Telecom Asia. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide.


  1. I guess the many of the telcos started with simple subscription and pricing models too, but have then piled 20 years of cleverness, innovation, ingenuity and good/bad ideas on top. They are where they are largely through organic (somewhat uncontrolled) growth and the newer, digital players have the benefit simply of newness, able to make clean simple choices…
    I often think that the personal equivalent of replacing/ transforming BSS is changing bank accounts – many of us want to do it, but then we think of the mountain of (often mysterious) standing orders and direct debits would need to be transferred, the inputs and outputs that would need to be reconfigured to keep the whole thing in balance, the dozens of transactions which would continue to flow across the migration period – will they be lost? will I miss a vital payment? – and, perhaps delusionally, the loss of whatever goodwill and familiarity we’ve built up over the years with the bank. We think of having to explain why we did such a stupid thing to our partner when it all goes wrong. And we sigh and ‘stick with our existing vendor’, because suddenly life seems too short to do anything else. So maybe it’s not finding the alternative solution that’s so difficult, as contemplating the move itself…

    • I know you are right Bob but in my heart of hearts I hope someone has the balls to break the cycle, even if it means running concurrent systems for some time in the transition from complex to simple. I’m not so sure the newer players will fall into the same trap telcos did by using a variety of complex tariffs to lure in customers. These guys offer features, speed and simplicity and all through online portals. If their customers have too many choices or the plans look too complex they just move to the next provider. Brand loyalty and bundling don’t figure so much to Gen X, Y and Z and for baby-boomers like us we have seen it all and would probably just go for price. In this article I was actually more concerned with the complexity and cost of choosing systems and wonder why that process has hardly changed in twenty years. Your points, as always, are valid but you didn’t offer an alternative! 😉

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