Is that the sound of silos crumbling, or the whole structure collapsing?

For many years, we have been rude about – or laughed about – the relationship between Engineering and IT. For many it was absurd to think they worked for the same company. The battles were bitter and turf was defended aggressively.

This is still the case. If you ask an engineer or an IT operative what the biggest barrier to implementing something that would clearly take his company forward – and tell them you won’t tell anyone – the answer is almost always ‘politics’ or a version of it. The second is generally ‘budget’ or ‘business case.’

But there are some small signs that this is changing. Not through choice, we might add, but through circumstances.

The classic example at the moment is the convergence or real-time charging and policy management. One was very much the domain of the network, the other belonged to the business, so don’t touch.

A big driver of this sea change is customer experience. Now that our beloved industry is getting past the stage of CEO rhetoric and realizing that customer experience is actually ‘where it’s at,’ things are moving.

Customer experience teams are made up of managers from different departments, by necessity. IT is there, so is Marketing, Billing, Customer Service, Fraud and Revenue Assurance. So is Engineering – finally.

Some focus group type research within the ETIS Billing and Revenue Management Working Group produced a startling and refreshing insight. When asked about who owned and who should own customer experience, over half of the large European operators in the room said that there should be a dedicated role to manage this key activity.

As Marketing and IT work ever more closely together, this change will speed up, and become business as usual. Real-time and policy management are currently in ‘control mode.’ They are used, integrated or not, to prevent BillShock, manage thresholds and seek out fraud. This, though, is changing, as Marketing sees the potential. Instead of simply telling a customer that he is about to reach his threshold, and going for lunch, now operators are thinking seriously about telling the customer he is nearing his threshold, offering him an extra gigabyte to tide him over, how about a dollar? And then going for lunch.

Over the next year or so we are going to see much more innovation coming from telecoms companies, initially in pricing and then in other areas.

This is good, even great, news. Except that if you are a vendor of policy management and real-time solutions, finding the right person to talk to (IT will have to loosen its grip soon) might get complicated.

Unless we are seeing the rise of a dedicated person in charge of customer experience, in which case we would recommend giving him an early call. And maybe he or she will be instrumental in making those walls come tumbling down.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
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.

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