Huawei just put out a release (see it here) that outlines “10 key issues that will most affect the telecom industry.”
#5 involves OSS/BSS and says:
5. Operations support systems/business support systems (OSS/BSS) must be modernized to adapt to an open environment in the industry chain and the on-demand operational model
User requirements have transformed the telecom industry priority from cost efficiency to value creation, in turn changing the telecom industry from a completely closed system to a completely open system. The modernization and renovation of operators’ IT systems means that there is a need to focus on creating value for users and building an open industry chain to support the end-to-end process of product design and development, product market entry, and value distribution. These systems need to support package design by users as well as package selection and bandwidth selection in order to provide users with the maximum amount of freedom and power to control these systems.
I’m not sure this is a new argument, per se. It really isn’t. And I don’t wholly disagree with it…but I don’t agree either.
First, what other industry, other than perhaps the apps business (which isn’t quite as open as advertised) allows users to design their own products? Only very expensive custom offerings – like ultra high-end homes and custom built motorcycles. Some consumer gimmicks like ‘build a bear workshop’ let you design your own Teddy Bear (for a pretty hefty price as Teddy Bears go). But, it’s not like General Mills lets me design my own breakfast cereal. Southwest doesn’t let me decide where the airplane is going or how my seat is upholstered. iTunes hasn’t let me reach out to Tom Hanks and ask him to make a TV series that’s as good as Band of Brothers but all about World War I. The idea of customer-driven design is lofty at best, and totally unrealistic at worst.
In my opinion, the OSS/BSS challenge for telecom, given the market’s new realities, may be more about moving away from having such a close coupling between network and IT. Maybe the whole focus being on how IT is used to productise things that are native to the network (SDPs, anyone?) shouldn’t be the primary agenda.
That said, the immediate problem really isn’t openness but rather capability. An operator can’t make its direct-to-bill charging open to customers, or even 3rd party developers, when it’s not even implemented or accessible to internal groups. An operator can’t give customers the ability to create their own location-based overlays on their mobile mapping app to tell them where the best place to nurse a baby is or to buy the cheapest gas because the pieces aren’t in place to do it.
Sure, openness is a problem on the list if we assume operators want customers and third parties to drive service creation. But before they get there, operators need to have that kind of openness internally, along with a focus on services that aren’t only based in the network and customers who may not be connected to their network at all. We’re asking for fundamental changes here that we don’t even expect other industries – like energy for example – to make rapidly, if at all. When you’re among the most profitable companies in the world, as most major telecom operators are, you’re not in a rush to change what you’re doing.
From a customer experience point of view, I don’t think the great challenge for an operator is to let me design my own services. Rather, it is a) to let me take the services I’m already paying for with me wherever I go, and b) not forcing me to turn to over the top players for services – like iTunes video – that should come with my subscriptions at a discounted rate. I’ll tell you what – let me buy a movie for my iPhone for a few dollars less than Apple charges me for it and I’ll consider that a step forward. The conference call with Mr.Hanks can wait a few more years.