Dec 112010

Silos are seperately deployed OSS/BSS functions that are duplicated by technological domains. In a service provider environment, we face several of them in the core and access areas. These are DSL, PSTN, ATM/FR, Packet Core, Circuit Core, Radio, NGN to name a few. These technologies are normally managed by different organizational units. And most of them utilize some kinds of OSS/BSS systems to survive. Some complex units utilize highly scaled OSS/BSS systems while others may be applying some FCAPS  on their EMS layer.

We should not introduce any more silos to our infrastructure. Rather, we should transform our ecosystem via simplifications and improved automations to reach reduced costs, reduced TTM and increased efficiency. Ok, but, why we have them? There are several reasons:

  • Lack of customer focus,
  • Lack of customer awareness,
  • Sales strategy

Lack of customer focus:

Historically, OSS systems were seen as operating costs and these costs were bundled into the pricing of the service. A service provider with a monopoly, rules the market prices. So, if you are selling fine with the current price without any problem, why care about the costs?

This thinking has changed with the regulations and increasing competition  in the market. In order to survive, the service provider can play with price, quality or service differentiation metrics. The easiest and (most of the times) the most effective one is the price. Pricing is a complex study but basically it has 2 basic elements: margin and costs. Service providers reduced their margins dramatically after the deregulations. Now it is time to reduce the costs and Service Providers are fully aware of that. So, the strategy should be the transformation and the OSS/BSS integrators/vendors should push that strategy.

Lack of customer awareness:

Most customers realize that they need a change but they don’t know how to proceed. Here, SIs and vendors step in to explain the customers best practices. SIs will need to invest in  “customer training” sessions. Most SIs do this regularly, however for me, they are targeting the wrong audience in the customer organization. Nowadays, we come across CIO’s who have financial background. This CIO would not be interested and find it very complex when he is involved in a next generation SQM meeting. The technical people will definitely be interested in a PoC of SQM but not in financial figures. SIs should formulate a strategy to push a concept to multiple levels of the customer organization with the right focus.

Sales Strategy:

Let me tell you a story about an SI company who were doing a transformation project for a Tier-1 customer. They had the full support of the customer executives. They were able to aggresively push the newest NGOSS concepts to the transformed infrastructure. It was a chalenging but smoothly running transformation project. During that time, another functional group in the customer organization decided to invest on a new technology. They issued an RFP for this and one section of the RFP was dedicated to the OSS/BSS systems that will manage this new line of business. The executives of this SI company decided to respond to this RFP. However, instead of offering integration options with the ongoing transformation project they offered new OSS/BSS licenses and services.  Where’s the strategy? Where are the “we care some much about you and we will move you to the next generation OSS” things? Obviously it is easier for a sales guy to offer a new silo. First, your interface within the organization is just one department. You do not need to visit the board of directors to justify your more flexibile and simple business process that will solve common problems. Second, there will be a resistance from that department that issued the RFP  because they would want to “own” these OSS systems. Third, the money will come soon and will be reflected as a bonus at the end of the year. However, if they’d somehow push the best practices option, obviously their footprint will increase in the customer environment that will lead to further winnings in the mid-term. Farmers earn more than hunters in this service business.

We should avoid silos but they will be around for some time. As an SI, we should be consistent in our transformation strategy. We should invest in the training of our customers to make them proactive and responsive. This way, both sides win and the customers can become our partners.