The recent news that AT&T is moving its 5G core to Microsoft Azure is the latest advance that we’re seeing in the industry moving towards the cloud. OSS and BSS have been running on private, hybrid, and public clouds for some time and now this is spreading to networks.
The advancement of ORAN in establishing open networks was preceded by the widespread use of APIs in OSS and BSS to allow operators to build stacks using products from different vendors. It could be argued that many of the innovative advances that take place in operators are often kick-started in OSS and BSS. As such it’s worth keeping an eye on the advances coming out of these areas to see if there could be a wider impact on operators.
One of the biggest buzzwords in BSS in the last five years has been agility. Everyone is looking for faster time to market and the ability to try out new ideas quickly and cost-effectively. Taken in the context of stand-alone 5G where we will see a wider range of B2C, B2B, and B2B2X offers and business models, the need for agility comes sharply into focus.
One of the advances we’re seeing in BSS to enable this ‘agile operator’ to exist is the use of no-code BSS. A 2019 study by Forrester Research showed that 84% of enterprises had started using low-code / no-code technology, while Gartner has also predicted that low-code / no-code will represent 65% of all app development by 2024.
It appears therefore that no-code is starting to become more established within telecoms. Indeed, Omdia’s Service Provider Digital Transformation Strategies Survey 2021 reported that “nearly 45% of the surveyed CSPs stated that they had already implemented some form of a low-/no-code solution in their organizations and another 32% of CSPs indicated they had plans to implement low-/no-code in the future.”
What no-code does is enables non-techies to develop, test and deploy changes to BSS without any coding via a visual mapping tool. So you could have people working in the marketing department of an operator developing, testing, and launching new offers. Same with people in the customer retention team – they could, for example, built a retention program for high-value customers who are in danger of churning.
Many of the main functions of BSS provide the systems and processes that deliver the customer experience when a customer is interacting with their operator via an app or their website. Providing a digital customer experience through apps and website has increased in importance as the levels of digital literacy in consumers has increased enormously since March 2020.
Now pretty much everyone knows how to interact with their operators through digital channels. The CRM, care, customer experience, retention, and marketing functions that are driving the digital channels and processes are all part of BSS. It could be argued here that digitalization of systems and processes, and therefore operators started out with digitalization of BSS functions.
The use of digital channels and apps as the primary communication, marketing, and care channels for operators is going to expand. In their Digital Transformation Tracker 5, published May 2021, TM Forum reported that around 70% of operators have increased the prioritization of digitalization of customer experience and digitalization of their operations due to COVID-19.
This is going to place more pressure on BSS to be able to support enhanced digital channels, new services, and personalized offers. It could be argued that supporting new digital channels and apps with legacy BSS is a bit like putting a tractor engine in a Ferrari.
While the BSS market has delivered many innovations over the year and, as this article is proposing, is the technology trendsetter in operators, the problem of legacy systems is still there. Going back to the TM Forum’s latest Digital Transformation Tracker, the biggest barrier to digital transformation is still inflexible legacy IT technology.
The good news is that many operators are upgrading BSS to be digital-first, open, and cloud-native. Increasingly no-code is becoming part of this upgrade strategy. However, with no-code the question of BSS ownership may also arise.
By giving more control of BSS to business groups in an operator the obvious question is about the impact on IT. Who will ‘own’ BSS in an operator? In my view, IT will continue to own BSS and business users will become empowered users. Indeed, many of the changes that the business users could implement would typically be done by the BSS vendor using the traditional change request process.
The use of cloud, APIs in operators started in BSS. The functions that operators first digitalized are ones supported by BSS and now the use of no-code software in operators is starting in BSS. Is BSS a technology trendsetter in telecoms? Absolutely.