Software has become an increasingly vital aspect of the competitiveness of service providers. It largely influences how agile, differentiated, and efficient their business can be when the market is moving towards an increased focus on digital self-service and automation, and CSPs are operating in a market where change is constant. In such a dynamic environment many service providers want to have more control of the software that runs their business.
We’ve come a long way since the days of hard-coded systems where vendor lock-in was the rule rather than the exception. Now service providers have a variety of strategic options on how to increase their control. The majority of the market will increasingly shift towards modern, digital BSS products and SaaS services to put their investments into the differentiation vs. maintaining and further developing legacy or in-house created software capabilities that are well provided by modern BSS product platforms.
One illustration on the importance of software was outlined in a recent news piece about Vodafone’s plans to create 7000 software developer jobs and ‘insource’ a lot of software development—a move that may be feasible only for the largest tier 1 service providers given the magnitude of investment?
For years, many CSPs have been complaining about vendor lock-in and that their business plans were at the mercy of their vendors’ product roadmaps. Those with deep pockets could get the vendor to custom build software applications, but again, the delivery of this software was totally reliant on the vendor.
Insourcing of software development may only be suited to large service providers with large development teams. However, there are other ways for service providers to take control and manage the functionality of their BSS, as well as the processes and business applications it services.
Insourcing won’t be for everyone and having the BSS vendor run everything (product development, software changes, and day to day BSS operations) may not sit too well with some CSPs. The choice doesn’t need to be so stark. With the arrival of SaaS product platforms and no-code configurability, there is an array of options for service providers when it comes to developing BSS capabilities, making business changes, and operating the BSS platform. As can be seen in Figure 1 below, there are a variety of options for service providers to choose from regarding how to work with their BSS platform. However, in order to provide this level of flexibility the BSS platforms need to be highly configurable.
Figure 1: Spectrum of BSS development, change and operational options
Increasing agility for business changes
By providing software to the service provider that enables no-code/low-code changes, the service providers’ and vendors’ software development teams are delivering a new level of business agility. This is a million miles removed from the old monolithic, legacy systems that the service providers are trying to get away from.
Using no-code tools, the CSPs (either IT or business teams) can make business process and rule changes to BSS functions using a GUI without the need for coding. This can apply to different use cases with varying degrees of complexity e.g. for a simple use case of changing and optimising fraud prevention conditions and consequences for online sales, then the business users could do this.
For other, more complex processes such as setting up a sophisticated referral marketing campaign may require IT to assist in refining the conditions, benefits, and customer messages. However, irrespective of who makes the changes using BizOps, the main point is that the changes are done using a GUI with no or minimal coding required, which saves significant effort in terms of time and money when compared with the traditional change request process.
Having non-developers carry out small business-led changes to systems, delivers further cost and time savings to the service provider. It also enables their software development and IT teams to work closely with the business users to manage and control all changes at a business level.
Service providers can also have varying paths to start and evolve in leveraging the no-code configurability. These can include a period of collaborative work with their BSS vendor with training of the business teams to learn the new way of implementing business changes. Another option is selecting a model where the IT team will start using no-code configurability, and gradually empower business teams to implement an increased amount of changes over time.
There are different options here, including the option of consuming the BSS service provided as a SaaS service by the BSS platform provider, CSPs running the BSS operation themselves, and working with an SI. There are also options for service providers to have a suitable combination of all these options for different areas of the IT landscape. The industry trend points towards increased preference for the SaaS model, which lets CSPs focus on differentiating elements of the experience and offering.
Differentiation via software development
Traditionally, there has been a range of options for the question of how to get a BSS platform in place, ranging from selecting a productised BSS platform from a vendor to having a customised stack built either by a vendor or by an in-house development team. The most common approach is for CSPs to use a productised platform.
However, in order to gain the control of the software that many CSPs want, it is important that the BSS platform is built using microservices, exposing open APIs and should be designed for a high degree of configurability. Service providers need the flexibility to experiment with BSS, therefore they can try out new things without a punitive cost hanging over their heads. This will be crucial especially when it comes to the success of 5G.
The vast majority of CSPs do not have large teams of software developers and so the market preference is for product-based platforms which provide efficiency of scale and a roadmapped evolution of functions that come with high configurability with a no-code/low code paradigm. This enables service providers to focus on differentiating value, be it offerings, digital customer experience or commercial innovation in branding and pricing models.