By: Andy Hicks, Research Manager, EMEA, Telecoms, IDC
If your job involves talking to a lot of different people, you probably find that you end up saying a few things over and over just to lay the groundwork for whatever conversation you’re having. Since I’m a telecoms analyst, for example, I often find myself saying something like this:
“As an industry, we’re entering a whole new level of complexity on the IT side. We’re seeing an explosion of services, user types, devices, quality of service (QoS) levels and service level agreement (SLA) obligations. The permutations of all those factors make for more than any service provider can manage manually, so we’ll have to make sure that all that service and network management is automated to the maximum extent possible.”
So far, this is pretty unobjectionable stuff, and that’s the point. It’s something that most people in the industry can agree on before getting into specific cases. But as with its implementation, plans for automation vary both between carriers and within each one’s IT infrastructure. There is some common ground though. In the fulfillment part of the chain, one-touch provisioning and the like are generally accepted goals.
Where the promise of automation is still not as well understood, I believe, is in the service inventory, especially as it affects customer experience. Discussions of customer experience are often limited to either the fulfillment process (Is the order filled quickly and correctly?) and customer service (Is the problem resolved satisfactorily and cheaply?). Both the order and the trouble ticket are events, which are easier to measure and address. Extending the purview of customer experience to ongoing operations requires diagnosing and averting service problems before they affect customers. This requires systems to predict network and service outages in real time, and provision new resources to proactively fix the problem. The same components can also help engineers model the consequences of any changes to the system before they affect users.
The difference between “good enough” capabilities in this area and true differentiation in customer experience will increasingly inhere in the ability to model the effects of outages and planned changes alike on individual services and the individual customers that use them. Since each of those services is aggregate of smaller elements, and since the most valuable customers are likely to use the most services, a successful extension of the service inventory must be able to analyze the effects of system changes and failures not only on the network, but also on the services provided across it, especially as they affect the “gold” customer base. The criteria for that analysis will come from SLAs as well as service providers’ service assurance goals for each category of its users.
To date, Internet service providers and enterprise network providers seem to have more advanced offerings in these areas than mobile providers and fixed-line incumbents. As markets mature and competition in services increases from over-the-top (OTT) players, every service provider will have to improve its predictive and proactive capabilities to remain competitive in customer experience.
Andy Hicks covers telecom software, services, and business strategies in EMEA, with special focus on emerging markets, at IDC. Currently, he is focussing on the IT-ification of telecoms, the increasingly complex services market they compete in, and the work of multinational groups to rationalize their operations across borders.