Catalog-driven Fulfillment Gets Validation, Concept-to-Cash Gains a New Guise

Posted: July 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Catalog-driven Fulfillment Gets Validation, Concept-to-Cash Gains a New Guise

Comptel is encouraged to see that Sigma Systems’ recent acquisition of Tribold further validates our lead in terms of championing catalog-driven fulfillment for communications service providers (CSPs). Comptel initially introduced the catalog-driven fulfillment concept in 2010, and affirmed our market leader position through the Comptel Fulfillment platform release in 2012, which is now in active deployment with customers appreciating the real value of the catalog-driven approach.

At that time, many of our customers were questioning the difference between our catalog approach (technical abstraction and simplification for faster time-to-market through process repeatability) and that of the commercial catalog (product definition and linkage to the commercial process such as CPQ). This debate was further discussed in blog posts “Viewpoint – The Single or Dual Catalog Conundrum” and “More on the Catalog Conundrum.”

In catalog-driven fulfillment, the service catalog acts as the brains of the system. This means that service order management, provisioning and activation systems are able to not only retrieve product decompositions from the catalog, but also use that information when orchestrating and fulfilling orders. Additionally, in a well-architected solution, workflow components can be designed within order management, which can be published for discovery by the service catalog.

Comptel’s catalog-driven approach to service fulfillment works independently of workflow design, effectively decoupling product lifecycle management from the technical processes required to implement services. When technical product information is managed in Comptel Catalog, a customer has better visibility on deliverable products. Additionally, he/she will find it easier to define new products that can be delivered without complex and lengthy workflow creation and modifications.

It’s interesting that Sigma has chosen the concept of “Idea to Install” to explain the joint value of the aforementioned companies. Effectively, it’s another phrase invented to explain a traditional fulfillment northbound (BSS) and southbound (NEM) integration, accompanying phrases such as Order-to-Activate and Concept-to-Cash (which brings in the additional vector of revenue management).

There is trend forming among CSPs towards operational transformation, aimed at aligning systems closer to actual customer processes and the management of the customer experience (also known as the creation of the “Customer Company”). So is this north – south level of pre-integration relevant anymore when you consider the need for a more multi-dimensional integration approach towards Over-the-Top (OTT) providers and value-added applications? Only time will tell.

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More on the Catalog Conundrum

Posted: October 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on More on the Catalog Conundrum

While some are still a bit hesitant to adopt a service-layer catalog, we’re seeing communications service providers (CSPs) use it more and more as a driver for their overall business operations. This is especially true as service portfolios become broader, and as CSPs realise that simple commercial product catalogs can’t deliver the agility and rapid deployment needed to help them effectively compete. I recently wrote about this and the various benefits catalog can bring to CSPs, especially in terms of making product lifecycle management more efficient. Now, I’d like to dive a bit deeper into why catalog initiatives are a must for service provider IT (SPIT).

Catalog has traditionally played a role in many proof-of-concept exercises, as it can make product development and deployment easier, faster and less expensive. However, most CSPs haven’t followed these ideas through to operational adoption. This is starting to change as emerging technologies are fuelling the need for new tools to manage product lifecycles, and increasing organisational complexity only adds to this need. Meaning, CSPs must manage converging technologies and dispersed capabilities across departmental and service boundaries, which demand that formal management of the service lifecycle be a key part of the OSS/BSS architecture – cue catalog.

While CSPs realise the need for progress, one of the biggest obstacles they face in shifting to a catalog-driven approach is fear of transformation and the subsequent impact on existing processes. Alleviating these fears may be as simple as introducing catalog in phases to various departments rather than to the entire organisation at once. It’s important to think about the longer term benefits, too. CSPs can realise substantial architecture paybacks by integrating a system that wraps and re-uses its legacy infrastructure with new catalog-driven models.

When considering the investments being made in various technologies like 4G, coupled with the demand for personalised product delivery, catalog initiatives seem essential for management and have the potential to ensure true differentiation in the market. There is a very real possibility that the traditional OSS/BSS boundaries and architectures of the past will be completely redrawn, with service catalogs at the centre of the new SPIT platform.  Do you agree?


Viewpoint – The Single or Dual Catalog Conundrum

Posted: September 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Advantages of a catalog-driven fulfillment philosophy

We’re regularly faced with our Service Provider customers and prospects questioning the inclusion of catalog within the Comptel Fulfillment stack – stating quite categorically that “they already have a product catalog” and why would they need another? So I just wanted to put a few words together to demonstrate the real advantages behind the service catalog approach.

More than ever, increasingly complex services depend upon efficient, fast and accurate time-to-market, but too often in many OSS and BSS implementations, product specifications are intrinsically linked to the workflow that implements the service. In the most extreme cases, the workflow itself is the specification of the service. This practice leads to an unmaintainable and inflexible architecture, because every time a change is required to a product, the workflow must be modified. The more changes that are made, the lengthier the workflow becomes, and the more unreadable, unmanageable and unviable it is as a practical architectural solution. Unfortunately, in many cases this tends to be the case for single catalog implementations.

In catalog-driven fulfillment, the service catalog acts as the brains of the system. This means that service order management, provisioning and activation systems are not only able to retrieve product decompositions from the catalog, but also use that information when orchestrating and fulfilling orders. Additionally, in a well architected solution, workflow components can be designed within order management which can be published for discovery by the service catalog.

Comptel’s catalog-driven approach to service fulfillment works independently of workflow design, effectively decoupling product lifecycle management from the technical processes required to implement services. When technical product information is managed in Comptel Catalog, a customer has better visibility on deliverable products. Additionally, they will find it easier to define new products that can be delivered without complex and lengthy workflow creation and modifications.

Therefore, specifying technical product information in a data definition, rather than in a workflow design delivers immediate efficiencies in terms of building, delivering, enhancing/customising and supporting a product. Taking a catalog-driven fulfillment approach will allow a CSP to:-

  • Launch products and services faster. Increasing the profitable lifespan of new services, accelerating product launch to meet market expectations for new service and quickening competitive alignment.
  • Reduce product launch and management costs. Enabling access to new low volume niche markets, protecting margins in the face of reduced profit on mass market services.
  • Enable greater innovation in product and service creation. Customer expectations for tailoring is growing, so maximising the ability to convert network potential into innovative marketable products, particularly products built together with partners, is key.

Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!

Posted: December 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!

With the holidays and New Year just around the corner, we wanted to briefly reflect on the milestones Comptel achieved in 2011. Most notably, we celebrated our 25th anniversary, which is pretty remarkable in the telecoms software industry. Comptel was also honoured for multiple awards, announced several customer projects like the catalog-driven service fulfillment deal with NBN CO, unveiled our Next Generation Fulfillment Strategy and hosted a successful 14th annual User Group.

Each holiday season, we send our greeting cards electronically and donate the money saved from the traditional, printed cards to a charitable fund. This year, Comptel has selected Plan International to receive our donation (last year, we worked with the Kileva Foundation). It is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world, and works to promote child rights and bring millions out of poverty.

Comptel’s donation will support Plan’s mission to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of children’s lives in at least 50 developing countries. For those who would like to get involved with Plan International, you can learn more here.

To all our customers, partners, investors and friends, we wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season and look forward to another fruitful and cooperative year in 2012!


Comptel’s Second Day at Management World Africa 2011

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Phew! The second day of TM Forum’s Management World Africa 2011 is over. Now, I’m back on an airplane but this time to Cape Town (where Comptel has an office). Before landing, I again reflected a bit on the speech I gave on “taking personalisation to the next level—exploring how communications service providers (CSPs) can optimise customer retention and profitability through SIM management.”

In the afternoon’s presentation, I explored how CSPs across most parts of the world run their prepaid businesses, giving relatively little choice to users, mostly pre-provisioning the data and logistically managing many types or packages of SIM cards. Basically, SIM packages define the product one buys with or without a number attached.

I then expressed what the basic choices of personalisation are (price or product) and raised the question of segmentation. Aren’t we already in the stage of various types of micro-segments where two people in even the same village in rural Africa, let alone in urban cities, likely won’t have the exact same desires and expectations of CSPs’ services? If we start looking at the number of devices we use and the usage patterns we have, we would find that there is hardly any commonality, except that we all call and use data services—but that is not granular enough to address our need for personalisation. We have a vast amount of segments to address today, and the old mechanisms for defining products with varying prices and other parameters need to be rethought; otherwise, they will lead to non-personalised experiences and low customer loyalty.

I went on to explore if the mechanisms of trying to guess what is hot or not is valid—ultimately suggesting that CSPs do not even try. Let users select the services and value-adds they are interested in, and enable them to choose these elements themselves. My conclusion: loyalty is driven not only through quality but also through personalisation. If we allow users to self-personalise the services they take from their CSPs, how can competitors offer anything better?

Like I wrote yesterday, catalog is left, right and center of this kind of approach, but the way we fulfill service orders needs to be well coupled with the catalog data. If you want to know more, we’re happy to discuss it with you—it’s a bit of longer story than a blog post really.

Overall, it was a tight 15-minute session with a Q&A with the audience, and there was much more positive discussion afterwards 1-on-1 with the CSP community present.


On The Way to Management World Africa 2011

Posted: September 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on On The Way to Management World Africa 2011

I’m writing this while travelling to TM Forum’s Management World Africa 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I’ll be giving a speech on “taking personalisation to the next level—exploring how communications service providers (CSPs) can optimise customer retention and profitability through SIM management.” (Despite most of my blog posts having been about IMS or LTE, this one won’t.)

So while flying on the Airbus A380, which, by the way, is the most advanced aircraft I’ve ever travelled in, I started to think about how telcos, in general, fail at personalisation and why they should really take a serious look at other sectors like the airline industry. A major difference can be seen when comparing the way CSPs and airlines price their offerings. Telcos, for the most part, have fixed pricing with tiered costs based on peak and off-peak hours, but they don’t really personalise it at all. Whereas airline fees vary depending on the time of your flight, the number of passengers on that flight, etc.

Then, taking it a step further, upon booking, airlines personalise all communication based on your mileage program level. You can also choose your seat depending on availability and class of service, and sometimes have the option of special meals or drinks. Even after landing, I will be picked up by a personal driver, who has my name on a large sign to help me find him in the crowd.

Looking at it, aircrafts like the A380 are complicated ‘monsters’, technological masterpieces on their own. However, the airlines do not really sell the technology—but rather the experience. And although the personalisation is limited somewhat, it is still much more than just an SMS informing you that the European Union regulatory data caps and prices are valid when you’re roaming, for example.

I will be presenting around this topic and how CSPs can make personalisation real for customers. The key elements needed to see it through? Comptel believes it’s a full-fledged fulfillment suite. Comptel Dynamic SIM Management uses a configurable dialogue engine to drive user interaction, backed with Comptel Catalog to ensure that the products defined can actually be delivered with a service and resource inventory for numbers and SIM-related data and, of course, real-time Comptel Provisioning and Activation.

I know this will be published after I land, but thought of writing this to begin to explore the issue of personalisation. I will continue with this direction during Management World Africa and in some blog posts to follow.


Gearing Up for AfricaCom in Cape Town, 9-11 November

Posted: November 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

In less than a week’s time, AfricaCom (taking place 9-11 November) kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa, and Comptel will be there at stand D9 (opposite the coffee point!).

The organizers, Informa, are claiming that this year a record 4,200+ attendees from more than 1,500+ companies have registered—up 70% from last year.

From a biased perspective, I would like to think that holding this event in beautiful Cape Town (which IS Nice!), has something to do with this increase, but in reality, I suspect it is more a reflection of the rapid growth of the telecoms sector in Africa.

The temptation is to say growth = money for events…but I believe this cynically oversimplifies the value operators get from an event like this.

Growth has also meant increasing competition with everybody wanting a slice of the pie, so I suspect operators are primarily attending to find answers about how to generate and manage new revenue streams and cut costs in order to ensure future growth.

African operators need to grow their revenues from services (e.g. data and VAS) in the face of declining voice and SMS margins. For operators with OSS heavily geared towards simple voice and SMS services, an increasingly complex service portfolio brings many new challenges with respect to designing, launching and managing them. Comptel has seen a lot of interest this year from African operators in its catalog solutions for helping them get new services to market more quickly and cheaply, and managing the increasing service complexity.

There is also a non-growth-related challenge that needs mentioning, and that is one introduced by the legislation being enacted across Africa requiring operators to identify subscribers prior to their SIMs being activated. This shatters the current operating model of simply bulk pre-provisioning SIMs and introduces the challenge of only activating them after subscribers have been identified. It also presents operators with the ‘opportunity’ to leverage a closer relationship with what was previously a largely ‘anonymous’ subscriber base using ‘one-size-fits-all’ packages. Comptel has also seen a lot of interest in its dynamic SIM management solution, which helps operators comply with the legislation, cut costs from SIM wastage and leverage the legislation to actually get additional revenue streams.

So here’s to problem-solving at AfricaCom. Hope to see you ‘here’.