The telecoms industry has been instrumental in underpinning the fast growth and high penetration of mobile internet services and providing critical connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. New network technology advancements will expand the service monetisation opportunities for service providers beyond connectivity provision and will accelerate growth compared to the past.
However, to unleash the potential of these new networks to drive growth, it is imperative for the industry in general, and communications service providers (CSPs) in particular, to identify and modernise key systems and process areas. The service providers’ IT systems, including the customer facing business support system (BSS) and the network facing operations support system (OSS), rank among the priority targets for modernisation.
Strong demand for automation, but challenges remain high
The current service and network operations systems were designed for the static and monolithic networks of previous generations and are no longer fit for purpose in today’s and tomorrow’s more dynamic, open, and cloud-based network environment. Specifically, the current operations systems pose challenges to the success of CSPs’ digital transformation initiatives in three aspects:
- The closed, siloed IT systems (e.g. as multiple inventories for different domains or lines of business) make it hard to control and run operational processes efficiently
- The complex, fragmented fulfilment process, comprising a multitude of unintegrated touch points with manual steps along the way, may lead to inaccuracies and order fallouts, hence customer dissatisfaction
- The disconnect between fulfilment and assurance systems and processes hinders the ability to implement closed-loop operations, leading to reactive problem-solving approaches only.
To gauge more accurate views on these issues from the hands-on practitioners, Amdocs recently polled executives from 50 of the world’s tier-0 and tier-1 CSPs to understand how they see the role service operations play in enabling growth. The largest group, 42% of all the respondents, believed that modernising service operations with automation would be critical in reducing service delivery inaccuracies and order fallout, and improving customer experience, a key driver for growth. Meanwhile, 36% of respondents specifically highlighted the importance of improving the experience of enterprise customers. One-third (32%) of those responding to the survey also saw in automation a key to rapidly innovate, launch, and scale new services, which is critical to generating growth.
The survey has shown that CSPs’ enthusiasm for embracing new technologies to automate their operations, in particular systems and processes to manage the new, more dynamic networks, has been high over the last few years, and will remain high in the years to come. Over 90% of the survey respondents said they would actively invest in new operations automation capabilities in the next two years (if they are not doing so already). This is a direct response to the trend where the communications industry is moving from static, monolithic networks to more dynamic and flexible networks, which need more automation to support service operations.
To make the investment effective, CSPs need to first identify the main challenges they face in automating their service operations, and then find solutions to overcome them.
According to the Amdocs survey, the top challenge, identified by 72% of the respondents, was the lack of real-time contextual information for orchestration and assurance. This was closely followed by closed and monolithic systems, selected by over 70% of the respondents. Over half of all the respondents also saw a big challenge in the complexity of service management driven by the proliferation of multiple technologies and domains.
Building blocks for successful Digital Transformation
To overcome these challenges identified by the industry professionals and to succeed in their digital transformation initiatives, it is important for CSPs to adopt a holistic approach across their operations. Specifically, when it comes to business IT and system management, optimising automation calls for tighter integration of the customer-facing BSS and the network-facing OSS.
It is encouraging to see that the majority of the survey participants also shared this view. Three-quarters (76%) of all the respondents to the survey agreed tighter integration of BSS and OSS should be a digital transformation priority. Essentially this means there is a strong demand from the industry decision-makers for a flow-through service management and monetisation capability to automate and integrate operations from the user-engagement layer all the way through to the network.
The survey respondents identified a wide range of areas that investment should be made in when it comes to modernising and automating the OSS layer. The top priority, selected by 62% of all responding to the survey, went to end-to-end lifecycle automation and closed-loop operations. Also seen as a key area to be strengthened, chosen by over 40% of the respondents, was the CSPs’ federated inventory and 5G network management, a reflection of the CSPs’ desire to capture the opportunities for growth presented by the rollout of the latest network technologies.
The survey takers have also identified a number of tangible benefits from fully automated service management and operations running from the front-end to the network. For instance, the head of IT strategy at an operator in the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region pointed to “seamless connectivity and better customized solutions”, while the CIO of an operator in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region believed that full automation is a “requirement of the era given personalization is the key”. The head of IT operations from an APAC-based CSP looked towards an “increase in productivity and reliability” from automation of service management and operations, and the CTO of a CSP in Central and Latin America expects to see “automation streamlining change management”.
Amdocs empowers digital to network automation
It is therefore clear that CSP executives have high and diversified expectations of automated service management and operations. To help turn these expectations into reality, Amdocs has launched a full suite of solutions to support CSPs in automating their systems from digital engagement all the way through to the network, or “digital to network automation” for short.
At the core of Amdocs’ integrated OSS and BSS solution is NEO, the service and network automation platform. It is designed to manage, orchestrate, and automate the dynamic networks of tomorrow, but probably more important and meaningful for the CSPs who have multiple generations of networks to manage, NEO is capable of automating the hybrid networks of today, on the journey to the new networks era.
Figure 1: Flow-through of Amdocs’ integrated OSS & BSS
The major advantages of NEO include: its business-driven service design, integrated with commerce catalogue for end-to-end service and offer definitions; its capability to manage contextual cross-domain orchestration, integrated with charging for flow-through monetisation; the real-time, active, and federated inventory, seamlessly connected to relevant source systems for an accurate view of all network resources and services across all domains; and last but not least, the closed-loop assurance, leveraging rich data sources and using design-time policies and AI/ML to support uninterrupted service experiences.
What sets NEO apart is the ease of integration with the CSP’s BSS layer, thanks to its modular design. Another key differentiator and value add to CSPs is NEO’s open and standards-based interfaces and cloud-native application, fitting seamlessly into networks supplied by different vendors and those cloud and on-premises hybrid networks.
The solution has won many happy customers and has been proven at scale. Recent successes include delivering a strategic project of ordering and inventory transformation for a wireless communications leader in EMEA in support of the customer’s digital transformation program. And, better automated, scalable service activation across all the strategic lines of business at a media and communications leader in EMEA is another example of NEO’s impact.
In North America, NEO has been selected to provide the service design component of the service orchestration system for a wireless communications leader’s virtualised and cloud-based network. Another North America-based media and communications leader has recently contracted Amdocs to provide comprehensive service orchestration and inventory capabilities.
NEO recently won Amdocs the prestigious Frost & Sullivan 2021 Global New Product Innovation Award. As Frost & Sullivan’s Senior Industry Director Vikrant Gandhi puts it, “NEO provides a pragmatic and seamless path for CSPs moving from physical to hybrid to open cloud networks. With CSPs continuing to shift to multi-vendor environments and adopt open, flexible approaches to building next-generation networks, NEO could prove to be a valuable tool in supporting their network transformation initiatives.”
Click here to view the CSP survey results infographic.