B2B Cloud Operations: Vastly Cutting Time-to-Market for Enterprise Customers
The opportunities presented by offering cloud B2B services is encouraging operators to rethink their approach to the network, OSS and BSS in order to accelerate delivery and improve customer experience.
The B2B market has become a renewed focus for service providers, representing an area of revenue growth and increased margins as traditional consumer ARPUs flounder. Scrutiny has consequently been increased on the operational practices involved in delivering both established and mature B2B services and a series of newer, digital services. A good example of these new services is the boom in SD-WAN connectivity for enterprise customers, which fundamentally requires telecom service providers to deploy new virtualized network technology and to rethink their business process strategies. In effect, it is impossible to provide SD-WAN without a certain degree of operational digitalization and it is competitively important to be able to provide SD-WAN services, as they are cannibalizing the very large MPLS service lines. Inaction on the part of the operator would make room for a competitor to replace their MPLS revenues. So, in this case, there is a very clear correlation between digital transformation and competitive advantage.
As such, moving OSS/BSS to the cloud seems to be one of the key strategic moves that service providers deem necessary in order to modernize service operations in the B2B side of the business. However, the time, cost and complexity challenges are of large concern to many industry leaders, and with single-digit profit margins, they need to be sure that the efforts of transformation are commensurate with the benefits. Top of the list in vast improvements required from moving to the cloud is significantly cutting time-to-market for new services. There are several key areas of operational focus to be moved to a cloud model.
In the Network: The NFV/SDN Stack
Flawless virtual network function (VNF) management and network orchestration is essential for services provided over fully virtualized network environments or hybrid networks. By bundling cloud connectivity services, such as SD-WAN, with value-added network services, enterprise applications and IoT infrastructure applications, operators can, for the first time, transform their service creation and launch strategies toward highly differentiated enterprise and vertical-specific offerings.
In the OSS: Fulfillment, Assurance and Service-Level Orchestration
Full automation in the OSS is essential to run end-to-end fulfillment workflows in seconds rather than aspects of the flow falling into a manual job queue for a technician to address. As enterprise services are often network orders of some sort (e.g., a new piece of network needs to be activated to fulfill the order), workflows are much more involved than with standard consumer connectivity packages. However, for B2B services such as cloud VPN, SD-WAN or smart office IoT offerings ordered in a digital storefront through self-service, the customer expectation is that the service will be brought up immediately. Traditional lead times of several weeks or months are now unacceptable.
In the BSS: Digital CX, Self-Service and Order Management
Essential for enterprises self-managing their package of connectivity, cloud computing, IoT, etc. is a heavily automated and fallout-free ordering process in the front end. This will ensure the best possible customer experience. The BSS bridge to the customer in a B2B context is often a less emphasized piece of the operational puzzle as enterprise customer contact points are often a highly skilled IT engineer. However, in the paradigm of services such as SD-WAN, office managers and similar personnel should be able to take on some network administration functions. This is another way that digital-ready BSS for cloud services reduces the time-to-market and accelerates activation speeds for additional features. Lowering the necessary technical skill level for enterprise staff creates a much more harmonious interface between the operator and the customer.
These OSS, BSS and network software functions moved to a cloud model remove much of the friction in the processes and workflows that must be undertaken to make service operations more agile and innovative. Many operators following this model are now also partnering with leading vendors to take all of the above as cloud-based managed services. As an industry trend, this theme of the larger digital transformation picture is significantly changing the B2B approach and forming a model for growth in other growth markets, such as commercial IoT and consumer IT services.