Three Step Strategy for Modernizing Billing for the Anything, Anywhere Age
AfricaCom Daily NewsNovember 13, 2013 Communications Service Providers look to agile BSS modernization as a way to transform their back-office infrastructure in order to stay competitive, enable new business models, and match customer expectations. The mobile environment has been flipped it on its head. Gone are the days in which mobile operators set the pace of innovation behind their walled gardens. Today, innovation is driven from beyond the walls. In June 2013, Apple announced that 50 billion apps had been downloaded from the App Store, half of which were downloaded in 2012 alone. Behind these apps are more than 200,000 app developers who feed into this innovation every day. With no signs of this trend abating, operators need to assess how they and their back-office systems can prosper in this next generation, “IP-driven” world. While this challenge of being under constant pressure to keep up with the evolution of network technology may not be new, LTE is set to add even more complexity into the mix. While very few consumers of technology would argue that evolution is a bad thing, the unfortunate reality for operators is that each technological iteration has led to the deployment of additional online/offline billing and charging systems. The result is a complex, often disjointed back-office system that is less and less capable of providing the flexibility, quality of experience and quality of service these new technologies demand. Fundamentally, business models and profitability are driven by back-office functions, or as they are more formally known, business support systems (BSS). This means BSS is at the heart of the challenges mobile operators are facing today, but can also be at the nucleus of tomorrow’s pportunities. In order to stay competitive, enable new business models and match customer expectations, mobile operators need to improve their back-office infrastructure significantly.
Transforming Your BSS
As the heart of business operations, BSS is responsible for mission-critical, customerfacing activities that fall into four main areas: product management, revenue management, customer management and order management. These functions – and the corresponding systems – are at the core of every business, ensuring revenue and financial performance. Any transformation not only involves technology and IT systems, but also touches on the underlying business processes and the organization and people involved. To add another layer of complexity, all of this is also engrained in the architecture and implementation of legacy systems.
Knowing this, it’s no wonder BSS transformations are considered to be challenging and risky projects.
Options for Modernizing Your BSS
Communications Service Providers have three options to begin transforming their BSS:
- Radical transformation: Transforming the entire business operations environment to the new model
- Patchwork: To ring-fence existing systems, launching new services on a new BSS infrastructure
- Agile modernization: A hybrid approach that calls for an overlay solution to handle modern needs,limiting integration of the new system with legacy systems while enforcing a gradual reduction of systems to a single infrastructure over time
How Agile Modernization Works
The framework for agile BSS modernization is similar to Agile Development, where small steps are aligned to create a final product while maintaining working software throughout the process. Although there may be differences in the details and the timeframe applied, the following three steps are recommended:
Step 1: Start with a blueprint: Create a blueprint for the BSS infrastructure. Key criteria / requirements that should be considered include architectural and functional considerations, as well as system requirements. And while it is important to have a starting point, it will evolve during the process and should not be considered “carved in stone.”
Step 2: Identify quick-wins: Define the most needed project(s) and implement these first. These projects can be driven by addressing specific customer segments, specific technologies (e.g., LTE dongles for mobile broadband access) or specific features (e.g., bill-shock prevention for roaming or data charging). This approach allows you to evolve towards an improved BSS and create immediate value while maintaining a functional BSS infrastructure.
Step 3: Review and refine: As you are continuously modernizing your systems, it is important to review how the changes affect your overall system and then refine the overall blueprint as necessary. Once refined, return to step 2 to identify the next quick win, and repeat the process.
Agile Modernization Enables Tier-1 APA C Operator to Launch Data Services Faster to the Market
In the case of a Tier-1 operator in APAC, its legacy postpaid billing and prepaid charging systems were prohibiting it from quickly launching data products to its pre- and postpaid customers. It needed a next-generation billing and charging solution that would provide the flexibility and scalability to allow it to deliver advanced pre- and postpaid data services faster to the market, while providing cost-effective tariff options to deliver a more advanced and personalized customer experience, and to increase profitability.
The distribution of the BSS infrastructure across different systems for different regions also made consistent implementation difficult, and required a solution that could easily integrate with multiple systems.
Using the Agile Modernization Approach allowed the operator to replace its data charging system and fully integrate the new system into its legacy network and IT environment by the time of launch. This meant that the launch involved no temporary solutions that required subsequent disengagement or re-architecting.
With the successful introduction of data tariffs for pre- and postpaid customers across the complete customer base, the solution can now be extended to address real-time charging and billing for other services, such as voice and messaging.
Being Successful with BSS Modernization
No Communications Service Provider is the same, which means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a BSS transformation project. The goal is to use an approach that identifies the modular, scalable and flexible characteristics of a modernized BSS and matches them with a low-risk implementation strategy.
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