Digital telcos need the right OSS/BSS tools if they are to serve the enterprise market profitably

One thing sure to irritate enterprise customers is a finger‑drumming wait for service activation. When IT and network managers make an order to connect a branch office, say, their patience will quickly run out if weeks pass before the service is up and running.

Hardly surprising. Enterprises never take too kindly to potential losses in revenue. But there’s another reason why patience soon wears thin. 

Customer‑service levels have been raised dramatically in the consumer world, so there’s a growing expectation among enterprises that ordering telco services should be just as straightforward. Think about the easy-to-use self-service portals of Amazon, Facebook or Google. Service activation is near instantaneous once the order is made.

 

It will take more than swift service-fulfillment, however, to keep enterprises satisfied. They also want bespoke services to suit specific and often changing business needs. Offering a portal‑based service catalog without scope for flexibility will only take the telco so far.

Rather than funnelling all traffic to head-office for deep-packet inspection, for example, the ability to select non mission-critical applications that go straight to the public internet — with a click or two on the online portal — could free up significant bandwidth on the wide-area network (WAN). Adding extra network security functions to data traffic flows among a pre-defined user group might be another enterprise requirement. IT and network managers are likely to spend more with their service provider if they can pick‑and‑mix in this way.

 

The stakes are high. Telcos able to meet bespoke demands of this sort — in a timely manner — will have a much better chance to upsell services beyond connectivity. Those that cannot will be marginalized in the enterprise space. The good news is that network functions virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) can help deliver the ‘user-defined’ networking experience that enterprises (and consumers) crave.

 

Back-office back up

There are important caveats. To get the most out of virtualization technologies, telcos — if they are serious about digital transformation — need to make sure that their operations support systems and business support systems (OSS/BSS) are fit-for-purpose. Rapid service activation depends on having a comprehensive and real-time inventory of network resources. Without it, workflows designed to automate service fulfillment will quickly come unstuck.  

Let’s look again at branch connections and the emergence of software-defined WANs and virtual private networks. By using SDN’s programming and virtualization capabilities, branch connections can be set up automatically without having to manually configure all the switches and routers that make up the enterprise network. Successful automation, however, presupposes that the OSS/BSS has an accurate view of the network in the first place.

The same is true whenever the enterprise selects a catalog service or adopts the pick-and-mix approach. Each catalog service carries specific rules about how network and IT resources are allocated in order to deliver it, which means the OSS/BSS must be aware about the current status of asset availability. If the OSS/BSS routinely takes days or weeks to assimilate assignment of either virtual or physical resources, errors in network inventory inevitably pile up. Service activation gets delayed and revenue streams are choked.  

Factor in the extra cost of sending out field engineers to fix problems, with perhaps little in the way of network visibility, then telcos will find themselves in an unenviable predicament. Unhappy enterprise customers on the one hand and spiralling O&M costs on the other.

 

Service fulfillment, revenue generation

Thankfully there is a way forward for the committed digital telco. By using SunVizion Service Fulfillment and SunVizion Network Inventory — each developed by OSS/BSS specialist Suntech – time-to-revenue is cut and O&M costs are better managed.

If services or service combinations are to be orchestrated automatically, they need to be mapped onto a catalog at both the OSS and BSS layers. This is done by SunVizion Service Fulfillment, which uses standards developed by TM Forum: Customer Facing Service Specification (CFSS) and Resource Facing Service Specification (RFSS). The CFSS presents the catalog on an easy-to-use portal to operations staff, while the RFSS describes how customer-facing services are configured over the network.

The upshot is that when an order is placed, whether it be Ethernet Leased Lines or metro WDM links, SunVizion Service Fulfillment understands which network and IT resources are needed to compose the requested service. In-built workflows then make sure of service fulfillment. Automation of this sort cuts down on human error and O&M costs. There’s no need to manually configure lots of network components to get services up and running.  

For all this to work smoothly, an accurate and holistic view of the network is a must — which is where SunVizion Network Inventory comes in (see Digital telcos need top-notch network inventory). SunVizion Network Inventory ensures the OSS/BSS is bang up to date about availability of both  physical (network infrastructure) and logical (network connectivity) resources. It’s vital, too, to arm field engineers with an accurate understanding of the network. SunVizion Network Inventory Mobile gives them all the information they need to rectify problems quickly.

Service fulfillment is too important to leave to chance.