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Competing at the pace of digital-native players – CSPs’ critical shift from monolithic to platform-based digital enablement

Atul Arora Senior Analyst, Research

"CSPs must adopt agile development and deployment methodologies to gain business agility that will enable them to address constantly evolving customer expectations, and should recruit a digital partner that can support their end-to-end needs, from strategic consulting support to training their workforce in the new ways of working."

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Communications service providers (CSPs) are engaging in the next round of transformation to compete with other CSPs and aggressive digital-native web-scale companies like Amazon and Netflix. To be more competitive, CSPs need greater agility and faster time-to-market (TTM) capabilities. A new, key method for achieving greater agility and TTM is by deploying platform-based digital enablement capabilities. For many CSPs, the most natural place to start is with digital enablement of customer engagement.

Deploying digital enablement capabilities on top of a platform is a revolutionary change to the way CSPs deploy technology, impacting their business internally and externally. This revolutionary change embodies new web-scale methods including cloud architecture, microservices, artificial intelligence (AI) and a DevOps development process. The result is shortened development and deployment time for new automation capabilities that have been throttled by traditional OSS/BSS methods.

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A digital enablement platform can help with a wide range of systems. However, changing an entire BSS is risky, costly and time-consuming. CSPs can leave the core BSS in place for the present but begin their transformation by applying the platform and benefit from improved customer engagement.

CSPs are facing, and will continue to face, rapid change in customer engagement. Customers expect CSPs to keep pace with the digital experience provided by web-scale players. Digital experience started with web self-service and recently extended to smartphone apps and social media. AI is maturing and beginning to support a variety of use cases, such as automated attendants. It is impossible to predict what will come next, but we know future changes will occur more rapidly than past ones. A digital enablement platform focused on care, commerce, omni-channel and other areas that directly impact customer engagement and experience will help CSPs cope with these rapid changes in digital experience.

To provide greater agility and TTM, a digital enablement platform leads CSPs to operate in a lean manner. The platform uses cloud-native microservices that are lightweight, self-contained and loosely coupled. It enables CSPs and their suppliers to use DevOps methodology to rapidly develop and deploy new capabilities. These methods have been widely deployed by the web-scale players, and in other industries. A digital engagement platform is a way for CSPs to benefit from these methods to ensure greater agility and TTM.

However, new technologies and approaches do not exist in a vacuum. They must coexist for a time with the large set of current legacy systems and operational processes currently in use. Fortunately, the digital enablement platform offers CSPs the flexibility to adopt one of several available approaches that delivers best value (irrespective of CSPs' status in the transformation journey). Two techniques that are proving useful for CSPs currently engaged in deploying platforms are the following:

  • Working in a dual-speed architecture mode via an overlay architecture – when existing systems are adequate but certain aspects required greater level of agility. The existing systems are expected to eventually be replaced, but may coexist for many years.
  • Evolving existing systems into a platform over time – this approach works if the incumbent vendor has a strong roadmap for moving deployed systems to the platform.

CSPs intending to undertake digital transformation projects should engage with a digital partner that has a wealth of experience in the telecoms sector, and works with cloud-native microservices architecture and agile DevOps processes. In addition, the digital BSS partner will support the CSP across the entire transformation journey, from strategic planning, design and delivery, and implementation, to providing ongoing support and training.