Operators realize that real change will require new ways of looking at their future technology base, and this new term – unconsicous BSS – shows they are serious about getting digital. Here’s why.
In a very general sense, the digital economy is described (by Wikipedia) as “… an economy that is based on digital computing technologies”. Sometimes also referred to as the ‘internet economy’, if you think of the way that you sign up and use Uber, Netflix, or Amazon, they are good examples of how a product or service can be used digitally – everything is simple and easy, from the way you are onboarded or signed up to the service, to how the product is consumed or delivered. This type of ‘digital service experience’ is what traditional cable or telecom companies are striving for, and they’re finding out that it is not as easy as they’d hoped.
Which brings me to the concept of the ‘unconscious BSS’. One of our customers has started to use the term regularly, and when you think about the way they envision the technology stack they will need to become digital, it fits extremely well.
You see, the biggest thing standing in the way from an operator becoming digital is that their existing (legacy) technology stack, particularly their backend BSS/OSS systems, are preventing them from providing those digital service experience for their users. Analyst firm Analysys Mason created a recent report on such telco transformations, and observed that, “From a CSP’s perspective, the biggest bottleneck that holds back timely introduction of new products and services is the complexity and chaos of existing systems.”
Rather than replacing these legacy systems (too expensive), or modifying them (takes too long), they are instead using a strategy of isolation. They recognize that the role of billing systems is still important (especially for core services), but they are essentially choosing to build a box around them, placing all of the digital innovation capabilities above the box.
This is a pretty well known technology strategy – Gartner calls it ‘pace layering’, others call it ‘bi-modal IT’ or a ‘digital overlay’. No matter what you call it, it makes a tremendous amount of sense because it removes the risks involved in large billing transformation projects, gets operators to digital faster, and minimizes the disruption to ongoing service delivery.
Building on the BSS
So, we’re sitting in a series of customer meetings and many of the attendees are the people who manage and run the operator’s legacy billing platforms. Some employees of this billing vendor were also in the room. This is where we heard someone mention the ‘unconscious BSS’ term. It was repeated several times, and then someone asked one of the operator managers to explain it, “It is where we are going in order to get to digital. We’re going to leave the BSS alone, and plan all of our new digital capabilities above BSS in the stack – in essence the BSS is unconscious”.
And there it was. These guys were getting it, and they invented a new term in the process!
When you consider the three requirements operators are looking for as they transition to digital (besides the ongoing requirements of saving time and money), an unconscious BSS makes a lot of sense:
- Operators need to engage with their users digitally – and that means every user – above the BSS layer
- Operators need to embrace new operator services – especially cloud/OTT services – above the BSS layer
- Operators need to collect and manage user data across all services, including historical activity data, collected and analyzed (user recommendations, targeted advertising, machine learning) – all above the BSS layer
It is indeed a challenging time for operators. They have built up years and years of expertise in running and managing their traditional BSS/OSS systems, but it appears that they are beginning to realize that real change will require new ways of looking at their future technology base, and this new term is an indication that they are serious about getting digital.