The evolution of business-to-business (B2B) markets is challenging for communications service providers (CSPs). Kannan Ramakrishnan of Tata Consultancy Services looks at how in this preview of a case study he will present at TM Forum Live! Asia in Singapore.
The digitalization of B2B companies is gaining momentum as enterprises leverage technology innovations to become global digital businesses. CSPs are finding that these companies require more and more attention.
The challenges in dealing with B2B businesses are many, be it customer segmentation, industry variations, providing adequate products and services, a growing partner ecosystem, demanding customers, etc. On the IT side, capital expenditures and operating expenses are growing and time to market is becoming long and frustrating.
Business challenges and complexities
CSPs must navigate diverse markets: The B2B customer segment varies from simple small office/home office users, to small and midsize businesses (SMB), large corporations, educational and social organizations, government agencies and more. Industry variations, meanwhile, cover a broad spectrum from agriculture to travel and hospitality.
The combination industry variations and the sundry of customer segments within them places specific demands on CSPs’ portfolios. For example, an SMB in the retail industry (say a chain of coffee shops), would need broadband Wi-Fi to attract customers, whereas an SMB in the hospitality industry would need voice services, broadband Wi-Fi and video content. In short, a deep understanding of customer segments offers the advantage of developing and tailoring portfolios to specific needs.
Portfolios catering to B2B clientele spread across mass-market services (e.g. high-speed, broadband, mobile), engineered connectivity services (VPN, leased lines), managed ICT services (e.g. hosting, unified communications) and digital services (e.g. internet of things, security). A typical portfolio of even a mid-sized B2B provider comprises more than 60 different services. Each of these services creates process variations across the operations value chain (out of breath yet?).
The sheer number of partners, the speed of partner onboarding/retiring, and the various types of interactions and business models are placing huge demands on IT to support a growing partner ecosystem.
Implications on OSS/BSS
The implications for operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) include the following processes:
- product/service lifecycle management;
- delivery; and
Product/service lifecycle management processes
These processes need to develop through in-house innovation and leverage the partnership ecosystem. Product lifecycle management and partner management applications are needed from beginning to end to support these processes effectively; from the innovation stage through to creating business cases, service and resource designing, onboarding partners, co-devising/performing testing, market trials and eventual rollout.
The B2B customer touchpoint starts at the sales level, whereby the sales processes need to enable the sales teams to capture the customer needs clearly, so as to propose the right solutions quickly and at the best price. While the horizontal IT solutions address the lead funnel management effectively, providers need to invest in domain specific catalogues, and quoting/agreement management solutions to ensure a seamless handoff at the delivery stage.
While the sales processes create the first customer experience impressions, it’s the delivery processes which ensure continued customer retention. Providers often find that that while Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the sales side are high, NPS for the delivery side are low.
Delivery processes span across the value chains of fulfillment, assurance and billing, and a strong digital core is needed to ensure exceptional delivery. To deliver on sales’ promises, delivery must include order automation, self-care capabilities, customer/service order management capabilities (which support interwoven automated and manual tasks), orchestration across the partner ecosystem, hybrid network management, integrated service/resource view, multi device management and agreement-based billing.
For enterprise processes, the role of analytics and revenue assurance applications in particular are growing in importance. Analytics are critical in areas such as devising the product propositions, sales/account performance, customer/network experience and improved order to cash cycle times.
One often finds enterprise agreements are not digitized, which leads to bill disputes, refunds and huge operations costs. These issues get compounded in an expanding partner ecosystem. Analytics and revenue assurance on big data platforms are required as never before to ensure improved customer experience and margin improvements.
Providers support the B2B area with multiple siloed IT solutions, often running on legacy or monolithic systems. They need cloud ready platform based OSS/BSS solutions which can ensure a robust digital core. This allows providers the flexibility to tailor customer channel experiences to changing customer behaviors over time.