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As the annals of history have borne out from recovered artifacts across the North Atlantic Ocean floor, The RMS Titanic—a ship claimed to be unsinkable—sank after striking an iceberg.2 Visual observation from a lookout position at the highest point of the ship was the only means of iceberg detection for the day. Yet, with the availability of today's navigational and geo positioning tools, such a tragedy would be considered criminal negligence rather than an unavoidable accident.
Icebergs consist of fresh water glacial ice, which sometimes breaks off and slips into the sea. The difference in density of the sea water and density of the ice creates a buoyancy effect that allows approximately 8-10 percent of an iceberg to be visible above the water line, with the remainder staying below. The often used cliché, “tip of an iceberg,” usually refers to seeing or understanding a very small part of an often larger or more complex problem. Enter today’s world, in which the tip of the digital lifestyle is crowded with everevolving services, from a continuously expanding partner ecosystem, focused on both virtual and physical service offerings. It’s a world that continues to pay little attention to the almost hidden needs of key operations functions such as delivering, billing, and assuring uninterrupted broadband access and
Communications service providers (CSPs) are challenged today to address the billing needs of bundled network services such as voice, text messaging, and data access for their consumer and small business customers. They have the added challenge of profitably providing broadband connectivity to their enterprise customers; and managing multiple business-to-business (B2B) relationships with solution partners for several new business endeavors—some of which include m-Commerce, cloud-based virtual services, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and enterprise use of mobility services within their product offerings, to deliver a more enhanced experience for their customers. Monetizing this complexity, including compensation to a growing number of business solution partners as revenue is received from customers, means that CSPs must adopt new business strategies, new business models, and new business management solutions.
Enterprise data services providers, a.k.a. cloud services providers, have been very focused over the past 2-3 years on increasing their data center capacity, providing data center access, and in garnering the attention of enterprise customers with the services they deliver. Up until now, little effort was invested in automating the service contract negotiation, agreements, tracking, invoicing, payments, and partner compensation functions necessary to address the business relationships that cloud services providers established with their targeted enterprise customers. In many cases, these functions continue as a manual process, involving line-by-line spreadsheet calculations. While a minimalist approach to business management may have worked up until now, cloud services providers are handicapped in their ability to address the growing pricing and charging complexity that comes from customer-specific data services bundles—much the same way the RMS Titanic was unable to steer clear of the iceberg. Both did not see what was really coming at them.
The most important business challenge for the combined CSP and cloud services supplier marketplace today is the growing complexity with billing for any B2B relationship, such as enterprise data services. This week's SPIE explains why the sale, delivery, and monetization of enterprise data services are driven by complex B2B models tied to individualized and negotiated service contracts. It points out why traditional subscriber billing systems—business-to-consumer (B2C) support for millions of customers with a relatively small number of service offerings—are not engineered to meet the needs of this growing market segment. The report also explains how one supplier—Omniware Solutions Inc.—addresses the monetization requirements for any B2B relationship in a way that allows business analysts and sales representatives to define contract terms, within the billing system, during the contract negotiation process.
Monetization of Enterprise Data Services is No Simple Task
Enterprise data services take on many forms, and quickly create behind-the-scenes complexity for the service provisioning, business management, and monetization processes. For example, enterprises typically purchase broadband connectivity from one or more network operators according to geographic coverage needs, pricing flexibility, and service availability. Enterprises also purchase data center services such as unified communications, remote data storage, elastic bandwidth, and computing capacity from one or more cloud services providers. In addition, enterprises purchase cloud-based applications including ERP, customer care, office automation, sales management, and specialty applications from these same cloud services providers; or, in some cases, directly from the developer, according to business relationships and service needs.
Rarely are the bandwidth provider and data services supplier the same organization, for multiple reasons that are beyond the scope of this report. However, a recent Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan survey found that 71 percent of US-based IT decision makers stated that their company would prefer to purchase cloud and network services from a single provider.
Setting aside the reasons for why enterprises generally do not support a single supplier mindset today, the most important aspect (beyond receiving multiple bills from multiple suppliers) is that each enterprise data services customer requires a unique contract agreement. These agreements are based on numerous factors, such as the enterprise customer’s changing business needs, willingness to spend, and flexibility demands pertaining to pricing options, usage discounts, loyalty focus, and brand awareness. In addition, there is a high probability that different partners will be involved with the delivery and maintenance of each service combination package that a cloud service provider sells. From a monetization perspective, this means complexity as services are billed, revenue is collected, and partners are compensated.
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