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For the communications service provider (CSP) global community, 2014 promises to be a year of business challenge and opportunity on several fronts. Change will continue based on multiple key business drivers, such as improvements in network technology, user device evolution, advancing ways to do business, and cloud-based services. In addition:
- Network data usage volumes will continue their exponential expansion, especially as mobile technologies improve the ability for customers to consume data content.
- Pressure to be more cost effective in the delivery of network access services will drive CSPs to work harder at exploring ways to do business better.
- Competitive forces will cause CSPs and cloud services providers to address enterprise customer needs through negotiated pricing offers and contract-based monetization strategies that tie CSP partner compensation with service consumption.
- Heightened focus on mobile device security and increased sensitivity to the use of mobile devices for mCommerce will garner the attention of criminals, cybersecurity analysts, service providers, financial organizations, and business solution suppliers.
- Every industry outside the communications services sector will continue the push to incorporate mobile connectivity into the goods and services they provide, as a way to deliver a better experience for their customers, especially within the transportation logistics, eHealth, telematics, and financial services markets.
Some drivers may cause little or no change, while others will bring major change. Still others, such as the technology refresh movement ushering in the era of virtual networking, may fully enable CSPs to flexibly respond to market conditions at the speed of market change. 2 The solution suppliers that provide systems, services, and IT infrastructure to CSPs must stay abreast of the business and technology redefinition that is now underway.
As these market drivers shower their influence upon the communications industry business landscape, CSPs will continue to engage with trusted operations & monetization (O&M) suppliers—also known as OSS BSS suppliers—to deliver comprehensive service-enabling solutions. These solutions will need to perform in double-duty fashion for a time. First, to seamlessly interact with existing systems and numerous data repositories associated with previously implemented business management and network operations processes. Second, to deliver new capabilities essential to operate and manage the needs of new business models, new technologies, new services, and new types of customers.
In addressing these needs, some systems will be replaced, others augmented, and new ones will be added. This is where a new age of innovation is essential, and something Stratecast believes cannot be done by a handful of entrepreneurial startups alone. In fact, this year is the first time we have expanded the 10 to Watch report to include all O&M suppliers, regardless of size. This is a significant redirection from the past, when 10 to Watch mainly spotlighted smaller suppliers. We have seen innovation come from all sources over the past months, including well-established market suppliers, some of which are featured in this 2014 edition of 10 to Watch.
Our reasons for looking at all O&M suppliers are straightforward. While a smaller company may focus on specific or targeted business challenges for a smaller initial base of customers, larger suppliers hear the same needs magnified by many. In response, they commission internal work teams to attend to these needs—or risk losing such customers to the competition. Larger companies also commission advanced market strategy teams to prepare for challenges that lie ahead; in many cases, operating them as though they were small entrepreneurial startups in their own right.
Regardless of company size, 2014 will be a new era of innovation ushered in by companies that exhibit what Stratecast understands are the foundational attributes of all successful O&M suppliers: agility, alignment with market needs, product reliability, innovation, scalability, differentiation, vision, and strong partnerships with customers and with other suppliers.
The answer to addressing many of today's new business problems lies in the right combination of capabilities from several parts of the global marketplace, in a way that produces results much better than if such assets were delivered independently. This means building ecosystems, and working with partners in ways very different than in the past. We believe that O&M companies will work to solve specific problems with unique technologies and approaches. These companies will take advantage of the most recent advances in interface definitions and computing resources, regardless of delivery model (license or virtual), and regardless of market position. Most importantly, Stratecast believes that answers to tough business situations come from dedicated focus on problems, regardless of the size of the organization addressing them.
The ten O&M companies that Stratecast has chosen as its 10 to Watch in 2014 are focused on meeting critical business challenges and technology enablement functions. These companies are included in our list because they deliver innovative solutions that help CSPs transform operations, address new business needs, and help to improve the customer experience.
Innovation is Essential Now More Than Ever Before
In the past, when CSPs were focused on delivering only network connectivity at a price point customers would bear, and at a revenue yield that maximized the return on all network investments, the OSS and BSS marketplace was different. Suppliers focused on specific operational functions such as billing, order management, network inventory, or service assurance. There were plenty of network operators within the global CSP marketplace; and a large pool of both network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) and OSS BSS suppliers sprang into existence. With consolidation of both the supplier and service provider markets over the past seven years, compounded with other global factors such as technology innovation and a multi-year global economic downturn, the communications marketplace has seen substantial change—slowly at first, and at a more accelerated rate more recently.
One change comes from the growing trend toward personalization of service offers. Personalization services have gained attention in the enterprise market through cloud-based offerings; especially for IaaS and PaaS data center capabilities such as storage, unified communication services, and computing capacity. The suppliers of such services, in many cases, are confounded by antiquated billing solutions that prohibit them from meeting the business-to-business (B2B) contract-based service negotiation requirements of their enterprise customers, and the complex compensation needs of their partners.
Personalization services for consumers, made available through downloadable mobile apps, network functions such as location or mobile device security, and content from many SaaS providers, are similarly limited by traditionally defined OSS BSS solutions. New solutions will allow more refined pricing plans and, ultimately, the ability to offer negotiated service offerings and business strategies.
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