Time to get serious about the supply chain
We don’t normally cover product releases on Microsperience, but cVidya’s announcement of EZTrust is one we’d like to bring to your attention. It raises key questions about the telecoms supply chain of the future. by Teresa Cottam
The newly-announced EZTrust from cVidya is designed to manage contractual disputes between network operators and service providers.The solution provides a platform for dispute management and reconciliation, and its aim is to resolve disputes between partners in the telecoms supply chain far quicker than is typically the case.
While cVidya is not the only firm that has a dispute management offering – Telarix is another one that springs to mind, although its solution is focused on the interconnect market – this is a canny move by the firm. Disputes between business partners create huge operational inefficiency and cost telecoms service providers dearly. They’re also on the increase.
What this brings into sharp focus is the requirement for better management of the telecoms supply chain, with business processes and solutions to support it. It’s no longer viable for service providers to do this by hand or using Excel worksheets, as the number and type of partners, the speed of reconciliation and the complexity of services are all increasing. This is an area that Larry Goldman of Analysys Mason and I have been researching for the past 12 months as part of a major study of partner settlement processes and technology. What is clear from this research is that managing partnerships is set to be an important area of focus over the next few years for service providers, with Larry forecasting respectable growth for the next five years in his forecasts.
The emphasis, however, is shifting from pure settlement to include dispute management, information sharing, PRM, BI, revenue assurance, fraud management and so on. What’s clear is that no single player has all the technology required to build a total supply chain solution of the type we envisage being needed to maximise on their partnership strategies. And since this market is characterised by a large number of relatively small players it’s almost certainly a recipe for consolidation.
Partner management and settlement has long been somewhat neglected by many service providers in terms of investment. An interconnect manager I spoke to during our research programme commented that he had an in-house system that wasn’t fit for purpose and caused all sorts of difficulties for his business. When I asked him what he was going to do about it he shrugged. “I’ve got no money for a new system and I’ve just been told to manage,” he said. “I’ll try and get some internal resource allocated to patch it and extend it.”
The increasing importance of partnerships of all kinds to our business means this approach is not sustainable. Business managers need to understand that managing partnerships efficiently is vital and can deliver competitive advantage, new revenue streams and lower costs. Partnerships in the next generation are not going to be necessarily long-term, static, slow changing and trusted. There will not simply be a greater volume of partners but also a wide range of partner types, which need to be managed in different ways and in business-centric ways.
How do you take a business-centric approach to partnerships? Well to do that you need to be able to answer questions such as:
- who are my most profitable partners?
- who are my fast-growing ‘star’ partners?
- who is not offering a sufficiently high QoS and what are the consequences of that?
- who are paying their bills promptly and in full?
- who are the niche partners that provide components of services to my most valuable customers and what is their performance like?
- is the invoice I am being asked to pay by my partner correct?
- am I providing a partner service that is attractive to the best quality and more lucrative partners?
- is the cost of onboarding and managing partners in line with the revenue they are likely to generate?
- am I able to take advantage of time-limited or niche opportunities or is my partnership infrastructure too slow/expensive to enable this?
The future partner environment will put pressure on legacy infrastructure, much of which has not been designed to accommodate this type of business model, or which is built on a siloed basis. However, for those looking to refresh their partner infrastructure there is no longer a requirement for upfront investment as many vendors are now offering managed service or SaaS options. cVidya, for example, is offering EZTrust on either a SaaS, managed service or software licence basis. Many vendors of solutions in the interconnect/roaming partner settlement space – such as i-conX, Cerillion, Basset, Amdocs, Intec, Ericsson, Sitronics and Comarch - offer both product licences and some form of outsourced service. Usually this service is bundled with expertise and training.
In addition to these traditional partnerships there are also the new breed of partnerships enabled by the network-as-a-service (NaaS) vision and supported by technology from companies such as Aepona and Amdocs. (see Aepona buys Valista.) In this scenario the CSP’s resources are exposed as service building blocks for partners to develop services from. This, in turn, places great emphasis on revenue assurance as telecoms resources are being consumed by partners and the revenue needs to be assured. This is an area that revenue assurance and fraud management companies should be targetting with solutions.
So I guess my argument is that partnerships are vital to next-generation services, managing them better makes great operational and commercial sense, and using a managed service option can deliver cutting-edge technology and expertise without the upfront cost of buying a product. It is unlikely that in future it will be either sustainable or desirable to have multiple partner management infrastructures. As complex services involve multiple partners, and partners may have multiple roles, convergence becomes essential. True solutions for partnership management which cover a wide range of partnership types & scenarios and deliver business-centric control are out there in the market, although these will become more sophisticated, wider ranging and offer more breadth of functionality in response to evolving CSP need. Whichever way you look at it though paying attention to how you manage your partnerships makes great business sense whatever your future business model, and is also an essential part of an optimal telesperience.
If you’d like to hear more from cVidya then Guy Talmi is talking to us about OPEX reduction in this month’s Telesperience.