With mobility, video, applications and over-the-top content dominating the consumer landscape, it is widely accepted that communication service providers (CSPs) of all types are dramatically increasing the number of partnerships they have in place, in order to grow revenue. But making ecosystems work doesn’t just require consumer adoption; it also means changing up back-office operations so that third-party services can be ordered, delivered, billed and serviced appropriately.
Key core CSP assets such as brand, the customer base and billing are easily leveraged and attractive to partners of all types. Partners in this context are any third parties that deliver some value that a CSP might want to offer to their customers. Initially, it started with CPE vendors, then turnkey services such as DSL or VoIP, and now it includes TV services such as Dish or DirecTV, wireless services and any additional content (applications, programming, ringtones, advertising, etc.). In the very near future, it will likely even extend to distance learning, telemedicine, home automation and energy management, security services, and more.
In order to make these relationships and the resulting offerings as seamless as possible to customers, CSPs are compelled to integrate these partnerships into their back-office operations. The expectation by most CSPs is that these partnerships are operationally normalized and all other back-office functions (such as revenue assurance, service assurance and typical service life cycle functions) will occur normally, as they do for any CSP-developed product or service. But not so fast.
Partnerships of any kind are, by definition, different than those products or services that are internally developed and totally controlled by a CSP. The companies you work with will already have their own product/service definitions, back-office systems and processes, including assurance elements, and ongoing product/service lifecycle management. So, the integration, assimilation or blending of partnership services by a CSP is where complexity begins. Deeper diligence on both the business and operational front is required.
Adding to the mix is the fact that there are many stakeholders within a CSP that have an ongoing vested interest in the performance of these relationships. The key stakeholders include product management, finance, legal and operations. Unlike traditional wholesale relationships, there is not a standard way to ingest partner services with defined interfaces, standard contracts and consistent product sets. Instead, at least at this point in time, there is very little standardization or consistency, even within a partnership type.
Yet, many players in the revenue-assurance arena attempt to rationalize that all partners are the same and can be managed using the same methodologies and software tools as typical wholesale partners. This is really not the case and could be the reason why so many CSPs and partners alike are concerned about revenue leakage and payment inaccuracies. Handling partners under traditional revenue assurance would be like trying to drive your everyday car in the Daytona 500. You might be able to get around the track a few times, but when the race is over you find yourself 150 laps off the winner and wondering why you were in the race in the first place.