The devil is in the service assurance detail
The digital business transformation being experienced by operators and their enterprise customers also provides fertile ground for new services from smart communications service providers (CSPs). But first, explains Dima Alkin, TEOCO’s vice president of Service Assurance Solutions, CSPs need to get more specific about their enterprise support services.
CSPs don’t typically say ‘how high’ when an analyst report says ‘jump’, but when Gartner strongly suggests that they should “prioritise enterprise digital services” over consumer ones, it’s at least worth digging a little deeper to understand the reasoning behind such a bold recommendation.
The plain fact is that CSPs are facing shrinking margins as data becomes increasingly commoditised – especially among the mass consumer market. On top of that roaming revenues are in virtually terminal decline, and competition from over the top (OTT) content providers remains intense. In the increasingly mature developed markets, both the larger established CSPs and the smaller specialised players need to look for revenue and profit opportunities that are not reliant on price-driven consumer tariffs and packages.
Which brings us to the potentially lucrative enterprise market. CSPs, in fact, have a strong existing proposition in the enterprise market – driven by their ability to provide complex services such as dedicated connectivity, unified communications, managed VPNs, and SD-WAN-based services that are catered to specific customer needs. Indeed, Gartner reasons that CSPs should prioritise enterprise digital services precisely because their business customers “have proven they are willing to pay, provided the offer helps achieve specific business outcomes.”
In general terms, most CSPs would agree with Gartner’s statement but the key term in that analysis is ‘specific outcomes’. In order to capitalise on this market opportunity, CSPs must first understand the very unique needs of their Enterprise customers. Furthermore, as operators look to advance the digital transformation of their own operations, they must be able to recognise and support the digital business transformation requirements of their customers. And that’s going to require some very ‘specific’ approaches.
Enterprise customers already demand that their service providers not only maintain the service and connectivity that is vital to their operational and business needs, but they also require evidence that the committed service quality is actually being delivered. Increasingly, they expect their provider to monitor and deliver against targeted enforceable service level agreements and to meet underlying service level objectives (SLOs) and strict service key performance indicators (KPIs).
These demands will only increase as business functions switch to digital platforms and become ever more reliant, and therefore more dependent, on cloud connectivity for day-to-day operations, a move that also makes them lose direct control over their infrastructure. In these circumstances, businesses require not just the promise of constant connectivity, they will also expect even greater visibility into the performance data of the services they are buying.
Service providers should recognize this increasing dependence as a real opportunity rather than a threat. By extending some of their own network monitoring functionality to an enterprise friendly version they can build productive long-term partnerships based on transparency and the quality of network performance information provided, as well as the quality of the connectivity.
Sharing some of their own network monitoring capability via an enterprise portal solution would give operators the ability to transform their customer support services from purely historical reporting that shows how the network has performed to a proactive solution that gives enterprise customers visibility on how the network is performing with near-real time data.
This level of service demands fully-integrated solutions that not only provide enterprise customers with a degree of network visibility but also with the service assurance tools to help ensure any network issues are identified quickly. Add to that the use of predictive algorithms and embedded machine learning analytics and you have a service where any network issues could also be quickly rectified using built-in automation capabilities.
This approach elevates the role of service assurance from merely a network performance monitoring tool to a customer-facing function that can be used as a major competitive differentiator that even has revenue-generating capability. When operators can provide this type of customer-centric service assurance, both they and the enterprise customer will win and achieve the goal of creating the specific business outcomes.