2013 the year of the…

2013 the year of the…
Cerillion CTO, Simon Matthews, looks into his BSS/OSS crystal ball to see what’s in store for the sector in 2013.

With Christmas fast approaching, my attention isn’t as diverted towards mince pies as I would like. This is an important time of year for all product companies as we look towards our budgets and targets for 2013 and where to spread our investment to drive value and relevance for our customers and target market. I thought I would try and briefly court your attention to read a subset of my observations on what I feel 2013 will bring the BSS/OSS space - my own Christmas list of hopes and dreams for our sector’s evolution.

In my opinion, 2012 has been the year of the “data synonym”. I have truly lost count of the permutations of what those of us who are a tad long in the tooth in this industry would call customer reference data. Though the nature of the data available, its volume, the rights to mine its contents, and the possibilities for the data originators to benefit have evolved strongly, the value chain remains full of opportunity. Many organisations have spent the past year attempting to mine their untapped data treasure, but it’s no fool’s gold.

In 2013 I expect the data gold rush to continue, but the focus to tighten. The undisputable value of consumer and business insight you can glean from accurately analysed data is not news. However, what I feel we will see in 2013 is less dominance from the hardware / ‘would be’ software behemoths, barking ‘BIG DATA’ in our faces every two minutes, and in fact more advances and benefits from the analytic software vendors.

The whole dynamic of sales for all products and services can be shaped into a more efficient operation by using product, service and customer insight. For example, those of you with a loyalty card from a very large UK supermarket chain where “every little helps” will have noticed that no longer do you receive a plethora of irrelevant vouchers for products you don’t want or have never heard of. Now it’s targeted. You have been processed. You have been analysed at a transactional level and socially, and the categorisation will save you and the person trying to sell you stuff money.

Our solutions at Cerillion hold a vast amount of customer reference data whilst maintaining that vital balance between security and dynamic accessibility when required. We have several exciting product initiatives in this space coming out of our R&D programme in 2013, keenly focusing on the delicate value of social network information to deliver high value customer experiences, and transactional data for better equipping CSPs to give customers what they want.

I’m also really excited about 4G, both here in the UK and worldwide. Before you all zone out there is a lot still to do worldwide to realise the full potential that the increased rate of data mobility delivers, and how smart software solutions can create genuine lifestyle enhancement. Those of you stargazing at 5G and beyond are forgetting how long 3G took before the hype became reality (for some markets this has still not happened).  The commentary which I find very weak and ill thought out though, is centred around 4G being just hype to sell more handsets. Sure, I was a touch annoyed to see handsets being billed as ‘4G’ in geographies where the spectrum was yet to be available, and not one jot of 100Mbps capability existed anywhere, including hard wired cable. But the desire and demand for connecting multiple devices and consuming more, more, MORE data has fuelled a new approach to innovation to bring these services to market.

On 30th October 2012, Everything Everywhere launched the UKs first commercial 4G service under the brand-name EE. Considering the UKs ever-delayed spectrum auction has still not happened - currently scheduled for early 2013 (please don’t hold your breath), they have achieved this through innovation. EE took its existing 1800MHz 2G spectrum and compelled (fought like hell with) the handset manufacturers to provide 1800MHz support and subsequent circuit switch fall-back (CSFB) for voice included on LTE smartphone hardware. They succeeded through hard work and determination, dodging spectrum auctions and the demands for VoLTE (Voice over LTE), and as a result they are ahead of their competitors by a country mile.

2013 is going to bring us even more smart products that are genuinely 4G capable, both in terms of hardware ancillaries like batteries, something that the high capacity radio networks are battering, but also enhanced software to deliver the content expediently. Collaborative geo-location apps are not new – I for one have been the undisputed Mayor of my hometown for 2 years now on Foursquare – but we will see this increase more and more with 4G. Social, gaming and collaborative working environments using genuine mobility will be a real game changer, with the faster mobile data speeds on a par if not exceeding what can be achieved at your office desk. OK so in the BSS/OSS space this means MORE data and MORE applications, but anyone not excited by the next generation of mobility and how that could seriously enhance their working methods needs to check they still have a pulse.

A sage individual may also cast their gaze towards what is happening amongst the key industry protocols and what that will bring in 2013. Diameter is a great example of an industry adopted protocol that is really flourishing within that adaptation. The advances, especially in routing solutions, will have their own dominance in the coming year or two. I draw positivity from this as in BSS/OSS we have had such a paucity of standards that get full adoption to the point of convention, that opportunities are frequently missed to simplify the BSS/OSS universe. The benefits of that simplicity in terms of integration and interoperability of solutions are obvious, and something essential to strengthen the whole BSS/OSS value chain by allowing products from different vendors to work predictably together.

It is also important in 2013 that CSPs regress a touch on the digitisation of their consumers’ customer experience (CSPCX). Though the social media revolution has transformed how customers can interact with their service providers, there can at times be no real replacement for a phone number and someone to talk to. Call centres are expensive environments to run, but with the right CRM solutions in place, the efficiencies can outweigh the enormous cost of customer dissatisfaction and churn. Having personally experienced utter failure of a CSP this year who I could not get to resolve my issue by automated IVR, email or even letter (yes I wrote a letter and posted it), I decided to vent to my Twitterati about how inadequate they were. Within 4 minutes, they had responded to me via Twitter, something I’d not achieved in 4 weeks through conventional means. But by then, I had already churned.

In 2013, I also expect to see the demand for customer experience quality to fight back against the demand for closing call centres as the cost of acquiring a customer is usually greater than retaining one. To realise this, more demand will be placed on CRM solutions with real-time access to the customer’s timeline, with faster and more efficient navigation, and lowered training needs. These principles lie at the heart of Cerillion’s own approach to customer experience management, and our R&D programme is continuing to deliver new innovations that equip our customers to meet this ever changing need.

Finally, and perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, I’m also quite excited to hear which industry expert / doom-monger will be forecasting the death of another important segment of our industry in 2013. We’ve had predictions of the death of billing, SMS, mediation and resellers in the last few years, but fortunately none of these segments has chosen to comply. So this whole online charging domain has been around for a while now, a mince pie on someone harking of its impending demise before next Christmas?