When big communications and utility companies go after customers they most commonly takes a three-pronged attack hitting corporate accounts, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and consumers.
It would be foolish to generalize but, for the purposes of this blog, I need to.
The big corporations usually have their own IT departments and specialist communications managers that negotiate the best deals for them, and they usually know what they want.
They often go out to tender to garner the best prices and conditions because they are rewarded for getting the best deals and keeping costs down.
The SME customer does not usually have the luxury of a big IT department and rarely has a communications manager. These tasks often falling to whoever is playing the CTO/CIO role at the time.
The consumer market is the hardest of all to please and often the least profitable but the sheer mass at that retail level generates the constant revenues and cash flow vital for any business to survive.
The most successful services businesses have mastered the art of winning the hearts and minds of one of these sectors or splitting their own infrastructure into two or three business units concentrating on each individual sector.
Communications service providers usually attempt the more difficult play by addressing all three and, in the process, have developed three distinct ‘silos’ within their organization that do little more than share senior management, network resources and some IT.
This is hardly the optimum situation for managing costs and one quite unique to the communication and utility sectors. For example, supermarkets service only the retail consumer market, wholesale grocers the rest.
The three market ‘siloed’ approach adds not only substantial cost to the CSP’s operation mainly through replication, poor communication, intra-company competition and poor resource sharing - it also increases risk.
Whilst transformation projects generally target cost reduction, they rarely address risk or improved risk management.
Because the business drivers are different for each, so is the inherent risk for each.
Network managers have for years been able to monitor their domain with the use of monitoring tools feeding information back to a central network operations center (NOC) but it has only been in more recent times that business systems have had the same capability.
This was mainly due to the awkward mix of operating systems, hardware and software running across the circuit-switch networks.
This is being helped by the move to all IP networks but the challenges of having to maintain legacy systems in hybrid networks still remain.
Strangely enough, smart operators are discovering that many of these issues have been addressed by their revenue assurance people and the introduction of tools that not only extract data from these archaic systems but are able to do so in near real-time.
The big data exponents were the first to note the wealth of data these tools were extracting, especially on customer activity so critical for analyzing behavior and enhancing the customer experience.
They discovered that the data being extracted could also be used to sight abnormal activity, firstly to manage fraud but also to determine other emerging risk patterns such as network attacks, system failures, etc.
This data is finding a new life now and, when supplemented with data from other business systems and even network data, we see the emergence of true business assurance capabilities, enterprise-wide.
Living with those three disparate business groups I first outlined suddenly becomes more manageable and the reduction of risk translates itself into better profitability for the groups both individually and as a complete business.
Enterprise business assurance (EBA) may still relatively young but it is maturing at a fast rate and is sure become a critical component of any business in the years to come.