Mobile World Congress is almost upon us. Over the coming week, Barcelona will be awash with representatives from operators and vendors alike, as we all make use of this opportunity to sit down with customers and peers and thrash out what’s really important for the development of this industry now and in the near term.
I did recently question whether MWC was still a valid expense for the smaller vendor. I asked if - after spending an eye-watering amount on travel, hotels and a modest stand - the smaller OSS/BSS provider is assured of getting enough value from its efforts.
But whether they take place amid all the noise at MWC or at smaller events, meetings in person are invaluable when sensitive issues need to be raised and discussed. Right now, I think the BSS and OSS vendor community needs to ask itself some very difficult questions.
My question to you is: are vendors failing the operator community when it comes to the transformation of telco business and operational support systems? I raise this point because there are growing signs that operator customers are choosing to build, not buy, when it comes to major B/OSS transformation projects.
This is certainly a highly topical discussion. BSS and OSS transformation is clearly back on the agenda, and it is crucial that we avoid a repeat of the large-scale transformation project failures that were previously suffered by some of the world’s largest operators.
Operators certainly are keen to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Now, they appear eager to rid themselves of products that tie them to one major vendor, citing the high cost, a lack of independence and lack of flexibility inherent with products that are “too big to fail”.
Instead they are increasingly attracted by the lure of toolsets and frameworks that come with the word “open” attached: open source, open cloud, OSS/J (OSS through Java), to name some. And they want to build systems that are customised to their specific needs.
Perhaps of greater concern to the vendor community is that even when they take part in a selection process and actually win over the competition, the customer decides to build rather than buy. What’s worrying for the vendor is that this is starting to become a trend: the advantages of “buy” over “build” no longer seem as clear-cut.
I am not here to suggest any solutions to this growing problem. I think it’s more important to first understand what are the true drivers here. Is it merely about cost and the ability to remain independent, or is it that “we”, the vendor community, have failed to innovate, simplify our approach and adopt new business models?
Perhaps it is simply that we have failed to transmit what it is that “specialist vendors” are able to do, in contrast to the bigger, more cumbersome providers. Such vendors are able to focus on a telco’s mission-critical function areas and offer repeatable processes, operational know-how and best practices. What’s more, they help to lead and define industry standards.
I’d be interested to hear your views on this issue. If we are failing our customers, what should we be doing to address the situation?