Running to Stand Still. The Negative Cycle of Spending Virtually all the IT Budget to Keep the Lights On. Why we need a BOSS reset!

I apologize that this is a high level article, but I’m seeing the term Customer Experience Management being misused and promising things it will not deliver without a complete reset of the BOSS (Business and Operational Support System).  A problem faced by many telecom network operators (telcos) is they are caught in an endless cycle of revising and expanding their IT back-office software (BOSS). To an extent there was complicity in a large customized BOSS as it keeps the CIO organization in a job and the incumbent vendors have nice repeatable business through the years.  But the fat on the telco business is shrinking as roaming revenues are squeezed, Over The Top services begin to bite, and customers increasingly use the services they’ve paid for.  BOSS expenses are coming under increased scrutiny as marketing and network costs are proving difficult to shrink without impacting customer experience or revenues.

For decades, vendors have helped service providers tackle BOSS challenges by selling upgrades and enhancements that have solved short-term problems, and in the process created unmanageable layers of software that must be maintained by both the operator and the incumbent vendor.  Telcos have tried to leverage the considerable internal resources of the IT department to build and operate a customized BOSS. The result has been layers of spaghetti code and a lack of documentation leading to ever-increasing opex (operational expense) and making it a nightmare to do anything but use the IT budget to keep the lights on. Managed services providers (MSP) use this complexity to their advantage by pitching: “manage your mess for less.”  In my managed services workshop I have fun reviewing some of the case studies on this and the skeletons that came running out of the closets during and after the transition to the MSP.

There’s a belief that focusing on Customer Experience Management (CEM) will make this all better.  Its presented as a multichannel strategy for your CRM, with a bit of back-end integration and magic wand waving.  When really what is required is a hard reset on the current BOSS.  Let’s face it, given all the money spent on a customized BOSS, as customers we see little difference between operators except wireless coverage at home and in the office.  So the hundreds of billions of dollars invested over the years in BOSS have not generated competitive differentiation.

The CEM pitch focuses on:

  • Consumer must be the center of design and delivery;
  • Profits are directly tied to customer experience, and the customer can be anywhere (location, device, channel);
  • Customer loyalty has become the most valuable market asset for telcos;
  • Anywhere-consumers prefer choice, control and convenience as they interact with each other, and create, share and collaborate at work and at home;
  • Systems that support these activities must have a direct impact on the customer experience at every step of the interaction; as customers browse, buy, use and renew services;

Customer experience management has three pillars:

  • A strong portfolio of services, applications and devices;
  • A strong performing network;
  • Reliable channels to market (self-service (device/web), call center and retail store);
  • These pillars are powered by a business process-driven software engine (event driven), which focused on the customer experience and building loyalty at the level of the individual customer.

The objectives of CEM are good, but the implementation to achieve the objectives is the hard part, and I’m seeing a significant gap.  I continue to see BOSSs cripple operators’ ability to act / innovate.  The projects need to:

  • Give serious thought to a “start from scratch” approach and only migrate data;
  • Focus on customer experience is right, but use it to REMOVE vendors and systems that do not impact customer experience and replace / consolidate as long as it doesn’t negatively impact customer experience;
  • Converge Engineering and IT under one GM yesterday;
  • Build data migration tool-kits or demand them from your vendors;
  • Use cloud computing, you can run on AWS (Amazon Web Services);
  • Focus the remainder of this year’s budget only on enhancing customer experience, not further band-aiding;
  • Integrate experience across web, device, and retail;
  • Get device stores out there ASAP focused on selling services, not copying Apple or Android on apps;
  • Be aggressive in simplifying the BOSS to the bare minimum as customers are not seeing the difference of all the bells and whistles;
  • Copy the real-time enterprise paradigm / web service provider approach of a loosely coupled API-based system, Amazon’s back-office is a great case study.

Currently the CEM projects though improving customer experience, are just adding costs and continue to cripple an operator’s ability to act / innovate.  We’ve got to be much more aggressive in resetting the BOSS to achieve the benefits being claimed by CEM projects.