You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It!
Christopher May, VP Business Development, VOSS Solutions
If there's one thing my parents taught me, it's that there are consequences for the decisions that you make and that, if you want something, then you have to make a sacrifice to get it … in other words you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Yes, that was actually two lessons … but one was never enough for my parents!
I've been in the Operational Support Systems (OSS) business for nearly 15 years now. I joined this industry because, after leading two major technology programs (MPEG-2 digital satellite television and DOCSIS broadband data), I realized that the thing that made these services really successful was not the underlying technology, but rather the ability to convert what was a device-centric technology into user-centric service delivery process. Success was driven by the take-up of the service, not the fact that we could get the technology to work. And the take-up of the service was directly attributable to the ability to customize the service to their users.
Most people think that a service is the ability to deliver a high-speed data connection, or a television signal and then bill for that service. And while both those things are important and neither of those things is easy, they won't help to differentiate your service and you will quickly find yourself competing purely on price.
Users want a low price, yes, but in the end they want value for that price. Value comes from meeting their specific needs. Users always want their cake and to eat it!
I moved across from the video and data side of the OSS industry to enterprise telephony because telephony offered a much more interesting set of services and features. While video offered hundreds of channels, there was basically one service, with only a dozen settings, and one device – the set-top box. High speed data was even less complex … configuring a modem with 3-4 settings and away you go. Whereas enterprise voice has hundreds of features and serious complexity around enterprise dial plans. Over the past decade we have seen the advent of unified communications (i.e. messaging, mobility, video, conferencing, collaboration, etc.) plus smart devices (soft-clients, iPhones and iPADs), which completely changed the service offering into an incredibly rich suite of services.
With all of this complexity, I must admit that I slipped back into thinking that the problem was all about delivering that rich suite of services as efficiently as possible. It was all about delivery and not about customization.
Communications OSS service delivery and management tools are perfect for bringing down the delivery and operational cost, but they do this by standardizing the design, which in turn fixes the features and defaults most of the variables.
Automation only successfully lowers operating costs, because choice is removed and richness is replaced by defaulted "template" settings, such that everyone gets the same fixed design across the organization.
This is the conundrum that our industry currently lives with. You cannot have both a rich, fully customized solution, with lots of services and devices, plus a low total cost of ownership. You are forced to choose one or the other. But of course organizations want both.
A good example of this is the cloud communications market. Today, there is clearly a growing trend towards the cloud. Service providers are offering a full suite of UC services, with a consumption-based cost model. They lower the TCO and they cap the costs. But, in reality, they are only offering a "one-size-fits-all" service. Try asking a cloud provider for a best-in class set of UC applications from a range of vendors? Try asking them to change the default settings? Try asking them for a custom dial plan? They might say yes, but you won’t be getting their cloud service and the price will be high.
The whole point is that they cannot customize their service for one customer. They are offering a standardized service to many customers.
If you want an incredibly rich set of services and you want to be able to customize those services for groups of individual users within your organization (i.e. so not everyone gets the same services, features and devices), then you cannot deliver and manage those rich services without a highly skilled team of people and the total cost of ownership with be high.
That is until now … At VOSS we made the decision two years ago to prove that you can have your cake and eat it!
After starting VOSS back in 2004, we created a substantial business targeting the service provider business. They understood what UC automation provided and were more than happy to standardize their service offering. They understood that you cannot automate something unless you standardize the design. We now have most of the world’s leading service providers as customers (i.e. AT&T, BT, Verizon, Vodafone, Sprint, Telstra, CenturyLink, Telefonica, etc.).
However, we were rarely able to convince enterprise customers to standardize their corporate communications. What we discovered is that most organizations want to have a customized solution. And we were not able to support that. Our solution was based around a fixed design. If you wanted to buy VOSS, then you needed to adopt our tested and optimized design.
We knew that if we were going to be successful and if our service provider customers were going to be successful in the cloud communications industry, then we needed to change the way that telecommunications OSS systems work.
And so two years ago, that is exactly what our product designers set out to do. To allow a rich set of UC services and a complex customization to be delivered and managed at a much lower TCO. And that this capability could be offered to both our service provider customer base and to the enterprise market directly, for those organizations that choose to retain an on-premise platform.
The new VOSS product allows organizations to create their own custom design (i.e. service and device templates, process orchestration and business hierarchy) and by the use of extremely clever software, that design gets dynamically applied to the real-time generated GUI Portals, the bulk loaders and the APIs. The core framework remains constant, but all of the customized service delivery and management is fully automated, which in turn lowers the TCO.
This product, called VOSS-4-UC, was formally released to our SP customers, as of February 2015. And we announced general availability to the wider enterprise market at Enterprise Connect 2015 (16th March 2015), under the banner of the vertical solution release.
What I have learnt over the past decade and a half in this communications OSS industry is that my parents were correct. You can have your cake and eat it, but only because of the consequences of the decisions we made to create VOSS-4-UC!
Come and see us at Enterprise Connect 2015 – booth 728.