The clearest path to digital transformation is catalogue-driven

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Communications service providers must adopt a catalogue-driven, agile approach in their digital evolution, says Sigma Systems CTO Catherine Michel

Sponsored contentCatherin Michel 680x400Service providers must implement a catalogue-driven, agile B/OSS architecture in order to fully benefit from the latest network technology and digital service innovations, such as NFV/SDN, 5G and IoT/E, says Catherine Michel, CTO of global software company Sigma Systems.

Operators are lagging in their ability to operationalise – and monetise – the innovations across the industry, observes Michel. “The complexity across their current systems is almost crippling.”

Catalogue-first approach

“First and foremost, you have to take control over your portfolio,” Michel says.

Michel co-founded Tribold in 2004, a UK-based software firm focused on the development of its product and service catalogue platform. “We recognised back in the early 2000s that the BSS and OSS will never be nimble or efficient enough if you do not properly drive the definition of product data across that landscape.”

Service providers, Michel says, were not encapsulating into a business function what they do daily. “They were missing the ability to holistically establish what a product comprises to enable rapid sales and delivery – commercially, functionally, technically, physically. They were missing the agility to drive operations from a product-centric perspective, with the customer at the core.”

Sigma Systems acquired Tribold in 2013, a move that combined the former’s service fulfilment products with the latter’s catalogue and CPQ software, to create a portfolio of catalogue-driven create-sell-deliver capabilities.

Agile legacy overlay

At Sigma, any talk of transformation begins with the catalogue, says Michel. “That is the level of maturity that took way too long for the industry to get to, but service providers have now arrived.” But the only way providers can truly dominate in the digital innovation landscape is “to embrace the essence of being catalogue-driven” in the “layer of capability that the customer cares most about in their interactions with the provider” namely sales and delivery.

Still, challenges surrounding architecture and infrastructure exist. “They’re saying: I understand the common sense and wisdom behind that, but I have billions of dollars and several years invested into what is now a legacy architecture. It still takes custom development to launch any new innovation. The only way to monetise it is if I can operationalise it in the infrastructure,” Michel relays.

Michel observes that operators have a tendency to adopt the conventional route of replacing or consolidating the capabilities they already have, “instead of adding the capabilities that are going to drive the most value” and “create greater ARPU.”

Which is why Michel advocates for catalogue-driven, agile B/OSS as an overlay to legacy systems. “You need to create a layer between the mature, commoditised legacy architecture that still serves a critical back office purpose, and overlay that with a much more DevOps-oriented, agile architecture,” she says. 

That agile architecture should have three specific objectives, says Michel. Firstly, it should focus on establishing new innovations into sellable products. Secondly, it should possess a cross-channel-friendly, automated sales capability that customers want to interact with, regardless of the channel. Lastly, it should enable automated delivery of services to the networks and devices upon creation of an order.

Ultimately, Michel believes Sigma’s key differentiator is that its software products are developed with a DevOps objective in mind. “What we sell to our customers are products that they configure, rather than customise. That’s why our customers are able to achieve a tangible solution so quickly. We develop our software products to allow for rapid productisation of new capabilities and rapid implementation. Our most important objective is helping our customers achieve value quickly.”

For Sigma’s customers, that means shorter delivery cycles, the flexibility to fail fast and re-configure, and the ability to prioritise certain integration points, product lines and business units in order to help them achieve a greater return in the shortest time possible.