microservices

How a System-Agnostic Platform Accelerates the Digital Experience Transformation

How a System-Agnostic Platform Accelerates the Digital Experience Transformation

This situation will likely sound familiar to many reading this post: a customer is looking for a new device or information on a new bundle. She is searching the service provider’s website, going from page to page. But, after going through multiple screens and what seems like a very confusing process, she logs off before a transaction is completed. The result? The customer is frustrated and the service provider has lost an opportunity to deliver a satisfying customer experience...and, of course, revenues.

 

To correct this situation and be able to deliver a better (and more effective) online experience – the service provider would need to streamline the number of clicks and screens for commerce interactions. This necessitates integrating with multiple backend systems and simplifying complex and fragmented processes relating to CRM and other critical BSS systems.

 

The most effective and efficient way to achieve this goal is with a platform that that is microservices and DevOps-based, and which can co-exist with any business system in a hybrid environment.

 

The benefits are many:

 

The Microservices Advantage
Lightweight microservices, where each microservice constitutes an autonomous functionality, enable service providers to continuously launch individual, independent services that improve commerce and care experiences – thereby allowing for unprecedented agility.

 

The DevOps Advantage
The DevOps approach enables these services to be released in short cycles, with development and test taking several days or weeks versus several months – thereby accelerating time to market.

 

Efficiency with a System-Agnostic Platform
In addition, in order to be able to leverage such a platform with optimal efficiency, it is critical for it to be system-agnostic, working on top of any BSS. For, when a digital enablement platform is system-agnostic it means that service providers can avoid wholescale, costly, and time-consuming changes to the BSS. Instead, they can leave the core business systems in place while extending capabilities to include digital, quickly and efficiently.

 

For, when service providers need to deploy new digital services and capabilities sometimes with aggressive on-demand requirements, the only way to meet these demands is to regard every new feature, service, or capability, independently and as loosely-coupled. This mindset, along with the enabling, system-agnostic platform delivers multiple benefits, as it:

  • Drives fast development,
  • Enables on-demand scalability, and
  • Avoids costly and risky integrations with existing business systems.

The System-Agnostic Answer? Amdocs DigitalONE
As we have seen, in today’s digital world, designing and launching new products and services that exceed consumer expectations requires continuous innovation.

 

To enable service providers with the speed and agility they need to achieve this goal, Amdocs offers DigitalONE, which is helping service providers all over the world accelerate their journey to digital – sometimes with one channel at a time, sometimes taking on the full scope of care and commerce.

 

It does this with its open, system-agnostic, and microservices-based architecture that offers a full DevOps environment. This way service providers are continuously improving commerce and care experiences by introducing new capabilities in short DevOps cycles.

 

Moreover, by being comprised of three different layers that can be deployed in a modular fashion, service providers are deploying channel-specific applications at their own pace:

  • The first layer is the digital microservices layer that incorporates all care and commerce flows spanning ordering and product catalog processes;
     
  • There is also an omni-channel widget-based digital experience layer for servicing agents and customers with visual web presentations of these flows;
     
  • The third layer offers channel-specific applications for self-service, retail, social, call centers, and chatbots.

And, of course – DigitalONE can be deployed on top of any BSS system, whether by Amdocs or any other vendor. This gives providers not only the agility to innovate, but the freedom to expedite their digital transformation – regardless of the environment.

 

Read why Stratecast believes Amdocs DigitalONE has the most advanced microservices value proposition in the industry.

 

 

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How to Decide Which Digital Transformation Approach Is Best for You

How to Decide Which Digital Transformation Approach Is Best for You

In a recent blog post we talked about the digital maturity model. Namely, we discussed how regardless of where you are in your digital transformation, it is critical to understand how mature your digital journey is along several parameters, and what needs to be done to accelerate the transformation to becoming a full provider of digital experiences.

 

Moreover, we talked about how a successful strategy and roadmap includes multiple considerations: the customer experience, technology and operations, and internal culture.

 

Assuming, we have taken the necessary steps to evaluate and quantify our digital maturity as it regards to being ready with systems, processes, and people – for delivering digital services like the webscale gang do (e.g. Amazon, Facebook, Netflix), the next question is – what kind of transformation is right for me?

 

System Considerations
There are many approaches that can be taken in moving from the current set of systems, processes, and practices to the new digital way of operating.

 

At the system level, there are four basic options for the digital transformation:

  • Evolution of current systems, best when the they are performing reasonably;
     
  • Adjuncts implemented for specific use cases (usually new digital channels), integrated into the existing infrastructure, which is a quick-fix strategy that may lead to increased complexity in the long run;
     
  • Bi-modal, for when some aspects of the current architecture enable a digital operation, but new functionality is required to be added, or new services to be launched;
     
  • Rip-and-replace, where new systems fully replace old ones, an approach that can often be costly and difficult.

The approach is not only driven by the status and demands of the underlying architecture. Rather, the impetus more often comes from customer expectations for innovative digital experiences along with multiple competitive pressures.

 

The Digital Experience Transformation
In this case a digital experience transformation represents a more measured approach, as it is focused specifically on care and commerce.

 

With this kind of transformation, service providers can connect brick-and-mortar stores, social media channels, the contact center, and website for a unified omni-channel experience. Doing this enables customer and sales reps to better identify what a customer needs when they enter a store or place a call to the contact center, and address those needs with personalized and contextual support and offers – which are among the hallmarks of a great digital experience.

 

For example, with this approach to the digital transformation, reps will be able to know if the customer browsed on the company’s website but did not add products to their cart; but – instead – did so through the company’s app. However, before they completed the purchase, they called the contact center to receive product information from the service rep. The service rep could then receive all this information along with guidance for enabling the customer to make a win-win purchase decision.

 

Digital Augmentation
If, however, you’re seeking an even more targeted approach, you may want to consider digital augmentation. This is likely the simplest form of digital progress, entailing a transforming that focuses on one channel at a time.

 

Regardless of the path that is selected, the successful approach is one that is characterized by the agility to address new needs with modern technologies but without completely disrupting operations and infrastructures. A digital enablement platform is a new method that helps service providers achieve this goal.

 

The Enabling Technologies
The kind of digital enablement platform that reduces time to market in launching new and innovative digital functionalities and services is one that is open, cloud-native, microservices-based, driven by DevOps methodologies and principles, and is BSS system-agnostic.

 

This kind of platform is future-ready and enables business agility. Namely, a microservices architecture enables a fully modular deployment, for simplifying and expediting the digital experience transformation. Each microservice constitutes an implementation of a minimal, independently deployable functionality that is delivered as a service. Updates can be seamless and independent of other microservices. This modular approach also then enables the architecture to evolve at the pace of the digital-native consumer world.

 

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How a Platform Approach Enables Service Providers to Become De-Facto Digital Natives

How a Platform Approach Enables Service Providers to Become De-Facto Digital Natives

The Case for Speed
With the pace at which innovative new features and experiences are being introduced by digital giants such as Google and Facebook, the standard for speed has never been higher. To meet customers’ expectations as well as to create a competitive edge, service providers are seeking to acquire greater capabilities for launching new services and releasing new functionality not every few months, but weekly, daily, and in some cases even hourly.

 

Here Comes the Monolith
However, service providers often find that being agile and having the ability to launch innovative services at the speed of digital is a great challenge. The inter-dependencies of multiple monolithic systems and the fragmented nature of operational and business processes make launching even seemingly ‘simple’ services a complex task.

 

For example, if your customers expect to be able to activate a new SIM card on their own, without having to come into the retail store – developing such self-service capabilities in a monolithic environment might require a full upgrade of both front and back-office systems, which can take several months and might come with not a few associated risks.

 

A New Revolutionary Approach: The Digital Enablement Platform
To improve time to market and achieve greater agility, service providers would greatly benefit from adopting a new approach. Namely, the optimal approach for these needs is a digital enablement platform that offers the set of capabilities required for the kind of speed that brings the competitive edge.

 

Figure 1: Adopting a microservices-driven platform with DevOps principles delivers multiple benefits (Source: Analysys Mason, 2018)

 

A digital enablement platform designed for success is:

Open to greatly simplify the process of delivering services across new platforms, applications, and media. Having open APIs also increases agility and the efficiency with which third party services can be delivered, eliminating the need for in-house development.

 

Cloud-native for more efficient use of resources with containers, making application development and operations more efficient through automation, and for leveraging on-demand computing power.

 

Micro-services based, enabling lightweight, self-contained, and loosely coupled services to be developed and tested quickly and fixed on the fly, rather than waiting for longer upgrade cycles. This enables service providers to launch as many or as little services at a time, at their own pace – accelerating time to market.

 

Driven by DevOps methodologies and principles that bring software development and operations functions together right from the start of the product lifecycle. DevOps enables continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), for continuous software releases that can be deployed in live operations every few weeks.

 

The Importance of Enabling Bi-Modal
Another important factor is that the enablement platform should allow for a bi-modal, hybrid approach for when incumbent systems are adequate for some but not all functionalities required for greater agility.

 

Clearly, a full forklift of BSS systems is not always a practical approach to going digital. Therefore, a platform that can co-exist with legacy systems, yet – at the same time – enable agility in developing and delivering innovative services, at the pace of digital natives, is critical for success.

 

And with a Good Measure of Intelligence
Furthermore, a digital enablement platform that combines best-of-breed artificial intelligence (AI) engines, machine learning, and cognitive capabilities, enables each customer engagement and related processes to be infused with and driven by intelligence. The benefits of intelligence-driven processes include personalized and contextual customer engagements, decreased cost to serve with ‘smart’ self-service options, and much more.

 

Get Ready to Compete As A Digital-Native
“It is impossible to predict what will come next, but we know future changes will occur more rapidly than past ones.”(Analysys Mason).

 

When it comes to everything digital, we know that the rate of change is constantly accelerating. Yet, by adopting a digital enablement platform service providers can always be prepared for the unexpected, whatever change may come their way, and become leaders in the digital economy.

 

Learn more and download the Analysys Mason whitepaper.

 

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Embracing microservices requires a smart blend of business thinking and technology

Embracing microservices requires a smart blend of business thinking and technology

Consumer behavior, driven by digital players in OTT and cloud, has evolved with growing expectations for interactivity, simplicity and user centricity. To deliver the required change to meet these expectations, media and communications service providers are increasingly responding by deploying microservices. Yet to address the most relevant business needs, such technology must be utilized in the right areas. In addition, to best service their ongoing and future business targets, communications and media service providers need to take the broader picture into account, which includes operability, support, automation and reskilling employees.

When digital players like Netflix and Amazon set the customer expectation for constant updates, two of the most important areas of focus for communications and media service providers were rapid time to market and agility, associating the term “microservices” to become analogous with a company’s ability to rapidly roll out new features and technologies.

However, just because microservices are present in a system does not mean that the system architecture is correct. Further, it doesn’t mean you’re able to deploy it properly, test it, maintain versions or operate it. Just developing microservices isn’t enough. It’s my belief that the journey to becoming a digital player, and acquiring the ability to deploy code daily or several times a day, does not start nor end with microservices. I would argue that the journey is far more encompassing, deserving of a broader explanation.

$1 trillion in the cloud
According to Gartner, cloud-first strategies represent the foundation for staying relevant in today’s fast-paced world, and by 2020, more than $1 trillion in IT spending is set to be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to the cloud. As the world becomes increasingly digital, and with it consumer expectations for fast results, maintaining a balance between the need to constantly innovate and the need to maintain operability and business stability can become increasingly perilous. But with challenges come opportunities. It is precisely in this environment that those companies who are adopting microservices, automation and DevOps technologies are successfully creating the foundations for agility and innovation.

The era of coexistence is upon us
The state of microservices adoption among communications and media service providers will not reach its peak for some time. However, according to recent research conducted by Analysys Mason and commissioned by Amdocs, 64% of providers say microservices architecture will be one of their requirements for new systems within two years.

As new cloud-native applications, often based on microservices, are deployed, they will need to exist and integrate with current traditional systems and customer channels, while also ensuring backward compatibility. And since this “era of coexistence” will remain a reality for many years, it is set to pose an operational challenge to communications and media service providers. Indeed, Analysys Mason further found that 91% of communications and media service providers believe operating cloud-native systems alongside traditional ones will be a critical challenge.

This issue of coexistence is an important one for communications and media service providers, as it will require them to embed the latest technologies, whilst ensuring they maintain a smooth, ongoing business environment. Indeed, it is my belief that we will witness co-existence on many levels – traditional monolithic applications alongside cloud-native applications, virtualized data centers alongside private and public cloud infrastructure, and virtualized networks alongside with traditional ones. Moreover, when we look at the “human” aspect, employees everywhere will need to gain new skills to co-exist with traditional ones – enabling them to operate new technologies alongside legacy and traditional applications and processes.

Incorporating business thinking into technology
Rather than being an end in itself, microservices merely represents a means to that end. For this reason, the adoption of microservices does not guarantee having the right business flow or that business needs are being addressed. Accordingly, the move to microservices should not be mandatory for every application: it should only be done where clear business value exists for doing so. When moving to a cloud-native environment, microservices can clearly provide significant benefits, but those benefits come with complexity. Due to this, when the decision to adopt microservices is made, the strategy must protect the business fluency and ensure a manageable approach for the journey, with the right tools and people in place.

Be agile – and smart
As our industry continues to evolve constantly before our eyes, customer demands are growing at an ever-increasing rate. To maintain industry leadership, communications and media service providers must therefore ensure they are delivering a superior customer experience, while at the same time, addressing the myriad of business demands that arise. Microservices, when combined with the right tools, third-party guidance and methodologies as part of an intelligent, agile strategy, places such goals – and their associated competitive advantages – within tangible reach.

Author: Avishai Sharlin, General Manager, Technology and New Offerings, Amdocs

This byline was originally published in the Mobile World Congress Show Daily, March 26, 2018
 

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