Ever since I was kid, I used to love rolling up my sleeves, and digging deep into different technologies, exploring how they work and investigating the wonderous things they do.
A path paved by curiosity
I’ve been curious, passionate, and hands-on with technology – specifically communications and software technology, ever since I can remember. This curiosity has propelled me unto a decades-long journey that has been focused mainly on developing and bringing to market transformative technologies for the communications industry.
From the old analog radio systems, when communication was enabled by a ‘box,’ which was simply replaced when it wasn’t working anymore, through “softwarization”, and up to wholescale digitalization and cloudification, I’ve been there.
I’ve seen evolutions, transformations, and revolutions. And I have to say, there have never been more exciting times than today.
The monetization opportunity...and challenge
Today’s technologies, including AI, cloud services, smart industries, 5G, media, XR (extended reality combining augmented, virtual, and mixed reality), IoT, and much more, are powering experiences for consumers and enterprises that were previously unimagined. And at the same time, they’re presenting service providers with monetization opportunities like never before.
But addressing real-time customer expectations and capturing today’s monetization opportunities isn’t easy:
- Growing ecosystem: managing the ever-growing ecosystem of content and service partners across multiple and complex systems is very challenging.
- Expanding portfolio: the portfolio of services is continually expanding
- Integration era: expansion of the CSPs to new services and their need to adapt to the monetization experience seen in the digital industry (examples of Apple vs. Spotify vs. Amazon)
- Changing behaviors: it’s nearly impossible for legacy systems to effectively manage and accurately bill usage when behaviors are constantly changing. Customers today grow impatient and ignore to knowing everything now and with accuracy and there is low tolerance for a bad telco experience
- Siloed to open: moving away from the siloed world of services like 3/4G or single service to the open and hybrid world of business mashing of services incl 5G, cloud services, media subscriptions and many others is complex undertaking.
I hear this from every service provider with whom I meet today, on every continent.
Technology is evolving fast, and change is happening faster. This makes keeping up with customer expectations and monetizing the digital opportunity one formidable task.
"Technology is evolving fast, and change is happening faster. This makes keeping up with customer expectations and monetizing the digital opportunity one formidable task."
Don’t get left behind
At the heart of overcoming the challenge is to rethink, redesign, and redo a critical stage in the customer journey. And this stage is monetization. Throughout the 30 years that I’ve been in this industry, I’ve helped service providers drive massive transformations to address their most strategic business and operational goals. From ideation to design, deployment, and production, for voice mail, CRM, ecommerce, retail, and – of course – billing, and more.
After all these years, I can say with certainty that service providers who ignore the fact that the buyer’s journey does not end with the purchase, but with the billing and care experience, will not be able to live up to customer expectations, and are – regrettably – destined to disappoint.
What’s more, those who do not modernize their billing infrastructure to adapt to the digital age, will miss the greatest monetization opportunity our industry has seen to date.
This new digital generation of buyers – across every segment – is consuming new services, changing buying patterns, and evolving how they do things, all the time.
They expect their service providers to be able to adapt to their needs and habits, and to offer clarity, personalization, and real-time response throughout their journey. This is the case not only for when they’re ordering and enjoying services, but also – for when they’re paying for them.
Technology to the rescue
The good news is that overcoming the monetization challenge doesn’t have to be a formidable task. With technologies such as AI, automation, cloud and microservices, cloud and with processes such as continuous integration and continuous design (CI/CD), it is indeed possible. These technologies and processes enable service providers with several key capabilities that modern billing demands. For example, with microservices they can accelerate the migration of legacy systems and more easily manage hybrid environments. With AI and automation, they can predict usage and enable personalized and contextualized bill presentment.
They can even give customers the flexibility to personalize their billing preferences in real-time. And they can modify functionalities whenever needed and accelerate time to market of bespoke services.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. And all this is what freestyle billing is all about.
Even in today’s economic environment, where the focus has shifted from expediting 5G rollout to ensuring cost efficiency, these technologies make meeting customer expectations and maximizing monetization with freestyle billing within reach.
Being fast and innovating doesn’t have to be at odds with cost optimization. And frankly, there really is no choice. Even with the focus on TCO, if we don’t retire legacy billing systems, we won’t be able to adapt. Farther more, CSPs will not be able to keep affording multiple billers for each monetization model (e.g. subscription, postpaid, 5G services, API monetization, 5G slicing, partner solutions etc.) rather than a single, robust and flexible monetization platform. We certainly won’t be able to be flexible in how make our offers, nor will we be able to stay ahead and drive growth.
The road ahead
The journey to the new age of monetization with freestyle billing is well on its way. And it’s a good thing too. Because delivering great customer experiences and capturing monetization opportunities is only going to get all the more complicated, demanding, and competitive.
For now, empowering customers to choose their own path and monetizing all sorts of new business models with ease and speed – from core to OTT, will do.
But not for long.
Webscalers are also taking note – and they’re quickly encroaching upon CSP turf, extending their offerings to compete with the service providers who are extending their offerings to compete with webscalers.
Yes, it’s complicated.
And it’s only those who are innovative and who will continue to reinvent themselves who will stay relevant, stay ahead, and will be ready to meet the future and win.