FEATURE ARTICLE

Live debate explores how operators will sell outcomes to ecosystem partners in the 5G era


With 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC) triggering a new business environment in which mobile operators have the potential to move from selling network capacity to selling business outcomes, Mobile World Live hosted a recent discussion to determine what the reality of this looks like.

The panel of speakers, which included Peter Jarich, the head of GSMA Intelligence, and Marc Hayden and Yossi Zohar from ServiceNow, acknowledged the extent to which 5G provides an opportunity for operators to expand and diversify their monetisation streams. However, the conversation warned this is not a simple task and, if operators don’t sell outcomes rather than connectivity to enterprises, others will.

“This idea of delivering outcomes was baked into the 5G messaging from the very beginning but operators’ history of being able to do that hasn't been great,” said Jarich. “There are a lot of great examples already of what they're doing in 5G, particularly with a focus on the enterprise, which probably was, I think we can all say, lacking in the past, and which suggests that there may be some hope now.”

The challenge for operators is that this isn’t just about selling outcomes, the outcomes must be assured in terms of quality of service and robust in terms of meeting service level agreements (SLAs). “There’s always been a challenge for service providers to increase value-add beyond connectivity,” confirmed Hayden. “5G provides an opportunity to rethink this based on the capabilities it provides because it enables the operator to go beyond connectivity and get visibility into the applications. The technology is here now for an operator to be able to build, operate and manage a private network, along with an ecosystem of applications to enable those business outcomes. What’s clear is instrumentation is always needed, and network assurance is always needed to enable the business outcome and service quality contexts.”

The new landscape isn’t as easy as selling connectivity and this means that, in addition to tools, operators need to look to their own processes and how they can interoperate with partners. “This is a more complex ecosystem for telcos to operate in,” said Zohar. “Behind all the technologies that rely on embedded connectivity, there's a customer, there's a human being, there's a user. So to scale and truly become outcome focused, there are three aspects that operators need to focus on. First is service awareness. Operators understand their networks, but they also need to understand the services riding on top of their networks. Next, they need to know which partners in their B2B2X value chain are impacted in order to deliver a proactive customer experience. Lastly, operators need the ability to digitally collaborate with both demand and supply partners that power this entire ecosystem.”

e-Bonding

Zohar went on to describe the value of using e-bonding, which connects two systems across two companies and allows them to interact with each other. In the past, bonding two systems together has been very complex and costly. For operators, there could be hundreds of interfaces e-bonded with B2B2X partners in a value chain. “It’s not just the setup cost, you have to maintain these interfaces,” said Zohar, pointing out new approaches are emerging. “The future does not allow operators to move that slowly and to invest that kind of money. Operators need the ability to set up these interfaces faster than ever before, in days versus in weeks or months.”

That acceleration will demand streamlined processes and workflows to enable the new service model and applications. “For example, we're doing a lot of work right now to help enterprises onboard and manage the employee experience,” explained Hayden. “Everything from the interview process to the IT application, asset distribution and permissions within those assets to the physical access, and then provisioning into their systems. These workflows that bring operators into everything from payroll and benefits need to be addressed. That’s just an example of how ServiceNow leverages digital workflows to connect systems of record that enterprises are already using, and where operators have an immediate opportunity to be in the business of selling outcomes.”

There’s a lot of work required and a lot at stake, but the prize is glittering. “Is it worth it? Yes, definitely when you look at the upside and what can be accomplished,” concluded GSMA Intelligence’s Jarich. “And, if operators don’t do it, there are other players that will fill that gap.”