Communication Service Providers (CSPs), Telecom operators, and new age subscription service providers must prioritize the development of innovative and captivating commercial products to stay ahead in the fast-paced market. Speed is crucial, as they need to bring these products to market swiftly, while also making necessary modifications to existing offerings to meet the evolving demands of customers and thrive within vendor/partner ecosystems.
In today’s market, commercial products have evolved into collaborative products, bringing together multiple delivery partners to enhance fulfillment. Bundling has now become the de-facto standard, offering customers a seamless experience by combining both similar and diverse products. With the nature of this collaboration, the rules governing bundle combinations, product offers, and promotions have also grown more intricate. Our expertise lies in navigating these complexities, ensuring compatibility, promoting upgrades, and analyzing the impact on agreements and contracts.
The Enterprise Product Catalog (EPC) is an indispensable tool for driving the growth of CSPs, Telecom operators, and subscription service providers. EPCs are powerful off-the-shelf solutions, and in certain cases, they come bundled with a comprehensive set of features within a CRM system. They serve as the ultimate resource for defining commercial and technical products, product dependency rules, and product bundling. Not only do they encompass both commercial and technical attributes of each product, but they also seamlessly integrate into the sales order process, ensuring seamless fulfillment and accurate billing. EPC stands as the undeniable powerhouse, serving as the centralized hub for all digital channels that showcase our exceptional products and enticing features. In addition, EPC proudly holds the key to the captivating web content that captivates and engages customers on our self-care websites, mobile applications, and other digital platforms.
Without a doubt, the incorporation of EPC into BSS/OSS and the subscription monetization architecture is absolutely essential. Let’s explore the numerous key advantages it brings to the table.
EPC – Top 3 Advantages
Unified User Experience
EPC provides an Unified user experience and set of UI screens to define commercial catalog, associated billing, and service catalog. The key is for the UI to have all the parameters that are supported by commercial catalog / eCommerce delivery layer, billing catalog and service catalog for an effective Single UI pane user experience without any swivel. In the absence of EPC, a product owner /marketing team member/billing system analyst have to swivel through multiple product UI applications to define what constitutes a commercial product. By having it as part of unified user experience, business user is able to easily navigate through all the aspects of product definition thus reducing the “Time to Market” and improving the product modelling user experience.
Federation and Publishing
When it comes to defining products, the federation and publishing of product data takes the top spot in importance. In a BSS/OSS architecture, various platforms such as billing, inventory, content management, and delivery need to be provisioned in order to complete the product modeling process. Fortunately, with EPCs federation and publishing framework, integrating these systems with catalog management, content management, ecommerce delivery platforms, and partner ecosystems to publish catalogs becomes a breeze. In the absence of a robust federation and publishing framework in EPC, the consequences are clear – a fragmented product catalog, outdated systems, and disrupted order fulfillment, provisioning, and billing processes. With confidence, we can say that an effective federation and publishing framework is key to maintaining a complete and up-to-date product catalog across all dependent systems.
Unified Product store / Product Master
EPC unifies all data related to products in a single data store creating a product master. With the product master at your disposal, you gain complete control over the entire product life cycle, while effortlessly providing centralized access to all systems showcasing the product catalog. The data governance and quality issues associated with products will become a thing of the past.
Let us examine the top factors that directly influence adoption of EPC in an organization.
Most companies have product catalogs defined across multiple billing systems, applications, and ecommerce data stores. The first step before implementing an EPC is product rationalization exercise. This involves a thorough review of the product data across multiple systems /applications and processes, identify duplicates, redundant data, define relationships between the product elements, segregate commercial catalog parameters, billing and service catalog. The outcome of this process is a product master data creation. Companies may have 1000+ products created over a period of time. Some of these products have to be retired as they could be: defunct, created on fly without a flow, model or a template, not grouped, product duplication, and inaccurate modelling. Such products result in human errors during order management and makes the CPQ process very complex. The Product Rationalization approach simplifies, groups, segregates, templatizes, cleans up unwanted and expired products, and classifies the product attributes to create a clean Product Master. An early Product Rationalization makes the EPC adoption much smoother. The seamless migration of all products into the EPC data store/database, coupled with their accurate modeling based on the EPC parameters/features, underscores the vital role of rationalization. This crucial step significantly impacts the widespread adoption of EPC, instilling confidence in its effectiveness.
TMF Open API Support
An EPC offers a multitude of benefits, particularly in terms of federation and publishing. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that federation and publishing across multi-vendor systems and applications like billing systems, content management systems, inventory, and technical catalogs can quickly turn into a massive integration project if the integration API is not built on an industry standard API model. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to ensure that the integration of EPC with all relevant sub-systems is based on the Telecom Management Form (TMF) Open API.
This means EPC should be capable of creating the TMF payload and have the underlying Open Digital Architecture (ODA) and Shared Information Data (SID) data model. The sub systems should have an underlying data model that is TMF compliant with product structure as per SID ODA data model and provide TMF Open APIs for federation and integration. Integrating EPC to the underlying sub system is an absolute must. It’s crucial to have TMF drive this process to ensure that the integrations are standardized across all sub systems. By doing so, we can establish a common integration language and payload, eliminating the need for complex translation logic between EPC and each sub system. Without TMF’s involvement, managing and maintaining these integrations becomes a daunting task, especially when there are additional parameters, upgrades, or enhancements involved.
The key to achieving an exceptional EPC user experience is not to aim for a perfect, single UI interface to enter all the product data, such as commercial information, billing details, service catalogue, content management, compatibility rules, and metadata setup. It also includes the setup and configuration of metadata in both the billing system and service fulfillment systems, specifically inventory and order management.
The target is to ensure that majority of product modelling work based on marketing team’s input are managed in EPC through the navigated UI and workflow with few scenarios where there is still some pre-configuration that may be required in the sub systems. When integrating EPC with sub-systems, it is imperative to take into account the crucial aspect of avoiding a zero Swivel approach in order to boost the pace of adoption. Failure to do so can result in EPC becoming a formidable bottleneck that hinders the adoption process. In order to maximize the potential of the EPC and fully harness its Commercial and technical product definition strengths, it is imperative to prioritize the pre-configurations for Billing catalog, resource inventory, physical inventory, and meta-data setup. These essential configurations should remain within the sub systems, eliminating the need to develop new screens or processes in EPC. By doing so, we can confidently optimize the EPC’s capabilities and achieve optimal results.
Time to Launch
Implementing EPC is crucial to enhance time-to-market (TTM) efficiency and successfully launch products. The measurement of time-to-market is influenced by various factors, such as:
- Number and complexity of underlying sub-systems that need to be integrated with EPC
- Complexity of product compatibility
- Maturity level of integration to ensure swift and accurate data synchronization
- Intricacies of product modeling and hierarchies
TTM success is driven more by the ecosystem than by just implementing EPC and having single UI experience. TTM also shouldn’t be the only metric to measure EPC performance. There are metrics related to revenue assurance, data governance and customer satisfaction that add value post EPC implementation. Without an EPC, configuring the product life cycle across multiple system is prone to errors thus resulting in revenue leakage when the product is implemented and sold to customers. This has a cascading impact on revenue leakage, incorrect customer order and fulfillment and satisfaction.
One of the key adoption factors that must be considered from both marketing and the end customer perspective is “Customer Satisfaction”. It is essential to evaluate if the EPC implementation has provided the business benefits to both the marketing team and the customer. The EPC selection, evaluation and implementation must be based on the value it delivers.
Implementing an EPC should not be looked at as an IT project/initiative where it is more about rationalization of products, integration best practices, ease of use, maintainability, and better operational stability. Even though all of these are important, there are factors that should be considered that directly influence better customer experience in the ecosystem. Here are a few results of a bad customer satisfaction:
- Customers have walked away from Self-care applications , mobile app because they are not able to identify the right offers to choose
- They are unable to purchase new products
- Product definitions are not clear enough to explain the benefits
- Process of amendment – for upgrades/downgrades are extremely complex and cumbersome
- Number of products to choose are too high and customer is lost
- Customer purchases the product but end-to-end order experience is not smooth and number of calls to call center are very high due to product enablement/provisioning issues
Similarly for Marketing teams, they are unable to visualize existing products clearly to decide new promotions/new offers and simple changes to rates and validity are taking too long. These are a few very important aspects of Customer satisfaction that if rightly considered improves the success rate of Adoption.
Data governance standards and policies have become integral part of Data management in CSPs where principles are followed with respect to data residency, privacy, access & control, processing, archival, quality and integrity. Commercial product and technical product data is one of the most widely used type of data in CSPs. This data drives complete monetization process and are building blocks for generating revenue, managing cost, performing reports & analytics. This data is publicly available information as off-the-shelf products/prices. It becomes very important to consider data governance standard and policies when implementing EPC.
EPC should support data governance in terms of controlling data residency, ensuring data privacy, having data security and controls for controlled access of product data , maintaining data integrity within the EPC and from a federation perspective. As part of EPC adoption and EPC product selection, data governance requirements should become part of the key selection criteria.
In essence, the successful launch and adoption of a new EPC program, vendor evaluation, or EPC implementation requires careful consideration of key prerequisites and activities. It is crucial to assess the factors that influence EPC adoption and recognize the advantages it brings to your ecosystem and environment. By doing so, we can confidently create a meticulously crafted action plan that effectively mitigates any risks associated with adoption.