Effective product management is fundamental to the profitability of a Communication Service Provider’s (CSP) service offering. A comprehensive Product Catalog is not only the master source of information for all products and services offered, but it interacts with and informs virtually every BSS function. This makes it pivotal to successful customer and partner management. It allows CSPs to manage portfolios effectively, quickly launch new services, bundle products, and set competitive pricing.
Since it is the lynchpin of successful CSP operations, it is essential to recognize that not all solutions are created equal. As much as a strong Product Management solution can enhance many aspects of a CSP’s operations, getting it wrong can prove to be a major headache that ripples through the entire operation.
In this blog, Dragana Popović, Senior Product Consultant at ZIRA explores some of the biggest challenges associated with Product Catalog and Product Lifecycle Management and how to overcome them.
CSPs need more and more bespoke BSS solutions to handle increased complexity, and customization is expensive
3G, 4G, 5G, Fiber, X-play services – the number of solutions and services in each CSP’s portfolio has grown and continues to grow exponentially. Every new service adds complexity for CSPs as they need to handle the increased scope of an enhanced portfolio. While expansion is essential to meet customer demand and remain competitive, managing the complexity associated with it must not come with an increased cost that eats into hard-won revenue streams.
CSPs need to adopt product management tools that are able to cope with additional complexity. They need a partner that understands the different requirements of the full range of technologies offered, and that can support them. At ZIRA, our Product Catalog solution is specifically designed to support multiple technologies and business models. By taking a modular approach, our solution offers CSPs tools that can be adapted to support the full range of services and solutions they offer, allowing customization without the high cost.
CPSs need to rapidly introduce new products and services
The communications landscape is moving at an unprecedented pace, with CSPs constantly needing to adapt and innovate to stay competitive. This means they need to move faster than ever before when introducing new products and services as a way of retaining a competitive edge. To minimize time-to-market, CSPs need BSS solutions that can seamlessly support rapid changes, not act as a bottleneck to rollouts.
To simplify and speed up the introduction of new products and solutions, CSPs need to be able to oversee the development process from start to finish. This allows them to ensure the product has seamless functionality, perfectly serves customer needs, and gives them the flexibility to make modifications if needed. A solution like ZIRA Product Lifecycle Management provides effective control over the development and launch of new solutions. It gives full visibility and allows products to be taken from ideation to end customer, while enabling the configuration of different price types and discounts. As such, it empowers CSPs to manage different product versions, offering maximum flexibility and reduced time to market, fully addressing the challenges of a busy product pipeline.
Managing a greater portfolio driven by B2B2X business models
We have seen that CSPs need to offer a broader portfolio to remain competitive. Part of this is launching their own new solutions; however, there is also a big opportunity in adopting new business models like B2B2X and marketplace models. This means that alongside worrying about their own products, CSPs also need to manage Supplier Partner products and ensure a seamless experience for the end customer. Research from Analysys Mason in 2022 found that 64% of CSPs agree that digital marketplaces will become an increasingly strategic asset, meaning that having the infrastructure to support a marketplace model is a high priority.
Addressing the challenge of managing different products and partners starts with taking a standardized approach. CSPs need product management tools that can integrate different types of products and services in a consistent way to ensure smooth interactions for all customers and partners. To deliver this, ZIRA uses the ‘Lego Principle’ in its Product Catalog. With a building block approach, all products and services are standardized within the catalog, making it easier to move towards more dynamic sales channels like B2B2X and marketplace models. ZIRA can then offer automation and self-service options to further smooth out the process of onboarding new partners, but standardization is at the center of being able to offer this.
The Product Catalog needs to integrate easily with other business aspects for seamless functionality
The Product Catalog is at the heart of CSP’s full range of BSS solutions; everything from order management and fulfillment to billing depends on it. Since it is a crucial function, it needs to integrate easily with all other BSS functions to meet the expectations of partners and customers. If CSPs try to force-fit an unsuitable Product Catalog to new business models, the result is likely to be system friction that reduces efficiency and results in order fallout. The knock-on effect cuts into potential revenue and limits agility. In an increasingly competitive market, CSPs cannot afford this.
Product Management and Product Catalog Solutions must not exist in silos or isolation. They have to be fully compatible with all BSS components. This ensures information is pulled through correctly for efficient operations, and no errors are made. At ZIRA, we take a modular approach so that all our solutions integrate for a superior BSS service. However, we also acknowledge that CSPs may have an ecosystem made up of multiple vendors that also need to access Product Catalog information. To accommodate this, all ZIRA solutions are designed using the ODA framework using standardized APIs to enable integration with third-party services where this is necessary.
Bundling products to meet customer demand and maximize revenues
With CSPs looking to increase revenues, bundling offers an opportunity for cross-selling and upselling to drive additional revenue. It also allows CSPs to differentiate themselves with unique value and the convenience of purchasing from a single provider. However, for bundling to be successful, CSPs need to be able to handle increasingly complex offerings.
Being able to bundle together multiple solutions, again, starts with a standardized Product Catalog that allows packages to be built, taking into consideration multiple hierarchies, fulfillment, and billing challenges, as well as maintaining the agility to adapt to market trends. At ZIRA, we can help CSPs manage this, starting with the Product Catalog, which supports both fixed and dynamic bundles with multiple hierarchies and offers configurable product rules per product as well as end-to-end performance monitoring of products and offers for maximum visibility. This helps CSPs manage complex product bundling and unlock the revenue opportunities they hold.
Staying competitive in a fast-paced market is a real challenge for CSPs, and multiple elements are needed to achieve this. In this article, we have looked specifically at the important role product management solutions have to play. Although there needs to be a focus on building partner and customer relationships and integrating new offerings, it is vital to have the underlying systems in place that facilitate the smooth running of these opportunities as CSPs look to roll them out. Product Management is one aspect of BSS, but it is central to every element of every customer and partner journey. By implementing systems that can overcome potential challenges, CSPs set themselves up for success with each new opportunity.
At ZIRA, our modular approach, with a focus on standardization, gives CSP customers the flexibility to adapt to market trends and pursue new revenue streams.
They can do this comfortably, knowing that there is the BSS backbone to support each new opportunity and allow it to reach its full potential.