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Partnerships Will Give CSPs Strength in Numbers

Whether it’s 5G, pervasive high-speed broadband, software-defined and virtualised networks or IoT connectivity, service providers are being presented with a world of new digital opportunities. But a defining characteristic is that in order to reap the full revenue rewards, CSPs won’t be able go it alone. Being good at forging partnership and making them work, at both the business and operational levels, could be the new ‘USP’ for service providers.

It comes as no surprise that in a recent panel at the Digital Transformation World Series 2020, titled Exploring B2B Service Opportunities, partnerships were high on the agenda. With Hansen’s Create-Sell-Deliver Outlook 2nd Edition survey – where we asked 150 CSPs about their views and opinions – finding the ability to incorporate and sell partner-provided services was the second biggest challenge for operators, this is clearly a hot topic.

The central issue highlighted is the need to be able to effectively and seamlessly manage partnerships of different types, enabling new offers to be created, sold, and delivered with the minimum of effort on all sides.

The opinion of Ron Westfall, Senior Analyst and Research Director at Futurum Research, is that while providing a superior customer experience obviously remains a key driver for CSPs, partner management has also moved up on the priority list to an equal footing. “We are seeing the journey management principles that are applied to the customer being applied to partners, so the service provider has a keener sense of how the partnership experience is actually being implemented,” he commented. This ‘levelling-up’ will be essential when it comes to winning B2B business.

At the highest level, partnerships come into one of two categories: ecosystem partnerships, which entail bringing on board partners to enable new types of product propositions beyond pure-play connectivity; and go-to-market partnerships, which are about adding new sales channels in order to address a broader customer base. Both of these have their own requirements which place more – and different – demand on business support systems.

For ecosystem partnerships, a key challenge is how to integrate. While there are familiar standards and practices within the telecommunications space, when working with partners from other markets – think entertainment companies like Netflix, cloud computing giants like AWS and Microsoft, or enterprise application specialists – a whole different set of interfaces comes into play.

Senthil Balasubramaniam, Chief Information Officer for B2B & Networks, Bharti Airtel, noted: “When I look at my SaaS product vendors or my cloud vendors, they do not follow standards: each one of them has different APIs you need to use.” For a CSP, this means they need platforms that are open enough to support integration with partner services, and as far as possible partners “should have a seamless experience integrating into your ecosystem”.

The diversity of requirements and technical capabilities among go-to-market partners was called out by Paul Thompson, IT Product Owner – Lead to Cash, Inmarsat. “Some of our partners are driving our roadmap and want their own APIs and have their own platforms because they are huge. Other times it’s a smaller organisation that wants to call in orders and us take care of them. We need to take care of huge global governments to someone who might specialise in sailing, and be able to cover all those markets, and manage those different levels of requests we have, all of which have to be delivered in an agile way through the platform.”

Hansen’s very own Brian Cappellani outlined what is needed to address these challenges, and it comes down to consistency of product data and control of how this is exposed to different partners and channels. “If you want to make an update to an offer, you want to be able to expose that new offer, that new capability, as quickly as possible into those new channels and cause as little disruption to your partners as possible.”

Partnerships will give CSPs new strength with which to reap the rewards of digital services opportunities. But as our panellists outlined, it’s not a completely straightforward path. It really comes down to how well CSPs and their valued partners can align their data and operations to create, sell and deliver seamlessly. So much so that successful and effective partnerships could become the new differentiator for CSPs in the future.

A Roundtable Not To Be Missed

Partnerships were only one of the topics discussed – the panel also covered Bharti Airtel’s B2B transformation, the diversity of business models and requirements at Inmarsat, and the importance of addressing complexity challenge for B2B products. To watch the entire session, click here and enjoy.

Steve Costello,
Product Marketing Manager