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    The role of business assurance in supporting 5G growth

    Suresh Chintada explores the role business assurance in a world that is increasingly going 5G

    Suresh Chintada, CTO, Subex

    5G is now a reality, and communications service providers (CSPs) are actively launching products on their 5G networks. The march to 5G means increased change of pace, increased complexity of product offerings and new partnerships, leading to change in the risk profile of the CSPs. This begs the question: what does 5G mean for business assurance, and how is it different when compared to 2G, 3G, and 4G controls?

    Traditionally CSPs used revenue assurance to uncover leakage and track new revenue streams. Today, however, the rapidly changing telecom assurance space requires service providers to go above and beyond the traditional ask. The ever-increasing rate of digitalisation, when combined with the unrelenting need to succeed in today’s hyper-connected digital world – with multi-disciplinary services, it has become imperative for service providers to look beyond revenue-only assurance.

    Without a doubt, service providers will be able to reuse their traditional revenue assurance controls like subscription assurance, product catalogue validation, and quality of service (QoS) validation. The current customer and revenue use cases of business assurance, such as customer 360-degree, revenue analytics, product profitability, margin assurance, etc., will continue to be relevant. CSPs are already evolving their assurance approach and extending their traditional risk management and assurance roles, beyond the remit of a single team, to a wider business assurance responsibility spread across the organisation. Business assurance enables CSPs to continuously protect and improve financial integrity, as well as enhance business value and the customer experience in the new 5G era.

    Business assurance is becoming an urgent need

    As CSPs expand into the realm of becoming Digital Service providers (DSPs) and offer emerging services like OTT streaming, Mobile money, Telematics, eHealth, ecommerce etc., their new reality now consists of a complex, digital economy that encompasses complex partnerships and new business models. These will lead to newer revenue opportunities as well as additional risk.

    Taking this into consideration, incorporating business assurance will play a pivotal role in improving the customer experience and business performance, as elucidated by the following cases with 5G and digital transformation such as:

    • Maintaining quality of service (QoS) with increasing quantity of data, network slicing and API integration services
    • Ensuring data co-relation across multiple datapoints related to customers, services and usage
    • Managing user identities with distributed applications, multiple partners and different data sources
    • Ensuring network and SLA adherence associated with network capabilities in speed, responsiveness and scale
    • Enabling effective charging based on network capability exposure, assuring level of quality, slice etc.

    Given the above, there is increasing urgency for establishing a business assurance framework that assures profit maximisation and the value chains. This framework will help service providers ensure agility in digital transformation projects, and improve operational excellence, uninterrupted service experience, and profitability. For CSPs that have begun their digital transformation journey, business assurance ensures proactive system monitoring, and serves as a single source of truth that empowers them to transform into data-driven analytical organisations.

    With the intention to continuously protect and improve financial integrity, while enhancing business value and the customer experience, business assurance integrates assurance and risk management disciplines into an overall proactive data-centric assurance framework.

    In terms of the framework of business assurance in 5G, additional controls are needed across business models involving third parties, charging and billing, quality of experience, new revenue models, new massively connected devices, etc. These controls will provide the basis that will enable all parties to work in unison and ensure that end customers receive exceptional experiences.

    New business assurance controls support 5G growth

    In the 5G world, CSPs enlist the support of thousands of partners so they can provide services to all lines of business. These services include immersive entertainment, sports broadcasting, smart cities, connected cars, 5G drones, etc. The success of providing these services, however, rely on healthy partner relationships. To this end, there are seven use cases where business assurance plays a central role in creating and maintaining healthy partner relationships, and in delivering exceptional customer experiences.

    • Service assurance use case: This includes everything from partner contracts to configuration validation, as well as monitoring the QoS provided to customers
    • Partner profitability use case: As an extension of margin assurance, it involves scoring and analysing individual supplier performance
    • Supplier analytics use case: This is a comparison of supplier performance and an analysis of supplier risk and their sustainability
    • Spend analytics use case: This includes analytics on product spend, which is tightly coupled with vendor spend. It also extends to forecasting the spend for products launched against their expected margins
    • Contract risk management use case: This involves expiry alerts, as well as identifying clauses, obligations, and risks
    • Dispute analytics use case: This involves using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to predict billing disputes, write-offs, bad debts, and usage charges date sets
    • Just in time (JIT) and just in case (JIC) analytics use case: Includes managing inventory that is based on analysing historical data and current datasets, as well as forecasting capacity.

    The importance of analysing how CSPs and their partners interact can’t be underestimated. This analysis enables business assurance teams to institute controls that protect their relationships and deliver the experiences end user’s desire.

    The way forward relies on business assurance

    While the 5G adoption is changing the risk profile for the communication service providers with the requirement of adding new assurance controls, it also leads to new non-imagined risks. Business assurance is now a well-understood concept; each component is being adopted at a different rate and varying degrees. Adopting a business assurance strategy provides CSPs with tangible short- and long-term benefits. Business assurance will enable service providers to strengthen customer service across the entire consumer experience journey, reach new levels in digital maturity, increase trust by providing veritable results to consumers and partners, and achieve real and measurable profitability. Machine Learning, AI and RPA are a part of a suite of tools that can alleviate some of the challenges and risks brought in 5G, such as an increase in the pace of change, cost pressure, complexity in product offering, and partnership arrangements.

    While service providers have been at the forefront of incorporating emerging technologies into their roadmaps and are now ready to deliver innovative assurance solutions, it will take time for them to create a rich and reliable business assurance system. However, the way to 5G growth and profitability relies on business assurance.

    Author

    Suresh Chintada is CTO at Subex

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