Breaking the Bottleneck: Aligning Fulfillment from the Customer to the Core

By: Steve Hateley, Nancee Ruzicka

Fulfillment has become an unmanageable collection of manual processes, systems and data that are inefficient, inaccurate and expensive to operate and maintain. 

Moreover, consumers want transparency so they can start an order online and finish it in a retail outlet, but it doesn’t work that way when a company has multiple sales channels, each with its own product catalog. The company may also have a single CRM (customer relationship management) system but multiple instances of it maintained across its organization. Consider as well that there are duplicate sources for customer, product, service, and support data, which can create confusion for a company’s service representatives when they interact with customers.

At the resource layer each service silo has its own fulfillment and assurance systems, with separate systems order management, tracking, service catalog, network inventory, service management, and network management. Additionally, features and functions that are added to a company’s communications services for the sake of product delivery exist in yet another silo. In this maze of processes, systems and data it’s no surprise that orders are lost, configurations are wrong and products are defective, causing customers to complain.

As connectivity becomes embedded in millions of devices and business processes, fulfillment becomes a dynamic, on-demand function that’s integrated both horizontally, across sales channels, and vertically, from the customer to the core of the network. Over time, many service providers have implemented consolidated activation platforms or federated product catalogs, and though these efforts are both necessary and worthwhile, they do not entirely address the problem of the fulfillment bottleneck. What’s coming is an evolution of necessity, as converged services become increasingly complex and fulfillment solutions must accommodate more feature components, network elements, pricing plans, sales channels, and partners.

Service-layer fulfillment abstracts, or removes, order management from customer interfaces and activation from network interfaces. Using an abstraction layer, large numbers of parallel interfaces between BSS, sales channels, OSS and network elements are replaced with a single set of flexible interfaces. This one bit of simplification reduces fulfillment errors and relieves pressure on both the BSS/OSS and network elements. However, there has yet to be any significant integration within the service layer that extends functionality beyond brokering data north and south to a more circular approach that aligns customers and order management with products and fulfillment.

In survey after survey, service providers have indicated that time to market (TTM) for new products is vital to their business, and for almost a decade now they’ve insisted that the rapid rollout of new products is a priority, yet TTM remains stuck at 6-12 months or more. Automated, end-to-end fulfillment has been a strategic imperative for most service providers, but manual fulfillment methods continue to prevail. The challenge is that both sides of the equation are complex, and without foundational changes, seamless customer-to-core fulfillment cannot be realized. 


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