Count on Me: The Role of Professional Services for Modern CSPs

Professional services and systems integrators, at their best, should offer guidance, wisdom and assurance, all of which should add up to peace of mind for the service provider trying to take on major innovation projects.

Ericsson and NSN have both been contracted by Vodfone to help with its massive “Project Spring” network upgrade and investment program. Under a separate agreement, NSN will also provide Vodafone with its SDM solution to enable rapid, cost-effective development of future applications and services.

“Vodafone is one of the largest network operators globally and understands the importance of investing in the latest technology to maximize its end users experience,” said Wolfgang Hackenberg, Vice President of Vodafone global customer team at NSN. “As we implement our advanced radio access platform to improve the existing network infrastructure, we will help Vodafone to increase the performance and efficiency of its mobile network.”

NSN, which specializes in mobile broadband, claims that through their professional services mobile operators and CSPs can supercharge smartphone user retention and accessibility up to 300 percent; improve market share by nearly 25 percent; upgrade capacity; boost spectrum capacity by 50 percent; cut customer complaints by 57 percent and reduce time-to-market for new services from 6 months to 3 weeks.

Beyond systems integration, optimization, and implementation, these new technologies and services require monitoring and service assurance that can't necessarily be provided in house. Amdocs, for instance, touts a “24x7, follow the sun” suite of testing services which can be used to test a new deployment or monitor and optimize the operation of existing systems. Amdocs is also quick to point out that with its long and distinguished systems integration resume comes hard-won knowledge that isn't available with a less-road-tested professional services partner.

On the other side of the business, CSPs are also finding a tidy revenue stream offering enterprise professional services to manage IT complexities. From Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to Mobile Workforce Management, cloud computing, storage and data analytics, today's enterprise is running evermore complicated technologies, which CSPs are in a perfect position to help them manage.

At the beginning of March 2014, Verizon announced the addition of a new Mobility Solutions professional services offering to help businesses manage corporate and personal devices to tackle policy and security issues related to the new BYOD phenomenon.

The rise of professional services has also changed the role of the Chief Technology Officer within the CSP organization. No longer troubleshooter-in-chief, today's CTO has to understand how to manage and communicate with systems integrators. Gartner in its 2013 Magic Quadrant for Communications Outsourcing and Professional Services provides some guidance for how to approach these arrangements. It suggests IT leaders should base all communications outsourcing and professional services (COPS) on three key criteria:

  • “A detailed evaluation of their requirements for operations and support services, and their ability to deliver in-house resources

  • A review of their sourcing goals for contract structure, cost-benefits, and technology and business transformation

  • A comparison of prospective vendors' Ability to Execute against expectations globally, and in the specific countries or regions where a vendor's services are required”

Last year's Magic Quadrant goes on to recognize global leaders in the COPS space including BT Global Services, Accenture, Dimension Data, CSC, Cisco, Huawei, IBM and others. But as important as the recognition of the best in professional services, is the caveat that no single partner can provide an end-to-end solution. Each CSP, arguably each deployment, can require a very specific skill set from a professional services provider. Beware of long-term, multi-year agreements as there is little you can do to predict which technologies just over the horizon.

The CSP business is more complicated than ever and driving the need for trusted, expert partners. Professional services can improve speed to market, improve service quality, and make the business more efficient--all things every business wants to do better. As margins continue to shrink, CSPs are less likely to the internal resources and expertise to keep up with the required technical diversity and increasing rate of change. Tailoring solutions to their individual operational requirements also means driving more efficiency out of system and network investments. But the underlying reality is that nothing as critical as the technological lifeblood of the operation can ever fully be outsourced. CIOs and CTOs are increasingly finding themselves, instead of monitoring deployments, gathering the internal support needed to get the job done. Professional services need to be managed with a keen eye for long-term goals and short term challenges. But that doesn't mean they don't professional services organization don't provide value. 

Perhaps the best analogy would be to compare professional services to application of prescription drugs.  While pharmaceuticals provide life-saving benefits, they should be use only as needed, when needed and to achieve very specific health benefits. This same approach can be applied to professional service to achieve specific results within a set time frame related to individual projects. When applied appropriately, the benefits are significant and offset the risk. But only use as needed, for pain.


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