We did some research earlier this year on the business appetite for connected services. We found that while the appetite is strong, the offerings are weak. Not that service providers aren’t delivering their usual standards of quality and performance, because they are. No, the weakness comes in the dearth of actual, integrated services that a business can buy and use without a large, dedicated IT group or enduring the time and expense required to hire a system integrator.
Study after study, including ours, shows that business customers want to buy these services. So why aren’t service providers bringing these services to market? The answer is the one thing that has always presented the biggest challenge to operators – scale.
Businesses are unique and the connected services that they require must be customized to work within each unique business framework, unlike consumer services that are essentially the same everywhere. That’s why most service providers define, design, and deliver business offers manually. And for the most part that has worked. Business customers paid a premium for the complexity required to get their unique services connected.
Scale in the business services market is different. Instead of accommodating a large number of users accessing the same thing, the funnel becomes an hourglass and there are a smaller number of users accessing a small number of applications. But there are a lot of businesses. So the requirement to scale occurs on two fronts. Lots of small groups of business users and devices require access to lots of different applications.
Yet, business customers also want what consumers have. If they need an app, they download it. If they need to remotely login to check email, they do it over the public Internet. It’s easy, it’s fast and all they have to do is pay the bill. Granted, enabling secure access to a global supply chain isn’t as easy as downloading Angry Birds and no business expects it to be. But, they also don’t expect that it will take months of integration and expense. M2M and IoT are everywhere and businesses want to start taking advantage of connected devices, which makes scalability and automation even more important. The bright spot is that most business services groups don’t have a lot of systems in place to create offers and manage orders through delivery. That creates an opportunity to implement processes and architecture that enable the unique requirements of business while still capturing the economies of scale. Most businesses are not interested in managing application licenses or contracting with multiple content providers. They want a secure, reliable service that is a genuine service; not a loose collection of components.
But where to start? To become an enabler of IoT, M2M, and connected digital services for businesses, service providers must implement a true end-to-end solution. Not just billing, not just order management, not just fulfillment – but every piece of the puzzle driven by a centralized catalog. Delivering turn-key services to business customers requires more than bandwidth and an application platform; it requires seamless integration and automation at scale to ensure profitability. With the right systems, service providers can become trusted business service providers and make money doing it.
While most businesses will stop short of saying they want to outsource IT, many are taking steps in that direction. Service providers that can marry the elements of IT service management, network management, and application management into a secure solution that can scale to support businesses worldwide will find an eager market. Scale is scary, but nobody does it better than communication services providers.