Nov 11, 2014

Evolution vs. Revolution

By Dinesh Dhanasekharan

The modern communications industry is changing faster than it ever has before. For the largest carriers, this means opportunity – in the form of new products, wholesale offerings and even new lines of business – but also significant technical challenges as their legacy systems struggle to adapt to new demands.

Battle lines are forming between the marketing and technology teams over these issues, as the former group sees tremendous market opportunities, while technology teams deal with systems that are difficult to manage, expensive to maintain and hamper innovation. Their daily struggle:

  • Difficulties developing and integrating new products – Existing systems are so complex that introducing new products and integrating them into current offerings is slow and expensive.
  • Revenue leakage – Customers aren’t being charged correctly for the elements or packages of services they are receiving.
  • Operational issues – Over time, manual workarounds and other legacy processes lead to high overhead and staffing inefficiencies. Carriers can be managing enterprise businesses on spreadsheets.

As we discuss in our latest “Excelacom Perspective”, addressing these challenges can take one of two possible approaches:

Revolution (total systems transformation) – This approach promises to solve these problem via a wholesale replacement of old systems with modern technology. The companies selling a solution based on system replacement promise a paradise of flexibility, standardization and forward manageability.

However, realizing this vision requires successfully navigating a technology Catch-22: the complexity and intradepartmental reach of these systems that makes them such obvious candidates for replacement also makes them very difficult to replace!

There is an extensive literature in IT regarding project failure rates, reasons and responses. The Standish Group did the seminal work in this area in the 1990s, with its “Chaos Report” that found fewer than one in six IT projects was completed on-time, on-budget and with the full set of promised functionality. Almost a third of the projects in their study were canceled before completion.

The underlying problem is complexity. As Robert Glass, the software engineer and writer, first demonstrated, for every 25 percent increase in problem complexity there is a 100 percent increase in solution complexity.

The bottom line: In IT, large projects fail and small projects succeed. And total systems transformation is the epitome of a large project.

Evolution (enhancing and optimizing existing systems) – This approach to change is far more manageable for most organizations. The existing systems remain the engine powering the train, but their capabilities can be significantly enhanced via technology that can reduce time to market/revenue, improve customer experience, and increase operational efficiency. By adding an overlay and integrated management systems over existing systems, operational issues can be addressed. A common integration gateway layer is also a critical piece of the evolution strategy that allows organizations to fully utilize the existing systems and new systems that are added to enhance the eco system.

Operators can then focus on creative marketing and offers during the creation of service packages – rather than service functionality – and on revenue generation through effective operations.

Each provider’s system is different, but there are commonalities that allow evolutionary providers to create reusable modules that tightly conform to those systems, while also offering forward manageability and flexibility to allow for continuing system evolution. In truth, Excelacom has solved many of the same problems over and over again.

For more on this topic, please check out “Evolution, Not Revolution: An Excelacom Perspective.”  Or contact us to learn more about how Excelacom’s evolutionary approach can help you reduce time to market/revenue, improve your customer experience, and increase operational efficiency.

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