Amdocs Tosses Hat into Smartbot Ring, but Adoption Hurdles Loom

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Amdocs introduced its Smartbot offering at Mobile World Congress Americas and followed with demos at the Amdocs Digital Summit, pre-integrating Amdocs’ aia intelligence platform and Microsoft Cognitive Analytics capabilities in delivering innovative, personalized, self-service interactions to digital operator customers.
  • Amdocs confronts adoption barriers, as operators must first adapt and automate their operations and business processes to deliver real-time, interactive Smartbot capabilities to their digital customers.

At the Mobile World Congress Americas show and follow-up demos during the Amdocs Digital Summit, Amdocs rolled out its new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-based Smartbot solution. The pre-integrated solution uses Amdocs aia intelligence platform with Microsoft Cognitive Services, specifically Microsoft Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) and Text Analytics API, to enable personalized, self-service interactions with operator customers. The Amdocs Smartbot targets enabling operators to streamline and improve the customer experience, such as predictive care and smart promotional campaigns, using the Cognitive Services-enhanced understanding of natural language and human emotion. Read more of this post

Alibaba: Potential ZTEsoft Acquisition Ambitions Signal Competitive Upheaval in Telco Software Market

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• Alibaba generated industry headlines during the summer of 2017 due to speculation it was poised to acquire ZTEsoft and heavily invest in China Unicom.

• While the rumored acquisition has yet to take place, Alibaba’s potential expansion into the telco software realm affirms the expanding influence of Webscale platforms in telco software architecture evolution and telco digital business models.

Throughout the summer of 2017, Alibaba’s potential acquisition of ZTE’s software unit, ZTEsoft, for ~$440 million and a large investment in China Unicom produced widespread speculation that the Webscale stalwart is ready to expand its presence in the telco software segment. Alibaba covets ZTEsoft’s software assets to strengthen its hand in driving the build-out of cloud and mobile services throughout telco networks, especially data center applications. The rumored acquisition underlines the growing trend of telcos investing more in software-centric solutions, such as software-defined networking (SDN), DevOps, and OpenStack, to prepare their networks to meet the massive scaling demands of Webscale-originated traffic including 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) services. This includes delivering the intelligence and flexibility required to support vast, low-latency throughput among the data centers that serve the most popular Webscale brands, including Alibaba. Read more of this post

Netrounds and Cisco Polish Orchestrated Assurance Credentials but Operator Readiness Uncertain

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• Netrounds and Cisco expand their relationship to include the certification of Netrounds Virtual Test Agents (vTA) technology on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) servers targeting increasing operator demand for orchestrated assurance capabilities.

• Netrounds and Cisco confront adoption barriers as many operators exhibit fear of failure toward automating assurance processes without more use cases and rivals offer single-vendor, pre-integrated alternatives.

In June 2017, Netrounds and Cisco expanded its partnership targeting growing operator demand for orchestrated assurance. The collaboration entails the compatibility certification of Netrounds vTAs with Cisco UCS servers building on Netrounds existing certification and integration with Cisco Network Service Orchestrator (NSO). The move boosts the market profile of Netrounds’ automated service activation testing and active monitoring solution through the channel and certification alignment with Cisco. Both Cisco and Netrounds strengthen their hand in driving orchestrated automation as compatibility certification is an essential feature in spurring operator automation of assurance processes. However, the collaboration must show it can provide the solution capabilities needed to drive the full range of orchestrated assurance requirements and faces adoption barriers as operators continue to investigate which assurance processes are best suited for automation. Read more of this post

ZTEsoft Introduces ZSmart 9 BSS Platform but Comes Up Short in Meeting Operator Digital Transformation Demands

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• ZTEsoft launched its ZSmart 9 BSS suite at TM Forum Live! 2017, including new omni-channel, DevOps, and continuous billing capabilities, aimed at driving operator digital transformation.

• ZTEsoft faces portfolio development and marketing challenges in showing the ZSmart 9 BSS solution aligns fully with operator digital transformation strategies and also meets their specific omni-channel and billing requirements.

At Tl Forum Live! 2017, ZTEsoft unveiled its ZSmart 9 BSS solution. The new BSS solution is designed to meet emerging operator digital transformation requirements, including fully automated scaling that adapts to traffic fluctuations and omni-channel customer interaction capabilities, which use social media and instant messenger (IM) platforms to deliver personalized experiences across different touch-points. The ZSmart 9 platform also offers support for DevOps research and development (R&D) methods and smart cloud maintenance. In ZSmart 9 billing, the new miniature bill run capability is initiated upon arrival of each call detail record (CDR), instead of performing a bill run at the end of a billing cycle. The approach enables capabilities like real-time notification, credit control, and updated accumulators, allowing additional runway for the operations team to correct errors before the end of the billing cycle. However, the ZSmart 9 BSS solution is missing essential characteristics needed to drive operator BSS transformation. Read more of this post

Nokia: New Autonomous Customer Care Solution Offers Digital Care Breakthroughs, but are Interactive Bots Ready for Prime Time?

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Nokia debuted its Nokia Autonomous Customer Care solution at its Nokia Analyst Day before the TM Forum Live! show, leveraging machine learning-powered interactive care bots to predict and resolve residential service concerns.
  • Nokia faces near-term support challenges as operators align their operations to take advantage of consumer intelligent assistants to improve customer care.

At the Nokia Analyst Day preceding the TM Forum Live! show, Nokia unveiled its Nokia Autonomous Customer Care solution, aimed at increasing the intelligence of operator digital care and creating new revenue streams. The solution offers interactive care bots, such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Messenger, using natural language processing (NLP) and Nokia Bell Labs machine learning algorithms to predict and resolve service-degrading issues more efficiently. However, Nokia confronts near-term operator support challenges in scaling autonomous care.   Read more of this post

Amdocs’ Acquisition of Brite:Bill – A Six-Month Checkup

Ron Westfall – Research Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • After acquiring Brite:Bill, Pontis, and Vindicia in September 2016, Amdocs elected to operate the three digital specialists as independent concerns. After six months, the decision has paid dividends in Brite:Bill’s case with Comcast selecting Brite:Bill for consumer billing presentment applications and Brite:Bill internally developing automatic monitoring and proactive billing resolution innovations.
  • Amdocs faces portfolio development challenges operating Brite:Bill as an independent entity, including leveraging Brite:Bill innovation into its CES platform and driving Brite:Bill solutions to capitalize upon expanding corporate billing and prepaid billing presentment market opportunities.

After completing the acquisition of Brite:Bill, Pontis, and Vindicia in September 2016, Amdocs elected to keep the three companies as standalone entities. The standalone approach offers competitive benefits such as reducing integration overhead costs and lessening the potential for portfolio disruption. Brite:Bill is showing six months later why Amdocs’ decision to keep its operational independence is warranted. Fresh off winning Comcast’s consumer billing presentment business, Brite:Bill quickly capitalized on Amdocs’ business relations with a top-tier cable operator. Prior to the Amdocs acquisition, Brite:Bill consistently won top-tier operator billing presentment and communication deals, including Vodafone, Sprint, Rogers, and Virgin Media, competing frequently against service billing heavyweights such as Ericsson, IBM, and Amdocs itself. Little doubt this hard-won traction spurred Amdocs’ decision to acquire the company. New Brite:Bill 5.0 portfolio capabilities, such as automatic monitoring of charges liable for dispute and proactive resolution of problematic billing charges that reduce customer loyalty, validate Brite:Bill’s innovation acumen and reputation. However, Amdocs’ progress in leveraging Brite:Bill software innovations into its own portfolio remains unclear and brings to light the concerns attached to the standalone approach. Read more of this post

Nokia Shuffle Intensifies Focus on Mobile and Services, but Managerial Changes Are Ill Timed

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Nokia will divide up its Mobile Networks and Chief Innovation and Operating Officer units to align with the company’s ‘Rebalancing for Growth’ strategy unveiled in November 2016.
  • The moves create greater visibility for Nokia’s services unit, and should lead to improved operating efficiency and strategic investment, but significant management changes give the impression of disarray.

On March 17, Nokia announced changes in its organization and leadership team, to better execute the strategy unveiled by CEO Rajeev Suri at the company’s Capital Markets Day in November 2016:

  • Mobile Networks will be divided into two distinct organizations: Products & Solutions and Global Services. Marc Rouanne will assume control of the Products & Solutions unit, while current Mobile Networks President Samih Elhage will step down. Igor Leprince will continue to head up Global Services and will be added to Nokia’s Group Leadership Team (GLT), an indication of the growing importance of services.
  • Despite being placed within Mobile Networks, Global Services will house all managed network services and company-wide global service delivery. The Global Services unit will also be responsible for developing a common approach for processes and tools, managing a Services Committee to coordinate services development across different groups, with a common Customer Delivery Manager responsible for managing all services for a single customer.
  • Global Services will also continue to drive emerging strategic service areas such telco cloud, ‘x as a service’ (XaaS), prime integration and transformation consulting.
  • The former Chief Innovation and Operating Officer (CIOO) organization will be split into three: A traditional ‘operating’ unit will focus on internal operations, while responsibility for ‘innovation’ will revert to CTO Marcus Weldon and Chief Strategy Officer Kathrin Buvac. Monika Maurer, currently COO of the fixed business, will became company COO; both Maurer and Weldon will join the GLT. (Buvac is already a member.)

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