How to Choose a Digital BSS Provider: A Comprehensive Guide

In 2023, global IT spending in the telecommunications industry was expected to reach 1.5 trillion US dollars. The increasingly commoditized telco space is fighting stagnating revenues by pouring significant resources into tech solutions that allow them an improved ability for business innovation and diversification. Not least of the expenses is a digital Business Support System (BSS).

The industry has long embraced digital transformation in hopes of lowering costs, increasing operational efficiency and enabling new avenues for growth. However, the speed at which technology has been changing has left many Communication Service Providers (CSPs) with a costly burden of complex legacy business systems that, because of their inherent limitations, aren’t capable of providing the flexibility to support growth through business innovation.

If legacy systems are the proverbial albatross around their necks, what then are the alternatives for CSPs when trying to gain flexibility? How do you avoid the sunk cost fallacy and choose the right BSS with business innovation and diversification in mind?

Read on for an overview of the key steps in your decision making.


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What Is a Digital BSS and Why Is it Important?

A digital Business Support System is a software platform used by telecommunications and digital service providers to manage various aspects of their business operations. A digital BSS encompasses a range of functionalities designed to streamline processes, reduce operational costs and drive revenue growth in the digital economy.

With traditional telecommunication services becoming a commodity, a digital BSS now serves as a vehicle of innovation that enables CSPs to explore new revenue streams with greater agility. It plays a crucial role in empowering operators to deliver and monetize digital services across different channels, meeting users where they are. Most importantly, a digital BSS allows operators to provide modern-day users with what they’ve come to expect — a fully digital experience.  

Selecting the right digital BSS provider is vital for the success of telecom operators, digital service providers and enterprises. With a myriad of options available in the market, making an informed decision can be daunting. However, with the right approach and considerations, you can navigate through the choices and find the perfect fit for your business needs.

1. Define Your Requirements

Before embarking on the journey of choosing a digital BSS vendor, it's important to clearly define your requirements and the overall outcome that needs to be achieved. Assess your current business model, identify pain points and determine the specific functionalities and features you need in a digital BSS solution. Whether it's billing, customer management, order management or a central data hub, having a clear understanding of your requirements will streamline the selection process and, ultimately, the desired outcome.

2. Evaluate BSS Vendor Track Record

When choosing a digital BSS provider, credibility matters. Look for vendors with a proven history of delivering valuable outcomes to clients. Check for customer testimonials, case studies and industry awards to gauge the vendor's reputation in the market.

Extra tip: Consider partnering with vendors that have worked on similar outcomes to the one you want to work. Their domain expertise can provide valuable insights — they know the pitfalls and trapdoors — and ensure that the solution aligns with your unique business requirements.

3. Scalability and Flexibility

In today's whirlwind world of technological change, scalability and flexibility are non-negotiable. Choose a digital BSS provider that offers a scalable solution capable of accommodating your business growth and evolving needs in the long run. 
Additionally, ensure that the platform is flexible enough to adapt to dynamic market circumstances, regulatory requirements and technological advancements. Even better, hedge your bets with a partner with a highly configurable offering that can be tailored to the outcome you want to achieve.


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4. BSS Integration Capabilities

Seamless integration with existing systems and third-party applications is essential for maximizing operational efficiency and enhancing customer experience. Prioritize digital BSS providers that offer robust integration capabilities and support industry-standard protocols. Whether it's CRM systems, resource management or payment gateways, ensure compatibility to avoid costly and time-consuming integration challenges down the line. TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) is a good guideline —  it’s a set of open standards and certified software meant to simplify the integration of software components.

5. Security and Compliance

With the increasing prevalence of cyber threats and data breaches, security should be a top priority when selecting a digital BSS provider. Opt for a vendor that adheres to industry best practices, complies with relevant regulations such as GDPR, PCI DSS and HIPAA and has the relevant ISO certifications. Conduct thorough security assessments and due diligence to mitigate risks and safeguard sensitive customer data.

6. Support and Maintenance

Effective support and maintenance are key for ensuring the smooth operation of your digital BSS solution. Evaluate the vendor's support offerings, including service level agreements (SLAs), response times and availability of technical expertise. Additionally, inquire about software updates, patches and ongoing maintenance to ensure long-term reliability and performance.

Vendors like LotusFlare that use the CI/CD approach (Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment) deploy 208 times more often and have a lead time that is 106 times faster than the rest. What does this mean for you? It means faster development and greater stability, with an uptime of 99.99%.

DNO Cloud BSS Screenshot
DNO Cloud BSS Portal

7. Cloud-Native vs. Cloud-Based

Most of today’s digital BSS vendors leverage cloud technologies for their solutions. However, make sure to check whether their software architecture is cloud-native or merely cloud-based.The difference is important.

Cloud-based solutions refer to applications designed to run on local servers or personal computers that have later been moved to the cloud. Even though this offers the benefits of the cloud, such as remote access and reduced physical infrastructure, the components of these applications are usually tightly integrated and dependent on each other. This means that, if one part of the system needs to be upgraded or fixed, the entire system might need to go offline, resulting in downtime.

On the other hand, cloud-native BSS offerings provide much more. They are built in the cloud and are specifically designed and optimized for public cloud environments. This makes software more scalable and faster to deliver, while keeping expenses low. Cloud-native BSS solutions often use microservice architecture for flexibility and resilience, allowing for independent updates without disrupting the entire system. 
For information on the benefits of placing a digital BSS in the public cloud, please review this POV paper on Public Cloud Strategies for Telcos.

8. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

While upfront costs are important, don't overlook the total cost of ownership (TCO) when evaluating digital BSS providers. Consider factors such as licensing fees, implementation costs, customization expenses and ongoing maintenance fees. Conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine the true value proposition of each solution and assess its long-term viability for your business.

9. Industry Trends

Stay ahead of the curve by choosing a digital BSS provider that embraces innovation and keeps pace with industry trends. Look for vendors that invest in research and development, leverage emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and blockchain and offer future-proof solutions that can adapt to changing market dynamics.

Extra Tip

Subscribe to industry publications, attend conferences and engage with thought leaders to stay informed about the latest trends and advancements in the digital BSS space.

10. Simplicity

Finally, with many in the telco space becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the complexity of emerging technologies, simplicity is an important factor to take into account when choosing the right vendor. Consider how much effort vendors put into making their digital BSS solution as simple as possible for both your employees and customers to use

Also, try to gauge what your partnership with the digital BSS provider would look like. Simple and easy is always a good way to go. Opt for a business partner that values transparency and open communication.


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Conclusion

Choosing the right digital BSS provider requires careful consideration of various factors ranging from functionality and scalability to security and innovation. By defining your requirements, evaluating vendor experience and prioritizing key criteria such as integration capabilities and total cost of ownership, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business objectives and sets the foundation for long-term success.

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