A tip of the hat to Amdocs, they have a knack for sponsoring surveys on topics that are certainly top of mind. And, with the release of their most recent survey, conducted for them by Coleman Parkes, once again they have hit a raw industry nerve. This time it involves the intense turf wars between communications service providers (SPs), over-the-top (OTT) service providers and the makers of those now ubiquitous smart personal devices over ownership of the all important customer experience. The stakes are high indeed. To the perceived value-added provider will go the spoils, although cooperation certainly seems to be the order of the day. Surprisingly, there is hope on that front.
While the research found that each camp acknowledged the importance of forming strategic partnerships to achieve business growth – we have a way to go before cooperation yields the promise we the users would like to see. After all, what we want is compelling experiences, and some accountability for when they are less than desirable. We do not care about the necessities of technology just that it works the way we want at a price we perceive to be reasonable and that problems can be resolved quickly.
Highlights of the survey include:
The battle continues over who owns the customer: Sixty-six percent of service providers say they must own the customer in any partnering agreement. However, only 13 percent of device manufacturers and 14 percent of OTT players are prepared to envision a future in which they cede ownership of the customer experience.
Everyone agrees on service providers’ unique core assets: Service providers rate their brand strength, network quality and customer data as core assets, and interestingly over-the-top players and device manufacturers largely agreed. The broad consensus on service providers’ key assets bodes well for services providers and provides a solid foundation for partnering.
Service providers increasingly see OTT players as potential partners and sources of innovation: Here was a surprise when it was revealed that counter to conventional wisdom, the survey found that:
- 70 percent of SPs view OTT players as potential partners, rather than a threat.
- 64 percent of SPs say that OTT players bring innovation to the industry
- 42 percent of SPs said they could offer any service an OTT player can deliver – but better
A cautious willingness to share core assets: The survey found that the three groups are willing to offer and expose their core assets to achieve partnering goals:
- 74 percent of OTT players would share
- 73 percent of device manufacturers would go along to get along
- 56 percent of SPs are also willing to do so
As the release of the survey noted, the “What’s in it for me?” questions yielded some valuable if not encouraging insights. All three groups view partnerships as a means to raise revenues and cut costs, they also have separate motivations:
- 40 percent of SPs are looking to extend network reach through partnerships
- 34 percent view partnerships as a tool for developing new products and services
- Device manufacturers ranked the ability to deliver a seamless experience as well as quality of service (QoS), a key service provider attribute, as a key value in partnering
- 69 percent of OTT players cite QoS as important to their ability to compete and survive.
“It’s a whole new partnership landscape for service providers,” said Ian Parkes of Coleman Parkes. “While service providers used to form partnerships mainly for roaming and with device manufacturers, today they must navigate a more complex environment full of over-the-top, Internet, financial-settlement and other players. Our research goal was to explore this new world, and we were surprised that service providers view OTT players as an opportunity, not a threat, and by the broad agreement on the value of service providers’ core assets.”
“One of the key findings of this research is that while service providers, device manufacturers and over-the-top players may have different sets of interest, they increasingly recognize the need for collaboration and partnership to achieve common goals,” said Rebecca Prudhomme, Amdocs vice president for product and solutions marketing. “To partner effectively, service providers need a trusted advisor to help them clarify their strategies. Successful partnerships demand open and effective partner management systems for revenue sharing, easy onboarding of new partners, high QoS, and a winning customer experience that is only possible with integrated IT systems that effectively leverage the customer data.”
The survey is based on 100 telephone interviews among executive decision makers at service providers, OTT players and device manufacturers across North America, Caribbean and Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. It was conducted between June and July 2012 by Coleman Parkes.
Recognition versus action
The great thing about these kinds of surveys is that not only do they reveal insights on current activities but also on future plans. The challenge is whether good intentions can be turned into monetization models that create win/wins for the partners. There is an old Chinese proverb that applies to joint ventures but is applicable here. It says of partners, “same bed, different dreams.” To get to the stage where there is trust rather than distrust takes hard work, and as Amdoc’s points out partner management systems that establish terms and conditions including clarity on not just responsibilities but accountability and liability. Are we there yet?
Putting aside business models and aspirations, whether each camps’ corporate cultures are ready is another question. This involves the obliteration of certain ideologies, practices and the breaking down of silos/walled gardens which are hard enough to achieve inside individual companies, never mind across adjacent and competing industries. Does it need to happen? Yes! Are the SPs in a great position to make it happen? Yes! Are they going to accede and change a legacy of partnering control? Let’s hope so!
We see the harbingers of hope in the opening of SP networks to use of open APIs that can leverage their core assets. We see hope on the content delivery networking front. And, there are other signs that the seeds of cooperation for mutual advantage have been sewn and will yield fruit. I can’t wait for the next Amdocs survey. It would be nice to see a metric to see just how much progress is being made on the partnering front this one has explored.