I wrote previously about the idea that network operators should consider outsourcing
some or all of their network management as a strategy towards becoming more agile and better able to respond to subscriber and market needs. They are already working with third-party application developers and content providers
to ensure they have the latest and greatest services available for subscribers. It follows that they would be open to handing over at least parts of their network operations to managed services providers as well so that they are able to focus energies on subscriber retention and attraction and other strategic initiatives.
A recent Alcatel-Lucent white paper
discussed several options regarding the scope of such outsourcing arrangements, from the least intrusive and lower return, to a complete outsourcing arrangement that transfers many key network management functions to the partner, including staff, but also comes with the greatest potential return.
In order to realize that return, however, operators have to carefully choose outsourcing partners with a level of experience and proven ability to help operators grow revenue in an increasingly competitive market. So, what traits are most critical in a managed services partner?
As with any business or personal investment decision, experience and references tend to be the first order of business. Regardless of a the product or service, potential customers want to know that others have made the same choice, are happy with it, would recommend the service to others. In general, as with any service, customer loyalty goes a long way. In this case, global experience also carries significant weight, as it provides a wide-ranging set of experiences and best practices.
A proven track record is a requisite complement to customer references - detailed case studies show not only how the potential partner has helped other operators, but display a clear satisfaction on the part of the customers willing to have their comments published.
Time to market is always a key factor with any service. Managed services providers must be able to demonstrate an ability to positively influence time to market of products and services - after all, the ability to quickly deliver based on evolving market demands is the difference between success and failure. Placement of NOCs and other assets are central to being able to bring new services to market quickly.
A willingness to assume ownership of the project represents dedication to a successful, long-lasting partnership, as it also shows a readiness to assume risk and accountability for the project's success and shortcomings. Clearly defined service and performance metrics are an essential element of any partner's desire to perform above expectations.
All of these qualities should also lend themselves well to being able to easily quantify operational efficiency. The motivation for engaging a managed services partner stems from a need and desire to reduce OPEX and increase efficiency, including eliminating, or at least minimizing, traditional obstacles in operational processes, helping deliver the business benefits
of the outsourcing arrangement.
Given the competitive nature of the telecom industry, the benefits of a managed services partnership lend themselves well to creating a strategic advantage
, as long as operators are diligent as they choose their partners. Given the risk involved, there is no alternative.