This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Daniel Bar-Lev, VP Strategic Programs, MEF
The need for speed and a better experience
Business automation between service providers—as well as with customers—is increasingly attracting development budgets in the telecom industry. Business automation improves both customer experience and loyalty (e.g., simplicity of order, service delivery times) as well as staff productivity. The current simplicity and speed of online retail shopping, for example, in our everyday lives is setting a benchmark for customer experience in many other parts of the economy including telecom service delivery. In addition, the increased competition for skilled staff in a tight labor market is also a challenge for service providers. Staff fears of headcount reduction due to automation prior to the pandemic are giving way to demands from employees for more flexible, fulfilling jobs which in turn requires employers to lean on more automation.
However, an even more important driver for business automation is the need for service providers to create and deliver high-value products and services which are essential for supplementing and eventually replacing revenues from increasingly commoditized offerings like voice telephony and network connectivity. The rapidly growing number and range of elements required to deliver digital services are not available from the inventory of a single service provider for reasons of cost and practicality. Connectivity, cloud storage, cloud compute, cybersecurity, etc. are increasingly being sourced in real time by downstream digital service providers acting as suppliers from within their available inventories. In short, business automation enables service providers to move away from vertical integration of solutions to horizontal real-time sourcing of cloud-based solutions.
In this context, it is useful to think of a very sophisticated supply chain workflow where a buyer (i.e., enterprise, individual, service provider) requests a service from a digital service provider who then checks internally which of the required services are available in their own inventory. For those services not in its own inventory, the digital service provider requests from a range of trusted suppliers via business automation application programming interfaces (APIs). They in turn check their own internal inventories, and what is not available, they request from their suppliers.
Automation APIs (e.g., product offering qualification, quote, order, and billing) enable digital service providers to create in real-time complex supply chains to meet their immediate product needs. The benefits of such supply chain capabilities for digital service providers are twofold:
- Creation of high-value products to create new revenue streams
- Ability to resell unused inventory in real-time which would otherwise sit idle
Benefits of open, standardized business automation APIs
Digital service providers that want to buy and sell components for digital services—that want to be able to join such supply chains on the fly—need to be able to implement business automation APIs with as many partners as possible in the ecosystem. The more available partners there are, the more likely the digital service provider will be able to participate in an effective revenue-generating supply chain. A digital service provider with a thousand potential buyers and sellers will have a major advantage of one with only say ten potential buyers and sellers.
To achieve this, the industry needs to maximize adoption of a set of business automation APIs in common use by as many potential buyers and sellers as possible. MEF‘s membership, including many of the world’s leading service providers (e.g., AT&T, Verizon, Orange, Colt, PCCW Global, Sparkle) have worked together since 2016 to define such open, standardized business automation APIs—MEF Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) APIs—that can be implemented and used by anyone. MEF LSO APIs have been built on the basis of TM Forum APIs while introducing the detail and structure required to maximize interoperability for digital service provider use cases.
The latest LSO APIs are detailed in the LSO Marketplace, a MEF microsite designed to help business, product, development, and DevOp teams throughout the LSO API adoption lifecycle. The LSO Marketplace contains a range of tools, resources, and programs to support the LSO API implementation journey.
LSO API adoption gaining significant traction
MEF market research indicates significant API implementation in 2022 and 2023—more than 50 leading companies are in production with LSO APIs or intend to be by the end of 2023—both on the buyer and seller side. Importantly it is the service provider buyers with the highest transaction volumes that are included in the current adoption phase of the lifecycle. As more and more service provider sellers see the potential for increased sales of products and services in their inventories to upstream partners, the LSO partner community will grow even more rapidly.
More comprehensive lifecycle coverage
As more digital service providers enable LSO APIs, it will be increasingly important to increase the range of products and services available for use with them. The initial phase focused on supporting transactions of standardized Carrier Ethernet and Internet Access. However, work is already underway to support additional MEF-standardized Optical Transport, Network Slice, Edge Compute, SD-WAN and other services. Just as importantly, LSO APIs can be used with non-standardized product and service schemas which considerably increases the return on investment of LSO API implementation. Examples include SIP Trunking, MOBI’s Trusted Trip and Wavelength services. In parallel, MEF is accelerating the development of operational automation (e.g., Service OAM or operations, administration, and management) APIs to complement the business automation APIs. The combination of more comprehensive lifecycle coverage together with broad product and service support will drive an increasing large network of buyers and sellers dynamic supply chains over LSO APIs.
Learn more about MEF LSO adoption and implementation resources.
About the Author:
As MEF’s Vice President Strategic Programs, Daniel Bar-Lev is responsible for the development and implementation of a range of strategic MEF programs. He is also responsible for MEF membership in the EMEA region, developing relationships and facilitating engagement of member companies in every aspect of MEF activities.
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