TM Forum 2012: Alcatel-Lucent’s managed CEM looks to solve implementation black box

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DUBLIN – Alcatel-Lucent kicked off its TM Forum Management World 2012 presence by announcing a significant new addition to the CEM solution capabilities that it officially brought to market in February. The new offering, entitled Managed Service Quality and Assurance, essentially offers the capabilities that the company unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, as a managed service.

Quick Take

  • Helps operators offload the process of rationalizing potentially competing internal agendas with respect to CEM. In turn, allows operator to focus its attention revenue generating activities.
  • Helps operators offload the burden of analyzing mountains of analytics data that comprehensive CEM solutions can produce. Using a patent-pending Bell Labs methodology to accomplish this task and make targeted, actionable recommendations is a differentiator that Alcatel-Lucent will aggressively market.
  • Helps operators overcome the potentially daunting implementation burden of deploying a comprehensive CEM solution. Offering CEM as a managed service helps an operator side step the day-to-day complexities of stitching together the myriad of complex technologies including deep packet inspection, device management and analytics needed to enable visibility into customer activities on a per service – and ideally – per user basis.
  • Alcatel-Lucent is still relatively late to market in addressing CEM, while competitors such as Nokia Siemens Networks will point to its CEM on Demand offering as an equally robust, easy-to-deploy and easy-to-manage solution that doesn’t require an operator to cede any day-to-day control over important customer interactions.
  • Alcatel-Lucent omitted key details that would indicate how sophisticated its MSQA offering is in terms of meeting the goals of deploying a comprehensive CEM solution. While it can point to the February launch, the fact remains that ALU’s overall CEM offering is a work in progress.

In Depth
Moving towards offering CEM as a managed service is an important development because it helps operators overcome internal decision making inefficiencies that have slowed to pace of CEM adoption to date. As CEM solutions have become more comprehensive, the number of stakeholders within a network operator management organization has increased. Oftentimes, this can result in competing agendas from the various CxO offices – i.e., CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO – in terms of CEM goals. These competing agendas must then be rationalized before a coherent CEM strategy can be pursued. One benefit of Alcatel-Lucent’s MSQA approach is that it places the burden of serving multiple masters on the vendor’s shoulders. By doing so, it can give the network operator a proverbial single throat to choke in terms of meeting objectives set forth by the various management groups. Also, it can relieve the operator of a substantial operational burden and free up resources to focus on revenue generating activities.

Beyond helping operators from an administrative perspective, Alcatel-Lucent’s managed CEM solution provides the operator with the opportunity to offload much of the operational complexity that holistic CEM systems can introduce. One of the key tenets of next-generation CEM solutions is the amount – maybe even, deluge – of analytics data that is produced. For this data to be effectively actioned, it must first be analyzed and made sense of. This is no easy task for network operations and customer suppor teams that already have full plates. In this sense, Alcatel-Lucent’s MSAQ offering places the burden of analyzing the analytics deluge and making actionable recommendations on the vendor.

Much of this data processing, optimizing and actioning, will seemingly be made possible via the use of what Alcatel-Lucent is describing as a patent-pending methodology developed by Bell Labs. While managed services engagement models are difficult to protect as IPR (Alcatel-Lucent has tried), algorithms based on the years of experience that Bell Labs has in working with the OSS/BSS systems in carrier grade telecom networks throughout the world could be a valuable differentiator in the Franco-American vendor’s quiver.

Additionally, Alcatel-Lucent’s MSQA can also help operators overcome the potentially daunting implementation burden of deploying a comprehensive CEM solution. A holistic CEM strategy involves stitching together a myriad of complex technologies including DPI, device management, analytics that enable visibility into customer activities on a per service – and ideally – per user basis. To date, operators have shown some degree of reticence in taking on the full scope of such projects. Offering CEM as a managed service helps an operator side step the day-to-day complexities of designing, implementing and then running such projects.

While Alcatel-Lucent must be given credit for moving deliberately to make up any lost ground on the CEM front, the fact remains that the vendor will need to move quickly to establish credibility for the MSQA solution, and its CEM capabilities as a whole. When Alcatel-Lucent launched its CEM solution at Mobile World Congress, it necessarily admitted that some capabilities are available today, while some are roadmap items. To be fair, this is the case with any solution – hardware or software based – that any vendor unveils … ever. That said, before committing to multi-year managed services agreements, operators are going to need clear sign posts with respect to which capabilities are available now and which ones will be coming later.

What’s more, operators can be wary of handing over control to a managed service partner for customer facing activities. All the service level agreements related to KPIs – and renumeration in the face of unmet commitments – in the world can’t recapture customer goodwill once it is lost. For this reason, operators like to maintain strict control over processes and systems that interact directly with their customers. To this end, Alcatel-Lucent needs to furnish a customer reference as quickly as possible and cite as many success stories as it can.

To be sure, with Motives’ capabilities baked in – capabilities that include automated provisioning capabilities acquired from Broadjump – Alcatel-Lucent can lay claim to an impressive roster of capabilities needed to institute an automated, full-featured CEM solution. Nevertheless, nearly every major vendor exhibiting at the TM Forum’s gig in Dublin will also be making strong cases for why their approach to CEM is robust and in many cases will be pointing to the ways that their solutions are more mature than Alcatel-Lucent’s offering.

Final Word
At the end of the day, this remains a strong move by Alcatel-Lucent at a time and place when such a move is required. Moving forward, it will be important to pay attention to how effectively Alcatel-Lucent can establish customer momentum behind MSQA, and CEM in general. It will also be important to monitor the activities that not only Alcatel-Lucent, but also its competitors build-out the CEM ecosystem beyond OSS/BSS and CRM.

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