A Connected Telco

We have been involved in the telecommunications API space longer than most; we started in this space long before we ever knew we were actually there! SOAP interfaces with XML markup languages for internal and third party communications between systems some 10 years ago.

It has been exciting how this technology space has evolved since then. In the late 90’s and early 00’s SOAP gave us the promise of being able to closely integrate processes across two or more different businesses and there was an explosion of B2B gateway technologies. The Internet platforms drove API’s to the long tail as they strived for mass developer adoption of their platform offerings. SOAP has now given way to REST and XML is ceding to JSON.

In the telecoms space (our specialisation) the early attitude towards API’s was primarily as a way to monetise existing assets. While some API’s, particularly billing API’s, have great potential for direct monetisation, for most API’s the value is in the utility they provide for creating exciting new services.

It was therefore refreshing to see that WSO2 are evolving their thinking beyond simple API Management and monetisation with their concept of the “Connected Business”.  WSO2 are a technology partner of ours and I attended the WSO2 Asia Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. So, what is a connected business according to WSO2?

“A connected business seamlessly integrates people, process, and data across an extended value chain, decreases interaction costs and automatically adapts business activity in response to market events.”

A “Connected Business” can grow revenue and outperform peers by increasing customer engagement, enhancing productivity, and seizing new market opportunity. This is the kind of value that SLA is trying to bring to our customers in the Telco space. So, seeing a key technology partner and leading SOA and API technology provider embracing the same vision gives me the confidence that our API direction for Telco’s is very much on the right path.

As providers of communication services, shouldn’t Telco’s naturally lean towards the “Connected Business” philosophy? Would they not be users of these technologies and would they not want to provide these “Connected” capabilities to their own customers?

Unfortunately not! Telco’s still lag behind their rivals in the OTT Internet space and behind their own customers in the enterprise space.

We have heard numerous reasons to why Telco’s can be slow in the adoption of these practices such as:

–  We are a very regulated industry

–  There are security concerns

–  It’s not core to our business

–  It doesn’t generate immediate revenue

These are all valid issues but all of them can be easily overcome. It is my opinion, however, that the last one is still the biggest issue in Telco adoption of an API strategy.  Until we get a shift away from immediate revenue and an understanding that an API strategy will propel you towards the “Connected Business” vision and build the key enabling technologies for delivering the next generation of customer experience, moving Telco adoption to a more comprehensive API strategy will continue to be an up hill battle.

The next generation of customer service and the sophisticated experience now expected by consumers will not be delivered by any single entity in isolation.  Consumers want their services “Integrated” and aware of the other activities and services in their overall on-line/mobile experience.