How to Approach OSS Vendor Selection Differently than Most

Selecting a new OSS / BSS product, vendor or integrator for your transformation project can be an arduous assignment.

Every network operator and every project has a unique set of needs. Counter to that, there are literally hundreds of vendors creating an even larger number of products to service those widely varied sets of needs.

If you’re a typical buyer, how many of those products are you already familiar with? Five? Ten? Fifty? How do you know whether the best-fit product or supplier is within the list you already know? Perhaps the best-fit is actually amongst the hundreds of other products and suppliers you’re not familiar with yet. How much time do you have to research each one and distill down to a short-list of possible candidates to service your specific needs? Where do you start? Lots of web searches?

Then how do you go about doing a deeper analysis to find the one that’s best fit for you out of those known products? The typical approach might follow a journey similar to the following:

The first step alone can take days, if not weeks, but also chews up valuable resources because many key stakeholders will be engaged in the requirement gathering process. The other downside of the requirements-first approach is that it becomes a wish-list that doesn’t always specify level of importance (eg “nice to have” versus “absolutely mandatory”).

Then, there’s no guarantee that any vendor will support every single one of the mandatory requirements. There’s always a level of compromise and haggling between stakeholders.

Next comes the RFP process, which can be even more arduous.

There has to be an easier way!

We think there is.

Our approach starts with the entire 400+ vendors in our OSS/BSS Vendor Directory. Then we apply two rounds of filters:

  1. Long-list Filter – Query by high-level product capability as per diagram below. For example, if you want outside plant management, then we filter by 9b, which returns a list of over 60 candidate vendors alone, but we can narrow it down further by applying filters 10 and 14 as well if you need these functionalities
  2. Short-list Filter – We then sit with your team to prepare a list of approx. 20 high-level questions (eg regions the vendor works in, what support levels they provide, high level functional questions, etc). We send this to the long-list of vendors for their clarification. This usually then yields a short-list of 3-10 best-fit candidates that you/we can then do a deeper evaluation on (how deep you dive depends on how thorough you want the review to be, which could include PoCs and other steps).

The 2-step filter approach is arguably even quicker to prepare and more likely to identify the best-fit short-list solutions because it starts by assessing 400+ vendors, not just the small number that most clients are aware of.

The next step (step 5 in the diagram above) also uses a contrarian approach. Rather than evaluating via an RFP that centres around a set of requirements, we instead identify:

  • The personas (people or groups) that need to engage with the OSS/BSS
  • The highest-priority activities each persona needs to perform with the OSS/BSS
  • End-to-end workflows that blend these activities into a prioritised list of demonstration scenarios

These steps quickly prioritise what’s most important for the to-be solution to perform. We describe the demonstration scenarios to the short-listed vendors and ask them to demonstrate how their solutions solve for those scenarios (as best they can). The benefit of this approach is that the client can review each vendor demonstration through their own context (ie the E2E workflows / scenarios they’ve helped to design).

This approach does not provide an itemised list of requirement compliance like the typical approach. However, we’d argue that even the requirement-led approach will (almost?) never identify a product of perfect fit, even if it’s filled with “Will Comply” responses for functionality that requires specific customisation.

Our “filtering” approach will uncover the solution of closest fit (in out-of-the-box state) in a much more efficient way.

We should also highlight that the two chevron diagrams above are just sample vendor-selection flows. We actually customise them to each client’s specific requirements. For example, some clients require much more thorough analysis than others. Others have mandatory RFP and/or business case templates that need to be followed.

If you need help, either with:

  • Preparing a short-list of vendors for further evaluation down from our known list of 400+; or
  • Need help to perform a more thorough analysis and identify the best-fit solution/s

then we’d be delighted to assist. Please leave us a note in the contact form below.

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