Long tail dynamics in OSS

Long Tail of OSS

The diagram above shows the head and the long tail of OSS, but also the tale of two distinct ways of thinking at some Tier-1 CSPs.

The yellow band represents the head, the top-X (eg Top 100) customers, generally the major corporates, government, etc that spend massive amounts on communication services and expect a corresponding amount of attention from the CSP, usually in the form of managed services.

The green band represents the long tail, the vast number of customers that spend relatively little, but collectively also represent a major source of revenue for CSPs.

These two worlds not only have vastly different levels of support, but often they also have vastly different OSS strategies supporting them. The yellow band often sees customised OSS solutions being built for the biggest of the managed service customers, whilst there tends to be a one-size-fits-all mindset for the green band. [Note that there are generally some OSS/BSS solutions that underpin both sets of customers too such as core billing engines].

Having worked within both of these bands, I have some thoughts I’d like to run past you:

  • The yellow-band can often do with some green-band thinking – There is a risk of taking a “custom” line of thinking to the OSS of managed service customers rather than taking a more systematic, cookie-cutter approach to building the single-tenant solution for each priority customer. Building the “cookie-cutter” can be difficult so the wheel is reinvented for each customer
  • The green-band band could do with some yellow-band thinking – Treating all long-tail customers as being the same in terms of reporting, services, etc could be one of the reasons why CSPs tend to have low Net Promoter Scores, especially in the special snowflake era where every customer believes that they are the most important customer and should have customised attention. Advances in customised reporting, automation and self-serve OSS technologies can help to bring more customisable solution to the long tail.
  • There is a small band that falls between the green and yellow that can sometimes fall through the cracks. If the yellow-band takes in customers 1-100 at a given CSP, then customers 101-1000 are often under-serviced because they need customised / managed services but their spend doesn’t quite justify having a raft of resources allocated by the CSP onto their specific account. These are supported by time-sliced resources and multi-tenancy OSS
  • Universal service obligations mean that the customers that are furthest right on the long tail are serviced by CSPs even though they are not profitable so making OSS more streamlined is a priority

Just as the airline industry dedicate thinking to how to differentiate but assimilate systems / procedures across first, business and economy classes, the OSS industry can also strategise about how to bring coordinated benefits across the four categories listed – from a product and service perspective.

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