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Three keys to seizing the centre of partner ecosystems

To maximize 5G investments, communications service providers (CSPs) need to position themselves at the core of the B2B2X marketplaces enabled by 5G network capabilities. In the symphony orchestra that is a thriving partner ecosystem, they can be the conductors, not merely players. They can supply the infrastructure for enterprises and vendors around the world to co-create and reap the revenue opportunities springing from that position. Leaders at CSPs know the “why” behind orchestrating partner ecosystems. The bigger puzzle has always been the how.

In other words, how do CSPs take their place at the centre of large-scale ecosystems? Some of it is strategy; some is technology. All of it is navigating the growing complexity of digital commerce, and here I’ll outline three key considerations CSPs must make in enabling the digital partner ecosystems.

Carving out Niche Marketplaces

How can CSPs outmanoeuvre the hyperscalers that currently dominate this digital services market? One way is by playing to their strengths, which include their ability to serve niche marketplaces. CSPs can focus on national or regional markets, applying their familiarity with local regulations and geographic nuances to deliver localized services and support.

CSPs can also tailor marketplaces to specific industries. Specifically, they can cultivate vertically targeted offerings backed by marketplace partners that serve the vertical. CSPs bring local connectivity and a local presence, putting them in the ideal position to take the front-and-centre role in a vertically targeted offer. CSPs can’t address all verticals at once, however, and should focus on where their existing customer base is. If a large portion of their enterprise customers, for example, are in manufacturing, that would be an ideal vertical to pursue in establishing digital marketplaces, leveraging their customer relationships as well as industry familiarity to offer the mix of services that will most appeal to manufacturers.

Leveraging Key Technologies

Enterprises are looking to digital marketplaces to help them employ powerful services that harness leading-edge technology. That behoves CSPs to embrace leading-edge technology themselves. Which emerging technologies will be most pivotal in helping CSPs build a stronger role in partner ecosystems? Here are standouts:

  • 5G Connectivity – The high-speed, low-latency connectivity of this current generation will be table stakes for CSPs. 5G enables their partners to leverage augmented reality, virtual reality and autonomous systems, among other enticing capabilities for enterprise customers.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)70% of APAC executives said they were either exploring generative AI use cases or already investing in them, according to a recent IDC survey. CSPs should be in that 70% and already assessing where they can integrate AI to enhance network management, customer experience and decision-making processes.
  • Blockchain – Partner ecosystems run on trust, and blockchain technology can reinforce it. CSPs can leverage blockchain in a variety of use cases, like using smart contracts in B2B agreement management or in real-time B2B settlement for faster reconciliation.

Bear in mind CSPs shouldn’t just be using these technologies to “check the boxes.” Enterprise customers are savvy enough to be sceptical of service providers who incorporate hyped technology merely for its own sake. They want to know how an application of AI is going to help them solve a real-world problem. CSPs should, therefore, be intentional in how they apply these technologies in their offerings.

Adopting an API-Centric Platform Approach

To manage the diverse partners in an ecosystem, CSPs must foster an open environment where all the participants can collaborate seamlessly. The processes in these ecosystems should stay consistent as they grow, so scalability is a must. This is why CSPs can benefit from leaning on standardized APIs, such as the TM Forum Open APIs or MEF Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) APIs. Their worldwide adoption is allowing CSPs to scale efficiently, adding partners and services in a plug-and-play format without the need for repeated investment.

You can check out the MEF’s State of the Industry Report (co-sponsored by CSG) for the latest API adoption trends, among other insights on the transition to dynamic partner ecosystems. By leveraging an open-ended, cloud-based platform, CSPs gain the agility, scalability and flexibility needed to rapidly launch new services, co-create with partners and navigate the complexity of multi-sided B2B2X ecosystems.

CSPs can become indispensable leaders in the digital economy and not participants on the periphery. However, even once they’ve done all the things I mentioned above, from playing to their market strengths to embracing standardized APIs, they can still fail to become the centrepiece orchestrator of partner ecosystems. What holds them back, in many cases, is a legacy BSS. These solutions often lack the automation, catalogue-driven architecture and intent-based networks required to manage complex B2B2X partner ecosystems.

With a modular, integrated platform like CSG offers, CSPs can orchestrate marketplaces with zero-touch partnering and deliver industry-specific solutions. They can add new partners and their offerings quickly. They adapt their B2B2X business models with the agility that ensures they not only achieve that central leadership position but also keep it.

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