A modern communications service provider (CSP) should become increasingly digital and streamlined, both in its service offerings and back-office workflows. Without focusing on this vital strategy, a service provider’s growth potential may be held up by a persistent problem — too many manual processes.

CSPs need to reduce their dependence on the legacy systems and data center infrastructure that have defined and constrained them thus far. Becoming faster and more digitally attuned as virtualization and cloud services beckon is imperative, and likely a matter of survival in the service provider landscape.

While service automation is already a theme within many telecommunications companies, they need to go further. Automated processes must be made to work seamlessly together. Service orchestration is the component that will help telecom service providers scale up and face their fast-moving future in the cloud.

CSPs benefit from service orchestration

Figuring out what orchestration means for an organization is a CSP’s first step in enabling the functionality. Simply put: Orchestration refers to arranging, scheduling and integrating tasks to optimize a workflow. All the digital processes that go into everyday telecom activities such as provisioning, billing and inventory management can be automated individually, then orchestrated into workflows.

Service orchestration will be especially important as CSPs move parts of their infrastructure to the cloud. Heavy Reading Senior Analyst James Crawshaw pointed out that these cloud deployments are an important facet of enabling enterprise communications and that, in turn, orchestration is necessary to deliver the service levels CSPs need. With too many manual processes, new virtualized networks can’t represent the leap in capabilities that telecom service providers hope for.

The fundamental differences between orchestration and automation

Orchestration and automation are closely linked processes, and they are often mentioned in the same breath. With that said, they’re not exactly the same, and CSP leaders plotting out the evolution of their systems should make sure they know which of the two they are dealing with at any given time.

An automated task in technology terms is clearly one that doesn’t need human intervention. CSP service fulfillment owners can go about their business, confident that their automated tasks will take care of themselves. Considering how complex IT environments have become within the telecom industry, the value is obvious — without automation, there may simply be too many manual tasks demanding attention at any given time.

Woman planning process on whiteboard Orchestration is critical in optimizing both daily and long-term operations.

Orchestration takes these automated tasks and interconnects them together. As Birwood Group’s Ed Keen explained it, orchestration is the process of arranging tasks so that they are fully optimized, accurate and flow through in the right order. Thereby, a CSP can orchestrate its repeated processes to ensure that these operations go off without a hitch.

Orchestration, for an application or a service, means that the whole discrete unit can function on its own, in an intelligent and optimized way. The types of scaling, high-availability apps and services used by today’s tech businesses demand orchestration, or else the workload on IT and operations personnel would be unbearable.

How telecom service orchestration works

Service orchestration for telecom service providers is part of an overall effort to unify their technologies. As Futuriom research reported, CSPs often have existing networks that were created to reflect the standards of a previous time in technology. They have on-premise hardware, with software built to task and little interconnection.

Now, with the cloud on the rise as a critical enabling technology model, telecommunications businesses are networking their IT environments in new ways, adding new capabilities and services. This is where orchestration comes in: There are cost and operational benefits in deploying services that have been orchestrated on the backend.

What a modern telecom company hampered by siloed or legacy systems needs is standards and tech tools to ensure the CSP can provide service assurance, service fulfillment, service delivery, visibility and control across many offerings and networks. Important tech tools such as a telecom operations support system (OSS) are closely integrated as part of this model.

Lifecycle service orchestration and automation within ever-expanding CSP networks allow expansion without the heavy manual attention that defined the process in the past. This is why service providers are so eager to make orchestration a part of their operational models. They are searching for quicker delivery of services and the revenue opportunities that come along with it.

Why telecom service orchestration is important for growth

Without service orchestration, there will be a level of performance CSPs simply cannot reach, especially when launching a new service. Considering the quantum evolution going on in the field as 5G, UCaaS and managed SIP roll out, this alone is reason enough to take notice of the trend.

In more concrete terms, Heavy Reading research revealed the close connection between virtualization and orchestration, while simultaneously warning that many CSPs have a long way to go. When polled for the early 2019 report, respondents said that 77% of functions they had virtualized and moved into the cloud were not yet orchestrated. This number will need to change for CSPs to take the evolutionary leap they’re seeking.

Without orchestration of these complex cloud services, the report explained that “CSPs will not experience the levels of automation they want and will not be ready for the 5G market.”

That dire prediction should serve as a warning to CSPs. More orchestration is necessary to ensure their teams are capable of providing next-generation services. Providers are having trouble orchestrating their services due to the fact that many network functions still run in a physical data center, while others are virtualized or operate via software defined networking (SDN).

Building a technology environment friendly to service orchestration

As telecom businesses approach their new and more heavily orchestrated futures, they will need all of their technology investments to step up. This means having the right solutions for essential roles including integrated workflow for holistic management of the wide variety of business processes necessary to ensure the most efficient delivery of service.

The right cloud telecom billing and OSS solution, supporting modern needs of both end consumers and the internal team, will help evolution take place. CSPs using these more capable technology tools won’t have to deal with the siloing problems that can hinder evolution for organizations with too many legacy solutions.

If you operate a CSP on the verge of transformation, IDI Billing Solutions’ team of experts can help you implement our comprehensive telecom billing, automation and workflow solutions that will pave the way to a more capable and orchestrated future.