TM Forum Live in Nice last week proved how important it is to gather periodically to assess the market, the technologies and the service provider business. It was encouraging to see a lot of new companies venture out and show their wares.

For me personally, the maturing of SDN has proved what my colleague Bill Otto and I discussed back in 2006, about the need for an interactive, bidirectional customer portal that is more than just web pages sending stuff to legacy systems. We finally have a chance to address this issue. For years, when we discussed this with service providers, their replies were typically along these lines: “But if we provide this they may not use or buy more from us. They will realize where they are spending money unnecessarily. They will have the ability to switch to other service providers too easily.”

Seriously! You cannot make this stuff up.

As a business owner, for years I have been terribly disappointed by service providers and the technology they use to address business customer needs. For example, other than when buying a service from a service provider, the ongoing interaction is incredibly static and fixed in nature. In turn, we are hard pressed to get any data, service, or control from service providers that is credible and dynamic.

With the advent of SDN and NFV, it is no longer just about buying services but buying services combined with visibility of usage, dynamic control and change. Now, the differentiator will be the customer portal and not the customer CRM. Now, the differentiator will be systems that are designed with security and the customer in mind. And now, the differentiator will be systems that allow customers to have full visibility of services and the ability to configure and manage them.

Why do service providers still act in the same way? Because the new way clashes with their culture and is a threat to the cash cow. But with the advent of SDN and NFV, new entrants will drive this home as the differentiator. It is also now possible for a business customer to directly buy and manage the services they buy.

Just before TM Forum Live and after many discussions, I decided that preaching to the unconverted is no longer enough: we need to eat our own dog food. So the plan was set in motion the ability to install and configure our customer portal to manage our own business. Technology has matured to the point where even a small business can take control of their telecoms and IT spend and not rely on the communications service provider to provide the information, the functionality and the control.