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May 2007
Volume 10 / Number 5
For The Record
Kelly Anderson

SMS May Be Your SOS

By Kelly Anderson, Columns: For the Record

There is a silent enemy of personalized services, multiplexed service bundles, and the consolidation of multiple providers. This isn’t the risks anyone speaks about on CNN and it is given little if no air time by Wall Street Analysts. If it is even mentioned by a company it is a footnote in a quarterly report. Unfortunately, with the little attention it receives, it will prove to be one of the most important and successful indicators of whether consumers can trust the company and will accept them as their ongoing service provider.

Subscriber Management (or SMS) is defined as a combination of hardware, software, and human interactions that help organize and operate a company’s business - but it is far more than that. The SMS contains all customer relevant information and is responsible for keeping track of placed orders, credit limits, invoicing and payments, as well as reporting reports and statistics. This has been an increasingly difficult task for operators.

SMS has faced many new challenges in the new communications market. Engineering and process challenges have plagued the efficient management of subscriber information. This trend is caused by subscribers picking up more and varied services from one provider that are offered through varied networks, and also by the recent mergers. Large-scale migrations of customer data are major operational projects in the aftermath of the merger. Not only does the difficulty begin with merging together two formats from disparate systems and network control tools, but also the synchronization of different data elements and incompatible detail of data - causing more than a few headaches and long hours for IT and engineering departments through the merger process.

I happen to know of a true life consumer story of what a merger looks like when systems and networks are not in synch. My friend Brenda was a victim of the one of the major wireless mergers last year. She was perfectly happy with her service when the merger happened (actually it was about six months later when the name on the bill changed and they started answering the phone differently). Her service consisted of a four phone family plan that made her average bill about $180 a month. Her teenage daughter asked for one of the new hot pink phones for her birthday. The specific phone she wanted showed up on the website and Brenda went to order it. Much to her dismay, the phone was not compatible with her service (signaling issue), and, she couldn’t even switch her plan over to that service type because she had to “live” out the terms of the contract (which was another year) with the current service. Not only was her data not in the database of the customer representative she called, but her contract was not even transferable. Needless to say, after the year left on her contract, she switched to another provider.

A large-scale study was released in 2004 using the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and stated that the 28 large-scale mergers that happened between 1997 and 2002 were unsatisfactory to 50 percent of their customers. Even after two years, customers that hadn’t left were still significantly more dissatisfied than they were with the previous company.

I have a feeling that the wide-range marketing plans for mergers and new product timelines and not going to wait for IT tasks like the migration and monitoring of data, network devices, and systems. So is there an industry plan around the alleviation of issues surrounding the monitoring and service issues surrounding multi-faceted networks, large-scale mergers, and the mismatch of data new, disparate products?

There are several industry groups concerned with the topic of diverse networks, user experience, and customer impacts to mergers. This is where the solution to this industry-wide problem could be alleviated by using standards. One of the things IPDR does is to create consistency in getting data from the network in the required time, provide that data to whatever end system need for that data downstream. Data is such a crucial issue for today’s operators that have complex IP-based services, so putting the joining two companies with different monitoring needs on top of that makes a lot of sense. The seamless (at least to the consumer) migration of networks needs to allow a consolidated view of data and consumer usage and behavior. Creating a data plan and implementing that using a flexible and accommodating protocol is a winning strategy. As president of, I invite providers who provide complex services to take a look at the IPDR Service Specification and protocol ( It may just make a future decision to merge a lifesaver for your customers.

Kelly Anderson is President and COO of, a collaborative industry consortium focused on developing and driving the adoption of next-gen service usage exchange standards worldwide.


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