Reducing error, increasing service speed, and optimizing human resources: all are factors in the increased use of automated back office technologies.

It may look like a settled space, but wireless services, new set-top applications and broadband e-commerce is creating uncharted back office territory for aggressive service providers, who face competing tasks of cataloging, selling and managing the "n" number of services that this transition may bring.

"When that (transition) happens, the complexity in terms of order management and ongoing lifecycle increases exponentially," said Fran Heeran, CTO of digital commerce enabler Valista.

Focused on overall service provisioning and the bundling of value-added services, Valista includes America Online, Cricket, Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, France’s Orange and Chicago-based U.S. Cellular, among others.

Valista belives the future for many such providers entails extending the reach of an automated back office.

"There is still a lot of human interaction," Heeran said. "The bundling of value-added services typically is done by a person, as well … (But we’re) slowly moving that whole process and putting the consumer in charge."

Automation is even impacting sales. "Software platforms are reaching the point where they will become an even better selling channel than people themselves," he said.
The idea is not only smart service recommendation engines. (See Amazon in general.) The capability of "collision space mapping," or knowing what services can and cannot overlap with each other, will also be increasingly important to navigating this new world.

Winner of a Global Telecoms Business award in October for mobile commerce innovation, Valista was recognized for helping US Cellular increase its off-portal mobile content revenue.

– Jonathan Tombes

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