The digital economy is transforming the way organisations must now approach their current business and the paths they create to continued growth, explains CSG President Ascendon Digital Services and OTT Kent Steffen.

Can you tell us a little bit about the formation and early years of the CSG?
CSG began in 1982 as a division of a payment processing company. In 1994, the company became an independent entity and was the second largest billing services provider for the U.S. cable television industry.

Kent Steffen

Kent Steffen

After its IPO in 1996, CSG began to grow quickly as the convergence of phone, internet, on-demand movies and other services created more complex billing arrangements between telecommunications companies and consumers, which increased need for CSG’s billing and customer care solutions and services.

CSG continues to work with its customers on the intricacies of billing as IoT, partner ecosystems and multi-dimensional business models become a standard part of conducting business today in addition to providing OTT, customer experience and other solutions that untangle the ever-growing complexity of communications and digital services.

In what primary ways has CSG’s approach to revenue management, customer experience and digital monetisation solutions changed in recent years?
The inherent nature of the digital economy is driving focus on these areas in particular, as customer expectations no matter who your customers are – from consumers, to vendors, to partners – have become central to business strategies. And without customer loyalty there’s no opportunity for product and services monetisation. CSG is focusing efforts on providing solutions combined with Managed Service expertise that helps organisations determine their best route to success in the digital age.

CSG’s Managed Services operates differently than other Managed Services programmes. In addition to managing the day-to-day, CSG Managed Services has extensive expertise helping companies determine the best approach for competing in today’s business world. This expertise includes: fundamentally rethinking how business is conducted; implementing the right technology for competing today and tomorrow; inducting customer-centric business strategies for unsurpassed digital experiences in alignment with individualised expectations; the fostering of organisational culture in support of digital business; and the cultivating of a partner ecosystem.

By thinking broadly and more strategically, we are able to provide our customers with paths to cultivating customer experiences that drive loyalty, revenue management, and digital monetisation programmes that are right for them.

To what extent do you offer solutions geared towards different stages of the customer lifecycle, or solutions that can accommodate the entire lifecycle?
In regard to the digital business spectrum, CSG customers run the gamut. Our solutions expand the entire lifecycle of our customers and have the flexibility to meet them where their digital business is today, grow as their business needs change, and all at a pace they determine. We see most digital customers as falling into one of five digital categories, which are as follows…

Digital Startups Unburdened with legacy systems and focused solely on digital services. This group has business models likely to grow in complexity as they incorporate multiple ecosystems and realise further opportunities for monetisation. For this customer type, CSG offers Ascendon, a SaaS, cloud-based platform that enables provider to launch new digital services in 90 days or less, build brand loyalty, and maintain and enduring customer base regardless of their business environment (B2B, B2C or B2B2X) or the complexity of that environment.

Digital Explorers Tentative or unable to take a bold transformative approach to the aspects of their business regarded as critical, but nevertheless feel disruption and are willing to transform a smaller, simpler or siloed part of the organisation. CSG supports these customers by enabling them to move a portion of their business to the cloud first and progressively add other portions over time.

Digital Testers See disruption in their market and know they must change but are unsure where to start. This group understands the need to take a close look at reducing the expense of legacy systems to fund business transformation, but have difficulty determining where to cut costs out of existing legacy systems. In CSG’s experience, this is the most common persona amongst CSPs. CSG encourages a strategy of starting small, taking less of a financial and strategic risk. Ascendon provides the answer, allowing for the launch of new digital services right now and the ability to phase out legacy systems at a pace set by the customer – providing the best of both worlds.

Cloud Questioners Primarily CSPs currently unwilling to invest in the public cloud, due to concerns over technology maturity (e.g. real-time), data sovereignty and security. CSG’s Singleview revenue and customer management platform, often in conjunction with managed services, provides an on-premise model that replaces legacy systems and reduces operating costs. We find these customers, once confident with the Managed Services model, look to transition to a cloud model.

Business Model Athletes Customers that consider their business models too complex, or too individual to fit into a SaaS solution. For these customers, Singleview is again an excellent solution through its high degree of configurability that can be customised to fit specific business requirements. Singleview can be offered as an on-premise or cloud-based solution.

Ultimately, the greatest priority for businesses has to be monetisation, so what challenges do you think businesses will face in this area over the next few years?
The digital economy is transforming the way organisations must now approach their current business and the paths they create to continued growth. Enduring success in the digital economy means fundamentally rethinking how business is conducted today. [It entails] a complete 180-degree [turn] from how most companies currently structure, strategise, operate, compete and deliver products and services to market to align with digital customer’s expectations – [which is] on-demand access to what they want, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Add into the mix cultivating partner ecosystems and it’s a lot for companies to grasp, let alone figure out how to make significant profit.

The challenge will be for those organisations that choose not to embrace cloud adoption, or not to start the adoption process soon.

Likewise, those organisations that do not embrace an ecosystem-enabled Digital Support Systems (DSS) platform will experience the most obstacles.

Comprehensive DSS platforms enable companies to adopt a launch fast, learn fast, fail fast, scale fast mentality, and test a variety of innovative B2C, B2B and B2B2X business models at the same time. DSS also simplifies the complex B2B2X relationships and hierarchal billing that exist in multi-dimensional business models enabling companies to focus time, resources and budget on markets, programmes and services that generate revenue.

Regardless of an Internet TV, SVoD, IoT or any digital program, DSS provides the high degree of flexibility and agility needed to manage, rate, charge and bill the complex settlements required across partner ecosystems to achieve monetisation. It’s these organisations with the ability to leave their comfort zone, experiment and blur the boundaries between all lines of business that will experience the most success.

Kent Steffen is President Ascendon Digital Services and OTT at CSG

IBC2018 CSG will be exhibiting at IBC2018 on Stands 14.B07, 14.B46 and 14.C07