Better Together: How Telcos Can Increase Collaboration With Plug And Play

The phrase “plug and play” originated the 1980s, referring to users’ ability to add and configure new devices to their computer systems without the need for manual reconfiguration.

The concept was later extended to Universal Network Protocols and has come to be used as a term for automatically establishing working configurations with other devices, systems and vendors.

The rise of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) promised to address issues relating to integration, making way for the plug-and-play approach by combining devices, solutions and even workflows through collaboration.

With multiple time, cost and user-friendliness benefits, APIs would seem the obvious choice for providers to implement over restrictive and expensive integration techniques. But constraints and roadblocks in traditional API techniques have driven people off them, and old ways of integration continue to be used and preferred.

The best way to overcome these challenges is through the use of open APIs, which are a cost-effective and simpler approach. Those companies using them are building more adaptable and robust solutions with a range of benefits including reduced complexity, reduced costs and shorter timescales for integration projects. New services can also be enabled and brought to market much faster with a more reliable and user-friendly customer experience.

Traditional APIs still pose barriers to fast-to-market solutions

Before the plug-and-play approach, there was “integration.” However, that word has quickly become synonymous with several other terms such as “bespoke,” “delay,” “overrun” and the inevitable “change request.”

While manually built integrations are still widely used, the level of integration required to achieve seamless outcomes is often not affordable. The result? Still-siloed systems which deliver low speed, low quality and a poor customer experience.

The introduction of APIs promised to address issues relating to integration, as suppliers could plug in to one another’s solutions. However, on their own, they can become no better than another interface to integrate due to their bespoke nature.

While APIs help suppliers design more agile, robust offerings, using the old API methodologies does not remove all of the surrounding issues and constraints. The old approach exposes and abstracts APIs through an intermediate layer such as middleware where other systems can then access them. While this can reduce integration costs and allow suppliers to switch in and out of other solutions at will, it still requires the supplier’s APIs to be integrated to the middleware layer. If APIs or the systems they are connected to change, then changes often have to be made to the middleware layer, diminishing any benefits that may have been realized.

There are several disadvantages to this approach, including:

  • A single point of failure, creating more risk than benefit in terms of capacity and cost
  • Management overhead of having to monitor the abstraction layer for operational and performance issues
  • Increased cost and timescales in having to deploy additional software components (the abstraction layer) and integrate with other systems
  • Increased latency in processes due to having to reach two APIs (the abstraction layer API and the application API)

It’s clear that there is a need for a more collaborative approach when it comes to making APIs scalable, user-friendly and efficient—and the solution can be found in open APIs.

The benefits of Open APIs

Not all APIs are created the same. Open APIs are publicly available and offer a simpler, more cost-effective approach than integrations that rely on more traditional, bespoke APIs.

These standardized APIs remove the complexity from plug-and-play because they allow for the reuse of common interfaces and integrations across different systems and products.

Open APIs promote collaboration between vendors by offering benefits such as increased exposure, marketing and monetization. And since a common point of engagement is defined between parties, systems and processes, all vendors reap the benefits of faster outcomes and increased customer satisfaction.

There is no coding involved—vendors can use open APIs out-of-the-box without facing the barriers of upgrading integrations or relying on the IT department to deploy new solutions. And because the open APIs are dynamic, they work for any product.

Global best practices should be shared and encouraged

The TM Forum leads the charge in standardizing APIs, defining open APIs and bringing vendors together for annual industry Catalyst Projects to test this approach to market.

When industry partners collaborate on open API approaches, a common point of engagement is defined between parties, systems and processes, which makes a plug-and-play approach simpler and more cost-effective.

Open APIs In Action

Through TM Forum’s Open API program, leading businesses across the world are utilizing and benefiting from Open APIs. More and more service providers are adopting and even mandating the use of TM Forum APIs for collaboration and integration.

CSG’s recent TM Forum Catalyst award win for the Cross Industry Marketplace for CSP Collaboration project is a good example of effective collaboration between software vendors, service providers and systems integrators. The project shows how service providers (CSPs) can benefit from cross-industry collaboration to innovate their business models and create new services for enterprises.

CSG utilizes Open APIs to speed up time to market

CSG has long supported TM Forum Open APIs, participating in TM Forum Catalyst projects and signing the Open API and Open Digital Architecture Manifesto. These projects are opportunities to join forces with a range of industry partners to prove key concepts and contribute to related standards for industry-wide benefit.

Our Catalog, CPQ and Order Management solutions are cloud-ready, with microservice functionality exposed through open APIs. Service providers can reap the benefits of plug-and-play with CSG by eradicating barriers and speeding up time to market.

Contact us today to find out how you can use our systems to take your new products to market, faster.