As the telecoms industry continues to evolve, channel partners are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes and gain competitive advantage. APIs have a key role to play in this.

APIs stand for ‘application programming interfaces’ and in essence, allow 2 or more computer programs to talk to each other.  Common uses in the channel include;

  • Checking availability and provisioning tasks such as setting up new services.
  • Automating Alerting and Barring
  • Automating SIM changes and tariff changes.
  • Synchronizing data input across multiple internal systems
  • Providing a unified experience across multiple products and services.
  • Customising dashboards to integrate data and provide business insight.

Using APIs to ingrate internal systems and processes can undoubtedly bring huge benefits of efficiency and accuracy, avoiding re-keying data and repetitive tasks. Improved automation and efficiency lead to cost savings and increased profits.

The Opportunities of using APIs

When it comes to internal BSS/OSS (CRM, Accounting, Service Management, and Billing), it’s rare, nigh-impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution that satisfies all business departments fairly.

Instead, we recommend investing in “best of breed” systems for your teams. You can then look at their API capability to knit everything together, adapting processes where APIs are unavailable.

With APIs, you can put an end to complicated journeys where a reseller needs to manually provision services. Billing and provisioning are two major areas where APIs can add huge value to the channel. By leveraging APIs, you can offer customers a seamless order-to-provisioning journey as well as strengthening your end customer propositions through a tailored customer portal.

External API integrations are often overlooked. For example, APIs into supplier networks and systems.  Beyond the humble postcode address lookup, imagine a customer being able to request a SIM swap or call-bar through the billing portal, then being relayed to the carrier in real-time…

Leveraging APIs like this would allow resellers to offer a service delivery and customer experience that truly competes with leading networks.

Pitfalls to avoid when considering APIs

As an independent software vendor, you’d probably expect us to promote APIs as much as possible. Actually, too many organisations fall foul of over-automation.

The first trap resellers fall into is adopting APIs when manual alternatives are better. Why invest time and money in developing a complex, expensive integration for a simple task that only takes 2 minutes per month?

The second trap is not appreciating the nature of data origination and integrity; understanding which platforms within the ecosystem are the ‘single point of truth’.

Most APIs are now so comprehensive they expose almost every attribute for every field, making it easy to confuse old and new data.

Even “basic” data fields like customer names and addresses need consideration before planning how they’ll interact. For example, should CRMs really be the system-of-record for existing customer addresses, when customers can update addresses through a self-serve billing portal?

In our experience, it’s best to enable each department to be the single point of truth for the information they know best.

It is paramount to know who is in control of an API – the customer or the supplier. If the supplier changes the API terminology or field settings in any way, they may not consider that the users’ systems will stop working. If any changes are made, it is possible to break the downstream consumption of that data. It is therefore important to build-in regular quality checks to ensure the API information hasn’t changed and is still being delivered to the end customer correctly.

The Future of APIs for telecoms billing

Mobile and IoT usage is growing, as will the demand for network APIs to control these services. Listening to our customers, we know how managing a large IoT device estate can become unwieldy without the ability to automate SIM changes. Also, with 5G enabling users to rapidly exhaust bundled data, APIs for spend caps are even more important!

Public APIs however should be used wisely. Most data we deal with in the channel is private and we wouldn’t want anyone having a backdoor into confidential information. That said, with the UK’s mass roll-out of new fibre services in preparation for the PSTN switch-off, savvy vendors and resellers are capitalising on huge opportunities with open APIs that expose service availability at given postcodes.

API usage is going to increase over the next few years. The availability of APIs has become a core expectation of products and services that operate across the channel.

Want to discuss APIs and how you could use them to your advantage?