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How would you measure the agility operators are constantly asked to display? With 9.9s for technical excellence and artistic expression? Or is there an operational KPI that can help? What about this: How many services have you closed down recently?

How often do you turn services off, and what happens when you do?

We tend to frame things like "service agility" as how quickly we can launch new services. New services mean new revenues. But this is a shallow understanding of the problem. If we deploy new features to meet changing needs, that implies others go out of use. If we fix bugs, the older, buggy version must go or it won't help.

If we keep adding to the product line without taking anything away, we can only be adding complexity. Without the discipline of withdrawing obsolete software and shutting down systems we don't need, technical debt accumulates. Faster deployments cause it to accumulate faster. Shutdown is part of the product lifecycle, and if we don't emphasize it, we don't have a genuine systems view of our production process.

As of 2Q16, Jeni Mundy, Vodafone Global Enterprise's director of product management, said 400 products have been withdrawn, and the service has been turned off in 173 of those. This is the worst kind of data – there is no time series, and we don't have data for other carriers. Maybe we should make those series.

Service pruning poses challenges that illuminate much of telcos' business. The platform must make it easy to deploy, start, stop, and archive apps. Metrics must justify shutdown against the temptation to let sleeping dogs lie. And it requires close attention to customers.

When Sprint closed down iDEN, tens of thousands of SMEs deserted the carrier. Antiquated and quirky iDEN was, but it also supported a unique developer community around enterprise apps. Many of the customers who came for the apps also took BlackBerry and data card service, spending hundreds of dollars per account. Sprint's decision to kill it, just like that, caused them to flee to AT&T.

How often do you turn anything off? How do you avoid spilling customers when you do it?


Further reading

"AT&T Summit: Network on Demand, Flexware, and SD-WAN highlight new virtualized managed services announced," TE0005-000862 (October 2016)

"The goal is clear for CSPs: Become digital media providers despite the challenges," TE0017-000078 (October 2016)


Alexander Harrowell, Senior Analyst, SoHo & SME IT & Telecoms

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