The telecommunications industry, like many others, is experiencing a watershed. No longer can customers pursue technological advances just for technology's sake. Technology must support real, measurable, and innovative goals of the enterprise. The technologies and terms in every major provider's portfolio are starting to look and sound alike. New product offerings appear almost identical to existing products in the same market. The terms VPN, MPLS, convergence, the ubiquitous "IP," service level agreements (SLA), single points of contact, managed network services, and global footprints are important in the telecommunications market, but we have heard them all before.
The competitive differentiation that service providers desperately seek will not occur on this homogenous slate of technology and service offerings. Only when service providers truly understand what is happening from the customer's perspective will real competitive differentiation take place. Providers must realize that they do not drive the networking and telecom environment; the customers' strategic and tactical objectives drive it. If service providers wish to position at higher levels in the corporation, they must change the way they communicate. Such communication should not only show an understanding of the enterprise applications themselves but also an understanding of how the applications relate to the service providers' product set.
This paper will outline three (of the many) enterprise applications and business drivers service providers can use to differentiate themselves. We will examine the concepts of data warehousing and data mining for the purpose of effective enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain management (SCM). We will define the major aspects of each, examine the drivers and impacts of each, and consider how each relates to the service providers' product sets.