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Zain Saudi Arabia achieves efficiencies with BSS transformation

Maha Ibrahim AlQernas, Executive Vice President of Information Technology, Zain KSA, explains the benefits of the company's BSS transformation and how it is investing in skills for the future.

Joanne TaaffeJoanne Taaffe
16 May 2024
Zain Saudi Arabia achieves efficiencies with BSS transformation

Zain Saudi Arabia achieves efficiencies with BSS transformation

When Zain KSA planned its new cloud-based operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) it had to consider more than key business objectives such as improving customer experience and increasing operational efficiency. The company also had to factor in local data regulations, as well as a developing IT labor market, as Maha Ibrahim AlQernas, Executive Vice President of Information Technology, Zain KSA explains in an interview with TM Forum’s Inform.

Maha AlQernas Photo

Zain KSA began phasing out its OSS/BSS in late 2021 as part of a three-year program to improve customer experience and strengthen cybersecurity amid rapid digitalization in Saudi Arabia. Pre-paid customers were the first to be migrated to the new cloud-based systems, followed by post-paid consumers, and Maha AlQernas expects Zain KSA to complete the transformation on schedule at the end of the third quarter this year when it finishes migrating B2B customers to the new systems.

“This transformation has been a big milestone for our business ecosystem and our expansion across adjacent markets, including fintech, IoT, and cloud-computing services. Our revamped BSS supports services such as virtualized network functions, software-defined networking, and network slicing, among others.”

Zain KSA has reaped several benefits already, including improved time to market, helped by the introduction of a new product lifecycle management interface. When it comes to order fulfillment, for example, it now takes 50% less time to activate customer lines.

“We have introduced a fully automated digital journey in which customers can purchase a new line and activate it … without the need of any sort of [human] operation in the background,” says Maha AlQernas. “The introduction of the e-SIM means it’s also been much easier – they can just request a line and start using it through an all-digital process.”

It is also simpler for people across the company to use the new systems, which has helped contribute to a 50% drop in product development time.

Automation is key

“Automation plays a very big role in creating high-value customer experiences, particularly in the Kingdom’s thriving digital environment. We tried to make it light, easy, straightforward for the business to adopt and found a more efficient and agile way to deliver better time to market,” Maha AlQemas says.

The shift towards greater automation has meant retraining teams to undertake new functions.

“We have enhanced a lot of operational processes that are no longer dependent on humans,” explains AlQernas. “Transforming the way that businesses used to work previously does not mean that they will get rid of those people,” she continues, “but you definitely need to empower them … in other areas, and this is what has been a good thing in this transformation.”

The job market in Saudi Arabia is trying to keep up with the rapid transformation by equipping new generations of skilled IT professionals. The private sector partners with the government on talent training initiatives for specialized capacity building. Zain KSA has pioneered multiple initiatives to train local talent, including initiatives like the Women in Tech program. It has also tailored programs to upskill its existing workforce.

“We are always trying to maintain resources within the organization and empowering them with more [skills and] responsibilities. We’re also trying to inject fresh people, who can help on operational tasks, where the more senior people can focus on the strategic objectives, not the operation.”

Zain KSA’s digital transformation also demanded adoption of different working practices. In encouraging employees to retrain, the company has been helped by operating in a country with a young, technologically savvy population, according to AlQernas. It has also been supported by Saudi Vision 2030 and its goals to transform the country and diversify revenue sources, which emphasizes the importance of digitalization in transforming the economy.

“We have had full top-down management support, and I believe that this is one of the key success factors. Sales, customer care, marketing, project management, governance, security… everyone was really part of this.”

BSS transformation will be one of the hot topics at TM Forum's DTW24 – Ignite in Copenhagen, June 18-20.