Accenture builds .Net services for telcos

Accenture Ltd. will introduce a set of pre-configured Web services for communications service providers on Tuesday.

The suite of services, called Accenture Communications Solutions .Net-connected, will support operations such as customer care, sales, billing, service delivery, and business intelligence. "It's specifically being developed for service providers," said Accenture spokesman Alex Pachetti.

The company worked with Microsoft Corp. to bring its two-year-old Accenture Communications Solutions software suite to Microsoft's .Net platform, according to a Microsoft statement. The .Net versions can be linked with Microsoft SQL Server and some Microsoft BizTalk Server connectors, Microsoft said.

Accenture presented the services at its annual Global Convergence Forum, an event for clients in high-tech and communications industries held in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The companies aim to replace modules of service providers' existing operational support systems with new ones based on Microsoft's .Net architecture and commodity servers.

"We believe that there are substantial cost-savings that can be derived from using Intel architecture and Windows," said Jacques-Etienne Grandjean, sales and marketing director for Microsoft's network service provider division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Microsoft describes the software as "pre-configured" but this does not mean it comes shrink-wrapped, Grandjean said.

"Instead of having one-to-one software spaghetti between modules, we want to pre-configure it using BizTalk as the glue between modules, so you can do the data mapping across modules," he said.

The two companies have been working more closely in the network service provider market over the last 18 months, Grandjean said. Recent projects have included the integration of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for Telecom Italia SpA, using SAP AG's SAP/R3 on Microsoft's .Net platform, and a customer service portal for Telenor ASA.

Now, however, instead of doing one-off .Net projects, they want to offer service providers a clearer .Net product offering, Grandjean said. The companies plan to make joint pitches, but the sales cycle in this market is long: It may be three to nine months before they land their first contract, he said.

This is not Accenture's first collaboration with Microsoft in the field of Web services. Back in February, it introduced Accenture Web Services Platform, a hosted development environment in which businesses can build their own Web services using .Net tools. That was developed with Microsoft and Avanade Inc., a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft.

Avanade was not involved in the development of Accenture Communication Solutions .Net-connected, "but they would be one of the service companies able to deploy it at a service provider," Pachetti said.

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