Stefan Heller, Head of Carrier Relations (North America) – October 9, 2014
(This post references short codes and short code provisioning in the USA only)
Yes, we would all like this to be a reality now, but it is a light on the horizon, not just an idealistic dream. Attention grabbing headlines that highlight how fast you can “Get your short codes live if you only sign with us” is becoming fairly commonplace and is, frankly, based on well-written spin to ensure that a company has your full attention. Reality can and does sometimes fall well outside of that fabulous piece of written prose that had you so excited to begin with. So whether it is “short codes live in 8 weeks”, or “short codes live in 6 weeks” or “short codes live in 5 weeks and 3 days”, you need to better understand if YOUR COMPANY and YOUR program fall into that unique spin bucket that checks all the boxes necessary to even come close to that timeframe, because there is nothing worse than having expectations set and then seeing them dashed.
Personally, I like my headline. It is something that OpenMarket is diligently working towards with all of our carrier partners and the market in general is leaning in this direction, plus there is a vested interest to streamline all short code processes.
There has never been a better time to obtain a short code for your messaging program than right now. In the USA, with the final demise of Premium SMS (PSMS), standard rate short codes no longer will require rigorous rules. New playbooks and guidelines are only weeks away from being announced, which should allow for faster program review and approval. The carriers genuinely want to create less red tape and friction, and encourage growth with new and different mobile messaging use cases we see from enterprises in today’s marketplace.
Current Short Code Provisioning Process
So now let’s step into the somewhat complex world of CURRENT short code provisioning and look at everything through some clear glass for a change. For our collective sanity I will try and keep this to a simple step-by-step overview.
- I want a short code!
o Great! Go get one direct from those wonderful folks at the CSCA, pay those fees and come back to us waiving your brand new short code lease receipt, OR let us know what it is you want, and after signing up as a new customer, we can handle all that pesky short code administration on your behalf.
- I have the coolest of the cool messaging program, (that’s totally new and did I mention: cool). I want to launch it IMMEDIATELY on all those carriers throughout the USA!
o Whoa there! So, talk to us and explain this totally cool program. We need to see your messaging flow. We need to know how it is going to work. We need DETAILS. WHY? So that our Account Managers and Carrier Relations folks can ensure that you are not going to trip on some major, (or even minor) hurdles that would mean that the carriers, upon reviewing your coolest of the cool program go “and what the heck is this???” and reject it, meaning we would then start the process of going back and forwards with you and the carriers to get the “program brief” (this is what the carriers see) finally approved.
- I have now reviewed my new messaging program with your Account Managers and Carrier Relations team and my program brief ROCKS! Can I start my messaging program tomorrow?
o YES!! – your messaging program DOES indeed rock! This brilliant document will now be submitted to all of the carriers and the Carrier Relations folks will start to weave their magic by handholding it as it traverses the potential rocky roads within the carriers’ hallowed halls.
- I just wanted my messaging program live…can you explain to me what is happening now?
o Of course!
o So your Program Brief has entered the mystical realm of “Carrier Provisioning”. It is an awesome, yet strangely odd place. It is a combination of the best theme park in the world and a singular hot dog stand on a dusty road to nowhere.
- I am afraid (and also exhilarated!), help?
Right Short Code Provisioning Process
o That is what we are here for. You get to benefit from our years of experience, which will help make everything extremely clear and concise.
o Carrier Relations have checked your totally awesome brief and have chatted with the carriers in one of their regular calls to make sure they have seen it and ALSO think it is totally awesome and are pushing buttons and pressing levers to get it back to us asap with an innocuous stamp on it saying “approved”.
- In the unlikely event that the carrier finds something amiss, an oddity that perplexes them, a word that is confusing etc., we will get an RFI (Request For Information), which is immediately forwarded to you and the Account Manager to review and correct any misconception, or provide further information for clarification.
o So the commercial teams at the carriers have given us the “thumbs up”. They love the program, they love you, they love us, group hug time! But WAIT! This has to now go into the legal team abyss. The legal team will now review your program from a risk standpoint, looking at it to see if there is anything there that could arise and cause them any issues. An RFI here has the same consequence and can prolong the time to finally provision your short code.
o You have survived! With the final approval from the legal team, your program brief now rushes into an accelerating downhill pace to the finish line. Now the engineering teams, (usually) get a hold of the brief. They do not read it, they accept it as a totally super awesome cool APPROVED messaging program that now needs to have the technical connection made so that everything will actually work the way it is meant to. There are various steps, with equally odd names, with titles such as “Mapping”, “Provisioning”, “Network Operations Review”, and “Network Provisioning Review”. These can all be one step, multiple steps, one person, many people, but ultimately it then progresses to…
o Certification / Testing. Yes, this is the end of the line, the last step, the final countdown, (as epitomized by the 80’s Swedish rock group “Europe”). This makes sure that the carrier’s connection to your aggregator partner is working correctly.
Step – the last bit;
o You get that call you have been waiting for from your Account Manager, “You are live! Go forth and message!!”
Short Code Complete
That was a very long set of steps…phew! So how long are all those steps? Well, there are carriers that have more steps than others and some that have fewer steps. Some that work on efficiencies and others that work on internal team approvals from everyone that may touch a new messaging program. Yes, there are superfast carriers and super slow ones, all having equally good reasons as to why their current process is the best. I have seen new programs go live on some carriers in as little as two weeks and others that with exactly the same program, will take weeks.
Unfortunately, the overall short code provisioning process is only as good as the slowest person in the chain. Everyone in the mobile ecosystem is bound by that issue.
The one certainty you have is that your mobile partner, such as OpenMarket, with our many years of industry experience, will be working for you and with you. Representing you with the carriers, answering their questions and explaining how your totally cool super awesome program will change the face of mobile messaging as we know it. Being there to help you through the quirky and complex admin process, while updating you with timelines and deadlines to ensure the amazing launch of your program is faultless. Whether it takes 2 weeks, 8 weeks or 48 hours, your new short code and program will launch successfully and with your aggregator partner you can then start the whole thing again as you launch super awesome totally cool messaging program #2!
Just remember, we are here to help. OpenMarket is tirelessly working to streamline processes, improve communications, and reduce red tape with the carriers for standard rate short code use. We are your trusted partner for mobile engagement!
If you need more info, or just want to gripe that your great idea for a messaging program that would rock the world has been rejected by the carriers, just respond to this blog. We look forward to your comments.