Accelerate Digital Transformation With Service-Centric Operations —
Providing broadband is a vital and essential service, like water or power. As such, communications service providers (CSPs) must change the common operations models that most use today. Essential services must be ubiquitous and uninterrupted while delivering great customer experiences. Maintaining high availability and reliability requires proactive service management, which means predicting and observing service impacting issues before customers are affected.
As volumes increase dramatically, legacy systems cannot cope with billions of devices and millions of provisioning orders, configuration orders, service definitions, and policies. Customers, especially enterprise and institutions, continue to demand rapid deployment of new unique services. These services become increasingly complex, including partner and third-party components. Therefore, broadband networks must evolve rapidly based on these new uses, connections, and services.
4 Key Dynamics
To execute this new model, it is important to recognize 4 key dynamics. (See Figure 1.)
Key Dynamic #1. Ubiquitous service availability requires a mix of network technologies. While fixed wireless and LTE cellular are a given, SDN, NFV, and cloud services, need to integrate with the physical network capabilities.
Key Dynamic #2. Network operations must be service- and business-agnostic to accommodate multiple business relationships.
Key Dynamic #3. Adopting an open architecture is at the core of solving data accessibility and volume challenges. A common data platform and open APIs based on industry standards are key to rapid deployment.
Key Dynamic #4. Customer demand for these services require collaboration with third parties. Broadband service providers must plan to integrate cloud network services, applications, and private networks, to meet customer needs.
A New Paradigm
Service-centric operations expands the focus from customer data and activity to service fulfillment and assurance enabled by a real-time view of the customer’s experience. It brings the NOC into the Customer Call Center, merging real-time service status and performance statistics with relevant customer data, placing service quality at the center of the customer experience. CSRs need immediate insight into current service performance when answering a customer call. Service-centric operations are about maintenance and prevention — not problem resolution.
The following CONCEPTS, found in TM Forum’s ZOOM principles and the CEMM Toolkit, are critical to building a service-centric customer experience.
AUTOMATION — High volumes require automation throughout network operations putting a focus on zero-touch processes and leveraging A.I. for service quality optimization and predictive fault detection.
ANALYTICS — Essential to effectively operating a more complex network and services portfolio is intelligence on how customers are consuming services as well as insights into network and operations metrics and KPIs. Current and holistic actionable data is required to feed analytics; this data must be easily accessible.
AUGMENTED INTELLIGENCE (A.I.) — Time-to-market and service reliability are critical success criteria. A.I. should be used to dynamically manage network configuration and scalability.
AGILE — Operations must be able to adopt enhancements to the network and deploy new services rapidly. This includes embracing key aspects of DevOps and CI/CD.
Service Providers with service-centric operations can expect OUTCOMES.
(See Figure 2.) Such as:
- Improved customer experiences as call volumes, call and problem-time-to-resolution are reduced.
- Lower operations cost due to automation that reduces time and resources and analytics that provide actionable metrics and drive innovation.
- Faster time-to-market and time-to-revenue with new, high-value services driven by customer and network insights.
Accelerating CSP’s Transformation Journey
Shifting to a service-centric operations model requires transformation, which can be expensive, disruptive and time intensive. Choosing the right platforms to support digital transformation is a critical decision. It is a long-term commitment that should provide carrier grade security, ongoing enhancement capabilities for function and scalability, and an extensive ecosystem of native applications.
In the past, it seemed the economics didn’t work for CSPs who were not Tier 1 network providers. Today, that’s not necessarily the case.
All providers, regardless of size, should be able to transform from legacy to digital infrastructure without excessive cost and complexity. This principle is captured perfectly in a quote from Frost & Sullivan: The opportunity cost of complexities is costing dearly in monetary and non-monetary ways to telcos, and it has never been more important for telcos to simplify and streamline their operations not just to reduce cost, but also be more competitive, highly agile, and have superior time to market in a dynamic business environment.
How can they get there? To begin, CSPs should ensure that the platforms they evaluate meet 4 REQUIREMENTS for digital transformation success:
Requirement #1. An enterprise platform, with a common database and the ability to provide analytics and accommodate intelligent automation, that is driven by A.I. and insights — at scale.
Requirement #2. The capability to collect and distribute data among disparate sources and destinations.
Requirement #3. A mechanism that aggregates legacy data silos with an intelligent tool that programmatically and rapidly integrates those data without custom integration. This enables the introduction of new devices and/or applications quickly.
Requirement #4. The platform must exist in an agile operating environment with CI/CD for the rapid deployment of new features and capabilities into the network.
Key Principles they should follow are:
1. Focus on high-value immediate business improvements.
Start with the tactical problems that need to be solved today. Fixing these problems moves you along the transformation journey, with each fix becoming a part of the final architecture.
Most service providers have a great deal of new network infrastructure to deploy and customers to connect. To do that efficiently, automated service provisioning is required, which is a cornerstone of future digital services operations. Automated provisioning solutions should scale in volume and in the variety of new services supported.
2. Focus on the foundation for future business requirements.
IDC predicts that by 2025 there will be 55.7 B connected devices worldwide. The inability to manage all these devices is an obstacle for service providers. Extending automated provisioning to Unified Device Management (UDM), allows continued control of the core network, including software defined elements and cloud-based services, as well as provisioning and managing all CPE including IoT devices. Taking a unified device management approach with an open architecture is critical to respond to customer demand for relevant services in the future.
3. Leverage platform capabilities for operations improvements.
Implement new processes to enhance customer experience, improve operations, and grow revenues, leveraging real-time data, analytics, and AI capabilities, of the platform. Broadband as an essential service demands that the NOC and Call Centers are merged to provide proactive service assurance. This enables the use of telemetry, performance, and status metrics with customer information, to quickly assess and solve service issues. GIS provides a map perspective of network assets and performance. Intelligent, proactive, and self-healing capabilities enabled by virtualization and augmented intelligence, make insights and decisions without human intervention.
Real-time telemetry and service performance data bring service assurance to the center of customer experience. A common data model (e.g., TM Forum Open Data Architecture) can consolidate siloed data with native analytics and AI capabilities. Low code/no code tools enable rapid integration with other sources of data and applications, building integrations from API specifications and translating it to the common data model so all data can be stored and accessed across the enterprise.
4. Replace aging, high-cost legacy applications with platform-native applications.
A service-centric operation replaces existing siloed systems with applications that are native to the platform. They are easy to deploy and manage in a common environment, enabling the use of automation tools, and the implementation of Agile methods and CI/CD to manage the entire environment.
A Service-Centric Customer Experience
Choosing the right platform for digital transformation is a critical decision for service providers. It is a long-term commitment that should provide carrier grade security, ongoing enhancement capabilities for function and scalability, and an extensive ecosystem of native applications.
ETI’s service-centric management solution combines the scalability, reliability, and security of Microsoft Dynamics 365 with TM Forum Open API/Open Digital Architecture standards and ETI’s service orchestration capabilities into an intelligent Service Management Platform (SMP), one that can accelerate digital transformation. Its modular approach enables CSPs, regardless of size, to create Tier 1 capabilities without excessive cost and complexity.
References and Notes
TM Forum’s ZOOM Principles: www.tmforum.org/zoom/zoom-poster
TM Forum’s CEMM Toolkit: www.tmforum.org/resources/toolkit/customer-experience-maturity-model-toolkit
“Opportunity Costs of Complexities: How Telcos can Streamline Processes and Technologies”: www.frost.com/frost-perspectives/opportunity-costs-of-complexities-how-telcos-can-streamline-processes-and-technologies
“IoT Growth Demands Rethink of Long-Term Storage Strategies, says IDC”: www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prAP46737220