Enterprise Architecture (EA) : The road to BSS/OSS Transformation !!


BSS systems (typically including billing and CRM), have always been separate from OSS systems (such as resource management, service activation, provisioning, fault management, etc.), which included having separate business processes and people. For example, revenue focused BSS was always run by the IT department, and cost-focused OSS was run by network operations. This traditional binary approach would have likely continued to be sufficient if not for the major transformation the telecommunications industry is undergoing, where service providers are becoming retailers of multimedia and entertainment services.

Over the years Telco IT infrastructures have evolved into expensive, complex collections of monolithic applications interconnected with specially built point-to-point interfaces. Transforming OSS/BSS platforms and partially rebuilding with more modern and harmonized platform components leads to considerable savings in the long run: reductions in time, effort and costs spent on system integration, administration, maintenance and training.

An enduring vision of harmonized OSS architecture is inspired by the TMF Lean Operator Initiative and based on four key areas:

• CSP’s process architecture: The CSPs’ business processes can be supported by introducing modifiable operator process templates out-of-the-box and enabling a higher level of automation in their daily routines.

• Common information architecture: stepping away from “stove piped” data and supporting shared information and data models. This enables OSS/BSS level application interoperability through Common Information Models.

• Modular application architecture: will bridge the gap between service and resource management applications. A high level of modularity allows flexible solution building: it enables easier maintenance, allows changes on one component without affecting others and allows new components to be added as required.

• Application integration architecture: Interoperability and time to market is improved through compatible interfaces, common information models and through leveraging partner ecosystems and productized adaptation libraries.

Bear in mind that the transformation to the next generation OSS is a revolution, nor is it fixed to a particular date or year. As current OSS systems are crucial for the operation of a network they cannot be replaced overnight. The transformation and migration will need to happen gradually, making the challenge even greater – old systems cannot be turned off before new systems are in place.

To mitigate these risks, future needs must be anticipated in advance and OSS architecture must be designed to fit with future requirements from the start. OPEX for the legacy OSS needs to be reduced to make room for new investments and replacement of the old functionality. OPEX reduction takes many forms, including:

• Removal of old, redundant OSS applications and systems
• Streamlining of functionality in legacy OSS
• Replacement of bespoke/ customized systems integration work with standards-based software and off-the shelf mediations
• Selective freezing of legacy OSS applications and systems
• Encapsulation of functionality and making it “service aware” with SOA
• Effective use of key OSS systems, moving functionality to these and taking other systems off-line

The Enterprise Architecture Model describes the elements of business – strategy, business cases, business models, processes, supporting technologies, policies, and infrastructures that make up an enterprise. It also provides means for governing the enterprise and its information systems, and planning changes to improve the integrity and flexibility. In other words, Enterprise Architecture crystallizes the organization – what it has to do and how – to be as efficient and productive as possible.

In the Enterprise Architecture, the business quadrant handles the value chain aspects relevant to the business as a whole: where to improve the business efficiency and develop new value propositions and how to increase efficiency and competitiveness of the business in the context of its environment: markets, competitors, legislative and environmental aspects, influences and impacts.

With Enterprise Architecture (EA), new opportunities and capabilities will raise some real competitive advantages for Telco operators. Architecting the future state of EA is the heart of the entire process. The goal is to translate business strategy into a set of prescriptive guidance to be used by the organization (business and IT) in projects that implement change. As such EA is a process discipline. Done well, it becomes an institutionalized part of how an organization makes decisions to direct its investments, such that the chosen business strategy will be realized. Usually a system is seen as a necessary cost to make the business – not anymore and certainly not with EA !!

Managing IT complexity to support business strategy is a big challenge for enterprise architects at large companies when a company has global operations, as is the case for Telstra, an Asia-based telecommunications firm. However Telstra’s enterprise architecture (EA) team addressed its challenges by focusing on customer engagement, improved agility, and global business strategy enablement.The EA process bridges the gap that otherwise exists between business strategy and technology implementation. High-performing organizations are process-disciplined which is lacking in many of the Tier 2 Telco operators.

In turn, every high-performing process must be defined/documented, have process owners and be closed-loop with governance in place. Activities in this phase of the architecture process include but not limited to :

• Scoping the EA program and the next iteration thereof in terms of breadth and depth, which is known as defining what is meant by “enterprise”
• Gaining executive sponsorship and support
• Conducting stakeholder analysis
• Identifying the EA leader or chief architect
• Building and chartering the “EA team,” which will own and facilitate the EA process and establishing clear roles and responsibilities
• Assessing organizational readiness and EA maturity
• Developing an initial communications plan, communicating the role of EA and setting expectations of individuals participating in the process
• Establishing a plan for setting up a governance mechanism
• Defining measures of success to articulate value delivered

Currently many Telcos are burdened by a wide range of systems ‘isolated’ for the operation of its business. This reality does not allow effective sharing of information between systems and / or applications. In recent years they have acquired several technologies were acquired from different manufacturers and suppliers, most could be considered islands of information and technologies. Today’s service providers must close the gap between their Customer-facing BSS and network-facing OSS. With Enterprise Architecture (EA), new opportunities and capabilities will raise some real competitive advantages. As an example, let’s consider a set of typical (separated) systems:

• Automation system: The principle behind this is to improve efficiency, automating several steps (or all steps) of certain tasks. Since the tasks are automatic, the delay is caused by latency of the system itself, leading to execution of thousands of tasks per second instead of seconds/minutes spent in each task.
• Customer segmentation: Groups people according to attributes that store information relevant for understanding customer behavior, and can be used to predict the probability of acceptance or refusal of a certain product or probable churn.
• CRM tool: Contains all customer information and supports the call center team in customer interactions.

The new reality in the Telco industry is that the basic currency of the smart network is DATA. The move to all-IP networks and the technology that has become available means that operators can collect more data than ever before from all points between their core networks and their end users and exploit it in ways not previously imaginable. Excellence in IT architecture is fundamental to efficiency and effectiveness, touching every aspect of a telco’s business performance.

Fortunately most senior Telco execs have already realised that the integration of information systems, collecting, consolidating and making available all data efficiently is an essential requirement to ensure the viability and competitiveness, avoid errors and waste, improve efficiency and increase the success factors internal. As such any strategic plan to transform the BSS/OSS using EA must :

• Align the needs of information systems with business strategy,
• Monitor the rapid evolution of Information Systems,
• Rationalize and monetize investments in Information Systems
• Prioritize solutions to develop in the future according to the business strategy defined by the company
• Controlling the proliferation of systems / applications isolated and walk to the integration and overall management of Information Systems

The IT industry has embraced the concept of a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) as a standardized, more efficient way to build enterprise IT infrastructures. I believe that SOA, together with a revised enterprise business process, is the right way to build BSS and OSS applications, because it supports more agile internal operations, enables interoperability among new applications, and can be used to leverage existing BSS and OSS assets by adapting them to the SOA model.

However to yield genuine value, an architecture transformation also requires a substantial shift in mindset. It is crucial to nurture the partnership between business and IT, rather than allowing IT departments to function in their default mode as delivery organizations and service providers.Most Consulting Gurus agree that transforming a large telco’s enterprise architecture management function to deliver maximum value is a Herculean task and multi-year effort requiring full buy-in from the business side.

There is no uniform panacea for success.But the impact on costs and business performance can be huge once the enterprise architecture moves toward a uniform blueprint with consistent management across domains. Tariff changes take days rather than months. Customers can be tracked across their lifecycle and targeted with optimally customized offers, while network utilization soars.

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )

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