INSIGHTS

Billing replacement projects and the role of Order Management and Service Fulfilment

Published 2015-11-12

Telco Billing and rating replacement projects are inherently complicated and high-risk projects, as all operators that have been through such a project would agree. The challenges only increase when aiming for a convergent architecture accounting for a wide range of services such as mobile-, fixed- and TV services. Especially if convergence also encompasses business related services such as MPLS, Satellite, trunks, PBX etc.

Our experience is that operators often enter into large-scale CRM/Billing replacement programs without putting enough focus on: Order Management, Process Orchestration and Service Fulfilment.

Clearly, rating is more complex for mobile than for fixed broadband, but for other aspects the reverse is true. A good example is service fulfilment, which is more complex for broadband than for mobile. Fixed services often have service fulfilment processes that stretch out over time requiring workflow management, process orchestration and logistics.

Often today’s operators are a result of mergers and acquisitions and it’s not uncommon that the mobile business doesn’t understand the challenges of the fixed business, or TV, and vice versa. As a result different parts of the organisation will have legacy architectures optimised for selling and provisioning different types of access services.

Our experience is that, although billing and CRM represents a huge challenge, it is not uncommon that the operator discovers too late that great complexity within the billing/CRM replacement program is really also about Order Management and Service Fulfilment. Many times the projects become too billing/rating centric rather than focusing equally on Order Management, fulfilment and provisioning.

With triple-play and quadruple-play the focus on how to structure offerings, how to package and sell the offerings online and through customer service, and how to fulfil and provision the offerings is of great strategic value.

Looking at the future with Software Defined Networks and Network Function Virtualisation, we believe that Order Management, Process Orchestration and Provisioning together with the general integration architecture will become even more important.

In this type of environment, to achieve convergence, you need extensive Telco knowledge in the OSS and BSS layers with true experience from a wide range of Telco services at the access level.

United Vanning Consulting has extensive hands-on experience in these areas!

United Vanning Consulting is an expert consultancy in the Telco industry with hands-on experience from many systems and architecture replacement projects, providing individual consultants or taking responsibility for the entire, or, parts of the architecture. We have experience from almost all roles in billing/CRM migration projects both on the customer side and as a supplier, including:

  • Program and project management
  • Change management
  • Business and process analysis
  • Architecture
  • System implementation and integration
  • Test Management and test execution
  • Interim management

For more information about United Vanning Consulting or to explore how our expertise can help you please contact us at www.unitedvanning.com/en/contact

How to avoid a crashing IT project!

Published 2015-11-12

The project has been delayed numerous times. A number of demonstrations have gone wrong. Multiple vendors are involved and responsible for different system components of the total architecture. Distrust is everywhere and positions between the different parties are entrenched.  Time is running out, and so is the budget – for you as a client of course, but in fact equally importantly for the vendors that have a fixed price project to deliver where the “burn-rate” is very high while the project is making very little progress.

How do you recognise the situation? Well, you’re not alone – typical figures you will find indicate that 20-30% of IT projects end as failures; the larger the project the higher the failure rate. Statistics you don’t want to be part of. So, how can that be avoided?

To act is always better than doing nothing! A good first step is to be brutally honest with yourself and decide if you really think that the suppliers – or some of them – really have the capability and the mindset to turn this around. They have taken big losses and the risk is that going through with the project will incur even higher losses – making the motivation to continue low.

One option here is to quite simply change vendor. This sounds risky and complex – but experience tells us it can successfully be done and that the risk in reality is lower than continuing on the road heading toward disaster.

The first thing to do is of course to select a trustworthy partner to take over the project. A part of that process is to let the preferred partner carry out a solid due diligence of the project to assess what it will take to turn the project around. Doing this, you will have to be aware that IT projects are never as bad as you think - they are almost always in an even WORSE state!

Probability is high that you will find bad technical choices and bad implementation standards in the software that has been delivered so far. To make things worse you have to expect that some of these things will not surface during the due diligence period – they will surface once the project is transitioned and on the way.

Therefore, to take the risk of taking over a project that has crashed the new solution provider must have well-tuned processes in place for:

  • Efficient up scaling of resources
  • Tough decision-making and technical in-depth knowledge to assess when redesigns are necessary
  • Enforcing the delivery culture, that anything is possible – remember that the customer at this point might be disillusioned and needs to see practical evidence of progress.

United Vanning Consulting has solid, successful experience of taking over projects headed for a crash.

In one example the client managed to arrange for United Vanning Consulting to do a one week due diligence of the project, after which we accepted the responsibilities of the largest supplier and prime systems integrator.

The hardest constraint was time: the project had to go live within five months of takeover. In order to be able to meet this timeframe a number of activities and principles were implemented and explicitly accepted by all project stakeholders:

  • Re-establishing the vision and strategy for the project, agreeing on what is absolutely necessary for go-live
  • Defining demonstrations to the customer throughout the project delivery of all delivered functionality - to shorten the feedback loop from the organisation
  • Agreeing on scoping and demarcation principles since documentation was not of good quality and up to date
  • Assessing and settling quality measures and acceptance criteria
  • Revitalising the forums and processes governing change control

The first step was to ramp up our team to nearly 30 consultants in a very short time period using employees and some additional contractors – if possible a good idea could be to contract some key technical resources from the previous vendor, to assure knowledge transfer and provide historical background.

During the project we repeatedly ran into bad implementations and technical choices and we had to carefully select what technical changes were necessary and balance the need with how much time was left until project go-live.

By bringing all parties together around the joint goals and vision for the project, and, with very hard work from everyone involved, we achieved go-live on time!

Contact United Vanning Consulting to learn more about how to turn around problem projects!

For more information about United Vanning or to explore how our expertise can help you please contact us at www.unitedvanning.com/en/contact

Delivering real-time rating and real-time service policy enforcement at Telco operators

Published 2015-11-11

The emergence of real-time came with a promise to deliver a more interactive, richer and responsive user experience for services such as mobile, fixed broadband and TV. Although still in its infancy, real-time has proved to deliver on the promise for the few operators that have already adopted it. So why haven’t more operators exploredthis avenue more aggressively? What is preventing them?

Most telecom operators have had real-time for a long time for their mobile prepaid services. This means that the user’s account balance is validated in real-time while the user is on a call or surfing on their phone. However, few operators have come very far in implementing real-time for any other service and even fewer for any other purpose than the real-time validation of the user account balance for the sole purpose of preventing revenue leakage or fraud.

Why would an operator go through the hassle, effort and cost of implementing real-time? Well, to mention a few benefits:

  • Bandwidth on demand
  • Richer user experience
  • Fraud prevention
  • Leaner operations
  • Real-time customer self-service
  • Tethering – (the ability to use the same mobile data package connection to surf from multiple devices - pads, phones, laptops etc.) We believe that real-time is at a similar point to when mobile data was emerging; it is impossible to foresee the real killer apps, how the users will use the technology and for what, but you know that it will have a huge impact.

It takes time to build knowledge andexperience into an organisations. Real-time will affect most central systems in the architecture and operators should take steps now to embrace real-time.

The difficulty with real-time is that there is no single system that makes it all come true. Real-time means implementing a number of new components in the network and the implementation will impact the whole technology stack; it will blur the boundaries between the OSS and BSS layers.

Real-time means integrating Real-Time Charging, PCEF (Policy Control and Enforcement Function) and PCRF (Policy and Charging Rules Function) and the Billing platform. To turn it into a good user experience, the end users need to be able to control and manage their policies, notifications etc. online through self-care, mobile apps or CRM systems.

The selected architecture depends on the operator’s starting point and long-term strategy. If the operator is running legacy billing and rating systems there is the opportunity to combine real-time streaming event processing systems and middleware balance management. This will achieve the same as implementing it in an architecture utilizing a real-time billing and rating system.

Regardless of the architecture model there are a number of challenges and questions to consider:

  • The end user experience will change; therefore the offerings will most likely need some restructuring
  • Real-time notifications and real-time enforcements of policies will mean that customer communications need to be looked at very carefully
  • The customer service department will need new functions to provide service to the customers
  • Online and self-care platforms need to provide real-time experiences. End users will expect a higher degree of control over their services, and how fast their changes take effect in the network, which will affect service provisioning
  • Tools for information analysis should be available for the end user. The challenge will be to provide the right information and options to create a good service for both end-user and operator
  • How should service windows and maintenance be managed in a real-time world?
  • How does real-time affect performance in different parts of the architecture?
  • What packages exist to solve performance-related issues?
  • Testing of real-time scenarios presents very particular challenges. Operators do not usually have test environments for all network elements. Testing usually means scenarios that span a number of systems.

In short, real-time services will demand new offerings, a change in customer communication and a higher degree of real-time integration in almost all parts of the architecture.  Marketing, product development, finance, IT and network professionals must think and work differently together. 

Knowledge based on experience

Knowing the needed building blocks and processes and how to combine them is key to a successful delivery. United Vanning is the ideal partner to orchestrate and assist with assessing the different business models and to create an architecture roadmap for implementation in the BSS/OSS architecture.

United Vanning has hands-on experience of implementing real-time across entire organizations and architectures – all the way from business analysis to acceptance testing. This includes both management as well as technical implementation expertise.

For more information about United Vanning or to explore how our expertise can help you please contact us at www.unitedvanning.com/en/contact

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