Keith Willetts Keith Willetts Founder - TM Forum

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Blue Heaven

  • Last week we publicly launched the Blueprint program - a major new program for the TM Forum that's driving the evolution of our most widely implemented of our deliverables, the Solution Frameworks (like the eTOM, SID and so on). Blueprint will take these vital process and systems roadmaps to the next stage to keep then continually relevant as our industry changes shape and embraces a myriad of new services.

    The Solution Frameworks evolved from our NGOSS program, launched several years ago. At that time the communications industry was much more clearly defined and separate from industries like the cable, entertainment and media and the digital economy was something few people had ever dreamt of. Over the intervening years things have changed dramatically and will continue to so, possibly even spurred on by recession rather than slowed down. Convergence isn't just a buzz word, it's a real life factor affecting a number of industries (including communications) whose boundaries are becoming blurred and who are having to rethink their role and place in the value chains that increasingly deliver TV, music, books and all manner of goods and services that we buy online. All have to simultaneously cut their operating costs as prices fall; while having work harder than ever to keep their customers happy and loyal while continually innovating new services.

    The Solution Frameworks already do a great job of defining the target process, information and systems architecture that service providers need to move to in order to get to a lean and agile operating position. As I said, they are widely used already, but to stay relevant as the communications industry evolves, they need to evolve as well.

    First, the communications sector is not alone in its desire to transform - many other industries are also trying to get rid of their service silos; rationalise broken processes and fragmented information; and deploy state-of the art IT infrastructures. As the market for these enabling technologies grows, the software and systems that service providers need doesn't have to be expensive and customized because they can tap into an ever widening range of commercial-off the shelf technology where the costs of development are amortised over a large number of customers. Because of this trend, the Solution Frameworks need to be less specific to the communications industry and align with broad software standards like ITIL and SOA. We've made a great start and the Blueprint program has already driven our Business Process Framework (eTOM) to be aligned with the widely used IT process model, ITIL.

    Alignment with SOA is also underway and builds on the early SOA concepts in NGOSS. Blueprint will define an SOA-based Business Services library - in effect the building blocks of any service provider enterprise - fixed, mobile, MSO, MVNO, Web 2.0 and so on. Each Business Service (previously called NGOSS Contracts) will be based on the process flows of the Business Process Framework and the information model of the Information Framework. In addition, a new Blueprint Methodology will help users use the approach to build their ideal target architecture, built from standard components but tailored to their individual business needs. This solves an age old problem (or delusion!) that communications players cannot standardise their infrastructure because they are all 'different'.

    The second major objective of Blueprint is to open up evolution of the Solution Frameworks to ensure that the implementation experience of the thousands of people using them gets directly fed back in. As the Frameworks get implemented, new knowledge is gained in how to use them: extensions and modifications get made to solve specific issues and so on. To get this experience coming back to enrich and extend the Frameworks, we are changing the way they evolve in a fundamentally way. Previously the teams that worked on new versions of the Frameworks were based on relatively closed e-mail expert groups, but over the next few months we will be moving all of our work to be done in open member communities where any member can submit a modification of extension. They can ask questions or post comments that will be open for all members to see and use. To help navigate between mature, approved work and 'fresh in' contributions, we will assign a maturity rating to each plus a user download count so that people can see which of these amendments is proving popular.

    Third, as implementation of the Frameworks spreads beyond companies with major labs of technical staff, we want to make it easier for people to know how to use them. So the Blueprint program is also driving a major re-write of many of the documents to make them easier to read, particularly for people who do not speak English as a first language. Additionally, each Framework will have an introductory guide and case example to help implementers around the world.

    And finally, Blueprint is ensuring that our Frameworks address the growing fact that it's not just the communications industry who delivers online services; increasingly services like IPTV, mobile TV, downloadable music etc is a partnership between several players, who all need to work together in a low cost, high quality value chain. Our Frameworks need to define not just the internal processes and data of each player in the chain, but the intra-company glue that binds them together. So through the Blueprint program, we're adding support for value chains as well as updating the documents to include case example and language that relates to non traditional telecom services, making the Frameworks more usable by providers delivering up-to-the minute services.

    All in all, a big step forward for the Forum and the Solution Frameworks over the coming months making them as relevant to tomorrow's industry as they are today.

    We'll all be in Blue Heaven by the end of it !
    Keith Willetts
    About Keith Willetts Keith Willetts works as Founder at TM Forum
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