Service Orientated Architecture – A Balance of Form and Function

The concept of form following function was at the heart of modernist Bauhaus architecture in the early 20th century and, according to Wikipedia, extols the principle that…

“…the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.”

The phrase ‘form ever follows function’ was actually coined as long ago as 1896 by American architect Louis Sullivan, although the concept stretches back all the way to the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio who asserted in the 1st century BC that structures should exhibit the qualities of being “solid, useful and beautiful”.

In contrast to the modernist architecture of buildings, architecture of enterprise software is frequently guided more by engineering constraints than the needs of a business.  Functional requirements are gathered but are often implemented in ways which are more optimal for engineering than for the business processes they are meant to support.  The result is that business processes must be made to fit with the form of the software, rather than the software fitting the function of the business.  The software becomes like a strait jacket on the business which prevents it from adapting or being able to react to external conditions.

However, innovations in enterprise architecture are freeing software to mould itself to the business processes in ways not possible a few years ago.  A system built using a modern Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) is comprised of discrete, loosely coupled modules that can communicate with each other without human intervention.

The Open Groups definition of SOA is:

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an architectural style that supports service-orientation.

Service-orientation is a way of thinking in terms of services and service-based development and the outcomes of services.

They go on to say that the SOA Architectural style

“…is based on the design of the services – which mirror real-world business activities – comprising the enterprise (or inter-enterprise) business processes”

By modularising the code, providing standardised interfaces (API’s) and adopting standard communication protocols, such as web service calls using SOAP,  it’s possible for features and functions to be re-combined in endless ways to support a variety of different applications.  SOA also provides a way to organically grow functionality in an iterative way.  By adopting an agile software development methodology developers can design, built and test modules that support small units of business process a piece at a time.  Since the modules are self-contained they can be re-used and re-combined with other modules to reduce development effort.  Maintenance costs are also reduced since single modules can be swapped in and out with a minimum of disruption.

By adopting a modular service orientated architecture software developers can now at last follow the principles first laid down by Vitruvius and create solutions that fit business processes beautifully.

Mark Jenkins
Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Key is to ask the ‘right questions’

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question”

This quote from Richard Saul Wurman rightly describes how a normal human mind, as part of it’s social development process, adapts to the guidelines of “finding the answers”, rather than exploring the possibilities of asking the “right questions”.

And this mindset also reflects in our place of work. We are humanly tailored to explore satisfaction in having answers to all the questions. And in the process of being ‘answer ready’, we tend to become left brain heavy than the right. We become target driven and focus less and less on fresh set of questions which could challenge us further to drive improvement and innovation.

Fraud Management ‘function’ is no different. Being a ‘revenue protection’ function in a large ‘organization’ it is expected to act similar to a small, but important organ in human body.
Like hormone levels of an organ, health of an FM function is also measured in terms of subjective financial targets – either monthly, quarterly or yearly. And the corrective action starts when the achievements are found to be ‘less than optimum’.

But, as an experienced doctor would say – It’s the lifestyle you need to keep in check and not hormone levels to remain healthy!
Constant self-assessing questions such as – “Am I eating right ?”, “Am I sleeping right ?”, “Am I sitting right ?”, “Am I exercising right ?” etc. go a long way in guaranteeing you a healthy life. Periodic check-ups then becomes a method to confirm your good health rather than just means to detect illness or deficiencies.

Keeping healthy is a continuous process – be it human body or fraud management. It is actually a practice, than just a function.
And to setup a continuously improving fraud practice in your organization it is essential to keep asking relevant & timely questions across the following 8 pillars of this practice:

  • Influence
  • Organization
  • People
  • Process
  • Tools
  • Knowledge Management
  • Coverage
  • Continuous Improvement

While the questions could be an organization, risk or region specific, I personally always start with the following:

Influence:

  • Is our FM function on a driver seat or secondary role and working as a support function ?
  • How should we enhance the influence of our FM function ?
  • How do we keep showcasing enhanced value from FM function ?
  • How do we extend our internal & external interfacing and make the existing interfacing stronger ?

Organization:

  • How do we ensure fraud awareness keeps pace with the upgrading business dynamics ?
  • How do we enhance internal & external collaboration with FM function ?
  • How do we get higher return of investment from FM function ?
  • How to further reduce the fraud impact on the bottom line ?
  • How to make our fraud management practice more proactive ?

People:

  • Is resource acquisition better or resource development ?
  • How do we safeguard ourselves from attrition ?
  • Is our team structure agile enough while following industry standards ?
  • Do we have all the required roles and are the responsibilities clearly defined ?
  • Are we right, under or over staffed ?

Process:

  • Are my processes effective and easily exercisable ?
  • Are my processes future ready ?
  • Are my processes agile enough to adapt to any changes with acceptable TAT ?
  • Are we adopting and implementing industry best practices ?
  • What parts of my processes can be automated ?

Tools:

  • Is the Fraud Management tool adapted to my business environment ?
  • How do I ensure that the FM tool is fed accurate, complete and timely data ?
  • Are my fraud controls effective & efficient ? How do I reduce false positives ?
  • How do I ensure 100% automated fraud risk coverage ?
  • What capabilities do we need to acquire on tool front to be future ready ?
  • Are we ready against enormous data surge likely to be seen over next few years ? How do we benefit from it ?
  • Are we constantly learning from the industry in terms of fraud detection & prevention methods ?

Knowledge Management:

  • Is there sufficient attention on upgrading to the required skill sets ?
  • How do we enhance resource competency & knowledge against current & future services ?
  • Is our team keeping pace with constant fraud mutations ?
  • Is our team using the tools effectively & efficiently ?
  • Is our team knowledgeable and comfortable with processes ?
  • What are the top 5 areas of learning for the whole fraud function ?

Coverage:

  • Are we aware of all the fraud risks we are exposed to ? What is our current coverage levels ?
  • Do we know the gaps in terms of fraud risks coverage ? How can we improve ?
  • What is our strategy to become compliant to fraud risks introduced by new products and services ?
  • Are we ready for fast converging cross industry environment and the risks it introduces ?
  • What is our stand on customer and partner only risks ? How relevant they are for our business ? Is our current stand obsolete ?

Continuous Improvement:

  • What is our performance management strategy ?
  • Do we have effective KPIs ? Are these business relevant ?
  • How can we improve the fraud function’s effectiveness & maturity continuously ?
  • What metrics should I use to measure health of the overall FM function ?
  • Are we conducting sufficient & periodic RCA & decision analysis ?
  • How do we gather accumulated wisdom & actionable intelligence for improvement ?

Each of these questions can be a healthy point of discussion within your organization.
While these may give you a first hand view of health of your current fraud practice, more importantly, it may also open doors for a much detailed open table introspective sessions, enabling you to come up with much better & effective questions.

Remember, the key to remain healthy is to keep asking the ‘right’ questions.

As Albert Einstein rightly said – “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Abhijeet Singh
Abhijeet is currently working as Principal Consultant with Subex. He specializes in Telecom Fraud Management and his 360 degree experience in this field includes extensive exposure in Fraud Operations Management, Consulting & Advisory, Risk & Health Assessments, Business Development - Product & Managed Services and Analytics. Out of professional life, he is a blogger, tech enthusiast and a traveler.

Plain Sailing on a Sea of Data

Running a business can be like sailing a ship.  It’s not enough to set a course and expect the ship to just get there.  The sea can be rough, the weather unpredictable, and just under the surface there may be hidden obstacles. Any number of problems can push you off course, or, at worst, sink your ship completely.  A sea of data washes around the business which can either drag you under, or carry you swiftly to your destination.  So what can you do to ensure a safe arrival at your destination?  The following checklist will help you get ready for your journey.

A strong ship

You will need a ship that can sail in all weathers, and has a reliable track record for sailing long distances.

Subex has a pedigree of providing enterprise strength software to the telecoms industry for over 20 years. Subex ROC can crunch billions of call records daily

A clear destination

Without an agreed destination your business will drift aimlessly and will eventually run aground.  By setting clear objectives everyone can work together to ensure the ship stays the course.

Subex consultants can help to plan for your voyage and set a course for you planned destination. Subex Analytics help to keep a business on course by using historic data to predict which direction a business is heading.

A good map

Your map is your business strategy, but this shouldn’t be set in stone.  A business strategy must adapt to the changing conditions and business leaders must remain vigilant to make course corrections when necessary.

Subex ROC provides has a modularised framework that can be quickly adapted to handle new challenges or changes in course.  The course to follow can be mapped out in KPIs that provide constant visual feedback to inform you if your business goes off course.

A navigator who knows the way

Pick the right currents your ship will be carried quickly to your destination, but getting caught by the wrong ones can set you miles off course.  A business embarking on a journey into the unknown needs an experienced navigator to guide the way.

Subex consultants have the experience to guide a corporation across open water or narrow straits of competition, regulatory requirements and market demands.

As soon as sailors began to navigate beyond the sight of land then they realised they needed more than just the stars to find their way. Compasses, Nautical maps, sextants and marine chronometers all advanced the quality of analytics available to navigators, but until radar, LORAN and GPS arrived in the late 20th century sailors still relied largely upon dead reckoning and gut instinct to find the way, and their journeys would often end tragically.  Now Subex analytics can provide the same kind of objective view of where a business is heading that GPS provides for sailors.  Subex analytics can see through the fog and turbulent waves of data that flood into an organisation and threaten to knock you off course.  Using advanced time series forecasting, correlation, what if modelling, and pin sharp visualisations Subex ROC can navigate through a sea of data and help to steer your business safely to its planned destination.

Mark Jenkins
Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Big Data and the Zettabyte

The industry buzzwords and focus around Big Data Management are starting to wane in the media, but should it?

Consider this: In 2015, the internet is expected to carry over a Zettabyte of data for the first time ever. Even more interesting…and alarming…is that by 2020, forecasts are calling for upwards of 35 Zettabytes, per year (!), to be carried. If Big Data were a round of golf, and we as an industry thought we were somewhere around the 2nd or 3rd hole, in reality, we haven’t even purchased our clubs yet.

For those of you not familiar with a Zettabyte, here is the breakdown:
1000 Terabytes = Petabyte
1000 Petabytes = Exabyte
1000 Exabytes = Zettabyte

Mobile video data alone has increased over 3500% since 2010; statistics abound for data growth – and they all point to explosive growth continuing. With the advent of 4G, raising data speeds and volumes by an order of magnitude, we now see 5G appearing by 2017 in some markets – again raising the volumes and speeds by yet another order of magnitude. Everything in our lives is being connected. Cars, appliances, our bodies (and embedded equipment to run them, e.g., pacemakers), every shop and street corner (video), and even the air, the water currents, and the space surrounding our immediate planet, are all feeding data in increasing volumes and depths into our collective networks. What does this mean?

It means, quite simply, that we haven’t even begun to understand what Big Data is and how it will impact us. It also means that the communications industry, and the backbone it supports, has a long way to go (as the default host for much of this data) to be prepared.

John Brooks
Vice President – Product Management - John Brooks serves as the Vice President of Product Management in Subex. He has over 26 years of experience in Telecommunications, spanning Fixed, Mobile, Data, and Video technologies. Within the industry Mr. Brooks was a board member for the GBA, founded the TM Forum Fraud team (authoring the first International Fraud Operations and Fraud Classifications guides), and now leads the TM Forum Network Asset Management team, focusing on transformative best practices for SDN/NFV operations. Over the years Mr. Brooks has served as an Advisory Board member for a prominent technical university, and has spoken at over 50 industry events and authored numerous papers on topics spanning IoT, Digital Disruption, Big Data, and Enterprise Risk Management. With Subex (formerly Connexn/Azure) since 1999, he has directed over 40 successful Cost, Revenue, and Business Optimization engagements at over 24 top-tier carriers globally, including AT&T, America Movil, BT, Vodafone, and Verizon.

Press & Analyst Contact

Sandeep Banga
E-mail : sandeep.banga@subex.com