It’s in the DNA

Last year the 100th anniversary of a profound scientific achievement which shaped the modern world went by completely unnoticed by the general public. It was 100 years ago that the physicists William and Lawrence Bragg shot x-rays through various crystallized substances and were able to decipher the resulting diffraction patterns to reveal their hidden atomic structure. For that discovery they won the Nobel Prize and the science of X-Ray crystallography was born, a technique which now underpins almost all modern science, from medicine through to astronomy. Crystallography has been used to reveal the chemical composition of penicillin, insulin, Vitamin B12 and, more recently, the Mars rover Curiosity is utilizing the CheMin instrument for detecting the chemical composition of the Martian soil. Perhaps one of crystallography’s greatest triumphs started with Photo 51, the nickname given to the image Rosalind Franklin took of the DNA molecule back in 1952, and which was subsequently used by Watson and Crick to unravel the double helix structure of DNA. DNA is often described as the blueprint of life, since it contains all the instructions by which living creatures are built.

The discoveries of pioneers like Bragg, Franklin, Watson and Crick are inspiration for those who are fascinated by finding the data patterns that reveal what’s hidden beneath. Like the X-rays of crystallography the Subex ROC RA product can see through the B/OSS by automatically analysing inputs and outputs to reveal, report and even auto-correct the hidden misalignments and other issues within. Issues which can lose a company millions overnight.

Now ROC RA has also taken Revenue Assurance a quantum leap forward by introducing DNA. DNA provides the building blocks to automatically audit data streams from throughout an organisation and reduces the configuration effort drastically. The predefined blocks of DNA code can be used to rapidly build up the system topology and reconcile the data and interfaces thorough simple point and click selection of modules. Any adjustments or enhancements to the audit processes can be quickly made through a highly intuitive graphical interface. DNA templates cover Prepaid, Post Paid, Interconnect, Roaming, Content and many others traffic types from almost 100% of known switches, mediation and billing systems.

Coupled with DNA are powerful new visualization and analytics capabilities that let you forecast how KPI will change over time, correlate KPI, apply what if modelling and alert you long before issues get critical. ROC RA lets you incorporate those KPI and alerts into a built-in model of your business so that the right information is channeled to the right person at the right time. You decide what level of detail you want and how and where you want to see it, be it by email, mobile dashboard, SMS or desktop dashboard.

DNA now makes ROC RA even easier to use than ever and will make the picture of what’s really happening in your business crystal clear.

Getting Closer to a Reliable FAR

OK finance teams, time to come out of the shadows.  At most operators with whom I have worked, the focus of enterprise data quality efforts has been on optimizing network operations.  Misalignment between the network and data in systems that support planning, provisioning, activation and service assurance adds friction and cost to essential telco processes.  No new insight here.

Lately I’ve been spending more time with the finance guys.   Despite stereotypes to the contrary, they’re not just number crunchers.  They care about what’s in the network- where it is, how old it is, the condition it’s in, where it’s been, where it’s going and what happens at end of life.  Complicating their lives, the financial database of record for network assets, the Fixed Asset Register (FAR), typically suffers from the same data issues confounding the Ops teams—if not worse.

Sounds bad, but Finance doesn’t have to worry about delivering or supporting new services.  So what’s the harm?   Based on the earful I’ve received from finance organizations, including a Tier 1 CFO—plenty.  This diagram provides a sampling of corporate functions dependent upon accurate asset records in the FAR:

Mission Critical Role of the FAR

Role of the FAR

Among the potential costs of inaccurate fixed asset records are:

  • Improper calculation of depreciation
  • Failure to identify impaired assets and candidates for accelerated write-downs
  • Overpayment of property taxes
  • Overpayment of insurance premiums
  • Restatement of past financial results
  • Risk of regulatory penalties
  • Exposure to fraud, theft and asset mismanagement cases

Such issues get corporate board-level attention.  I am aware of several recent cases of poor FAR audit results prompting an operator to launch a FAR cleanup effort or even a full asset management program.

To their credit, financial reporting analysts I have spoken with are not blind to their data woes—just typically dependent upon compromises and work-arounds.  They often manage as best they can by mining numerous B/OSS’s to cobble together a view of assets across all network layers and asset classes.  Gaps and inaccuracies in this view abound.

Among the most common methods finance organizations employ to address the situation are manual audits performed on sample sites once or twice a year.   This mostly provides insights on how far off the FAR is from reality.  Generally, such spot audits are too limited and expensive to support systemic and continuous correction of the errant data.

So how do we achieve a reliable FAR (before the Board takes it up as a crusade)?

It starts with determining the impact of inaccurate asset records on financial reporting and planning, corporate governance, taxation and regulatory compliance.  Is the exposure minimal and bounded, or are the risks unacceptable?  Assuming the latter, a FAR get-well plan should include:

  • Data acquisition methods for both active and passive network assets that use the network itself as a source versus other systems
  • Comparison of this data to the FAR and reconciliation of errors
  • A permanent mechanism to keep the FAR aligned with the changing network so the data stays clean
  • Commensurate process enhancements and guardrails to reinforce automated approaches—which can never guarantee 100% accuracy on their own

When tightly aligned with the network, the FAR becomes more than a reporting tool, it can become a strategic enabler for Capex optimization.

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Sandeep Banga
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