Tags Posts tagged with "Asset Assurance"

Asset Assurance

0 111

Telecom operators generally procure IT software in silos. This procurement process gets entrenched into weeks of discussions to arrive at the technical solution required as it needs to go through multiple steps like:

  • Agree upon professional services costs
  • Internal approvals from chain of commands
  • Hardware procurement, solution UAT
  • Finally end up structuring the internal teams to handle projects – commercials, execution, support et al – all coming out of one solution offered by a vendor.

This is how traditional businesses has been running in OSS/BSS space for a while. It gave a lot of opportunities to vendors to flourish and establish themselves. Unfortunately, it has also led to zoning of Telcos’ own data in proprietary systems which can’t communicate or freely share data among the systems to generate deeper insights or to leverage for specific business purposes.

On one hand, Telcos started to look for solutions or platforms to unify the data structures across the silos, derive customer centric insights – operational or strategic –  in order to generate much needed growth, customer retention and operational costs control. On other hand, Telcos are grappling with issues in solving specific business problems with vendor provided solutions which may or may not bear expected result at the end but consumes very bit of time, energy & money.

Many modern enterprises want to quickly evaluate and leverage low cost solutions to solve specific problems, transfer the accountability for the solution and at the same time partner with established vendors to bring value on the table. More importantly, enterprises are looking for low cost evaluation of the solutions and disown them gracefully if things don’t work eventually.

In this software driven world, agility in businesses are getting stressed upon in every business cycle. In the same sense, Telcos need to embrace this change and tryout innovative solutions offered that can bring value propositions, assimilate the value in day-to-day operations with appropriate checks and balances and reap benefits without worrying much on big upfront costs, vendor lock-in, in-house support processes and so on.

There’s way to do this. Many progressive enterprises across industries have already started doing it.

Embrace Cloud based solutions.

Imagine a vendor coming up with structured offering in a specific vertical – Telecom Fraud Management – on a secured cloud platform. Telcos who already have FM systems in place could evaluate new solution offered by the vendor based on new Industry trend without getting into long trenched contracts, evaluate the value quickly and either assimilate the new offering or disown it, with minimal pay-as-you-go monthly costs. For specific solutions like for instance Bypass fraud, Telcos can establish the business value proposition with agility using cloud offering.

Many innovative solutions are coming up in the market for which many Telcos are not sure how to bucket them in the traditional tool book. Such solutions not only promise significant operational cost savings but also influence in CAPEX savings, revenue generation and whole lot of other business drivers. Telecom operators need to be more agile in trying out these solutions, establish the business case with low TCO, lower overheads using cloud offerings and reap benefits on a continuous basis.

 

Now that’s something that we’ve all heard at our workplace at some point..and believe it or not, its not entirely incorrect.

Traditionally most organizations have been created with a vertical structure having clear demarcation of responsibilities and identified handoff points for communication and information interchange between verticals. This was thought to be the most optimum way of assigning limited resources within the organization while allowing for specialization within verticals. Think of this organization as an architectural structure with three key layers:

icon-02

  • Apex of the structure represented by executive management and strategy layer of the organization
  • Pillars represented by different verticals within the organization
  • Strong base represented by organizational infrastructure which acts as a common foundation

While efforts are made by every organization to eliminate ‘silos’ in functioning, the inherent nature of this structure results in unidentified hand-offs, ineffective information sharing during hand-offs and compartmentalized view of processes leading to challenges in measuring, improving and most importantly identifying ownership of cross-functional processes. In many instances, different verticals end up shifting accountability of such cross-functional processes at the expense of progression. The pace at which technology, markets and customer demands are changing in present times demand a level of agility within the organizations to respond and keep pace with the market and competition. This places an enormous stress on the organizational structure, particularly on the handoffs between verticals.

Managing millions of dollars’ worth of Network Capex within a Telco is a cross-functional process which experiences similar issues of ownership, handoffs between verticals and lack of a common, centralized view leading to ineffectual Capex tracking much less calculating effectiveness of these Capex investments or return on investments. Typically, Finance is the identified owner of Capex investments in a Telco but most Finance teams struggle with deployment of Capex in the network and more importantly tracking and calculating the return on network Capex investments as they are heavily reliant on Operations team for this information.

Solving this Network Capex conundrum calls for a two-pronged approach, creating a cross-functional Network Capex Assurance team and enabling a supporting technological component to create a Network Capex Control framework. Lets have a closer look,

Network Capex Assurance Team

A cross-functional team which acts as the owner of Network Capex investments within the Telco – typically lead by the CFO or CTO. This team delivers critical insights and drives actions to enhance capital management practices in all phases of the business and comprises of representation from Finance, Planning, Procurement & SCM, Deployment, Operations and IT. The key responsibilities of this team would comprise of,

  • Custodians of Capex management processes
  • Capex planning and validation
  • Ensure data integrity across supporting systems
  • Capex tracking and analysis
  • Standardization & Reporting

Network Capex Control Framework

network capex frameworkAn enabling technological component which supports the Capex Assurance team in delivering their responsibilities by providing a centralized end-to-end view enabled by Network intelligence. Key insights from the framework would cover,

  • Centralized view
  • Standardized processes
  • Utilization and effectiveness
  • Capex & Opex optimization
  • Insights & Analytics

Enabling strong capital management practices is much more than operational or process changes in the organization; it is a fundamental change in the outlook of an organization. Embracing this change will enable agility, data integrity and measures for optimization, better equipping Telcos to respond to the rate of change in the industry..and that should be everyone’s responsibility!

[CP_POLLS id=”1″]

1 317

Natural human tendency is to focus more on things that affects our present rather than the future. Coming to things that affect us for which there is a lack of awareness about the “extent” of issue caused, there would be little or no attention from us to resolve them.

Let us look at the priority with which investment decisions are made by telecom service provider on the software systems that they wish to have. Before a service provider can go live with a product offer for their end customers, they need to have the network in place to support the product. The priority for the software systems they should have to support their products are:

  • The first and most important is the billing software. They do not want go wrong in the billing as it would directly affect their revenues.
  • Second is the assurance software to make sure the network and the services are up and running.
  • The fulfillment software to automate as much as possible the order to activation process
  • A software which will help in strategic decision making like a planning software.

Above are the verticals, now let us look at the horizontals which are the domain.

  • The first and most important aspect that is recorded well is that of the end customer. The entire lifecycle of a customer, right from acquisition to end of service to the customer in most operator environments is maintained well.
  • The second would be product life cycle management. This is important to know what needs to be billed based on the product that the customer is using.
  • The next important aspect is the maintenance of service life cycle.
  • By the time Telecom service provider gets all of the above going and fully operational, it is already a mammoth task for them and they tend to lose focus on Resource lifecycle management.

A recent survey that was conducted by TMForum led by Subex revealed the following findings:

  • 1 in 3 operators do not measure returns on CAPEX investment
  • 77% of the respondents believed that inadequate asset utilization leads to increase in costs
  • 55% of the respondents believed that network planning is based on guesses
  • 64% believed that capex planning is driven by technology and not business objectives

From the above findings it is clear that getting the right business process and tools around resource life cycle management is extremely critical for the long term health and efficient operations of a telecom service provider.

In this blog, I would like to discuss about the exciting new world of SDN, NFV and cloud technologies and the relevance of resource lifecycle management in this new world. While a part of the telecom operator community is very aggressively embracing the concepts of SDN and NFV already into their network, there are others who are waiting and watching to see how things progress. I strongly believe, for the telecom industry to break the shackles of “reducing margins” and “increase in the need of CAPEX/OPEX investments” that it is currently facing, the key answers can be provided by SDN, NFV and cloud technologies.

It is obvious that maximum energy is spent by telecom service providers, vendor community and standards bodies like ONF, ETSI, IETF, OPNFV etc. on how the network will work in this new world. Also, what I observed is that a bulk of the energy is being spent on defining standards around next gen BSS and OSS by TMForum, ETSI and ONF are in the following areas:

  1. Orchestrator
  2. VNF Manager
  3. VI (Virtualized Infrastructure) Manager
  4. SDN controllers
  5. Network and Application adapters
  6. Protocols used for communication with the devices and applications
  7. Policy engine
  8. APIs etc.

As we go about defining the standards, let us look at covering the life cycles of all the domains starting from Customer life cycle, product life cycle, service life cycle all the way to resource life cycle. In this new world, resources can be physical compute, storage and network resources or virtual resources like software licenses. Let us not restrict ourselves in defining standards only on the operational aspects of resource life cycle management (OSS inventory) which was done in the eTOM model of TM Forum. Some work is being done by one group under the ZOOM initiate of TM Forum to define standards on onboarding of the software resource. This is definitely good, but we need to cover all aspects of the life cycle right from onboarding till end of life.

So what if we do not do it, the systems will work, be operational and deliver services to the end customer. But we will probably end up being in the same state that we are in today, i.e. not being able to monitor how the CAPEX decisions of the past have fared, optimize on the investments already made, learn and improve in order to make better CAPEX decisions going forward.

I would like to leave you with the following thought before I end my blog. If we ask any telecom service provider on the number of database or web server licenses they currently have deployed in their data centers, they may or may not have an answer. But if we go to the extent of asking how many of these licenses are in use and in how many cases we have a compliance issue, I am pretty certain that almost all of them will not have a precise answer to the question. Going forward, if all the network functions are going to be software running on COTs hardware, the need to have answers to the above questions will be even more important.

Join the webinar on ” Telecom Asset Management in SDN & NFV world” to discuss more.

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.

It’s 7AM and I can’t put off getting up any longer, so I look out the window and see there’s a light frost on the grass, which the weather channel warned me about 3 days ago.   An hour later I’m at the train station waiting for the 7:42 which is delayed because the frost has caused the points to seize up in a town 50 miles away, so now the entire South East rail system is completely snarled up. They predicted the weather and probably knew there would be a point’s failure, but still the network crashed. So I need to phone work to let them know I’m going to be late, but I can’t connect. Thousands of other commuters around me are also trying to phone ahead, but the network can’t handle it. It seems to happen every day.

We are surrounded by events which are beyond our control, but often they happen in predictable ways. The points failure was perhaps less predictable than my alarm, but we always knew that when the temperature dropped there would be some kind of failure somewhere that would lead to cancellations and a breakdown of the network. We always knew that rush hour would become an agonising crawl into town on overcrowded trains. The congestion could probably have been avoided if they could have predicted which parts of the network were under the most stress and the impact on the network in the event of failure or congestion at those stress points. Additional resources could then be provided at those points, or alternative routes planned to bypass the congestion and limit the ripple out effect, like a fire break.  The problem is only likely to get worse, and the network more unreliable, as the population increases and more people than ever rely on the rail network to get to work.

With the arrival of LTE and rapidly increasing popularity of Video on Demand then telecoms networks are also facing increasing levels of congestion and instability. Global data traffic is predicted to increase by 10 to 20 times by 2019 (Cisco).   In order to meet regulatory obligations and maintain customer experience Capex is set to spiral upwards. MNOs, who are already facing a year on year decrease in ARPU, will struggle to keep pace with demand and the risk of congestion will be ever present.

As with rail networks MNOs need a longer term strategy in place to understand where and when future choke points in the network will occur so that the risk of congestion can be eliminated for the least cost. Subex Capacity Management provides the capability to predict these points of congestion by monitoring and correlating metrics from across the network to provide detailed forecasts of network utilisation. Additional factors can be brought into the forecasts, such as the impact of major events or the rolling out of M2M services and different scenarios played out to understand how the network will respond. By automating the forecasting process network managers can be alerted long before issues become critical and congestion begins to occur. They can evaluate different options for either re-homing traffic or augmenting the network for the least possible cost. Stranded or un-utilised assets can even be recovered and re-located to satisfy demand for very little cost.

CFOs need to find ways to keep increasing revenue while controlling costs, and CTOs need to keep network delivering ever greater speeds as volumes of traffic increase exponentially.  Both need to look into the future to avoid a future of network instability, falling quality, crippling network costs and lost revenue.

0 216

I just read through an interesting, somewhat validating article from Alex Leslie of Billing Views, talking about operator revenues and margins.  In a nutshell, revenue and ARPU are down across virtually every major operator in Europe, according to their own annual reports, and almost all were down by double digits!

I can’t help but believe that this is true in other regions as well, and the problem continues to be growing year on year.  Are we surprised?  When I moved my family to a new mobile operator, leaving another after 9 years, we leapt into the 4G world with all new handsets, 10x the speed, 10x the data, unlimited everything else, and our price went down.  Only 6 months later they lowered my plan price yet again, as part of a national retention promotion.  So why should dropping revenues and shrinking margins surprise anyone?

The fact is they don’t surprise anyone, but they do worry CFOs and Boards, as shrinking (and in some blog-bottleneck-graphcases, negative) margins are the final result of the trend.

The trend has to stop at some point…through mergers, spectrum purchases, policy controls, or even government intervention…it has to stop.  But how far will it go beforehand, and how does an operator stay strong in the face of an industry trend that seems (for the moment) unstoppable?

The answer may be more straight-forward then you think:  Focus on Capex maximization.  Period.  However this doesn’t mean slash budgets – although that is the current tactic in play across the industry.  What it does mean, however, is sweat the maximum efficiency out of your purchases that you can.  Why can programs like Subex Asset Assurance find tens, and now hundreds of millions of dollars in asset recapture opportunities across an operator’s business?  While there are many answers to that question, the fact remains that we are finding massive sums of Capex that operators can recycle right back to the top line.

Therefore the formula remains, quite possibly, this simple:  Maximizing Capex allows operators to build and transform their networks more completely, quickly, and efficiently, which puts them in a market strength position.  Think of it as having a longer snorkel than your competitors as financial crisis waters are rising…

0 113

As one of the largest capital line items in every telecom operator’s budget, Network Capex continues to drive large numbers every year since network augments and migrations to newer technologies are unavoidable budget items. Today operators are spending huge sums of money on new network infrastructure for advanced telecom services like LTE / 4G, IPX, etc. without adequate visibility on revenue growth. A recent survey points out 20% of the assets fail to return cost of capital and 5-15% of these network assets are ‘stranded’.

Hence, effective capital expenditure and network asset lifecycle management are rapidly becoming a big boardroom issue for telecoms operators. This is only possible when all functions work together to maximize the returns from their investments. Both the CFO’s and the CTO’s teams in a telecoms operator should have a holistic and collaborative view on the network asset investment.

The urgent need is to have a strategic approach to asset assurance program which manages and reduces network capex substantially. ROC Asset Assurance is different from ERP services because of its workflow and analytics elements. It can initiate workflow to ensure that all the applicable assets are procured and deployed when needed. ROC Asset Assurance helps the CFO & CTO function within the operator company to tackle the following pain-points:

  • Planning of capital spend vs budget
  • Tracking deployed assets and ROI on those assets
  • What to buy, when to buy, where to buy, and for what reason?
  • Information related to assets
  • Ensuring usage of all available assets at the utmost efficiency
  • Network resource capacity and the need to respond

To learn how an effective asset assurance program will provide complete confidence to operators that their network will grow to meet market demands while also guaranteeing optimal value for every dollar of capital budget spent, download our newsletter: Asset Assurance –  Preserving Capex While Improving Network Efficiency featuring research from leading Analyst firm Gartner.

0 53

Subex User Conference
23rd and 24th Crowne Plaza, Blanchardstown, Dublin

It is that time of year again when we look forward to our annual User Conference. It has rapidly become one of the most sought after events in the BSS calendar. Not just for the range of speakers but also for the focus on our roadmap and plans. And, of course, for a little relaxation.

Last year we were in Vienna, a truly beautiful city. The sessions were excellent, with keynote speaker Daniel Rui Felicio, CEO, Siemens Communications, Media and Technology kicking off the proceedings. Alex Leslie, Publisher of industry blog BillingViews followed him with his ‘More Interesting Things’ in which he explored some of the more interesting trends and statistics in our industry, such as DNA that you can email and paper that is interactive. Speakers included Paul Fedarb from BT, Dan Baker from TRI in North America and our own John Brooks, who has just been named as the project leader for the TM Forum’s Asset Assurance program. To relax we were treated to a guided tour of some of the most famous buildings in Europe, followed by a traditional dinner under the city walls.

This year we turn to Dublin, a great city. Not only will be exploring the city (and a Guinness or two) we have a great line up of speakers and topics. Our keynote speaker is Dr. Peter Cochrane, former CTO at BT and acknowledged industry visionary. We have also asked Alex Leslie back, for some ‘Even More Interesting Things’ and have added a couple of extra industry experts in the shape of Tony Poulos, Market Strategist with the TM Forum and Eric Priezkalns, Editor of revenue assurance blog, TalkRA.

With such a line up, we can look forward to some lively debate between these often controversial figures, some excellent insights into where our industry is going and an in-depth look at what we have been busy with in the last year.

And, as you have possibly heard, we have been very busy.

We have, for instance, launched our Asset Assurance platform, which has been getting some attention in the media, “Take the Stranded Assets Tests! How to Maximize Time to Revenue?”. With financial control and agility being the critical requirements for CTOs and CFOs our solution gives them the tools they need (and their priorities tend to be different) to better manage their OSS assets, reducing time to revenue and allowing them to make better decisions about when to retire others.

We have not been neglecting our other core strengths, and our ROC platform is stronger than ever. It needs to be to help our customers fight ever greater threats from fraud, whether it be at the Point of Sale or on the Wholesale front. Both are threats that stretch into the billions of dollars and need a partner that can remain up to date and as agile as ever to combat these threats.

Our outlook is robust too. With some significant changes since we saw you in Vienna, our revenues are up, our customers and partners are happy and we have been winning some industry awards, such as the Pipeline Innovation Award for our Asset Assurance solution.

All in all, it is has been an interesting, exciting and challenging year. We are all looking forward to seeing you in Dublin to bring you up to date, share some stories and a glass or two of wine – or Guinness – and to provide some insights which will help your teams stay ahead of the game. Our team is working hard behind the scenes to make sure it goes ahead smoothly and provides great value and benefit. We look forward to seeing you there.

If you have not registered please click here. Or if you need more information, then please contact us.

0 191

Effective capital expenditure and network asset management is rapidly becoming a big boardroom issue for telecoms operators in recent times. With decreasing EBIDTA and ever increasing pressure on margins, operators can no longer afford to keep on spending heavily on capital assets and network projects with no questions asked. Yet telcos are not managing their assets adeptly, and this is something that senior management needs to address with some urgency in order to control their capital expenditure more effectively and efficiently.

At the crux of the problem is the unfortunate reality that operators don’t have an accurate picture of what assets and network inventory they already own, let alone how these assets are being used. These problems have prompted Subex to launch ROC Asset Assurance, a service that combines inventory management with workflow and analytics so that operators can gain visibility into the complete asset lifecycle through dashboards, KPIs and reports. The solution is different from asset management services because of its workflow and analytics elements. It can initiate workflow to ensure that all the applicable assets are procured and deployed when needed. All of which means that operators should be able to and reduce their capital expenditure and manage the capacity needs of their networks with greater precision

Here is an interesting and exciting short video on ROC Asset Assurance which provides you better understanding of the Asset Assurance space, the problems and challenges faced by global operators and how ROC Asset Assurance can help them manage and reduce network capex.

0 45

As one of the largest capital line items in every operator’s budget, Network Capital Expense continues to drive large numbers every year.  Re-purposing fixed line and backhaul assets, moving to complete IP backbones, migrations to newer technologies (e.g., LTE), and demanding more throughput from the same asset footprint have all contributed to consistent pressure on capital, regardless of previous years’ growths and efforts.

Each year, network capital planning and budgeting have repeatedly been baselined on factors that include:

  1. Growth planning and projections
  2. Network maintenance and replacements
  3. Decommissioning and retirement
  4. Previous year expenditures

Each of these factors contributes valuable intelligence that help planning activities determine and set budget levels, but critical gaps are also created in the process that strand capital indefinitely.  Gaining visibility into the available capital assets, and acting on that knowledge are the primary keys to actually preserving capital, creating peak utilization efficiency, and generating the highest level of free cash flow in the business.  But what aren’t operators doing today?

The ability to understand what capital is stranded in your network is based on visibility.  ERP systems consistently lack views into deployed assets; similarly, inventory platforms have a good (yet almost always incomplete) view into what is deployed.  What isn’t known are factors around capacity and utilization rates, lost or vacant assets, or status of all “tagged” assets.  This, coupled with a clearly orchestrated and managed retirement and resale process, positions the operator to not only “connect” data from ERP and Network sources, but to also act on that data in a way that is poised to saved the average operator tens of millions of dollars in capital expense and increase free cash, all in the first year of such a program.

Without the ability to act, no realization of optimization and savings should be expected from any program – this is the difference between mere reporting visibility, and a program to drive the data through a lifecycle that culminates in tremendous operators gains.  This is a unique set of capabilities for any operator, and it forms a program Subex calls ROC Asset Assurance.

Follow Us