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Centralized operations: Strategies for today & tomorrow

2015.05.01 By Richard Wong & Shan Yifan

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Operations centralization is core to the transformational journey to digital convergence. Centralization is essential if CSPs are to optimize the management of business and network operations, reduce cost, improve TTM, improve quality assurance and customer experience, and future-proof their operations. SDN/NFV will play a particularly important role, although a phased approach is recommended, making use of a close strategic partner to help guide and implement the process.

Optimized management of business & network operations

Centralization provides a real opportunity to meet all of an operator’s transformation objectives. In fact, according to a global survey conducted by Ovum in May and June 2014 (Figure 1), 53% of operators have already implemented or are implementing a centralized operations strategy of some kind and a further 23% are considering it.

 The most common objectives driving transformation are cost optimization, faster time to market (TTM), quality assurance, effective control, better customer experience, and readiness for the future. In terms of centralization, the following elements can help CSPs realize these objectives.

Consolidation

Consolidation of network and IT/OSS platforms offers considerable and immediate operational savings. In a consolidated platform environment, it is easier to automate progressively to reduce service delivery costs. Offshoring labor and functions to a centralized and consolidated platform location is generally more cost-efficient than repetitive local provision, and enables synergy across functions and resources while benefiting from economies of scale. Where CSPs own multiple operating companies (OpCos), consolidation and centralized resources enable visibility across all OpCo operations and implementation of consistent, standardized performance and reporting across the entire group. It is then possible to streamline benchmarking and present achievable targets for the dynamic and continuous improvement of the entire group.

Expert resource pooling for network & IT

As the merger of telecom and IT networks continues, the need for available expert resources with experience in both domains becomes ever more critical. Creating a pool of these resources in a central location that works to standards specific to telco and IT operations such as ITIL and eTOM will enable faster times to market for new applications and services than was previously possible.

Best practices and continuous improvement

Centralized operations centers compliant with TL9000 Quality Management System (QMS) standards provide a managed environment where skills may be continually developed and shared. This is achieved through sharing of best practices to assure the best possible operational performance, and ensure a flexible resource pool and minimization of transformation risk.

In centralized operations centers, the exchange of technical expertise and knowledge is encouraged. Subject matter experts (SMEs), engineers and technicians work closely together, utilizing the best available tools, processes and best practices. Service performance across a number of regions or operating countries may be monitored and measured by specialized teams. To ensure delivery of dynamic, continuous improvement across OpCos, this team applies internal and external benchmarking to establish baseline and desired key performance metrics which can provide early warning of KPI or SQI deviation, while performing offline root cause analysis to prevent future performance degradation.

Operations improvement and business insights

Centralized operations and systems make it possible to provide a consolidated and consistent view of the customer experience, with a wide variety of service customer behavioral data and operations metrics gathered. This allows near-real-time analysis within a central, dedicated location, enabling both reactive and proactive resolution of customer experience issues and network & service performance degradation.

Readiness for SDN/NFV operations

CSPs are investigating how to transform their networks into leaner, flexible, cost-effective platforms. This requires the adoption of SDN, NFV and associated IT concepts. Both networks and data centers will become increasingly unified around a single network, starting initially with the core. While still in its early days, numerous NFV proofs of concept are already in progress, and momentum is growing.

In future cloud-based operations and virtualization, network & data security and business continuity management will be mission-critical issues. Having these functions delivered in a controlled standards-compliant environment such as a GOC will be essential to delivery of secure and robust network operations.

However, evolution to software-centric network architecture will not be an easy transformation, but strong vendor and MSP partnerships can bring expertise and competencies to the table that help to transform operations. CSPs likely need to tap into MSP expertise with the assistance of professional services, including outsourcing of specific tasks, consulting around NFV architecture issues, network design and systems integration of SDN, NFV and OSS elements and their interworking.

CSPs will require partners who can help implement changes that transform traditional OSS and BSS, make effective use of big data analytics and CEM, and break down functional silos through support of open digital operations and ecosystem management. These changes will require service platform and competence improvements, and assistance with operations centralization and standardization. Therefore, a phased approach to transformation and centralization is recommended, one that makes use of a close strategic partner to help guide and implement the process.

Paths to transformation

Step-by-step approach to minimize risk

To minimize the risks of ambitious transformations, a proven three-phase methodology is recommended, with each phase a series of systematic steps that map the journey for successful migration from a distributed to a centralized operating model (Figure 2).

Phase 1:This is the preparation phase, involving establishment of business objectives for centralization. Preparation involves “as-is” capture; “to-be” objective definition; and gap analysis resulting in a detailed scope of work, agreed phasing, and technology roadmaps with detailed risk analysis and mitigation planning.

Phase 2:This involves high-level solution design and collaborative agreement with the customer on the solution scope and implementation of the agreed plan. During this phase the transition of personnel, tools and processes takes place to the new centralized operation center. A period of stabilization is then implemented during which adjustments and process optimization will occur.

Phase 3:This is the completion of the transformation to steady-state operations, post-stabilization. During this phase, evaluation will take place of the established centralized people, tools and processes against the objectives agreed upon in Phase 1 and necessary corrections made. This phase also involves benchmarking of the centralized performance and establishment of baseline metrics. A continuous improvement process will be implemented from this point onwards.

Centralization into Global Operations Centers (GOC)

An effective centralized operation approach will address system, process and organizational alignment, with operational governance and ongoing improvement strategies incrementally supported by high-quality, flexible, secure platforms, within a customer-centric service culture, culminating in a Global Operations Center.

GOC: Resources, future-readiness, global expertise

Personal and organizational excellence is the stable foundation for a GOC. As the core assets of the GOC, best-in-class resources are gathered together employing global best practices compliant with internationally-recognized standards, ensuring the best possible operational outcomes. Continuous recruitment and development training programs based on experience and knowledge-sharing ensure competence, readiness, and resource availability.

GOC enables OSS as a service

One of the key objectives of centralization is consolidation and rationalization of operational support services (OSS). In the GOC model, this can be taken a stage further with centralized OSS services offered to multiple operations from a single location by provision of a centralized data collection platform and consolidated automated OSS systems that enable customer support; B2B, network and service operations; front and back office functions; and field maintenance. This GOC approach to OSS is of course suitable for multiple vendors, technologies and languages, and allows for the management of multiple SLAs across different operators.

Multi-dimensional capabilities

A systematic program management capability can be imposed centrally to assure consistent service delivery in terms of multi-country transformations, performance management initiatives, etc., and move the organization towards a more service- and experience-focused culture. Some global operators have partially implemented this concept with establishment of centralized but non-OSS-integrated service assurance functions serving many countries. An example of how GOC centralized functions may be extended is illustrated in Figure 3.

Conclusions

CSPs have wrestled for some time with the conflicting challenges of how to introduce new network technologies and services, remove barriers between network services and infrastructure, reduce CAPEX and OPEX, and achieve network elasticity and scalability to meet demand, without service degradation and with significantly improved customer experience.

Centralization is the key for CSP transformation to digital service provision, and preparation for future technology introduction. Choosing the right partner for centralization transformation is crucial. A partner with a track record of delivery excellence in centralization projects is recommended, with a culture of best practice sharing and demonstrated expertise.

As a leading managed services provider, Huawei has achieved global best practice recognition in the delivery of cost-effective, transparent and secure operations for multi-network, multi-vendor and multi-technology centralization projects around the world, for a diverse range of operators. Our GOCs in Romania and India provide good examples, with both working seamlessly with multiple networks, technologies, vendors, and languages, while delivering platform consolidation, technical support, dedication security operations, and other competencies.


Figure 1: Ovum survey: Centralized Operations Strategy


Figure 2 Phased systematic approach to centralization


Figure 3: Functional areas of GOC centralized operations

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