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Processes in telecoms

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This is a Guest Post and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of Techzim. We have a strong filtering process of what makes it to our blog and are confident that you’ll enjoy the article below.

This guest post was authored by Maketo Munyaradzi, a Business Analyst with telecoms consultancy firm Rubiem Technologies. He has vast experience working in the SADC region at operators like NetOne Zimbabwe, Africom Zimbabwe, mcel Mozambique, MTL Malawi and Telecom Namibia. In this series of articles, Munyaradzi discusses Fraud and Revenue Assurance in Telecoms.

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The most widely used framework in telecoms

In the previous article we focused on the six prominent areas of Fraud and revenue Assurance in telecoms. You will agree with me that these are just areas which will start making sense if we combine people, technology and processes onto them. The lifeblood and heart of any organization are the processes (how an organization differentiates itself). In this article we will discuss processes in depth.

A process is a collection of interrelated work tasks initiated in response to an event that achieves a specific result for the customer of the process. Adding more specific detail to that general definition, a process should achieve a specific result, i.e. must deliver a specific result, that must be individually identifiable and discrete; a good process name clearly indicates the result or end state of the process.

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In telecommunication industry there are many frameworks which govern how processes flow. To mention the widely used, there is TMForum and APQC Process Classification Framework (PCF) – Cross Industry framework which covers nearly all industries such as Broadcasting, Banking, Shipping, Manufacturing and the like. The most widely used framework in telecoms is the TMForum Frameworx. It has three layers namely the Business Process framework (e-TOM), Information framework (SID layer) and the Application framework and all combined by the Integration framework i.e. enterprise service bus.

E-Tom model extracted from TMForum

The e-tom framework (shown above) shows seven end to end vertical process groupings, which are the end to end processes that are required to support customers and to manage the business. Amongst these end to end vertical process groupings, the focal point of the e-TOM framework is on the core customer operations processes of fulfillment, assurance and billing (FAB). Operations support & readiness (OSR) is differentiated from FAB real-time processes to highlight the focus on enabling support and automation in FAB i.e. on-line and immediate support of customers with OSR ensuring that the operational environment is in place to let the FAB processes do their job. Outside of the operations process area – in strategy, infrastructure & Product (SIP) process area – the strategy and commit vertical as well as the two life cycle management verticals are differentiated. These are distinct because unlike operations they do not directly supports the customer are intrinsically different from operations processes and work on different business time cycles.

The framework also includes views of functionality as they span horizontally across an enterprise internal organizations. The horizontal functional process groupings distinguish functional operations processes and other types of business functional processes such as marketing vs. selling, service development vs. service configuration. Amongst these horizontal functional process groupings those on the left (that cross the strategy & commit, infrastructure life cycle management and product life cycle management vertical process groupings) enable support and the direct the work in the operations process area.

For example customer management which is a horizontal functional process grouping considers the fundamental knowledge of customers’ needs and includes all functionalities necessary for the acquisition, enhancement and retention of a relationship with a customer. It is about customer service and support, whether storefront, telephone, web or field service. It is also about retention management, cross-selling, up-selling and direct marketing for the purpose of selling to customers.

Customer management makes no distinction between manual or automated interactions with customers, nor whether interactions are by paper, telephone, web-based transactions or some other alternative arrangement. Zooming into customer management support and readiness process as defined by TMForum it looks at the following detailed listing of sub-business processes;

  • Support Customer Interface Management
  • Support Order Handling
  • Support Problem Handling
  • Support Retention & Loyalty
  • Support Marketing Fulfillment
  • Support Selling
  • Support Customer Quality of Service/Service Level Agreement
  • Manage Campaign
  • Manage Customer Inventory
  • Manage Product Offering Inventory
  • Manage Sales Inventory
  • Support Bill Invoice Management
  • Support Bill Payments & Receivables Management
  • Support Bill Inquiry Handling

These sub-processes above details what should be done at each stage of the customer relationship management, supporting the information, application and integration frameworks.

The applicability of this model is amazing. A real example is when POTRAZ, Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulatory authority, introduced the registration of SIM cards. It requires an operator to have a customer relationship management system (CRM). Whether prepaid or postpaid a customer completes an application form, details are captured in the system, triggering payment and a customer walks away with a service. The customer relationship management system would have interfaced with core network elements such as Home Location register, intelligent network and the Enterprise Resource planning tool e.g. SAP or Sage to enable the activation and provisioning if not pre-provisioned of the SIM Card through an automated command line. In this case a post-paid customer may undergo credit vetting process (checking bank statements, friends and relatives and employer etc.)

Of most concern is that the regulation enforced by POTRAZ impacted all operators through attrition of customers which led to revenue loss. Most customers with more than one SIM card never bothered to register all at that particular time hence reduced subscribers of operators.

The six prominent areas of fraud and revenue assurance have processes at the heart. For example product & offer management, customer management and order & provisioning lie on the business processes framework. Billing and rating is a component of both Business Process and Application framework. In between the customer facing and the application there is exchange of information which is governed by the information framework (SID layer) and the integration framework.

However Fraud and Revenue Assurance is commonly managed by two frameworks the widely adopted GRAPA (http://www.grapatel.com ) and the leading TMForum (www.tmforum.org).

In the next article after Easter we will discuss the technology inclined to the implementation of Fraud and Revenue Assurance. Are there any standards governing such a technology? Is there a system better than the other? Under what circumstances would service oriented architecture (enterprise service bus in particular) work. Is this model working at your organization? Let’s discuss.


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