Business insights from network inventory

23 September 2020

Business insights from network inventory

Operators are striving to become more agile. Business insights are essential to this goal. How can insights from a network inventory solution such as CROSS enhance agility and business performance?

How can network inventory management help my business?

Sometimes when we think about network inventory, we’re focused on a specific problem that we need to solve – the need, for example, to consider how to connect different assets to deliver a service. However, another way of thinking about network inventory is to consider what it can do for my business: what insights can I obtain that can help me achieve and sustain long-term competitive advantage?

Operators today need to be able to run their businesses with greater agility. That means a number of things, of course, but it includes, for example:

  • Faster time to market with new services
  • Faster delivery times to customers
  • Anticipating new customer demands
  • Adapting services dynamically

And, doing all of the above without increasing costs. But, while these are aspirational goals, operators also need to understand how they are performing and whether they can deliver – and how they can improve. What is the role of network inventory in supporting evolution towards greater agility?

Business insights drive operational performance improvements

Business insights are now critical to understanding and transforming performance. We need to know how long it takes to deliver a service and why, if we failed to deliver, was this the case? We need to understand what resources we have available, where they are and how they can be deployed – and what else we need to support a service or network extension.

So, let’s get specific. Suppose we have a fiber package of 50Mb/s, with a fixed monthly cost. Normally, this would be sufficient for a wide number of users. Only a few would push the boundaries each month. But, what if performance starts to drop – because demand surges and the capacity starts to get constrained for each user. We need to know about this before the call center starts to receive complaints.

We need to be able to see from analytics reports that this particular service (and not, for example, the 100Mb/s package) is starting to show strains – as has actually happened to a number of operators during the COVID-19 lockdown period, with all members of a household striving to use the broadband for longer each day. Typically, this data is available from the operational systems that provide OSS data, as well as from service monitoring platforms.

The insight, here, then is the demand and performance. Having recognized that there is an emerging problem, we need to take action. How can we solve this? Well, one tactic would be to offer an upgrade package that provides the headroom more demanding users need, or simply provide a promotional offer to invite upgrade to the 100Mb/s service. We need to choose the right offer and then promote it to relevant users – let’s not forget that agility demands that we don’t simply make blanket offers, but that we try to be targeted and therefore more efficient.

Accurate network inventory management allows us to understand resources

However, what if we can’t deliver this to each user we have identified? We need to know if there are sufficient resources and capacity available before we make the offer. And, if we find that we cannot make the upgrade offer to all affected user, we must segregate the users to whom we cannot offer the package and decide how we can upgrade the network to provide this pathway.

To provide the information we need to make such decisions, we need to clearly and accurately understand the network inventory, so we can assess the availability of resources to deliver the service upgrade and where they are in relation to the location of each customer that has been identified as a candidate for an upgrade.

This process, then, requires information from different systems (identifying a need) that must be correlated with information from others (determining if and how it can be fulfilled). We want this information to be made automatically available, so that the desired action (making an offer) can be generated without human intervention. This is agility in action – and depends on business insights from different systems, including the network inventory. The network inventory system should tell us what resources are required for the intended upgrade, where they are and whether they are available, and with what capacity.

Let’s consider another case. Suppose that analytics data from the mobile network reveals strong demand for data from a number of cell sites, in particular streaming. As a result, these are chosen for upgrade to 5G, which will provide faster data access and more capacity (we don’t want to make these investments unless there is likely to be demand). Setting aside the identification of users to target for a device update, we now need to know if the site migration can easily be achieved in our chosen locations.

Since a 5G cell needs fiber (to provide the ‘x’ haul capabilities required by 5G), we need to map the current cell location to the availability of fiber in the vicinity. If fiber is not conveniently located nearby, we’ll also need to explore ducts and wayleaves that will enable the fiber connection to be created.

This is inventory. If we want to get to market fast and to smoothly roll out 5G to where it’s needed, we must have all of this information at our fingertips – so that a query to an operational system can reveal the answers we need and determine the work required to support the planned investment. That’s a key function of inventory and is another reason why we must be able to obtain such relevant – and targeted – business insights from network inventory systems.

Business insights from network inventory systems are critical to service delivery and evolution

If operators are to become more agile, they need several things. First, data. An agile operator needs to be able to access data about its network and its assets. The network inventory platform is a crucial source of data to support this.

Second, accessibility. Data from one system needs to be available in others, where it can complement and enhance other system information. Third, automation. Information and insights can trigger actions. The ability to connect reporting tools and information to processes and to enable zero-touch operations is critical to how networks will be managed in the future. It will take some time to achieve this, but the business insights available from network inventory platforms (among other systems, of course!) are integral to this goal.

CROSS provides a single source of data, accurately maintained, which is accessible to other systems, where it can support process automation. If you are embarking on the journey towards a more agile future, why not get in touch to find out how we can transform your inventory management, deliver business insights and drive agility?