The adoption of automation in telecoms networks is well underway and is expected to deliver significant benefits – for performance, for service delivery and experience, and more. Analysts have defined key capabilities required to support this evolution – and obtaining a single version of the truth is a key first step. Indeed, it should be a strategic priority. Why?
Automation, analytics and AI, now collectively known as “A3” have become essential to the transformation of telco operators. That’s because operators are seeking both to contain and reduce costs, while becoming agile service providers. They want to be able to deliver services without manual intervention while enabling the orchestration of on-demand and elastic services to capitalise on new opportunities, and ensuring consistent quality.
Key to this is the automation of operational processes. Effective automation must also be supported by greater understanding of operational performance – hence the need for advanced analytics solutions. Data from the network provides key performance information, allowing services to be optimised and assured.
Similarly, since the volume of data – both generated by users and by network systems and platforms – has grown massively (and will grow by orders of magnitude once 5G really gets going), new tools are required to process it. That’s why Artificial Intelligence (backed by Machine Learning) is critical. AI will enable these data volume to be processed without the need for human intervention or continuous oversight.
A3 therefore gives us three key pillars that are expected to deliver both cost savings and new levels of agility and service performance and diversity. However, it’s not just a handy description of new techniques. A3 must be translated into a set of requirements that telcos need to adopt in order to secure the desired benefits. In this context, work has already been completed to develop a checklist of these requirements, so that operators have a reference point to guide their transformation efforts.
For example, this article sets out key building blocks that are required to deliver A3 in order of priority. As you can see from the diagram below, operators need to ensure they get the basics right – now – before implementing other necessary changes.
A “single version of truth” is identified as one of a number of priorities on which telcos need to focus. Indeed, it’s not just a priority, but it’s one that can be solved quickly with technology, not training or other process change.
So, what do we mean by this? From our perspective, a single version – or source - of truth is a complete, accurate and evolving record of the assets in any operator’s network. This must include physical resources, the service portfolio, and cover the logical and virtual elements that are combined to deliver service x to customer y. In other words, it’s the inventory.
It’s also worth noting that another element of this skill set is the “suitable dataset”. In other words, this means data that can be accessed. We’ll return to this shortly, but note that we see this as integral to – not separate from - the single source of truth that’s required.
This single source of truth is required to support all other processes. You can’t automate the delivery of, for example, a new fibre connection or a data boost if you don’t know what’s required to do this, whether the resources are available, and where they are located.
This concept has been fundamental to CROSS NI since our foundation. We recognised that the data to support operational systems and required to deliver the enhanced efficiency sought was held in different systems. As a result, operators have struggled to connect key workflows and processes and had to maintain outdated and, often, inaccurate systems.
Worse, data could not be easily updated, which led many operators to support costly manual systems and processes. Consequently, for many costs were artificially high and many processes required manual oversight and took time to complete.
Our vision was to change this by providing the single source of truth, spanning all inventory data, across all layers – and to make this available via simple API integration with other systems that need access to this information. This latter point is crucial.
The capabilities identified in Figure 1 are crucial. The single source of truth is undeniably essential. But, we’d go further, that source must be accessible to any system or process that needs data regarding the network and its assets. One its own, a comprehensive accurate inventory solution is necessary, but not sufficient. It’s the ease with which this can be exposed to other systems that really delivers the operational benefits.
Thus, knowing that we can deliver a data boost is important, but we need to know if it can be delivered to the right customer and billed appropriately. To achieve this, we need a closed loop, starting with the detection that a customer has, for example, consumed all their data allowance, a check to see what plan update is available, the creation of an offer to the customer, ensuring the delivery of this and the registration of the actions in the support systems. The same flows can apply to any service – which means that the single source of truth is not just essential, it’s the very foundation of A3 and telco automation programmes.
Similarly, the data itself is important. It needs to be in a state that can be processed by other systems. To many, this is a significant obstacle, because operators often have data that’s incomplete, in different formats and dispersed. We can solve the dispersal problem with the single source of truth – CROSS, for example. But, we can also solve the dataset problem because we can cleanse your data, via an iterative process, not a “big-bang” approach.
We work with data “as is”, tagging it with an objective measure of quality, that allows migration from legacy sources to the new, consolidated environment. With CNI, you solve two key steps in the initial adoption of A3 while paving the way for your future automation journey.
So, if you are thinking about automating key processes and A3, it’s important to consider where to start. While you might think it’s best to focus on a specific process or workflow, it’s actually much more important to ensure that you have the single source of truth you need to support all future automation activities, together with appropriately cleansed data that’s accessible to all your current and future systems.
Indeed, taking these steps should be a strategic priority, because everything else you will do in the future depends on it. Put simply, there’s no point in making any investment in automation unless you start by making an investment in obtaining a single source of truth.
If you’d like us to show you how you can take this step, get in touch!