OSS automation is key to delivering both better customer experiences and for optimizing network performance for all sectors and stakeholders served. It is also the foundation of effective workflows – and, as a paper by McKinsey & Co notes, it should now be considered a key strategic goal for operations.
OSS automation has become a critical enabler for the creation and execution of effective end-to-end workflows. That’s because all operators are essentially in the business of selling services, enabled by connectivity to one kind of customer or another – be they B2B users, consumer and retail customers, or another telecoms business via wholesale relationships.
Just as customers of, for example, Amazon, expect a seamless experience once they have loaded their shopping card and clicked through to the order process, so too do they expect the same from their telecoms service providers.
The industry recognizes this but has generally lagged behind other digital services providers. Now, many operators are seeking to catch up and are investing in digital-first approaches for service request, delivery and activation.
The importance of this is highlighted by analysts such as McKinsey & Company which identified a “digital-native, scaled customer experience” and “a zero-touch service model” as key strategic priorities in a recent report.
To deliver the expected outcomes, operators need to connect different processes. Typically, this is by linking an action or a trigger to a new action, in a series of steps. Just as a workflow can be visualized, so can it be automated enabling each step to lead to another and by catering for alternative paths in the flow. In essence, this brings automation through incremental steps.
We’re some way from securing full automation, but we are starting to see greater integration between different components and the inclusion of different systems in such chains. Often, a particular trigger will require a response for which data inputs are required.
For example, if we want to activate a dark (unlit) fiber connection for a particular customer, then, among other things, we need to know:
All of this data is relevant to the specific workflow of “activating a dark fiber link”. Lighting this link depends on a series of actions, coordinated in the appropriate order, with the necessary information being collected and checked at each step.
So, it follows, that as much of this data as possible should be available from a single place. Instead of data being scattered through different systems (and thus requiring multiple checks to be made, the order processing system should be able to interact with a centralized system that consolidates as much of the necessary data as possible.
And that is why a centralized service and resource inventory is essential for efficient workflow automation. This inventory is a key element of the overall OSS infrastructure, but it should handle the task of collecting and storing relevant data points, in a single place, so that it can easily be made available to other processes which, in turn, require these data inputs in order to complete a given workflow.
In essence, that is what CROSS offers. It is a single repository of data relating to network resources and services, which can then be shared by fewer integration points with other systems that need this information.
Importantly, CROSS is not an ‘all or nothing’ solution. That is, it doesn’t need to be fully populated in order to enhance workflow automation. It can work with incomplete data, providing key inputs while gradually reconciling all the information necessary for richer automation through time. It allows OSS automation to be achieved incrementally – and with best effort – in order to provide immediate advantages.
 McKinsey & Company “A blueprint for telecom’s critical reinvention” (April 2021)