Interview with CROSS Network Intelligence CEO, Jan Ulc
Q. How is CROSS Network Intelligence doing? Are you still a start-up?
A. We are very busy in spite of the holiday season. We have a number of implementations in progress simultaneously; we doubled our sales force recently; we are planning to open some new offices; and we are working hard to develop CROSS for the needs of digital transformation that the telco industry is currently undergoing. The company has existed for 5 years, but in certain ways we are still a start-up, especially in terms of company spirit, flexibility in dealing with customer requirements and individually supporting partners. “Mature” companies often don’t do that anymore.
Q. How is your product CROSS evolving? Are you on your way to becoming a full-fledged OSS?
A. Our ambition is to do one thing well, rather than to cover everything in the B/OSS space with mediocre or disconnected products. CROSS builds a single all-encompassing network inventory by integrating data from legacy systems and self-discovery data from the network. It improves data quality and serves as a platform for all inventory-dependent B/OSS processes. We integrate – or enable partners or customers to integrate – CROSS with other B/OSS tools and processes through standard APIs.
Q. I've read similar claims about inventory consolidation from other vendors, both established and newcomers. How is CROSS different?
A. They typically leave legacy data where it is and provide a single user interface to those multiple databases. This is sometimes called federation, but not integration. They also often rely on many workarounds to connect those physical and logical inventory and services, but those links get quickly out of sync when the original data gets updated. We integrate data from all systems in one place, check and improve its quality and connect it from trench and cables to services that run on them. This integration process represents our key know-how that all customers use, because they all deal with multiple inventory silos. The customer can keep the original sources as master and run incremental updates, but the greatest benefit comes from switching off legacy systems if and when it is feasible – which then unlocks savings in maintenance costs.
Q. How do you keep your inventory database up to date?
A. Primarily by reading self-discovery data from the network and synchronizing it into CROSS in near real-time, making CROSS truly dynamic, or by incremental updates from inventory systems that the customer keeps as master. Just to give you an idea of a fairly typical situation, in our most recent consolidation project we have 14 real-time data sources using 10 different network management systems. By the way, just to illustrate the previous answer, this customer has 34 legacy data sources using 14 different products of which one will stay as Master, while the others will be decommissioned.
Q. Once the customer has achieved inventory integration, what do they do with it? What are the benefits?
A. Indeed, in the end that’s what really matters. CROSS is a platform for inventory-dependent B/OSS processes such as network planning, service provisioning and assurance, capacity management and revenue assurance. Every process that requires an up-to-date, accurate inventory, such as service-centric processes, will benefit greatly.
To give an example, we recently integrated CROSS with the CRM of our partner Enxoo that is built on Salesforce and its workflow. With accurate inventory, the entire sales process, from service request to fulfillment, can be streamlined and automated. What that allows the customer to do is drastically shorten time-to-revenue and free up their sales team to be much more efficient in quoting and selling their services. Another example is identifying unused or unprofitable leased lines. A Tier-1 customer of ours reduced service assurance times and cut 5% of leased costs by canceling unnecessary lease contracts. In general, OPEX savings can range from 5-20%. Optionally, we can also recommend and support some tools to measure those savings.
Q. What are the main obstacles to fully realizing CROSS potential?
A. I would say there are two: availability of customer resources to participate in the initial inventory and analysis of legacy data sources, and resistance of some silo owners to give up their control for the common good. These issues are connected to some extent and can best be solved with top-level support for the project, which is of course essential for any enterprise-level project.
Q. What is interesting to readers in this newsletter and how often do you plan to produce it?
A. Well, we hope to bring a combination of our own insights, news on our activities, new briefings and papers. We plan to send it at least once a quarter, but probably more often as it’s a fast-moving industry and we’re moving quickly too!