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From Network Data to Business Intelligence:
aligning business strategy with service goals

By Richard Lowe, Senior Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Micromuse

Technology used to be a byword for innovation, but recent setbacks such as the enormous cost of 3G licences and the delayed rollout of broadband networks means that today’s service provider senior management tend to consider ‘innovation’ as more closely associated with ‘financial burden.’ As consumer demand for faster, cheaper, content-richer services continues to expand, service providers are increasingly forced to juggle service expectations with budgetary constraints.

The solution is to get the network of today to act as the technology of tomorrow, while continuing, of course, to provide service at competitive prices. The ideal technology puts the customer at the heart of the operation, relegating the network itself to the status of an unseen enabler and a silent provider of valuable service and business intelligence that can shape customer demands and mould business strategy.

Getting more from the infrastructure without paying more is a key challenge, especially for European mobile and telecom operators who often have large, labour intensive networks that have grown quickly and perhaps even a little haphazardly. Telecommunications companies may also be subject to fierce merger and acquisition activity, resulting in disparate networks and a multitude of technologies. Faced with such issues, network management becomes a daily exercise in ‘fire fighting,’ with operators struggling to locate the cause of a network outage before battling to address the problem. And even as that problem is being resolved, it can be another battle to try and identify the customer or service that is being impacted by the problem. Moving from a network to a service and business focus whilst balancing operational constraints and shrinking resources may then seem an admirable yet somewhat unattainable goal.

To be successful, IT operators must shift their focus firstly away from managing the network and towards delivering the service, then further upwards, towards enriching that service information to create the business intelligence necessary to drive company strategy. The network management platforms of yesterday were designed to monitor the status of IT equipment, not the state of the service being delivered. A new, service-based approach is needed.

Today’s service assurance solutions can rapidly consolidate the diverse network systems, platforms, applications, equipment and best-of-breed software that characterise wireless and telecommunications networks, and so quickly strip away the ‘network noise’, pinpointing network faults and decreasing the mean time to repair.

The end result is an overview of the network data that is most essential for running the services. But it is still just data, and data that is usually just logged, filed and forgotten. Unwittingly, most service providers already have the capacity to move towards service management rather than fault management through relatively simple integrations that string together data from the network, customer relationship management (CRM) packages, trouble ticketing systems, billing applications and provisioning solutions. By auto-populating trouble tickets with customer specific fault information for example, IT operators can quickly associate network outages with the services they impact, and accordingly prioritise that service by customer, region or product. New streams of revenue can be realised, more proactive service level agreements can be established and new products can be quickly brought to market.

The next stage is to further mine the service information to build a picture of the business, its customers, strategy and key differentiators. This can help the service provider identify and plan new streams of revenue. Through the intelligent enriching of network data with information drawn from the business – for example, service information and data drawn from customer-facing packages – service providers can distinguish those customers with a high level of consumption; the services that are likely to increase average revenue per user (ARPU) and the way that customers want to consume those services, as well as uncover a host of invaluable business drivers. And, more importantly, they can realise these drivers in real time, enabling service providers to quickly identify and capitalise on customer trends, market conditions and technological developments.

A service view of the network, highlighting the regions, type of service and number of users affected by a network fault

A European telecommunications company, for example, wanted to grow its broadband subscriber base almost six fold in less than two years. Coupled with this was a need to deliver value-added, revenue-generating services such as video on demand and video messaging, online gaming, e-learning and e-commerce, music downloading and interactive TV. So the challenges facing the telco were manifold: the requirement to deploy DSL as quickly as possible, the commitment to a reliable and robust quality of service; the need to deploy the service across a complex heterogeneous network that included IP, frame relay, ATM, SDH and DSL environments. All of these challenges had to be met within the framework of tight budgets, tight deadlines and frozen headcount. In the fiercely competitive landscape of high-speed internet access, low margins, price and quality of service are key differentiators for broadband customers. The telco turned to a service assurance solution that could help its operational teams to deploy and start managing broadband services quickly without increasing headcount or other operational expenditure.”

In 2002, the telco took the decision to implement a service assurance based on Micromuse technology across its wireline and DSL networks. The solution pulls network event data from across the different environments and infrastructure and deposits it in a central database. From this database, the IT operations team can build realtime views of the status of broadband services and quickly begin managing new services. The service assurance technology plays a key part of an operational support system (OSS), which is based on off-the-shelf, open, best-of-breed components that help provide a flexible environment to quickly roll out new products and services. The service assurance component is integrated across service delivery and development, operational processes and customer care. This holistic approach to service management has helped the telco to realize substantial efficiencies: the time taken to provision a DSL service has been cut by 4 minutes so far, and the time taken to generate a trouble ticket in the event of a customer complaint has been reduced by 15 minutes. Specific network operations efficiencies have also been gained; for example the time taken to correlate network event data in order to pinpoint the exact location of a service-affecting fault has been reduced by 30 minutes, which of course, all add up to substantial operational savings.

Unlocking the inherent intelligence in the infrastructure that allows the network to become obscured, highlighting instead service, product and customer, will be the challenge facing service providers moving into a new era of network management. Those service providers that are able to use the network to shape business direction and strategic goals will be the companies that emerge from this tough economic climate with a strong, sure product offering, a loyal and consistent customer base, and a seemingly intuitive feel for market success.

Richard Lowe
Senior Vice President, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Micromuse.

Richard Lowe is responsible for driving sales and business development for Micromuse’s Netcool® solution across the EMEA region. A veteran of the technology industry, his background includes 20 years in communications and senior-level experience with industry giants such as IBM’s Tivoli Systems as well as innovative software start-ups.

Micromuse is a leading provider of software solutions that monitor the critical business applications and services that drive profits.

Unlike traditional management systems, Micromuse’s software provides accurate end-to-end visibility and troubleshooting, from business infrastructure to the impacted customer.

Micromuse has a worldwide customer base of over 1,500 service providers and enterprises, including 22 of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and a wireless reference base that includes T-Mobile, the Vodafone group and mm0.

For more information, please visit http://www.micromuse.com

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