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Home | New Service Delivery | TM Forum, Martin Creaner
Internal Renewal

Martin Creaner, the TM Forum's president talks to Intercomms about how the organization is updating existing standards and expanding its remit to remain relevant to industry

Martin Creaner has been working and advising in the Communications Industry for 18 years and is presently President and Chief Technical Officer of the TM Forum. Prior to joining the TM Forum, Martin held a number of executive positions with BT, the major UK based European Communications Service Provider, and with Motorola, the global Wireless Networks Equipment manufacturer, where Martin led the 2.5G and 3G OSS solutions development activities. Martin sits on the board of a number of telecoms companies, and is the Chairman of Selatra Ltd., which is a java games applications service provider for the mobile marketplace.

Martin is an accomplished speaker and regularly is asked to chair or give keynote talks at leading telecommunication industry events.

Q: What are you doing to make sure the TM Forum's core standards remain relevant to industry?
A: The core standards for the TM Forum are our Business Process Framework (eTOM) , our Information Framework (SID), our Applications Framework (TAM) and the New Generation Operation Systems & Software architecture (NGOSS). Going back seven years when we kicked this work off, the idea was that the TM Forum was doing a lot of very valuable work but it was all very disparate, producing work that was not necessarily interrelated with any common framework. As we developed our core frameworks, it was really with a view of building some foundation for every element of the TM Forum's work; a foundation business process model, a foundation information model, a foundation systems and application model and of course a foundation architecture. Then we just carried on. It took several years to create but by about 2004- 2005, that had stabilised and we evolved a methodology where any work we do, whether it is in device management, revenue assurance or service delivery platforms - everything relates back to the core framework.

Q: What do you do to future proof that core framework?
A: Everything uses the core framework but of course, when you delve into new areas, what you find is that the core frameworks are not sufficient for your needs. So, in every single project that the TM Forum undertakes, one of its work streams involves updating the eTOM the SID or the TAM with its own particular perspective. The eTOM, TAM and SID architecture are the foundations, almost the operating system for the TM Forum and every single project uses them but also feeds back into them to keep them relevant to the needs of new industries.

Q: How does that feedback work in practice?
A: The Revenues Assurance team, for example will look at the eTOM and will define a set of business processes for how to do revenue assurance related to particular service. The Revenue Assurance team will look at where revenue leakage happens in the industry and will recognise that in order to stop revenue leakage or to evolve into proactive revenue assurance, you need to change how the processes are defined. They will then feed that back into the eTOM team and tell them they need to change the way it defines that process at a detailed level, because present processes are inconsistent with effective revenue assurance.

They'll have that discussion with the eTOM team and eventually, they will come to an agreement and the process will be changed and there will be another issue of the eTOM.

Teams also often identify large or small gaps in the eTOM that were never envisaged when the eTOM was created. Teams such as the Revenue Assurance team will propose new process definitions to the core eTOM team and this will be discussed and agreed and included in new versions of the eTOM. The exact same happens with the SID and the TAM. As a result the eTOM the SID and the TAM never become stagnant or stale. At a high level of these frameworks they have remained consistent for the last 2 or 3 years but at the detailed levels, we are continually seeing tweaks and improvements to fix things and also to accommodate scenarios that the creators of eTOM never really envisaged.

Q: What about the impact of new industries changing the telco focus of the original work on eTOM and others?
A: The cable industry uses the eTOM - not surprising really, because there isn't a huge difference between cable and telecoms. There are however certain scenarios in the cable industry that the telecoms people never really fully grasped - the way the cable industry has to provision a lot of equipment in the home for example. There are also different models in terms of how you assure revenue in a cable environment compared to a telco environment. There are certainly different billing models on a per month basis rather than a per use basis. We have teams working within our Cable Interest Group, which is reviewing and looking at the eTOM to identify what needs to change so that it speaks as clearly to the cable industry as it does to the telco industry. We may well be looking at changes in terminology, tweaks in terminology or the addition of small processes at Level Three so that the eTOM embraces both the telcom and cable industry rather than being finely tuned for telcos and more difficult to use for the cable industry.

To me it's a very healthy situation, so when people ask 'Are you finished with the eTOM and SID?' I say 'absolutely not!' The eTOM and SID are the foundations and they have to be continually relevant. We wrote them - part luck and part by design - in a purely technology neutral fashion. Because we are continually updating them for changes to the communications paradigm, they are as relevant today as they were five years ago and I hesitate to say will be as relevant ten years in the future as they are today. We are going to be continually making sure they are relevant and being technology neutral means we don't have to bend over backwards to do that, but we do have to continually work on them.

Q: What about more current initiatives?
A: We kicked off three major sectors a year ago. One was addressing the TM Forum's relevance to the cable Industry, one related to bringing devices into the end to end managed value chain. One related to content and media. On the cable front, when we brought into the TM Forum, one of the main value adds was that a lot of the IPDR protocols were already in very heavy use in the US cable industry. That gave us a big foot into the cable industry's door and we set up a Cable Interest Group. We've pulled in about 20 cable operators members over the last twelve months. That includes the majority of all the big cable players such as Time Warner, Cox, Liberty Global, etc.. We have found that the cable industry are already using some part of the TM Forum standard and the Cable Interest Group is trying to identify the key areas that the cable industry can get value from the TM Forum over the next few years. The two that have really jumped out in the short term are our revenue assurance work and the eTOM. There are going to be a lot more aspects that come to the floor but those are the low hanging fruit because they are already being used and are applicable; they only need to be tweaked to be driven across the cable industry. We expect to grow our cable membership significantly again this year. There are many hundreds of cable operators across the world who could find value from being part of the TM Forum.

The other key area are that we have been working on is the whole service delivery platform area. The TM Forum has kicked off a major programme which has been running for about a year now called the Service Delivery Framework. Whilst there are tens of service delivery platforms out there; they all tend to have a different architecture and have different approaches. Within the TM Forum, we have pulled all the major vendors together to agree a common high level architecture for service delivery platforms, which we call the service delivery framework, and now we are working on much more detailed management architecture for service delivery platforms. We are also pulling in all of the other relevant industry groups that are working in this are like 3GPP, OMA, and others. The goal is to get an industry wide agreed structure for service delivery platforms.

Q: What about a little further ahead?
A: One that is near to my heart, but which is very much in its infancy is in the area of end-to-end service quality management. In these increasingly complex value chains that are emerging across the industry, how do you manage service quality? How do you assure revenue and revenue allocation across complex value chains? There are no real standards out there. People stitched the current structure together and it kind of works but it is going to be inadequate for the increasingly complex requirements for a converged world. Consequently, we are kicking off a programme to try and see which bits of the existing TM Forum work we can re-use in order to create a framework for end to end service quality management. Work like our Service Level Agreement Handbook would be an obvious one but there is lots of other work we could pull in but which needs to be defined.

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