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  Intercomms Issue 18
Issue 18 Articles

TM Forum:
Enabling the Connected Life Around the Globe

Martin Creaner, the TM Forum’s President and CEO talks to InterComms about developments at the organisation

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Martin Creaner, President and CEO, TM Forum
Martin Creaner,
President and CEO, TM Forum

Martin Creaner, is president and CEO of TM Forum, a not for profit industry association with over 850 member companies, focused on simplifying the complexity of running a service provider’s business. Here he talks to InterComms about developments at the organisation as the industry heads to Dublin, Ireland for TM Forum’s Management World 2012 Conference and Expo, to be held on 21-24 May.

Q: The TM Forum has a huge presence with its events around the world and it seems to be growing all the time. How is that continuing and what’s on deck for Management World 2012 in Dublin?
A: This spring, TM Forum wrapped up our Management World Asia and two regional Summits, one each in the Middle East and Latin America. Management World Asia has grown by about 40 percent each year for the last three years because the number of members and companies using TM Forum standards and demanding training in those standards in Asia has grown very rapidly. In March we hosted two additional events; TM Forum’s Middle East Summit in Dubai and TM Forum’s Latin America Summit in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The latter was our first Latin America Summit and both Summits proved to be hugely popular.

Our flagship Management World in Dublin in May brings the entire communications industry together in one place. This year, we expect more than 3,500 visitors which will be the largest number yet. The seniority of the people attending has increased greatly. They will be coming to Dublin this year to talk about partnerships and selling products around this whole new connected life. Instead of being a $1.5 trillion market in communications, the industry size will increase dramatically. That $7.5 trillion to $10 trillion pie is what the market is really looking at. Everyone is looking for a comfy chunk of that pie and the conference is all about the complexities of achieving that.

Management World is really the place to be for any serious professional concerned with running a service provider business. This year’s theme is Rethinking Communications—Enabling Connected Life, and the conference is designed to help service providers do just that. The invitation-only Executive Program will bring 200 senior C-suite executives from the across the industry together to discuss issues connected with the theme, and one of the two strategic partners of Management World 2012, Deutsche Telekom, is hosting a ½ day “conference within a conference” onsite for 50 of their most senior executives.

Q: What are some of the highlights of Management World—things that people won’t want to miss while they’re in Dublin?
A: The Keynote Perspectives presentations will be very important and will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. On Tuesday morning, the theme is more about how service providers are seeing the new world and how they’re reshaping themselves rapidly while not dropping the ball in their existing businesses. On Wednesday morning, we have a range of very senior executives from non-telecoms businesses who will share fascinating perspectives. Some of the C-level keynotes include the CEOs of Eircom and Telekom Malaysia, the CIOs of Telefónica O2 and Vodafone, and the CTO of NATO C3 Agency.

The main conference agenda features five Summits including: Profiting from Cloud Services; The Connected Customer Experience; Reducing Operations Costs and IT Risk; Delivering and Monetizing New Services; and Policy and Revenue Management. Across those five Summits there will be heavy participation from service providers, comprising 100 of the conference’s 170 speakers, including 55 service provider case studies representing over 25 countries and all global regions. Speakers represent some of the industry’s biggest names like NTT, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, AT&T, Facebook, Google, BskyB, Verizon, Oracle, Huawei, Cisco and more. We will also have sessions dedicated to the Cable and Defense industries.

Forumville, always a popular destination on the Expo floor, features a range of Catalyst projects. There are 11 Catalysts this year which highlight collaborative efforts between service providers and suppliers to solve common industry issues. We have about 70 companies participating in Catalyst projects this year and they always catch peoples’ imaginations because they show the practical implementations of standards and real solutions to real world business issues.

Finally, one of the main things that we hear, time and time again, from attendees is the power of the networking opportunities at Management World. This year, there will be over 24 hours of dedicated networking opportunities, including a Business Networking Reception at Mansion House, as well as a sold-out conference expo featuring over 100 exhibitors.

Q: Let’s talk about the latest developments at TM Forum. You recently added some new Board members. What changes do you believe will come from this?
A: The TM Forum’s Board is and always has been made up of senior executives from across the industry. However, five years ago that industry was defined as telecoms and so the board comprised representatives from big telecoms service providers and suppliers. Anybody who has been looking at this industry over the past couple of years will see that its boundaries have changed and are expanding.

Today, boundaries are dissolving and the industry is evolving to really become a digital services eco-system rather than a stove-piped communications industry. We have developed over several years a large cable constituency and participation from those parts of the defence industry who use TM Forum standards. The constitution of the board and its structure reflects that with executive additions from NATO and Liberty Global’s European Broadband Operations (UPC Broadband). In addition, the industry is very much shifting from being a Western European and North American-centric industry to one that is truly global. As such, we have added a number of players who are focusing on other parts of the world, particularly Asia, including executives from China Mobile, Huawei and Axiata.

Q: How does the evolution of the industry manifest itself in the topics being discussed at the TM Forum and the Board, specifically?
A: Historically the TM Forum was very much focused on the technical challenges that the industry was facing. It was assumed that the business challenges were well understood and that there were just a handful of technical challenges to overcome. As the Forum and the industry has moved on, it has become very clear that the big question is actually the business evolution of the industry; the emerging business models, the value chains and value webs and the identity of key players and the partnerships that will need to be created.

The Board discussions are increasingly strategic in nature because a lot of the business strategies of the major players in the industry are now being driven by the operational software and IT capabilities. IT is no longer just a cost center slave to the rest of the business. It is now driving the strategy of the rest of the business.

Q: With the industry shifting from a Western European and North American-centric industry to one that is truly global, what impact does that have on the evolution of TM Forum?
A: The TM Forum has had strong representation and membership from Asia over a number of years. The challenges being faced in Asia are essentially ones of scale. Asian communications companies tend to be handling much greater challenges of scale than anyone else in the world. It is not unusual for an operator to have 100-200 million subscribers in India or China. Even relatively small operators in countries such as Indonesia or Pakistan would be the equivalent to absolutely massive European companies.

The second issue is that average revenue per user is much lower in Asia and so there is a much greater imperative to drive efficiencies in Asia, India and Africa that you might see in Europe or North America. You have also got a huge amount of innovation emerging outside Europe or North America. It’s not just the challenges of scale and complexity and it is not just the complexity of driving down costs very effectively. It is also the challenges of introducing new innovative services that meet the needs of a particular region, such as Africa, a region where banking and credit cards are not ubiquitous and where mobile companies have stepped into that void and are becoming the safe customer financial transaction agencies.

To adapt to the global shift, TM Forum launched an Ambassador Network program back in late 2011—which relates back to my first point about the growth of the industry, particularly in Asia. As part of this program, we have a wide range of executives from around the globe who have been involved in the TM Forum for a number of years who have huge amount of experience. A CIO of a particular telco might ring me and tell me that they have a particular challenge and ask if we know of any other telcos that are going through the same challenges and we would introduce them. Our Ambassadors are people who are willing to build relationships across the industry, not for payment, but rather to present the TM Forum favourably and on the belief that the more people who adopt TM Forum standards, the better the overall result for the industry.

In addition, we also launched our Regional Councils, which will provide detailed strategic insight into the varied needs of global communication service providers and ensure that TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards continues to evolve with the key communications challenges in China, Southeast Asia, India, Middle East and South America, and more.

Sometimes people talk about the TM Forum solely as a standards body, but in actuality the TM Forum is an industry association that produces technical standards that become de facto standards in the industry. As a result, we need to remain truly global. It is very easy to convince yourself that North America and Europe are the most sophisticated parts of the world, but depending on how you segment the market and the problems you are looking at, the sophistication appears all the way across the world.

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