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Issue 17 Articles

TM Forum Update

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 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.

InterComms recently spoke to Martin Creaner, president and CEO of the TM Forum, a global, non-profit industry association focused on simplifying the complexity of running a service provider’s business. As an established industry thought-leader, the Forum serves as a unifying force, enabling more than 775 companies across 195 countries to solve critical business issues through access to a wealth of knowledge, intellectual capital and standards. In this Q&A Mr. Creaner talks to us about the latest developments in TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of standards, and the Forum’s Defence and Cloud Initiatives, among other topics.

Q: Tell me what’s new at the TM Forum as you head into Management World Americas in Orlando in November?
A: From a collaborative point of view I always divide what the TM Forum is doing into two tiers. The first tier is the traditional work the TM Forum does in continuing to expand the capabilities of our core Frameworx suite of standards: the Business Process Framework (eTOM) and Information Framework (SID) and Application Framework (TAM) and driving the adoption of those across industry. Certainly the Business Process Framework and Information Framework are ubiquitous across the industry, but the industry is continually changing. We created the Business Process Framework in 2003, but we release new versions every six months in conjunction with our Management World events, in order to in order to adapt to emerging industry trends, such as mobile advertising services, smart grids and cloud computing. We have done a lot of work over the last year on further defining the business processes for these new industry trends.

The TM Forum is also continually working toward making Frameworx increasingly detailed. As service providers become comfortable with the standardisation of business processes, they want that standardisation to be more and more detailed. The Business Process Framework has different levels and each of them is more detailed than the last. Recently we standardised the Business Process Framework to Level 4. Our Business Process Framework is going deeper and broader because it is not only embracing the communications industry, but also the cloud, defence and cable sectors. Plus we now have a smart grid working team focused on how communications industry technologies and standards can be applied to reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of smart grids.

Q: How do ITIL and the Business Process Framework work together and how do they benefit the industry and all its moving parts?
A: The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the business model framework that enterprise IT guys use all over the world, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a bank or a car company. However, telcos are running their operations and networks using the Business Process Framework. It’s important to note that the Business Process Framework and ITIL are not competing models, but rather offer complementary value. ITIL defines a framework for good practice in service management, while the Business Process Framework defines a framework for service providers in the information, communications and entertainment sectors.

ITIL and the Business Process Framework are both widely used and each delivers a recognized value to its user community. Increasingly, these communities are overlapping and converging, and so the two frameworks need to come together, and that’s exactly what the two organizations behind these important industry guidelines are working to make happen. Both the itSMF (whose membership largely develops and promotes ITIL) and the TM Forum (whose membership develops the Business Process Framework) recognize that both frameworks have strengths and weaknesses that, if combined, have major benefits for all the industry sectors involved with delivering convergent services to market. As a result, the itSMF and TM Forum are actively co-operating to put ITIL and the Business Process Framework on a converging course, address any interworking issues, and ensure that more integrated support is available to users.

Q: The use of the Business Process Framework in the defence industry in growing, how are you adapting to that as an organisation?
A: About five to six years ago several organisations in the defence industry that were members and users of TM Forum’s standards decided they wanted to participate on a deeper level and ensure a level of influence with regard to developing standards within the Forum. As result, we set up our Defence Initiative which now includes member companies and organisations such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the UK Ministry of Defence, NATO and a range of other defence agencies across the world, as well as big industry suppliers such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Thales. Their main interests have revolved around using the core TM Forum standards like the Business Process Framework, the Information Framework and the Application Framework, but they are also interested in policy based management and security.

Today our work within the initiative is a collaborate effort between the TM Forum and the defence industry. We have approximately six dedicated technical teams driven by the Defence Initiative focused on areas like dynamic spectrum management and allocation. For example, about nine months ago the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), which had built its own network defence data model from several industry standards, contributed that model to the TM Forum. As a result, we launched the Security Management Group in order to incorporate that contribution into the Information Framework. Today, the NSA’s contribution has been incorporated into Frameworx 11, the latest version of our suite of standards serving as a blueprint for effective business operations. As a result any member of the TM Forum, regardless of industry sector, can adopt the work that the NSA originated and make it their own.

Over the next few months, we are hosting two Frameworx Spotlights on Defence—Oct. 4th in Utrect, Netherlands and Oct. 5th in Berkshire, U.K., to offer attendees an introduction to TM Forum Frameworx, its business benefits and new capabilities, as well as practical tools for efficient adoption within an ever-increasing market. These spotlights are ideal for companies in the defence sector that are interested in finding out the benefits of TM Forum membership.

Q: Cloud can’t be escaped and the TM Forum is continuing to drive standards forward in this area. What’s new here from the TM’s Forum’s perspective?
A: As you know, the TM Forum as one of the first industry bodies to become interested in the cloud. Our Cloud and New Services Initiative brings all members of the value chain (Enterprise Customers, Cloud Service Providers and Technology Suppliers) together to remove barriers to adoption of cloud and other advanced digital services. The Initiative has already produced Frameworx enhancements to facilitate a standards-based marketplace focused on enterprise customers and cloud service provider needs.

What sets the Cloud and New Services Initiative apart from other industry bodies is its focus on the manageability of the cloud as opposed to the protocols and definitions for infrastructure and services. A few collaboration projects currently underway are Software Enabled Services Management Solution, Cloud Billing, Cloud Service-Level-Agreement (SLA) Management, Cloud Security and Risk, among others.

When we kicked off the Cloud and New Services Initiative we had quite a few enterprise members, including banks and pharmaceutical, manufacturing and defence companies, and we worked toward defining standards that focused on ease-of-use. However, over the past year and a half it has become clear that telcos view the cloud as a channel to market. Now, they are looking at becoming an enabler by taking some of their core capabilities like billing or their location databases and putting those in the cloud for use by third parties and charging for that use. Our Cloud and New Services Initiative helps them to do just that.

Q: How closely do you work with other Cloud standards bodies?
A: We work with many groups in the cloud sector including the Distributed Management Task Force, Inc. (DMTF), the IEEE, the ITU, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA). The DMTF is doing lot of work in defining the cloud incubator environment, while NIST is focused on defining the cloud from the perspective of the U.S. government. There is no way for any one organisation to cover all of the areas of interest so we try avoid overlap by carving out a piece of the problem, solving it and then promoting it as widely as possible.

Q: How is benchmarking moving it forward?
A: More than 170 service providers from over 65 countries use the TM Forum Business Benchmarking Program’s performance data to facilitate business decision-making, assess business health, identify problems, and drive improvements; support business cases, budgeting and investment; and track business performance against their peers. Because telcos often don’t have the information in the format we require for our program, for the last year we have been working with suppliers to get our metrics built into their base products and to set up an automatic integration or interface between the supplier products and the benchmarking databases. So for example, if you purchase a product from a particular supplier and you get an update from that supplier, it will have our metrics embedded in the product. To participate in our benchmarking program all a service provider has to do is turn on our metrics upload. Four service providers trialed this in May and it has proved very popular. As a result, other suppliers are building our metrics interface into their products.

Q: Can we expect to hear more about all these topics at Management World Americas in Orlando?
A: We have quite a line-up planned for Orlando, including some great keynotes from AT&T, Citi, Isis, LightSquared, MasterCard Worldwide, and Verizon Business. We also have seven great Summits on all the hot topics that I mentioned above, including cloud services, fueling innovation, information management, delivering agile IT and operations, optimizing customer experience, end-to-end revenue management and new services in cable. In addition, we will showcase demonstrations on using Frameworx to manage ITIL processes, Frameworx for cable, multi-cloud collaboration, data analytics and business benchmarking, alarm management, enhanced cloud service management and customer experience management analytics. Overall, it will be an exciting and informative conference.

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