article

Visibility: Improving

Posted: 3/2003

Visibility: Improving
OSS Systems Offer Partitioned View into
Provisioning Systems

By Khali Henderson

Operations support system vendors
are enabling carriers to give their resellers partitioned views into the order
provisioning process via the Web. The capabilities go beyond electronic order
entry to providing resellers with real-time network availability and monitoring
of the order fulfillment workflow process.

"In most cases, a reseller
would submit an order to a carrier in paper or Web form. Somebody would have to
take that and rekey that information in a two or three-step process that doesn’t
give the reseller any kind of visibility into what the process is or how it is
occurring," explains John Konzcal, vice president of product marketing for
Telution Inc. Telution is one OSS vendor that is combining Web-based tools and
workflow engines that allow carriers to give resellers a view into the
provisioning process.

"That’s really what most
resellers require because if they really own their end customers, they need
visibility into that process," says Konzcal.

With Telution’s COMX Order
Management module, a carrier can offer a reseller the ability to see what
primary services and accompanying service features are available to a customer
before submitting the order, Konzcal explains. Once the order is placed and
passes all the checks, the reseller can see all the individual tasks that need
to occur to fulfill that order. "I might be ordering a local loop from the
incumbent local exchange. I would see that as a task. I might, after that step
is completed, be provisioning a voice-mail system. After that, I might be
provisioning [a long-distance] switch. The resellers that deal with our
customers will see those individual steps and what the status of that is,"
he says.

More importantly, he says that if an
error occurs in one of the steps, COMX’s workflow engine includes the reseller
in the process so that simple fixes [ones the reseller can make itself] don’t
hang it up.

Similarly, the workflow can allow
for basic orders from the sales staff to flow to the engineering department for
their input before the order is submitted to the carrier. "An order entry
isn’t just one event," Konzcal explains. "It might actually be
multiple stages that need to occur and it might need to touch different
organizations making different decisions on how to fulfill that order."

This approach — a kind of
partitioned provisioning system if you will — is being embraced more readily by
wholesalers looking to offload some of the labor-intensive functions of dealing
with distribution partners. Z-Tel Technologies Inc., for example, is one that
uses Telution’s system to provide service to its resellers, like MCI and now
Sprint Corp.

Still many are reluctant to open
their systems to their resellers, but are beginning to use partitioned
functionalities with internal customers like regional sales arms, which may bode
well for extension of those capabilities to trusted partners.

Industrial Logic Corp. CEO Richard
Graham says, "It’s going to happen, but old carriers are reluctant. There
is not a strong enough motivation to do it. First they do it internally and it
expands within the company."

ILC’s network management system,
MaxView, allows carriers to offer resellers a role-based view into the network
through its provisioning software, MaxView Scenario. He says a satellite
customer is considering the solution for resellers of its transponder time.

The reseller would access MaxView
Scenario through a Web browser interface, select the kind of service needed —
for example, a T1 line — and the software would handle the forming of that link
to provision that service.

"The trick is that the carrier
must ultimately agree to give those permissions, that access, to the
reseller," says Angela Renals, communications manager for ILC. "One
comfort MaxView provides the carrier in this situation is that the reseller
never tampers with the actual network equipment, he just chooses the kind of
link he wants to set up, And the rest is done behind the scenes. It’s like a
child-proof lock on the network, so the reseller has only as much authority as
is necessary to provision the service he needs."

Being able to manage all the network
elements is critical to making this work, says Graham.

ILC’s product comes out of years
serving the satellite industry, and Graham says is uniquely protocol-independent
making it especially suited to managing networks, which are commonly filled with
various legacy and next-gen equipment as well as varied makes and models.

Similarly, wholesalers also have to
rethink they way they look at their business, taking the view of supply-chain
business like manufacturing. "The idea of getting the supply chain pieced
together is quite new for telecoms," says Robert Curran, director of
corporate communications for Cramer Systems Ltd., a supplier of inventory and
provisioning software for telecom companies. He says that as a first step
carriers must first understand what they have to sell — what is their
inventory.

"The network is the inventory
and the inventory is the network," adds Steve Plain, vice president of
product management of Cramer Systems. "It is what they have to sell to the
reseller or the end user."

Cramer Systems’ Cramer4 enables the
carrier to offer the reseller an abstraction, or product catalog, mapped to the
inventory. Effectively this would be a service view as opposed to a raw network
view, although in some reseller relationships access to the network view may be
appropriate.

The carrier then is able to see the
complete picture while its resellers only see a partitioned view of the network
that their customers are using or have available to them.

Cramer4 interfaces with legacy
order-entry systems as well as activation and workforce automation systems. From
the point the order is captured, Cramer4 looks at the options for providing that
service and automates the provision because it knows the inventory, capacity and
design rules, Plain explains, adding that human intervention, if necessary, is
dictated by the business rules or exceptions.


Enabling Partitioned Provisioning
Cramer’s suite of modules integrate with legacy systems and commercial OSS
software products.

How it Works

Telution’s COMX Order Management
application offers one example of a Web-based order fulfillment process:

* Wizard-driven order-entry process
allows order placement by customer service representatives and sales agents in
the call center or customers via the Web. Role-specific order entry enables
different order entry forms to be presented based on the specific user role,
such as sales person, customer service order entry clerk or provisioning
technician.

  • Integrated online knowledge base
    allows users to search for help scripts to aid in sales, order entry or
    problem solving.

  • Graphical product catalog
    presentment simplifies the identification and selection of appropriate
    services and offers.

  • Complete order validation
    throughout the preorder and order process eliminates errors prior to order
    submission, including integration to external databases (e.g., service
    address validation, service availability validation, and facilities
    inventory).

  • Advanced workflow engine for
    initiating and automating provisioning plans includes: executing tasks,
    managing task status and exception processes, managing parallel tasks and
    task dependencies, and handling communication to supporting OSS and network
    systems.

  • Order decomposition engine
    handles the complex process of decomposing a bundled order into individual
    parts, and managing all workflow tasks to bring the bundled order to life.

  • Work order scheduling, routing
    and dispatch is enabled with COMX’s Workforce Management application. The
    application, integrated with COMX Order Management, combines work order
    routing determination, scheduling, distribution, dispatch, and monitoring
    into a single management tool.

  • Integrated order message queue
    management acts as the "middleman" in relaying a message from COMX
    to its appropriate destination, ensuring proper routing and delivery of all
    messages.

  • Automated state management
    provides real-time status on orders and tasks to users.

  • Web-based provisioning
    management console allows provisioning personnel to access their work orders
    via the Web, update their orders in real-time, and alert enterprisewide
    users of all jeopardies and errors.

  • Multitype resource management
    handles the automatic assignment of inventory to orders (e.g., phone
    numbers, user names, IP addresses, schedule dates, equipment) such that
    inventory is reduced according to the provider’s preferred method.

  • XML-enabled integration layer
    enables seamless systems integration to legacy OSS, network inventory,
    network activation, and billing system connections.


T
he
Reseller’s View
MaxView Scenario enables resellers to manage order entry and fulfillment
.

 

Links
Cramer Systems Ltd. www.cramer.com

Industrial Logic Corp. www.ilc.com

MCI www.mci.com

Sprint Corp. www.sprint.com

Telution Inc. www.telution.com

Z-Tel Technologies Inc. www.ztel.com


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