Translated from an original article written by Thomas Bez, TEDESCA Consulting, www.tedesca.com
The TeleManagement Forum (TMF) Framework
Unlike the ITU-T, the TMF is not a traditional standardisation organization but an independent industry consortium of telecom network operators, manufacturers and service providers. This is probably one of its greatest advantages, as it can overcome the traditional slowness of other telecom standardization bodies.
This brief article is not meant to be an introduction to eTOM, as the TMF provides an excellent primer for this purpose. We are proud to be a member of the TMF, and advise our clients on the content and application of the various TMF ‘standards’.
The TMF has launched a series of complementary frameworks and initiated a number of marketing activities, with focus on the management of telecommunications networks. These frameworks are as follows:
- NGOSS (Next Generation Operations Support and Software) has set itself the task to provide telecom operators with interoperable solutions for managing their services and networks
- eTOM (enhanced Telecommunications Operations Map) is the process model behind all activities of the TMF, and obviously takes a very telecom-specific view of the business processes of an operator
- TAM (Telecom Applications Map), a non-binding blue print of applications or application functions of OSS that are necessary for the implementation of the eTOM processes
- SID (Shared Information / Data Model), a range of object-oriented information models that describe the interfaces between OSS or applications (as defined in TAM)
- A number of other activities, such as technology and showcase programs that are designed to demonstrate the interoperability of OSS solutions, and certification of OSS solutions for compliance to the TMF standards
In the eTOM framework, the functional area “Strategy, Infrastructure & Product” was introduced with Release 3 in the early 2000s. This means that the telecommunications industry has had a reference model that covers all major business processes for a fairly long time now. The “Enterprise Management” area has also been added for the sake of completeness, but lacks a more detailed description and is not really the focus of the TMF.
A mapping between eTOM and ITIL, including the assignment of the individual processes and life cycle elements, is shown below but is only a rough approximation.
The NGOSS program can best be understood with reference to the historical development of supplier-operator relationships. Historically the telecommunications world has been dominated by proprietary solutions, corporate ‘standards’ of the manufacturers so to day, which, although largely interoperable at the network level, are not interoperable at the network management level. So most network operators had to developed their own operations and business support environments and refine them over the years.
For economic and competitive reasons, telecommunications network operators have been encouraging the development of standardized interfaces in network management for a long time, and requesting more flexibility in the procurement of operations support systems, to be based on standards and existing system solutions (commercial off-the-shelf software, COTS).
There are now numerous independent suppliers of (IT-based) operations support systems and they use the TMF to position and promote their solutions. Some people say that the TMF is “a big marketing engine.” On the other hand, as a manager of BT told us recently: “The TMF is the only serious player in town.”
Harmonization of telecommunications and IT standards
The telecommunications world has good reason to strive to harmonize their standards with those of the IT world, because the IT has now grown beyond it traditional support role (“to provide the information infrastructure for the network and service operation and the required OSS applications”). IT is becoming part of almost all telecommunications products. In addition, operational functions are increasingly outsourced, and more often than not awarded to non-specialized telecommunication providers (IBM etc).
It would not make sense to try and map the process models of TMF and ITIL over the entire service value chain. It may be possible, but not adequate. One reason is that the eTOM “services” (services that are marketed by a telecommunications provider) and the ITIL “services” use a different granularity and different perspectives. The most striking differences between the two worlds are:
- Accounting and billing plays a prominent role in the value of the telecommunications service provider. This topic is practically not represented in ITIL, as the billing of IT services follows different premises and is a few orders of magnitude less complex.
- The distinction made in eTOM between customer relationship, service and resource (network) management reflects exactly how telecom service provider processes are organised and run. The distinction between these three layers does not exist in IT and is thus alien to ITIL.
- The tasks of a service desk as understood by ITIL are distributed in the eTOM model over about 30% of all operational Level 2 processes.
- A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is (still) foreign to the management of telecommunications networks. SID is not comparable to CMDB; network and services inventories systems are its closest comparable, although the latter are sometimes quite rudimentary.
On the other hand, if a telecom service is provided jointly by several providers, ITIL can be very helpful in order to define the interaction between the required service processes. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) or Enabler (MVNE), as already mentioned, provides a good example. Starting points for the application of the ITIL methodology in the telecommunications value chain includes:
- Assurance: Event / Incident / Problem Management can be partially or completely outsourced, particularly the Field Service activities;
- Fulfilment: Change Management / Request Fulfilment, including logistics fulfilment and therefore also Field Service;
- IT or IT-related services in general, including parts of billing and invoicing.
Service managers working in industries that do not have a mature reference model should consider the ITIL model and abstract from its IT specific aspects. ITIL v3 is an important step to make the reference model more broadly applicable beyond the IT industry.
The telecommunications industry, however, has a relatively old and mature service reference model. Therefore, using ITIL in “large scale” would not make sense. None-the-less, for certain operational processes ITIL can be used in a complementary manner, especially in the context of Provide-Subprovider relationships and outsourcing.