Introduction to eTOM

By | March 25, 2010

eTOM is a map which categorizes and classifies the business processes of a service provider in a hierarchical structure. It gives us a common vocabulary of processes which brings huge benefits in defining business interactions with other entities such as suppliers, partners and customers. It also acts like a marketing tool where product vendors use to claim their products comply with eTOM and specific processes within it.

The best way to express large volume of information is to present it in a hierarchical structure. eTOM uses decomposition method between it’s elements to expose more details. Each process element in the hierarchy (the boxes), decomposes to more detailed process elements in the next level. Decomposition steps are called “levels”. The leveling starts at level-0 and continues. In theory the maximum decomposition level is limitless however in practice we do not see decompositions above level 7. Current version of eTOM (v8) decomposes the process elements until level-3. There are some level-4 decompositions but level-4 is not common yet.

eTOM gives you the process elements to be used when constructing your organizational business flows. The important detail is, it does not mandate how those process elements should interact with each other or how you should order them. eTOM says, these flows are organization specific and it is impossible to cover every different flow in a generic framework. However, as a guideline, TM Forum provides some common flows as an addendum to the framework documentation.

eTOM can be used to construct business flows of new products/services/policies etc. It’s more common use is to guide the re-engineering efforts. Service providers are applying assessments to themselves to see if their current processes comply with the best practices, if they have duplicate or missing processes that may lead to organizational inefficiencies. I will comment on this topic in another article.

We talked about the levels in eTOM. Understanding the levels are important as they define the scope of the process elements you will see in that particular view.

Level 0 does not give us much detail. It is the place where we see the domain areas that we may encounter in a service provider. SIP (Strategy and Commit, Infrastructure, Product), OPS (Operations) and Enterprise. Within the Level 0, we also see the horizontal groupings. It is important that these groupings align with the SID. Level 0 defines the business activities of a service provider organization.

Level 1 introduces new horizontal and vertical groupings. I will not name them all in here. The important detail is the level-1 vertical groupings are overlays on the framework decomposition hierarchy. In a correct decomposition hierarchy, each element should appear only once. That is because the horizontal ones are chosen in the decomposition hierarchy and the vertical ones are left as overlays. The overlaid ones denote the elements’ nature and help us to locate elements that most-probably appear in the end-to-end process flows such as fulfillment. Level 1 is sometimes called CxO view as it focuses on the horizontal and vertical groupings that should be under the responsibility of CIOs and CEOs respectively.

Level 2 is what we can call the core business process view. Process engineering starts here because this is where the process elements (boxes) appear. We can start building the highest level process flows in this context.

Level 3 is the business process flow view that enables us to draw more detailed flow diagrams.

Level 4 and below belongs to the operational processes and highly specific to organizations. We will see product or service specific processes and procedures in those lower levels.