Who are the Service Owners?

 Product Management, Service Management, SQM  Comments Off on Who are the Service Owners?
Dec 282011

As we enter the challenging environment of service management, one question arises naturally. We are managing the services but who owns them within the organization? The answer should be obvious but surprisingly it is not that simple for most operators.

In a typical SQM / Service Management project, we have to interface with the service owners. Service owners are the people who are accountable from the service and they know every details of the service. They are accountable from the technical performance of the service as well. Service owners, appear in IT CAB meetings, new product design processes etc. When compared to product managers, they are more technically involved in the service.

Readers who are familiar with the ITIL terminology will recognize the abbreviation, “RACI”. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed and it is used to describe the roles of the stakeholders within an IT organization. RACI is mostly applied to IT processes. However, it can be applied to products and services as well. According to ITIL;

– Responsible is the person who “does” the service. He/she is the person who executes the process/service.
– Accountable is the person who “owns” the service. This person is also called the service owner in different contexts.
– Consulted is the person who “knows” information about the service. The consulted person provides feedback about the service execution, also he is consulted in certain cases by the service responsible or accountable. The communication is bi-directional.
– Informed is the person who is “kept in the loop”. Informed people do not provide feedback to the other parties in the RACI.

Now, lets look at who could take the roles that are defined by the RACI.

Service Performance impacts Product Performance therefore the product managers should not be accountable for it, instead, they seem to be consulted. Product Management should be consulted about the changes that will be applied on the service as it directly impacts the product performance.

The responsible would be the operations, who runs the service. They are the people who fulfill, assure and bill it. As you can see, there are multiple groups that are responsible of the service.

But who is the accountable person for the service? It seems there should be a role which is missing in the chain. There needs to appear some “service managers” who are the real owner of the service in context. The service managers could be a separate functional group or they may carry additional responsibilities. This layer could be seen as a functional group that “overlays” on the top of the current functional organizational structure.

Each service component in the service tree can also be a sub service, either customer facing or resource facing. These services should also have owners and for the technical, resource facing ones, these would typically be individual departments within the operations. But for the customer facing services the “service manager” would again be required as the service authority.

It is important to differentiate the SOC (Service Operation Center) with the service owners. Service Operation Centers are a sub function of the monitoring function and they watch the service performance and orchestrate the necessary actions for service continuation. They watch OLAs and can notify the responsible departments about the violating conditions. (but they don’t push or force their manager’s anyway)

In today’s operator environment, it seems that the assurance departments (NOCs or SOCs) have owned the services naturally. This is not the right place as these departments do not have the authority for cross- organizational decisions. The “Service Manager” role will be more and more important in the process where the operators become more and more customer centric.

Service Innovation and OTT Providers

 SDP, Service Management  Comments Off on Service Innovation and OTT Providers
Apr 162011
There are rules of successful service business. You need to be effective in terms of managing your costs, you need to personalize the services you are providing, you need to differentiate your services and offerings, you need to increase your quality of service and satisfy your customers to avoid them leaving you. In the mean time, you need to cope with lots of regulatory policies and keep your brand name strong.

Among those, one of them needs special attention as the rules started changing. This is the service differentiation. Have you noticed, your CSPs service differentiation lately? 2G, 3G Voice, SMS, MMS, RIM, Data, personalized ringtones, wap site etc. These have not been changed for a long time. The CSP is fully aware that it needs to differentiate as much as it can. And, most CSPs, apply this differentiation on the Product Offering level. They are creating multiple offerings that differentiate in services combinations, prices, SLAs (if available), etc. There are no new service offerings. Just the product offerings on the marketing level.

While telecom operators seems to operate mostly on Layer 3, the network layer, Layer 7, the Application Layer, provides endless opportunities. Since telecom operators do not pay much attention, someone needs to. And a new type of party appeared in the market: Over the Top Operators (OTT). Google, Amazon, SaaS Providers.

These providers develop applications that will be delivered over telecom operators connectivity services, mostly data. And, they are using the operator as a dump data pipe.Offcourse with the increase in OTT and their usage, telecom operator’s revenue increases.
Vendors are pushing operators to participate in service innovation but do the operators care? It seems not. It seems, most of the operators have chosen to act as a dump pipe and collect the usage revenues. Things do change rapidly in this sector and offcourse this situation could change easily. On the other side, operators still have a way to influence OTT usage : utilizing their SDP systems to enable OTTs to innovate more services. Opening service creation platforms to OTT providers, feeding ideas to them. In the mean time, providing the best service on the network level, focusing more on service level management processes.

We will see in the next years what will operators decide: To stay at the network level or level up and compete with the OTTs.

Jan 152011

As the level of maturity increases in the operators, they focus more on improving the quality of services they give. As I explained in my previous posts, SQM (or sometimes call BSM-Business Service Management) is the key to measure the quality of the overall service. In SQM, we model the service and the service is composed of multiple service components. These components can be HLR, Charging, Core Network, Packet Network, Applications, Databases etc. and each of them is managed by a functional unit in the organization.

In an SQM”less” scenario, from the top-down approach, when a service problem is identified on the very top level, it is questioned the source of the problem. Identifying the root source of the problem may be time consuming. (The departments will most probably blame each other).  SQM can pinpoint the source and take necessary actions that increases the effectiveness. But who runs the SQM?

According to eTOM, SQM belongs to the Service Management & Operations functional grouping, so in best practice, it is advisable to assign a department for this process. (eTOM does not mandate it should be separate. This could be a role that can be assigned to an existing department. But as we will see, it won’t be effective to consolidate functions)

A new term, Service Operation Centers arise with the introduction of service quality management  concept. Service Operation Center or SOC is an organizational “department” that monitors the quality of the overall service and take the necessary actions in the case of service degradations and outages. The main data source for the SOC screens will be the SQM. The operators in the SOC will continuesly monitor SQM and coordinate with other departments to decrease the MTTR of the service outages.

A typical operator has a Network Operation Center or NOC inside it’s organization. This NOC, manages the NMS systems, monitors faults and events, track the performance of the network and troubleshoot the problems at the first hand. (L1 support). However, as the name implies, the main purpose of the NOC is to manage the network.

The network is only one part of the service. There are other components from IT. There may even some components from outside the organization such as content. NOC’s primary responsibility is to deal with those network specific complex problems. They should not communicate with the content provider to resolve a problem.

Because a network service provider’s main product is “network”, up to now, NOCs were sufficient to achieve overall assurance activities. But, as the services get more diverse and complex, SOC concept became much more logical.

As SOC deals with cross-functional teams, they should be sponsored by a upper level organizational entity to be effective. SOC should also have necessary interfaces to the other units (most likely the TT system) where strict OLAs are applied to. The people in SOC should include experts with  skills in networking, IT and other necessary topics to streamline the troubleshooting activities.