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Case study: How to gain agility, configurability and faster launch times

  • Who? Virgin Media, the the world’s first MVNO, launched in the U.K. in 1999
  • What? Initiated business transformation to improve response to customers’ demands and market forces, including faster time to market and more services, enabled by greater operational agility and efficiency
  • How? By bringing agile, efficient business structure to processes, especially product lifecycle management, based on products certified as Frameworx-conformant
  • Results? Overall savings of 50 percent on time to market for some products, even before the new stack has been deployed

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Virgin Media, part of Liberty Global, launched the world’s first mobile virtual network operator in the U.K. in 1997 and now offers quad-play services – mobile and fixed line services, cable TV and broadband ­– with some 16 percent of its customers subscribing to all four. Tony Fear, Head of Product and Proposition Delivery, Virgin Media, explains to Annie Turner how the company tackled gaining greater agility, shorter times to market, and its success so far.

AT: What business issues are you addressing with this initiative?

TF: We need to meet the demand for more complex offers and products in the U.K. The market is no longer just about handsets and fixed-tariff contracts for 18 months – customers want add-ons, such as extra call minutes, texts or data, handset insurance and premium content. We needed a very dynamic product set-up so that customers can tailor their services to their own needs, which change over time, rather than set offers the business can provide.

An ongoing pressure for me is requests for new products – time to market is so important – it’s the time the business needs to get the most resonance in the market, and timing from the consumers’ point of view. It’s a really big push the business puts onto us as the delivery mechanism to achieve that.

And times to market are reducing, while quality is always being pushed higher, with the business and customers wanting more. Quality is about the whole experience we deliver to the consumer. Can our sales function really support and understand a product and are they able to sell it properly? Then there’s operations within our care organization how they speak to and help our customers. There’s ongoing pressure to deliver a complex activity to a wide audience.

AT: Was there a trigger for your initiative?

TF: One of the biggest obstructions was our proprietary processes: We needed to upgrade the core business support system (BSS) and when we started a project, working with Huawei Technologies, to deploy a new IT platform, it made sense to ensure the new stack allowed us to structure and deliver products to meet market demands. The aim was to transform its business structure to enable a highly agile, cost-efficient organization.

Also, in June 2013, we became part of Liberty Global [the world’s largest international cable operator], which looks to connect homes at a digital level. So our product set is very important, and being able to deliver products to the brand values.

AT: What were your first steps?

TF: We used the Business Process Framework (eTOM) as the overarching framework to set out the groundwork for where we want to get to with the business processes, and then we dug down into the detail. For this we used Huawei’s NGBSS (for Next Generation BSS); Huawei developed a methodology to support our business transformations across traditional domains.

The methodology is developed in alignment with TM Forum’s Frameworx and best practices: the Business Process Framework, Information Framework (SID) and Application Framework (TAM).

We introduced the Business Process Framework to the five process domains, embracing the new direction tracked in Addendum GB921 E of the framework, which covers end-to-end process flows (see Figure 1). In this instance, we focused on the transformation methodology applied in the Product domain, using Huawei’s Unified Product Catalog, part of the NGBSS solution, which is certified as conforming to the Information Framework’s data model. The Unified Product Catalog was used to map the vendor’s product domain processes using the Application Framework.

VirginMedia_Fig1 © Huawei

 

 

We started the analysis work in April 2013 and created an integrated Product Lifecycle Management (iPLM 1.0) model by November 2013. All our business stakeholders approved it in December. The product lifecycle management stream covers the whole lifecycle from the initial idea, to the opportunity and launch, and retirement (Figure 2). Not all the phases are system-bound yet. Each stage contributes to improving time to market.

VirginMedia_Fig2 © Huawei

AT: Can you give more details about the process flows?

TF: We were able to focus on how the processes could be delivered in an agile way, at a time the product catalog was ballooning. We devised a method based on use cases – we defined 96 of them around the product changes they involve, based on the product journey. About ten of them involved revising tariffs; a further 30 concerned promotions and the rest were a combination of things, such as managing the handset.

Once we’d defined the product journey and use cases, we measured the time to market for each, from development to launch, to understand the processes and where the pain points are for our stakeholders.

Category A covers the complex, meaty, big type of projects. Category B involves complex configuration changes made alongside smaller developments – with that product set we were able to get 25 percent of our product catalog mapped to that level of change.

Category C describes regular configuration and testing activity, and we were able to get 43 percent of that mapped to our catalog, while Category D is about the very simple things we’d be happy to deploy straight into our system. We were able to map 32 percent of them into our catalog.

So altogether, we’ve gained a simplification and savings of more than 50 percent, which has had a massive impact on our time-to-market.

AT: How will you build on those benefits?

TF: Now we can govern the way we work and ensure we maintain agility: After all, there’s a common tendency for us all to slip back into old habits. To avoid that, we’re able to apply, across the frameworks, four key gates to track how our new products are doing across the four process flow categories.

We can review and track product ideas, business opportunities, optimization and so on with key performance indicators across each of the gating systems. This means we can see how fast or slow things are moving, where the issues and constraints are when it comes to launching – and then it becomes iterative as a process within a framework.

This in turn means that as we launch new, more complex products – or more, simple ones – we are able to analyze their performance and the whole thing becomes a self-perpetuating engine that allows us to deliver new products faster every time. That summarizes the product lifecycle management framework we’re introducing – and why.

Key stages in product lifecycle management to improve time to market

The five stages of Huawei’s integrated product lifecycle management are:

  • Innovate: Conception is the most strategic process for any enterprise aiming to achieve products that are profitable for the business and innovative for customers. The big question is how fast can the business get new, quality products to the next stage to develop it?
  • Develop: The feasibility check performed at this stage needs to be fast and the design (if required) agile.
  • Release: The system should support the reuse of building blocks or new relations between building blocks to make the launch of the new offer as agile as possible. Shorter time to market can be achieved if the system and rules engine supports these business rules out-of-the-box to ensure product compatibility and eligibility rules for simple configurations.
  • Evaluate: The system should enable control of the Release to Suspend processes of the product by the relevant departments and approval processes.
  • Retire: Exit criteria need to be defined in advance for all products, including an exit strategy for customers. The operations for the product retirement are a complicated process. It can be simplified if the system’s product catalog supports this process.

Virgin Media mapped four categories of end-to-end process flows to the relevant phases of the product lifecycle as part of an holistic approach to managing time-to-market.

Watch this video of Tony Fear, Head of Product and Proposition Delivery, Virgin Media, and Daniele Cozza, Senior Business Consultant, Huawei, presenting at TM Forum Live! in Nice 2014 on how Huawei and Virgin worked together to achieve product lifecycle agility.



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