Watch George Glass, Chief Systems Architect, BT, on developing and deploying open APIs – and what they mean to BT and the wider digital economy. He was talking TM Forum’s VP of Open Ecosystems and APIs, Joann O’Brien.
Glass got involved with TM Forum’s Open API program about two years ago “because we see the value in being able to take commodity services within our architecture and building them behind open APIs so we can choose which supplier provides that service to us. I’ll give an example.
“From a telco perspective, billing used to be a differentiator 15 years ago [but]now I need to drive the cost of that down to the lowest common denominator that I can, and I want to be able to work with a partner who can provide that service, at that price. By building the open APIs, we can abstract the billing service away from the rest of the CRM and service management of our architecture, then buy the service that fits our need.”
Glass offered another example of streamlining operations and reducing costs: “Behind each API there is a set of systems that provide systems, data, process and business functionality. When we started the journey, we had over 4,500 systems. Last April – we benchmark it each April – we had fewer than 1,800 systems. So that’s been a big cost transformation for our business.”
He also pointed out that the managed customer account, which enables BT to set up a customer’s billing account from the CRM system, is one of the Forum’s open APIs. He explains, “The documentation we had within BT, going from first draft to published, approved document, took us ten months. That’s available, off the shelf, for [Forum] members to implement today, thereby saving months’ design activity that we spent refining it.”
Using the world’s best brains
As Glass points out, the open APIs are created by some of “the best brains from some of the Tier 1 telcos across the world, some of the top vendors supplying products and services into that market working together to develop that API that supports all different types of payments, particularly defined and available for the telecom market, but designed thinking specifically outside the box – not just thinking about process and payments for telco, but about process and payments for digital services organizations.”
And he concludes by pointing to how a highly regulated, but open, API has brought big benefits in terms of speed and ease of use through automation to BT and its competitors. Any communication provider that wants to offer services across BT’s copper loop must go via its segregated Openreach division.
Glass says, “They call up the API to find out what services they could offer at any location. That is an example of an API, albeit it in a regulated market, offering fantastic advantage, not just to BT, but to all communications service providers in the market.”