Building agility using the Open Digital Framework: Saudi Telecom Company’s BSS transformation
Saudi Telecom Company (STC) was founded in 1998. Over the next two decades, it steadily added a wide variety of fixed and mobile services for consumers, businesses and wholesale, including digital subscriber line (DSL), fiber to the home (FTTH), 4G and managed cybersecurity. In April 2019, STC conducted the region’s first 5G call.
As STC’s service portfolio grew, so did its business support systems (BSS). This created an increasingly unwieldy mix that undermined the company’s ability to develop, market and support the innovative digital services it needs to stay competitive. STC’s hodgepodge of legacy BSS created several competitive and financial problems:
To transform its BSS environment, STC turned to TM Forum’s Open Digital Framework. This suite includes hundreds of standardized business metrics for benchmarking, best practices and a host of interfaces and Open APIs that enable integration across systems and platforms.
At STC the immediate benefits of implementing these standards included 37% lower operational expenditure (OpEx), 35% less bill shock and the ability to implement changes in hours rather than days or even months.
The business process re-engineering (BPR) used ‘Level 3’ processes from TM Forum’s Business Process Framework (also called eTOM), a comprehensive, industry-agreed, multi-layered view of the key business processes required to run an efficient, effective and agile digital enterprise. The framework is grouped into levels that provide increasingly detailed views of telco business processes: Using Level 3 was key for defining a clear project scope and developing clear IT requirements at STC. “This provided comprehensive coverage and reduced the effort significantly for the BPR exercise,” says Bandar M. Aldawood, Business Support Systems Transformation (BSST) Business to Customer (B2C) Stream Manager. The solution architecture was aligned with TM Forum’s Application Framework (also called TAM), which provides a common language and means of identification for buyers and suppliers across all software application areas. Using the Application Framework, STC was able to reduce integration time and cost, as well as management time and cost. “Large and complex programs such as BSST had diverse stakeholders, vendors and team members,” Aldawood says. “The Application Framework was used as a common language to map the architecture. So, stakeholders, vendors and team members could grasp the ‘to be’ architecture quickly and accurately and understand which component would be responsible for which function. Hence it helped to reduce communication gaps and reduced time to socialize the new architecture.”
The SOA-based enterprise service bus (ESB) used TM Forum’s Information Framework (also called SID), which provides standard definitions for all the information that flows through the enterprise and between service providers and their business partners. “This helped in standardization of the ESB services,” Aldawood says. The Information Framework also provided the foundation for a common data model, which was key for migrating data from five system sources to multiple targets. “This reduced the effort in data modelling for the data migration,” Aldawood says. The BSS transformation also resulted in STC’s third TM Forum certification.
“One of the main objectives of this transformation project is to move away from product-centric (GSM, landline, data circuits) to customer-centric (consumer, wholesale, enterprise),” Aldawood says. The transformation’s overall effect was simplifying and streamlining STC’s operations, which complemented an earlier initiative to analyze the customer experience for its enterprise subscribers. Agile, framework-based workstreams enabled harmonized processes for all three business units with new customer relationship management (CRM), billing, order management, integration, inventory management and number management systems. For example, the new enterprise architecture provides STC with a dedicated BSS stack for B2C, B2B and wholesale business. Its business processes also were harmonized to focus on customer centricity.
Additional key benefits included enabling a single invoice for multiple services and giving agents the ability to add dynamic discounts or charges. The transformation also saved money by reducing OpEx by 37% and cleaning up nearly two decades of copper inventory discrepancies.
“Despite technology and [the] business ecosystem changing at an increasing rate, STC continuously course-corrected and laid the foundation for the digital core to create exponential value, enable mass personalization, become agile and fully leverage [the] existing ecosystem,” Aldawood says. “To complete the transformation, IT was reorganized to align with business focus and to enable dedicated change capacity for each business unit. The end-result made IT highly responsive to dynamic business needs.”
STC’s Transformation Program Director, Khalid Albatly, shared the company’s experiences as a panelist at TM Forum’s Digital Transformation Middle East event in Dubai in January 2019. Listen to the discussion.