Any flavor of CEM or Cloud you want

This year’s TM Forum’s Management World in Dublin had this much in common with last year’s event that it focused heavily on CEM and Cloud. A big difference though, twelve months on, was the increasing number of new product announcements and commercial implementations …and of course the sunny weather. It was a relief that this year the only clouds in evidence were inside the conference hall.

There was also plenty at the event on other hot topics, including analytics and BI, policy management, multi-channel interaction and device management, and of course that new staple of countless telecoms IT presentations – how to use real-time analytics to fix issues in the network before customers even become aware of them.

At this year’s Forumville I spent the most time in the Revenue Management zone which had a number of interesting Catalyst project demos around analytics, advanced billing and revenue assurance topics; although other topics covered this year also included Cloud and new digital services, cable services and Frameworx implementation. One of the more thought-provoking Catalyst project was one championed by a combination of IBM/Netezza, Aha! Software, Telecom Italia, Ventraq and China Mobile and which focused on advancing CEM analytics. IBM has been very active in positioning itself in this space and IBM had a strong story to tell on ‘dashboarding’ and ‘flashboarding’ to aggregate operational data from the network and using analytics to gain maximum value from it.

As mentioned, CEM was pretty much in the spotlight. On the first day of the event Alcatel-Lucent announced the launch of its Managed Service Quality and Assurance (MSQA) solution, a managed services addition to the Motive Customer Experience Solutions portfolio the vendor announced back in February. The managed services offering takes advantage of Alcatel-Lucent’s existing base of network operations centers to deliver consistent service quality across a variety of devices.

Certainly one of the common themes in Dublin was the need to offer a variety of different delivery mechanisms for BSS and OSS, including on-premise systems, private cloud or managed services. All vendors were at it. Whether it was NetCracker highlighting its expanding OSS/BSS solutions and services portfolio following its recent acquisition of Convergys Information Management (IM) assets, or NSN talking about the delivery options for its impressive CEM on Demand offering, most vendors were offering a variety of delivery models, especially if they plan to target both Tier 1 and Tier 2/3 operators.

Although it wasn’t technically launching it yet at the event, NSN also unveiled a new ‘Operations on Demand’ product to simplify network operations and deliver efficiency gains by making use of a number features, including automatic auditing based on predefined rules and operator policies, as well as multi-language interfaces and support and easier monitoring. NSN plans to sell ‘Operations on Demand’ as a separate product rather than an add-on to its NetAct portfolio. Given the complexity of the network operations and processes CSPs currently have to manage, automation and simplification is a strong card to play in the support systems space.

HP also announced a number of upgrades to CEM and CX products, including enhancements to its HP Actionable Customer Intelligence and HP OSS Transformation portfolios, including automated tools to speed up problem identification and resolution.

Meanwhile in a briefing on the Ericsson ship moored outside on the Liffey the vendor had plenty to say about customer experience and the need for integrated, convergent, network-aware OSS/BSS to support it. The messages was illustrated with an impressive range of references, including an OSS transformation project with Q-Tel subsidiary Nedjma in Algeria that had a strong CX and service assurance element as well as a fascinating cloud and IT optimization project with H3G Italy. There was less said though than one might have hoped about the Ericsson/Telcordia integration. Ericsson claims this is coming along faster than the previous LHS integration did but still it would be good to have heard more by now.

Most of my time was spent in briefings and meetings but one conference session I managed to attend was a Customer Experience Panel in the CX stream of the conference. This included warnings about the limits of personalization, including the sound advice that you shouldn’t send discount coupons to people who have bought adult diapers or, as happened in one case in the US, send pregnancy-related offers to the home address of a 15-year old girl who has not yet told her parents. It doesn’t take much to potentially upset customers with over-targeting.

Of course not everything in Dublin was about new business models and technologies. As TMF President and COO Martin Creaner pointed out in his keynote presentation, the number one thing in the mind of most CIOs is still reducing operating IT costs.

TM Forum Chairman Keith Willetts also had some good points to make around how the ‘SaaSification’ of business will make things cheaper but he couldn’t resist also promoting his new ‘Unzipping the Digital World’ book. Many of us received a free copy of this weighty tome so I imagine Aer Lingus and Ryanair did well from excess baggage charges.

In 2013 Management World moves back to the French Riviera and Nice, so we can all look forward to an equally sunny outlook for telecoms IT next year.

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