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Big OSS projects go live
By Rich Karpinski

May 13, 2008 7:40 PM

Operations support services “transformation” projects are beginning to move off the drawing board and into production, with executives behind those efforts warning colleagues they'll take longer than expected, fail without employee and exec level buy-in, and put greater pressure on IT to contribute to top-line growth, according to service providers at last week's B/OSS World Show in Chicago.

Wholesaler Level 3 Communications completed the production turn-up of its Project Unity OSS platform this quarter. By the end of the year, the new platform — which include systems from Siebel (for CRM), Savvion (for BPM), Tibco (for SOA integration) and Telcordia (for inventory management) — will support half the company's order volume and two-thirds of its revenue, said Kevin Hart, chief information office for Level 3.

Those systems are being counted on to help Level 3 meet its financial goals, including a year-end target of break-even cash flow. “Our processes have been greatly simplified internally, and now the focus is on work force training and enablement to help us with even faster [service] turn-ups of higher-margin products,” Hart said.

Sprint embarked on an OSS transformation for its IP/wireline business about a year and a half ago. Today, it is relying on those same underlying systems to support its wireless and WiMAX network expansions, said Scott Jenkins, manager of application development for IT network systems for Sprint.

“The same network resource management application suite from a year and a half ago is now supporting Xohm,” Jenkins said. At the same time, Sprint must model and support different business processes in its WiMAX business because they are not one-size-fits all, he said. “You've got to look at what business you want to be in and how to sustain that business,” Jenkins added. “That's what drives your system strategy and transformation.”

Embarq, meanwhile, is about one year into a three-year OSS transformation project, said Vercie Lark, president of IT for the operator. Four core projects are on Lark's plate these days: a back-office-wide transition to SOA, now complete; a new business intelligence system deployment, just getting under way; an implementation of a new CRM system, slated for the second half of the year; and deployment of a new service delivery platform, now in the evaluation stage.

All four projects are focused on helping Embarq improve customer insight, speed time-to-market for new services and build an open partner ecosystem, Lark said. And all of these projects are moving forward as Embarq finalizes the retirement of systems left over from its spin-off from Sprint.

While IT consolidation due to acquisition is a common chore for many telco CIOs, “it's even more complicated to decouple systems than to consolidate them,” Lark said, noting that strong IT governance and adherence to a strict kill/grow/cap strategy has helped Embarq transform its back office while shedding its past.

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