It is almost impossible to change organizational culture. It is certainly impossible to change the culture fast enough to have an impact quickly. Some advocate Human Resource solutions, such as putting someone from the CTO’s office in the same office as the CFO. This concept has worked in the past. One large Central European telco moved their Marketing Director to be in charge of IT. With a very different perspective the IT department became much more commercially focused and the whole BSS process was re-branded as Marketing Support Systems. Marketing and IT had a much closer relationship, product management became quicker and slicker and the business benefits were undeniable.
This, though, only works if the culture and ‘clout’ are there to implement it. One new solution is to use a concept that Revenue Assurance specialist Subex calls Asset Assurance. In the same way that Revenue Assurance assures revenue, Asset Assurance tracks, manages and identifies the important information about network assets. Using a dashboard approach, it allows information to be displayed in various ways, and this allows the CFO to see the information in financial terms, the CTO to see it in technical and operational terms.
This, clearly, is going to produce efficiencies. The CFO can track the time between an asset being purchased and an asset in place and producing revenues. He can make decisions about purchasing new assets, requested by the CTO. It may be that delaying the purchase by a month will solve a short-term financial issue. He can ensure that assets that have ended their useful life are re-sold or re-used in another part of the network or operation. Armed with this information, he can actually manage assets, financially, day to day. Meanwhile the CTO can manage the same assets more efficiently in order to maximize the capacity of the network itself. And, using such a dashboard, the CTO and CFO can talk, in a much better collaborative environment.
There are obvious and direct financial benefits to this approach – according to Subex’s COO Vinod Kumar, working with one customer they “found $17 million in lost assets in one week.” There are also other benefits, and others will probably emerge as customers begin to use the tool. Pilfering is a big issue in India for example. Cards are being stolen and melted for their metal. This was tracked down by the asset assurance system and stopped.
Telcos generally only know where 75 percent of their assets – or less – are and if they are in use. Large enterprises are aware of the problem and, frankly, it irritates them. Ask a Telecoms Manager in a large organization what he would most like to fix and it is not the bill. It is inventory. Knowing what inventory his provider has plugged into which parts of his organization will be of great benefit to the customer – and the provider. And will produce a better customer experience.
In an age where the last scrap of efficiency and use must be released from every asset, human, machine or otherwise, tools such as one that allows CFOs and CTOs to actively manage the lifecycle of their assets will be a great relief to operators– and customers.
There is a whole family of Business Management best practices under the umbrella of Business Assurance, Asset Management and its associated best practices of Asset Assurance being key. Since the term “Business Assurance” yields 60+ million hits on Google, one must be specific about what they mean in their context. TM Forum uses its Frameworx blueprint for effective, efficient business operations to put these terms in a practical context.
I would encourage any readers of this column to join TM Forum’s upcoming Asset Management project, which will extend the seminal work on the subject begun last year to move the concepts of Asset Assurance forward.