ViewsLetter(SM) on Provisioning

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ViewsLetter  on Provisioning             5 Nov 2002         #9

>> Widespread Failure Over Inventory Control
>> Report on OSScon:  Doing it right is hard indeed.
>> This issue sponsored by Flanagan Consulting.
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>>  Lead Analysis

Lost, misplaced, or stolen?  Nobody knows where a good chunk of the
networking hardware purchased with .BUBBLE venture money is today.  It may
be working as intended, but could be in somebody’s home network, sitting
unused at a cell site, or recovering in South America from a trip through
the black market.  Put aside for the moment the prior cost of poor
inventory management.  What does it mean going forward?

In the context of provisioning, you can't use equipment if you don't have
exact knowledge of its location, condition, and current use.  Those
"details" often got ignored in the push to deploy new networks and get
them operational.  Some CEOs even admitted their goal was to grab some
market share so the company could sell itself  to a larger carrier.  "Let
the buyer straighten out the records on its current back office
system--I'll put the money into adding customers rather than keeping

Those sentiments charmed some venture capitalists, but generally not the
potential buyers.  Recall how a certain failed  DSL startup couldn't sell
it's customer base, only the equipment and co-location spaces.  Was it
easier to start over rather than "straighten out the records"?  Probably.

Other reports (from OSScon, see below) confirmed that the job of
installing a proper inventory system after the network is deployed may be
so difficult that carriers can justify staying with manual records.  There
is a price, however, which may exceed that of the lost equipment.  For
example, many cellular carriers are building out new cell sites so rapidly
that they have lost track of the T-1 lines they leased from the local
telcos to link those cell transceivers to their switching centers.
Without accurate inventory records, the wireless guys are clueless about
their wireline bills--so they pay them each month whether they need to or

The accuracy of the average cellular system inventory seems to be 8% or
15%, depending on the source.  Wireline carriers should be better than
that, after 125 years of practice.  But even they are not perfect, and
often find discrepancies from "as designed" to "as built" to "as is."

Inventory accuracy, or lack of it, prevents carriers from automating
provisioning.  How many truck rolls are dispatched just to make sure about
the equipment "out there"?  Until inventory taking on-demand isn't
necessary, automation of provisioning can't happen.

Software and hardware vendors, recognizing the problem, are starting to
offer solutions.  Automated inventory applications prowl the network,
recording all the devices detected.  The more sophisticated systems also
discover the topology of the network, down to identifying which ports are
linked to each other by each leased line and which ports connect to other
networks.  Hardware's role is to be smart enough to be discovered.  Almost
everything, even formerly dumb jack panels, are getting upgrades (perhaps
to being a switch) so they can identify themselves from a remote site.

Do you know where your "children" are?

[Auto-discovery and auto-mapping are topics for future issues.]

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The presenters (and this reporter) stayed to the end of the event (28-31
Oct in Washington, DC).  Those who left early (and the 2/3 of paid
registerants who didn't show up) missed some interesting insights based on
recent experience with Operations and Support Systems, the software
applications that run public networks.

Nearly impossible.  More than one speaker pointed out the difficulties:
-- Varied business models for carriers.
-- Difficulty of changing business (and people) processes to take full
advantage of new OSS software.
-- Impact of regulation.
-- Multiple instances of OSS performing same function.
-- Tension between top management's desire to cut headcount and middle
management's reluctance to give up empire.

Rich Wetmore, AT&T, suggested one answer is to define new "Direct Measures
of Quality" based on their visibility and importance to customers, rather
than to employees.  Externalizing the goal (response time to install a new
service, for example) can reduce internal conflicts, but goals must be
defined carefully.  He cited instructions he gave to a young baseball
player he coached.  The player was watching a butterfly when a ball was
hit, so didn't run promptly.  "Watch the batter, not the butterfly" was
the DMQ he set up.  Next time the ball was hit the player still didn't
run, but was watching the batter.  Goal achieved, but not the right one.

Martin Mcdermott, Management Profiles, Inc., reported that one
facilities-based national carrier spent $60 million in 2001 on OSS--and
it's still not working well.  That company, he said, failed to put one
strong person in charge of the project.  Other reasons OSS projects fail
resemble those encountered by any major software development:  changing
specifications, top management (perhaps from other industries) who don't
appreciate the need for OSS, and insufficient financial support for what
can be a very expensive undertaking.   As a result, only 15% of software
projects are on time and under budget;  54% are both late and over budget;
 30% are canceled before completion, usually with a total loss of

+  This issue Sponsored by:     ===== + ===== +=================+
| Flanagan Consulting                 
|  *Product and marketing specialists with expertise      
|      in both voice and data--we know convergence.        
|  *Wordsmiths who prize clarity--we expect the CFO to read it. 
|  *Technologists who cherish accuracy--because we            
|      really understand analog and digital communications.       
| Call on us for bright ideas about your telecom product       
| or network.  Whether you need a network evaluation, tutorial,
| white paper, analysis of marketing requirements for hardware 
| or software, or seminar...we have the experience.           
|  We put your information into the form you want. 
|        Phone:  +   Fax:  +1.703.242.8391        
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 Updated:  11 June  2003

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