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Telecom Experts Series

The Concept of One

TRI: At AT&T you proved that a large carrier could actually slay the two-headed dragon of system proliferation and complexity. Can you explain how your Concept of One program enabled that success?

Eslambolchi: Yes, complexity continues to be telecom's biggest challenge. The reason is that we're constantly innovating around new technology, new networks, interfaces -- IPv4 vs. v6, for instance -- and different signaling protocols.

Given the many working domains we deal with these days, complexity generally goes up by a factor of three.

Now there's no way you can manage that many variables with brute force. You must simplify the problem. And how do you do that? You simplify using the Concept of One which I've advocated for a long time and is a key theme in the speeches I give.

The Concept of One is the goal of consolidating all systems and policies -- and the network and applications are part of that too.

At AT&T we had 70 ordering systems and 75 billing systems. How do you manage such complexity in the OSS/BSS? When you have that many systems, it's no wonder that a service povider's cost structure gets way out of control.

But if you really accept the Concept of One and one database of record, things will happen in a much faster time frame than you initially imagine.

During one of the conference sessions, someone said that Vodafone was struggling to find places to take out $2 billion of cost savings. But to me, it's easy to accomplish that. Look at all the process improvements and consolidations you can make using the Concept of One. I can almost close my eyes and find $2 billion to take out of a large carrier like Vodafone.

At AT&T we took our 70 ordering systems down to one ordering system, called the GIOM, or Global Integration Order Management system. Whether it was voice services, data, IP, ATM and Frame, all orders went over that system.

Now one challenge we faced was that product managers tend to introduce products with too many variables to manage. For example, we had an ATM/Frame service that could be configured across 12 billion combinations. Well, how do you build an ordering system with so many variables? The answer is to simplify the product options, so at AT&T we boiled down those 12 billion combinations to about 200.

In this sense, it's not just the BSS/OSS that needs to change. You also need to simplify your products to enable the infrastructure you built. That's why it was important to draw product management into our transformation discussions.