Business Units with Stand-Alone Software Packages

The company is organised around four key business units: Sales & Marketing, Service Provisioning, Finance and Customer Services. The business unit Sales & Marketing is responsible for identifying emerging trends in the telecom industry and offering new telecom services in response. They are in charge of P R activities, contact potential customers and complete sales transactions. The business unit Service Provisioning is responsible for the delivery of the sales order and organises the provisioning of all telecommunication services the customer ordered. They have to coordinate the installation of network components at the customer's site and the configuration of these components according to the type of service requested. The business unit Finance takes care of the financial counterpart of sales transactions and keeps track of the payments for the requested services. The business unit Customer Services is responsible for the service after sales. They have access to the entire network infrastructure, and on request they can inform a customer about the progress of a service provisioning activity, about the network status or possible network breakdowns. The main business process is shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Main Business Process

It is a company policy that the amount of in-house developed software must be limited. The company has therefore acquired a number of off-the-shelf software packages. Apart from the Sales & Marketing business unit that relies only on elementary office software, each of these business units relies on different business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) that are tailored to the problems at hand. Until recently, all BSS/OSS were functioning independently from each other. The company quickly understood that the integration of the BSS/OSS could improve its competitive position in three ways. On the short run, the company could benefit both from a better performance in transaction processing and more transparency in its business process. On the long run, the activities of the company should become better scalable to an international setup with multiple business units. Now is presented in some more detail how the integration of the BSS/OSS can realise these benefits.

Better Performance

To differentiate from the services offered by the incumbent operator, the company has targeted her services towards the SME market segment. As opposed to the segment of multinational companies, the SME segment typically involves large volumes of relatively small sales orders. But the performance of the present information infrastructure with stand-alone BSS/OSS deteriorates significantly when a large number of transactions have to be processed simultaneously. A main factor explaining this performance decrease is that the BSS/OSS applications are essentially used as stand-alone tools: each application supports only part of the value chain and is treated in isolation. Although each package is very well suited for supporting a specific business unit, the lack of integration between the different applications causes problems: each application looks only after its own data storage and business rules, resulting in a state of huge data duplication and severe risks for data inconsistency on a company-wide level. As a result a substantial amount of manual work is required to coordinate the data stored in the different packages. To avoid these problems in the future, an integration approach should be adopted guaranteeing a centralized data storage and organizing the automatic coordination between the different BSS/OSS.

More Transparent

By integrating the BSS/OSS applications, company-wide business rules can be maintained that give a more formal structure to the company's business organisation. As a result, the business process will become more transparent and better controllable. Previously, the cooperation between different business units was rather ad hoc and not yet formalised on a company-wide level. As a result, a number of business opportunities/risks could often not be detected by the company. For example, the company had problems with a customer company not paying her bills. Later on the commercial contact of this company reappeared as financial contact person in another customer company, and again bills didn't get paid. This repetition of the same problem could have been avoided if information on people had been centralised. In the current system, data on people is stored in all four business units. Sales & Marketing stores data on in-house sales people, out-house distributors and commercial contacts. Service Provisioning and Customer Services both maintain data on technical contacts. The Finance application keeps track of financial contacts. Since the company mainly deals with SME, an individual often takes several of these roles simultaneously, so that with the current information infrastructure data about one person will be distributed and replicated across several business units. Nevertheless, the company could benefit from an approach ensuring that data on a single person is stored and maintained in one place. Indeed, if a person is not loyal in his or her role of commercial contact, the company should take extra care in the future when assigning this person the role of financial contact. Such a policy is only maintainable if all information on individuals is centralised. (In the integrated information infrastructure such a person will be altered to the state "blacklisted," and as long as he resides in this state he cannot be assigned to one of the above roles.)

Better Scalable

As an early adopter of the ULL opportunity, the company is very likely to become one of the major players targeted to the telecom SME market in the European Union. Flexibility in both the adoption of new products, to keep pace with the evolving technology, and in the adaptation of existing products, to conform to different company standards, will be one of the cornerstones to realise this objective. However, the current information infrastructure cannot guarantee this level of flexibility.

The Sales & Marketing business unit is responsible for conducting market research and offering appropriate telecom solutions to keep pace with evolving business opportunities. What they sell as one single product can be further decomposed into a number of parts to install and parameters to configure by the Service Provisioning business unit. An example of this is depicted in Table 1.

Table 1: Commercial and Technical View on Products


Parts and Parameters

bidirectional link of 256 kbps

installation of an unbundled line (2x)


installation and configuration of a router (2x)


configuration of a virtual circuit with bandwidth of 256 kbps

In fact, the business units need a different view on products. Sales & Marketing and Finance need a high-level product view and are not interested in low-level issues related to the installation and configuration activities. Service Provisioning needs to know which parts where to install and to configure and does not bother about the high-level sales and marketing issues. In an attempt to keep a unified view on products while accommodating for their different needs, people of the business units tend to twist the product definitions in their respective software packages. By abusing attributes and fields for cross-referencing purposes, they try to maintain a more or less integrated approach.

However, as the set of products in the product catalogue will increase, a unified view is no longer sustainable. Also in an international setup with multiple business units a unified view can be held no longer: what if a single product from a sales point of view requires different technical configuration activities depending on the business unit. An example of the latter is Internet access: whereas it can be implemented by means of ULL in the Netherlands and the UK, it must be provided with a leased line in Belgium where ULL is not (yet) possible. The company would certainly benefit from a scalable design reconciling the commercial view and the technical view that can be taken on a single product, the former important for the Sales & Marketing and Finance business units and the latter important for the Service Provisioning business unit.

Annals of Cases on Information Technology
SQL Tips & Techniques (Miscellaneous)
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 367 © 2008-2017.
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