Telstra is deploying a new system that will enable its product and customer teams to personalise offers in under a second.
The telco is one of four carrier “champions” of a project run under the auspices of TMForum known as ‘Offer Canvas’, where it has a direct role in shaping the architecture in part by implementing it within its own operations.
Offer Canvas essentially allows telcos to automate the back office system changes required to personalise new products and offers for a single customer or segment of customers.
It does this through a catalogue of reusable “lego block”-like components, which product and offer managers can mix and match to build offers and then quickly take them to market.
Telstra’s customer CTO Fawad Nazir told a gathering last month that Offer Canvas would cut up to 18 months off the time taken to formulate a new offer.
“What normally happens when we have to take an offer to the market today, the offer manager comes up with an idea and then a concept, and they hand over that concept - which is a Word document - to our IT and networks teams etc, and then those two teams have to make manual changes in different BSS/OSS systems to enable those offers and take them to the market,” Nazir said.
“That process takes more than 6-18 months.
“What we wanted to do was to reduce that time to sub-second if possible.”
Nazir said there was internal disbelief when the proposal was first aired.
“When we started the initiative people were like, ‘you guys are dreaming. This is not possible’,” he said. “We took that as a challenge.”
Though work is ongoing, Nazir said defining the architecture of Offer Canvas within TMForum took around two months, and the deployment in Telstra’s environment took an additional two months.
The system is largely self-service, solving a bottleneck in the personalisation process.
“Our offer managers don’t want to rely on IT and networks [teams] too much to be able to curate new offers and products faster and take them to the market,” Nazir said.
“We have given them a self-service capability [where] they can log into Offer Canvas, have a list of services they can consume and combine to create different products and offers, and also combine multiple commercial/billing constructs to take them to the market.”
Nazir noted that service providers generally needed to be able to react faster to changes in the telecommunications market.
This was particularly true when serving customers that were “digital natives”; they typically demanded a faster pace of product innovation, and the onus was on telcos to change the way they operated in order to meet that demand - or watch those customers go elsewhere, he said.
“Digitisation is now becoming a key factor and customer expectations are growing in terms of what they expect us to deliver to them in a faster and more personalised manner,” Nazir said.
“There are new players coming into the market with some innovative offers and a better customer experience.”
Architecting the system
Offer Canvas’s architecture is essentially made up of three components: decision time, design time and run time.
“Decision time is where our offer managers can look at information and data about our customers and what offers we have taken to the market and how much revenue those offers have generated,” Nazir said.
“Our decision time architecture component gives us the ability to leverage the data and use intelligence, AI and machine learning tools to actually personalise the offer for our target customer and customers.
“Using that information, offer managers can build the customer segments and understand what offers will be valuable for them.”
The design time architectural piece is a space where the offers can actually be put together. This is the home of the catalogue of modular blocks, which runs on technology by Sigma Systems.
Finally, “run time is where once the offer is in the market, customers can then order and consume those offers,” Nazir said.
“There’s a clear separation between design time and run time, and the reason for that separation is that we want to be able to design once and use multiple times,” he said.
“So our run time could be a wholesale offering or a consumer offering or enterprise offering, but we don’t want to be designing multiple times, so we design and then we communicate the design to one or more run times for them to be able to present the offers to our customers.”
Nazir said Offer Canvas’s architecture was both metadata- and catalogue-driven.
“What happens is we publish service configuration and fulfilment metadata that describes how services will be fulfilled, sold and presented to customers into the design time,” Nazir said.
“The Sigma catalogue consumes those configurations and presents those services in the form of a catalogue or a list of services that can be curated to build new offers and products.
“Once the design is done in Offer Canvas, the metadata of that design is then published back to our run time as offers and products to be consumed by our BSS/OSS systems.
“They understand what the metadata is and they perform actions based on what the metadata is.”
Telstra is planning to pursue additional augmentations to the Offer Canvas architecture through TMForum.
“One thing that we plan to do next is extending our architecture to incorporate more service creation, innovation and modularisation,” Nazir said.
He also wants to make it quicker to publish and consume services through the catalogue, whether those services are “built on the network, cloud [or are] third-party services”.
“We want to work on our onboarding standard - how do we onboard new products and services into the catalogue so that the consumption becomes really easy for our offer managers,” Nazir said.
Telstra is also hoping to extend the architectural ideas into other systems that have a role to play in the product and offer development process - such as those that handle legal terms and contracts.
“Because we are now offering a capability to offer managers to create services at run time, and we don’t know what services they will mix and match to create new offers, whatever services they pick we want to be able to model the legal contracts on the run time as well,” he said.
“I want a contract to be built dynamically.”