The telecom industry has had a long-running love affair with technology. From the earliest days of communications, we have obsessed about the technical sophistication of telephony, radio, fiber, cellular, etc., while paying too little attention to the underlying business issues. We obsess about the technical requirements surrounding a new network technology, while often being blind to the business case that supports this investment.
Of course, as competition has become more savage, most telcos have outgrown this love affair and become more balanced in their outlook. Most companies now recognize that while the technology is important and enables the business, the technology is only an enabler. Business models, product portfolio structures, customer engagement structure and market positioning are all peers to the technology and deserve equal attention.
I have to admit I see parallels to this changing mindset in the evolution of TM Forum over the past five years. As an industry association representing the communications industry, we have moved from viewing the creation of technical standards as being our goal to a position where we recognize that the job is not done until the standard has been adopted and is delivering real benefits to our members.
Where we were once purely focused on the needs of the development and standards community within service providers and vendors, we're now getting a lot more interest, participation and direction from CEOs, CIO and chief strategy officers of major telcos and suppliers. This has allowed us to evolve our collaborative efforts to be driven from strategic business problems towards fit-for-purpose technical solutions, rather than developing technical solutions in a vacuum.
So while the technical aspect is still at the forefront of what TM Forum does, everything we do these days is sanity checked against the real business need that it is helping solve.
Benchmarking and metrics
Our Business Benchmarking is a great example of this sort of mindset shift. This program is of fundamental interest to C-level executives, because we're defining metrics that measure the performance of their organization's operational performance, customer care, billing and much more. First we define clear, unambiguous metrics, and then we run benchmarks where you can compare your company against your peers. Every executive needs this kind of information at their fingertips.
Since we launched our Business Benchmarking program, we've found that it allows us to define the tangible impacts of implementing standards such as the Information Framework (SID) or the Business Process Framework (eTOM) to the operational performance of a service provider.
Our benchmarking program produces a number of business intelligence reports a year that contain insightful analysis of current industry issues supported by details from recent benchmarking studies. These reports, along with our wider Insights research reports, really catch the attention of C-level executives, because our very specific research topics help people at the highest levels within an organization to make strategic decisions.
Financial models and a C-level forum
As much as we deliver to our members, we're always listening and looking for new areas to enter and new ways of helping service providers, their suppliers and system integrators. One thing we've started being asked about is offering some kind of key industry financial statistics.
So while it's still a work in progress, over the next six to 12 months we'll be working on a financial model for industry operators that will cover topics such as what is the typical level of investment in IT and operations for service providers of different sizes and in different regions of the world. We think this kind of information will make TM Forum even more interesting to our members.
In addition, we're launching the CxO Forum within our Online Community that will serve as a venue for executives to interact with one another on an ongoing basis. Previously, this has mostly been facilitated through roundtable meetings during our two biggest Management World events in Orlando and Nice, but with this new forum, members can continue the conversation and engage with one another on an ongoing basis.
I really think that with all this and our core Collaboration Program, we're really a 'soup-to-nuts' organization. We're able to gauge the industry, find out what the key business issues are, run those through our technical initiatives and groups, develop necessary tools and standards and all the while have communication from our executive committee to the board of directors to ensure the work is relevant to industry needs.
This linkage between the technical work and business issues is really what sets us apart. We look forward to continuing to work closely with members and learning about the key issues and concerns coming out of the C-suite.
Martin Creaner is president and COO at TM Forum
This article originally appeared in TM Forum’s Inside Leadership newsletter