Standard Operating Procedures… or Variable Operating Procedures

Yesterday’s blog discussed the importance, but (perhaps) mythical concept of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for service providers and their OSS / BSS. The number of variants, which I can only see amplifying into the future, makes it almost futile to try to implement SOPs.

I say “almost futile” because SOPs are theoretically possible if the number of variants can be significantly compressed.

But given that I haven’t seen any real evidence of this happening at any of the big xSPs that I’ve worked with, I’ll discuss an alternate approach, which I call Variable Operating Procedures (VOP) that are broken into the following key attributes:

  1. Process designs that are based on states, which often correlate with key activities / milestones such as notifications, approvals, provisioning activities, etc for each journey type (eg O2A [Order to Activate] for each product type, T2R [Trouble to Resolve] for each problem type, etc). There is less reliance on the sequencing or conditionals for each journey type that represent the problem for SOPs and related customer experience (but I’ll come back to that later in step 4B)
  2. Tracking of every user journey through each of these states (ie they have end-to-end identifiers that track their progress through their various states to ensure nothing slips through the cracks between handoffs)
  3. Visualising user journeys through Sankey diagrams (see diagram here) that show transitions between each of the states and show where inefficiencies exist
  4. A closed feedback loop (see diagram and description of the complete loop here) that:
    1. Monitors progress of a task through various states, some of which may be mandatory
    2. Uses machine learning to identify the most efficient path for processing an end-to-end journey. This means that there is no pre-ordained sequence of activities to traverse the various states, but notes the sequence that results in the most efficient end-to-end journey (that also meets success criteria such as readiness for service, customer approval / satisfaction, etc)
    3. Uses efficient path learnings to provide decision support recommendations for each subsequent traversal of the same/similar journey type. It should be noted that operators shouldn’t be forced into a decision, as the natural variations in operator resolutions for a journey type will potentially identify even more efficient paths (the Darwinian aspect of the feedback loop and could be reinforced through gamification techniques amongst operators)

It’s clear that the SOP approach isn’t working for large service providers currently, but OSS rely on documented SOPs to control workflows for any given journey type. The proposed VOP approach is better suited to the digital supply chains and exponential network models (eg SDN/NFV, IoT) of the future, but will require a significant overhaul of OSS workflow processing designs.

Is VOP the solution, or have you seen a better response to the SOP problem?

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