How to Design Telecommunication Business Process Flows Using eTOM

Have you been tasked with designing process flows for a telecommunication network operator? Do these include end-to-end (E2E) processes that leverage one (or likely more) of your OSS/BSS tools along the journey? Perhaps you’ve even been tasked with setting a roadmap for OSS/BSS development and/or integration with other OSS/BSS?

This can be a daunting task because there are so many E2E processes that are required to run the business and operations of a network service provider. Where do you start?

Lucky for you and the rest of the industry, the TM Forum has provided a valuable set of tools that have become the benchmark for designing business processes for network operators globally. It’s known as the eTOM (enhanced Telecommunication Operations Map), which is part of the TM Forum’s Frameworx suite. The origins of eTOM began in the 1990s when the TM Forum sought to assist in the understanding of external business linkages for interface design.

Due to the unique nature and requirements of each organisation, eTOM was always intended to be flexible, but also provide as much standardisation of process as possible. This would provide consistency between vendors / integrators of telco software like OSS/BSS, but also consistency in the delivery of services across points of interconnect (POI) between the networks of different service providers.

The eTOM business process framework has since grown to include:

  • The main document (GB921) – A spreadsheet that contains a list of many (1,000+) atomic tasks (or decompositions) that can be used to create E2E flows from
  • Addendum D (GB921D) – A document that provides a hierarchical and functional grouping of tasks, with multiple levels of granularity (Level 0 is shown in the first diagram below)

    (then a decomposition down to task level 3 can be formed, as shown in the second diagram below. Note: don’t worry about the details here, as we’ll get into that later)
  • Addendum E (GB921E) – A document that describes the design of E2E business streams from the atomic tasks described in GB921. The diagram below comes directly from GB921E. The “customer centric processes” on the left panel represent customer-initiated workflows (more on those later in this article). Meanwhile, the bottom right corner shows how the atomic tasks are linked to form an E2E process for each customer centric process (using L3 decompositions in this example):
  • Addendum F (GB921F) – A document that provides examples of end to end business processes, built from the atomic tasks provided in the previously mentioned documents. The E2E samples include Request to Answer (also known as R2A), Order to Payment (O2P), Request to Change (R2C) and many others, which we mention in this article about key business process acronyms in the OSS/BSS industry
  • Addendum G (GB921G) – A document that provides a guide on how to apply the eTOM process framework
  • There are multiple other addenda that can be used to assist you with the development of your organisation’s E2E processes and integrations, including Addendum W (GP921W), which describes how ITIL (an IT process framework) and eTOM can work together

The important feature to understand here is that eTOM comprises:

  • A large list of tasks (GB921), which aren’t process flows in isolation, but need to be joined together as…
  • …Suggested sequences of tasks (eg GB921E, GB921F) to guide the creation of your E2E processes to meet your workflow requirements 

The art is in the building of E2E flows. The tasks are prescribed by eTOM. The processes only partially so. You have the option of forming them using the examples in GB921F, but you will probably also require input from your operational teams, business analysts, past experiences, inputs from vendors (eg OSS/BSS product functionality capabilities), etc. You’re left with infinite possibilities. So you might still be asking, where do I start?

Well, the industry tends to make E2E processes that are initiated by a customer (or internal operator / engineer). They start with that trigger (X) and end with the outcome (Y) that they’ve sought to trigger (ie closing the loop). They are often, but not always, named using the “X to Y” convention. eg, the link above, provides many examples of these, such as Order to Activate (O2A), Order to Cash (O2C), Trouble to Resolve (T2R), etc, etc, etc.

GB921E provides the following examples:

  • Customer-Centric E2E business streams:
    • Request to Answer
    • Order to Payment
    • Usage to Payment
    • Request to Change
    • Termination to Confirmation
    • Complaint to Solution
  • Network E2E business streams:
    • Production Order to Acceptance
    • Trouble Ticket to Solution
    • Activation to Usage Data
    • Capacity Management
    • Service Lifecycle Management
    • Resource Lifecycle Management
  • Product E2E business streams:
    • Idea to Business Plan
    • Idea to Business Proposal
    • Business Proposal to Launch
    • Assessment to Relaunch
    • Assessment to Retirement
    • Market Strategy to Campaign
  • Engaged Party Flows:

Let’s take a closer look at GB921E and how it helps to solve for the first process in the list above –  R2A (Request to Answer) – using eTOM mappings.

Let’s first start with a Level 2 breakdown / mapping of R2A:

Then, this can be used to guide the Level 3 breakdown, which looks more like the E2E R2A process we’re expecting:

GB921E even provides the template for showing detailed information about the R2A process, as follows:

Note that the examples provided above were from eTOM release 20-5 (which includes GP921E v20.0.1). However, the eTOM document libraries are being refined constantly, with major version releases a couple of times each year, so revert back to the TM Forum eTOM page for latest updates before embarking on your business process designs.

Note: We’ve developed a technique to document, benchmark and optimise operational processes directly from OSS/BSS activity logs. This helps you capture current-state process flows in BPMN format to assist with your eTOM / ITIL process mapping exercise (see sample below).

Good luck on your journey of designing telco business processes for your organisation. If you require assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form below.


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