Migrating from NMS-level management

I don’t like to be out of my comfort zone, which is about a half an inch wide.”
Larry David
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There are still many organisations, even CSPs, that manage their customers and networks from their network equipment vendors. Blend in some spreadsheets and cross-domain tools like SolarWinds in combination with CRM, financial planning, etc and they’ve managed to build a workable solution on a relatively small budget. These solutions are often brilliant in their ingenuity, so I have great admiration for this approach.

But I’m passionate about OSS, so naturally I’m excited to see organisations migrating to OSS solutions that provide more sophisticated service management, cross-domain insight and orchestration. Having helped a number of organisations make this transition, it’s always exciting to see how they can transform their business with their powerful new tools.

It also brings me back to an early OSS project where the customer’s team consisted of a mathematician, an automotive engineer, an architect, etc but no telecommunications experience. In the meantime, this customer’s network was operated from a set of newly minted NMS by the relatively few telecoms experts this company was able to bring together.

The OSS was seen as a threat to these NMS engineers and they fought hard to maintain their NMS-level mode of operation. In the end, their technical proficiency beat the OSS team into submission and the OSS that had cost tens of millions of dollars was switched off only a few years after we finished commissioning. It was unfortunate because the NMS team would’ve undoubtedly got a kick out of the tools if they had bothered to have a look at them.

In a recent post entitled Project Platypus I spoke of the merits in bringing together a diverse set of thinkers to plan and design innovative new products or modes of operation.

Thinking back to that early project, diversity didn’t work in their favour. Three key take-aways from that were:

  • Diversity is great when coming up with something completely new and innovative but this couldn’t replace a lack of telco experience when it came to switching to operational mode
  • This team needed to be working closely with their organisation’s operational teams to understand their situation and what problems they needed to overcome. Without having telco experience on the team, they didn’t have enough peer-level respect regarding the technologies they trying to implement
  • If you’re coming into a situation where there is NMS-level competence and familiarity, you will often have an organisational change management challenge on your hands. You will need to involve those who are threatened by change and / or will be shifted from their comfort zone by the new OSS. See the Dr John Kotter approach to OSS change management towards the end of this page.
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