Virtual workflows

The best way to systematize your business is to first do each job yourself. Find the best or preferred way to do each task, and create a system for doing it that way that is easy to follow. Repeat this process for every function of your business until every part is systematized..”
Michael Gerber
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The Telco industry is built around patterns. Even bespoke services tend to be constructed from repeatable building blocks with some customisation added on. This makes the Telco industry well suited to systematised processing. Most large CSPs have workflow engines. They have to so that they can cope with the volume of orders they receive and the multitude of loosely-coupled business units that touch various parts of an end-to-end workflow.

The ever-increasing prevalence of virtualisation techniques crossing over into the Telco world is exciting because they have the ability to introduce consistent, repeatable building blocks to quickly scale infrastructure up and down to meet demand. In the past, telcos have used workflow engines to build complex processes. Cloud providers are now offering service catalogs that also tend to support workflows. The great opportunity with these service catalog products is for the next-tier CSPs that aren’t yet built upon repeatable, systematised building blocks and consistent workflows.

One of the challenges when designing these workflows for a new product / service is to deeply understand the layers that need to be built up (eg create virtual machines, build VLANs, create virtual firewalls and corresponding firewall rules/profiles, topologies, service attributes, customer attributes, etc). This comes from first building each step / layer manually then trial and error until you find an ideal way to deliver the service. After the manual process is bedded down, the next step is to break the process down into repeatable steps and building blocks that other services can utilise as well, which is as Michael Gerber (the author of the E-myth) describes.

To date, I haven’t seen a service catalog that can support a Telco’s complex processes that have decision points (eg Yes/No gates or If/Then/Else gates). They’re designed more for IT service ordering processes. However I’m sure this will come from the cloud providers in time though as more CSPs request complex process modelling capability.

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