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w w w. co march . co m Comarch Technology Review is a publication created by Comarch experts and specialists. It aims at assisting our customers and partners in obtaining in-depth information about market trends and developments, and the technological possibilities of addressing the most important issues.
In Focus: Customer Relationship Management
Customer Loyalty Management and the Billing Process Modern Trends in Financial Institution Customer Service The Automated Mortgage Loan Process IMS Billing Open for the Future Business Process Management â€“ Adopting a Modern Design for Your Company IP Multimedia Subsystem â€“ A Standardized Next-Gen Networking Architecture
Solutions for Finance and Banking:
• Internet Retail Banking • Internet Corporate Banking • Internet Investments • Insurance Customer Care www.finance.comarch.com
Table of Contents
In Focus 4.
Based on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) Next Generation Networking architecture, Comarch offers its fully configurable Real-Time Billing System which enables rating, authentication and authorization of users for telecommunications operators wanting to provide users with mobile and fixed multimedia services
Customer Loyalty Management and the Billing Process More and more telco operators are discovering the advantages of customer loyalty programs. Besides helping to win new customers and retain existing ones, flexible loyalty programs with rich functionality are powerful tools which can increase revenue and forge closer, longlasting relations with customers.
Modern Trends in Financial Institution Customer Service
Trends & Strategies 14.
The task of carrying out a simple transaction in a financial institution conjures up images of long queues and unnecessary paperwork. Fortunately, there are signs that this scenario is gradually changing. Companies are adopting innovative IT solutions to make banking easier for their patient customers and establishing a better market position for themselves.
The Automated Mortgage Loan Process Growing numbers of households and private investors are helping sustain the current real estate boom by taking our mortgage loans. Modern financial institutions are applying novel IT solutions which optimize and automate the complex mortgage loan process to attract these new customers and capture a larger market share.
IMS Billing Open for the Future
Business Process Management â€“ Adopting a Modern Design for Your Company The term Business Process Management (or BPM) refers to a set of activities which organizations can perform to either optimize their business processes or adapt them to new organizational needs. As these activities are usually aided by software tools, the term BPM is synonymously used to refer to the software tools themselves.
IP Multimedia Subsystem â€“ A Standardized Next-Gen Networking Architecture IMS is one of the current buzzwords in the telecommunications industry. But beyond the word, what does IMS really mean for BSS and OSS vendors? This article will discuss the drivers for adopting IMS and how it represents a changing practice in the telecommunications industry. We will also outline the principles of IMS deployment and try to foresee its future role.
I N F O CU S : CU S TO M E R R E L AT I O N S H I P M A N AG E M E N T
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and the Billing Process Building close relationships with clients is an important aspect in the marketing and economic areas of the telecommunications industry. Company loyalty care programs conducted with the customerâ€™s consent offer significant benefits for both parties.
The ability to retain clients is of paramount importance in a marketplace which is characterized by increasing competition among businesses offering a wide range of products and services. Loyalty programs shouldnâ€™t be used exclusively as the only method of glamorizing offers to win new customers, but such programs do give businesses the means to manage customers and reduce the costs involved in retaining them. A loyal customer base allows firms to establish longterm strategies which can facilitate stable business development. The short-term advantages of launching a loyalty program are equally important, and include increased profits and a decrease in the cost of acquiring new customers.
Wooing new customers Besides an increase in sales and the generation of additional income, the trademark of launching a loyalty campaign, from a marketing perspective, is perceived as particularly appealing 4
to customers. Loyalty programs give businesses the opportunity to gather information about their customersâ€™ behavior, preferences and needs. It also ensures enhanced customer relations. Without manipulating customers, loyalty programs should entice them to participate by offering useful benefits. Customers who are invited to take part in a loyalty care program should feel valued and inclined to take advantage of the special offers available to loyalty program members, including easier access to, ordering and usage of telecommunication services.
Achieving program objectives The main task of a loyalty program is to gain new clients and ensure the retention of existing ones by providing rewards for participants who use services, which results in increased profits and the creation of strong and lasting relationships with customers.
The above aims can be achieved by rewarding clients, using new offerings or adding additional loyalty points. Collected points can be redeemed for gifts corresponding to the number of points assigned to each product or service. Clients have the opportunity to exchange loyalty points for gifts, discounts for services or free services (that can have imposed time limits). Loyalty points can be accumulated over a long period of time and their total quantity will reflect the level of customer loyalty and client segment to which the customer belongs in the loyalty point system.
Loyalty Plans and Tariffs Specific plans and loyalty tariffs are used as a useful tool to define the quantity of points. Plans enable clients from certain groups, for example, individual and corporate clients, to be rewarded. By using tariffs, it is possible to define algorithms to calculate points for specific events. Events can be grouped as follows:
Loyalty Tariff Simulation Loyalty care points are allocated based on specific loyalty tariffs. Therefore, it is important that every process be preceded by a simulation prior to the implementation of new tariffs. The program simulates the accumulation of points according to specific tariffs at certain time periods. This particular process is based on the value of gifts offered in the redemption scheme. Gifts are assigned a point value and grouped in a catalogue and defined in the system. Using the simulation it is possible to determine the exact cost of launching new tariffs in certain time periods. The above process is based on data related to the gift’s value and redemption process. Gifts (products and services assigned point values) are defined in the system as a catalogue. Besides defining particular gifts, any operation in the external system connected with the choice of gift should also be defined (e.g. a free service gift should be enabled in the billing system). By using the system, it is possible to control and maintain clients’ orders and available stock, thereby improving the delivery of the clients’ gifts.
Comarch’s Loyalty Management System
• Initial events (e.g. joining the program, duration of participation)
• Receipt events (e.g. the total number of invoices, payments made on time)
• Service events (e.g. purchase of additional services, exceeding the defined quantity of impulses within one service, tariff change) • Time events (e.g. anniversary of program registration enrollment) • Client-specific data events (e.g. birthday, name’s day) • Marketing events (e.g. additional marketing campaigns, surveys)
Aligning loyalty programs to suit business objectives In accordance with a company’s marketing strategy, an operator should be able to flexibly define tariffs and specific rewards of the loyalty care program. Tariff definition is performed within the context of dedicated applications and modification does not involve the intervention of computer programmers. At the same time, the construction of complicated tariffs may require the diversification of tariff definitions within the billing and loyalty systems. While such a scenario can optimize the billing of tariffs and minimize the data sent through the internet, it requires the integration of both systems.
Comarch Loyalty Management enables full integration with external services (using the integration module), however in this case, the creation of an appropriate interface in the external service is necessary. The system also enables advanced reporting through reports available within the central application (QuickReports or Jasper Reports) – Business Object tools are an option. By utilizing this, it is possible to generate simple reports and/or a multidimensional analysis. Comarch Loyalty Care system can easily be developed. Growth can be achieved either through offers of company services or in cooperation with external partners. The system enables the defining of tariffs connected with individual clients, redemption within the system and the possibility of financial clearing between partners. The system can be based on the technical capabilities of magnetic or microprocessor cards to connect to a central unit to fulfill the needs of client transactions. Additionally, it is possible to use the back-office option, loyalty terminal and debit/credit card terminal. Comarch Loyalty Management delivers the functionality required to launch an effective loyalty system for modern telecommunications companies. Comarch Loyalty Management makes it possible to flexibly maintain loyalty operations by incorporating a wide range of tariff mechanisms and other loyalty system elements to enable multidimensional analysis and the generation of reports crucial to the assessment of the effectiveness of a loyalty program’s outcome in light of customer behavior. Marcin Kościak Business Solution Manager Aurum Loyalty Care
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Modern Trends in Financial Insitution Customer Service Business operations of financial institutions are increasingly related to technological changes, expanding globalization and integration of individual markets. Banks and insurance companies, which recognize in these changes the possibility of development and creation of a strong market position, ever more take advantage of innovative IT tools in the customer service process, particularly in areas of direct customer contact, eg.: bank departments, branches, agencies and call centers.
Limitations of an Antiquated Model As recently as a few years ago, the customer service provided in bank branches was associated with long queues as well as bank employees with various levels of competence having to use a multitude of computer tools and applications or worse yet, several computers. Even to perform the simplest of operations, customers had to spend a great amount of time in a bank branch. The situation was made worse by inefficient procedures and a vast amount of paperwork consisting of the same data processed several times, which forced customers to fill out an array of forms providing the same information. Such an operational model didn’t allow financial institutions to realize
basic business objectives such as efficient and effective sale of services or build long-term relations with highincome customers. Consequently, financial institutions with the ambition of becoming market leaders started progressively restructuring the traditional-model branches.
The Gradual Process of Modernization The first stage of changes concerned introduction of service zones. Selfservice zones were created near branch entrances equipped in modern tools like cash machines, multimedia terminals, multi-functional printers. The idea behind the creation of self-service zones was to enable customers to perform simple transactions and financial operations on their
own without the assistance of bank emloyees. The next stage in the modernization of bank branches is installation of a standard, integrated front-end application for bank employees to aid use of multiple systems. Solutions of this nature are based on the latest IT technologies enabling: • user interface personalization adjusted to specific bank employee profiles, • Quick customer identification and work in the customer context, • Processing of transaction in realtime, • Direct modification of sale processes by specified bank employees • Integration with other distribution channels, • Guarantee of high security level.
ices or products, which customers might be interested in. In the case when customer decided on the product, the system starts the procedure of service based on a defined sales process. During the sales process the system automatically communicates with the database and fulfills particular applications and thereby reducing the amount of customer service time. As a result, the front-end system provides significant benefits for customers and financial institutions.
Benefits For The Customer • • • • •
smaller queues, quick service time, transaction in one office during one visit in the bank, competent advisory of bank employee, higher quality of services by phone.
Benefits For Financial Institutions • • • • •
service of higher amount of customers, reduction of operational costs, effective planning and controling of sales and contracts, campaign to gain profitable customers, creation of effective retention programs.
Comarch CRM Sales Management
Bank employees using front-end applications have access to full information about a given customer. After proper customer identification, all details necessary for the sale of a service or product appear on the screen of bank employees, including: • Customer profile – basic, aggregated information, eg. contact details, income, list of products used, etc., • Contact list – list of contacts made with customer: planned, current and past, • Product list – a detailed one-page list of all products used by customer, • Operations list – presentation of all operations performed on customer accounts. The front-end class application supplies full information about customer needs on the basis of collected past data and marketing analyses. Thanks to this, bank advisers have complete information about a given customer in one application. At any time they can check the contact list, account balance or sent applications. Moreover, the system automatically analyzes customer situations and sends bank advisers information about serv-
Based on years of experience in cooperation with financial institutions, Comarch created its own innovative front-end solution - Comarch CRM Sales Management. Innovation on the Polish market is highly appreciated by customers. The system boasts rich functionality in the areas of customer relationship management, departments and contact centers. Moreover, Comarch CRM Sales Management has expanded transaction functionality, containing full cash service and expanded sections for sales networks and sales plan management. Importantly, the system enables the automatic monitoring of salespeople and the efficiency of their activities. A lack of control can lead to problems in building efficient motivational programs and in the decision making process for salespeople and managers responsible for sales management. The implementation of Comarch CRM Sales Management solves the problems connected with standardization of sales networks. Moreover, it guarantees a high level of customer service and provides bank employees with previously unavailable insights into net activity. Paweł Bojar Business Solution Manager Consulting Center for Financial Sector www.comarch.com
The Automated Mortgage Loan Process The projected development of the real estate market, improved financial situation of many households and more favourable conditions to obtain mortgage loans have all led to a significant increase in demand for mortgage loans. Achieving and maintaining a competitive market position may require innovative solutions to support the automation of mortgage loan sales and services. A Growing Market The loan market is constantly growing â€“ in developed countries mortgage loans accounted for 50% of the GDP in 2004. Increasingly more people are searching for a way to finance their investments, with banks beating at their doors with attractive mortgage loan offers. Lower interest rates, lower commissions and margins, smaller mortgage borrower deposits as well as more lenient eligibility criteria all present mortgage borrowers with a real dilemma as to which bank to choose. Additionally, the situation on the loan market is made more difficult by the increasing number of loan brokers, enabling comparison of different bank loan offers. Therefore, apart from the loan cost, customers are interested in only one essential aspect â€“ time. After receiv8
ing their credit rating, customers want to know how fast they can get their money and how many visits they have to pay the bank. Optimization and automation of the complex loan process effects faster loan grants and access to a wider customer base. At the same time, it is conducive to lower loan processing costs and allows banks to maintain their position and expand their activities on the ever more competitive loan market.
Mortgage â€“ a complex credit process Complexity of the mortgage loan process results from a lot of factors. Most important is the high value of mortgage loans and the associated risk, which force banks to implement security provisions against potential customer insolvency. Implementation
of such provisions requires procurement of many documents from customers before a loan decision can be made. Another aspect complicating the loan process is the way of payment. In contrast to smaller-amount loans, which are mostly paid in one lump-sum, mortgage loans are paid out in consecutive instalments dependent on the property purchase agreement signed by the customer or the progress of building an own house. Furthermore, the long period of mortgage loan repayment requires banks to take preventative steps to secure mortgage loan repayment in case of work loss by mortgage borrower, his death or other accidents. There are different kinds of preventative steps, which require periodic updating. This situation presents banks with a dilemma: how to opti-
mize the mortgage loan process and minimize bank activities in a way which allows quick loan grants and low risk for banks.
Process automation Fierce market competition has forced banks to implement innovative IT solutions, which automate the entire mortgage loan process, or parts of it. The introduction of a comprehensive system for managing the mortgage loan process enables quick decision making and minimizes customer involvement. Moreover, banks are assured that all the important elements of the credit process have been taken into consideration. The automation process can be executed on a few levels. Firstly, by introducing an electronic mortgage loan application system. Instead of the traditional way of sending paper documents between people involved in the mortgage loan process, data from a given application together with all the necessary documents are registered in an IT system. The traditional stack of paper documents is replaced by a computer and a system which enables authorized users to access all the documents immediately following their entrance into the system from any bank location. Mortgage loan decisions are made on the basis of edocuments, which are verified with the originals in the final stages of the mortgage loan process, before loan payment. What are the benefits of automating this aspect of the mortgage loan process? The main benefit is the reduced time it takes for mortgage loan decisions to be made. This is particularly significant in situations when mortgage loan decisions are made in different places (another city, another bank branch) to where mortgage loan applications were initially lodged. The solution is especially relevant when banks grant mortgage loans through financial brokers, who initiate the mortgage loan process and are the main source of contact with customers. The next benefit is the availability of mortgage loan application forms on
the Internet, which allows customers to fill out their applications online, saving them trips to the bank until after the initial acceptance of their mortgage loan application. From the perspective of a mortgage loan lender, the greatest benefit lies in the automation of the decision making process. To this end, advanced scoring systems are used, which enable banks to establish customer credit rating in a matter of few minutes. The decision is made automatically, in accordance with bank policy and on the basis of mortgage loan application data, external databases, internal bank databases (i.e.: “black lists”, customer databases), customer history and other sources. Other undoubted advantages of scoring systems, besides reducing the length of the mortgage loan decision process, include rendering risk management processes more efficient and standardizing procedures in this area. Using the above-described tools at different stages of the process is a necessity for innovative banks. However, one other level of process automation exists – that of comprehensive IT solutions which support the mortgage loan process from the moment that an application is lodged until loan payment and monitoring of loan instalment repayment. Such solutions enable precise planning and optimization of the whole process, planning of roles of people involved in the mortgage loan process and their authorization and access to documents. Of vital significance is the possibility to model the mortgage loan process continuously, according to changing market trends. In the case of mortgage loan sales, implementation of an IT system that supports core mortgage loan processes solves two basic problems. Firstly, system support in the area of registration and service of security devices facilitate their management and monitoring at later stages; something that without system support is very difficult, time-consuming and susceptible to mistakes. The second important benefit is service support
of many documents (application forms, contracts, transfer of insurance policy rights, land registry entries). The possibility to generate in the system different printouts on the basis of initially introduced data shortens the process and saves customers and bank employees time. Additionally, IT systems facilitate the whole mortgage loan process by selling mortgage loans with the aid of e-documents, which eliminates sending paper documents between bank branches and the credit analysis center. This comprehensive system minimizes the risk of mistakes and thanks to control tools, enables diffusion of blockages that delay the process. Introduction of a comprehensive system of mortgage loan process management promotes quick decision making and minimizes customer involvement.
Comarch Credit Process Management Such a comprehensive IT solution for mortgage loan process management has already been implemented by Bank BPH using Comarch’s Credit Process Management system. Bank BPH is one of the biggest banks in Poland in the area of mortgage loan services, with a 20% share of the Polish market. Currently, all elements of the bank’s mortgage loan sale process are carried out with the use of Comarch’s Credit Process Management system. This significantly shortens the time of processing mortgage application forms (from 2 weeks to 1 day), renders the process more efficient, lowers the credit risk and cuts operational costs. In consequence, Bank BPH is expertly prepared to answer the continuously increasing demand for mortgage loans and maintain high standards of customer service as well as strict bank policies. Katarzyna Siwarska Business Solution Manager Consulting Center for Financial Sector
IMS Billing Open for the Future Several carriers already support or are planning to use IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology to deliver seamless multimedia communication to their users. IMS provides service deployment architecture for 2G and 3G services and defines open interfaces for session management, access, service control and billing.
In response to these trends, Comarch is offering its Comarch Real-Time Billing System (RTBS) which enables real time rating, authentication and authorization for users of todayâ€™s services. The system also prepares companies for the implementation of new products and to tap new revenue streams from next generation services, well before their introduction to the market.
looking for convergent wireline and wireless services that are easily accessible. Users want to be able to execute all kinds of services, regardless of whether they are roaming or accessing services from their home network. For operators, the diversity of services, networks and protocols, creates an infrastructure that is exceptionally complex, especially in the areas of billing and network management.
Trends in the telco industry
IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)
There is a growing trend in the telecommunications industry towards consumers demanding increasingly faster, more seamless multimedia communications, including voice, data and video. Over the last few years more and more customers have been
To reuse components and facilitate service creation, the standardization organization 3GPP has developed IP Multimedia Sub-system (IMS). It allows the introduction of standardized interfaces between applications, network layers and back office systems. IMS
provides service deployment architecture which will eventually work with any fixed, mobile or wireless network, including GPRS, UMTS, WiMAX, WLAN, DSL, among others. At the same time, IMS will support existing phone systems. IMS is capable of seamlessly â€œhanding overâ€? calls between fixedline and mobile networks. IMS allows operators to use, combine and integrate services developed by third parties with existing services to provide users with an innovative final product.
Challenges for carriers The recent deployment of 3G telephony introduced additional challenges in the areas of service provisioning and charging. IMS supports both on-line and off-line pricing. Besides simple charging for data and voice transmission, the operator has to take
Comarch Billing System
Parlay X Gateway
Parlay Application Server Session Manager
Other Apps Parlay API
Value Added Service Provider
Parlay Resource Gateway
IMS Platform Gateway
WLAN IMS service delivery architecture
into account the content of the provisioned service. For example, users are charged at completely different rates for downloading a 5 MB e-book and an mp3 of the same size. For some services, such as videoconferencing, the charge may be increased owing to superior QoS. With VoIP, the operator offers practically no guarantee of the connection bandwidth users access or any delay which may result. IMS is used in the UMTS network and allows quality parameters related to the billing process to be specified. The aforementioned issue of network interaction especially concerns pre-paid services, which are based on real-time mediation and charging for service usage. Unfortunately, almost every pre-paid service has its own specific demands, which make it harder for operators to offer a fully conver-
gent range of services. A typical environment might require information to be collected from several different devices and charged via diverse methods, such as FTP, CSV, flat text files, JMS, Diameter, and RADIUS. Thanks to the IMS standard, billing and OSS vendors can simplify the required interaction between network elements. However, enabling real-time charging for the scenario described above with a disparate group of interfaces is not an easy task. Another challenge for operators is to provide systems with sufficient performance and scalability to ensure proper service authorization and rating â€“ even simple GPRS transmission produces 20 times more information than a single GSM call. The operation becomes even more intricate as IMS encourages carriers to link up with
other partners to offer, for example, voice, data and video contracts. This scenario gives rise to additional issues: Who will authenticate the traffic? Taking into consideration all the interconnect settlements, who will charge for it?
Comarchâ€™s answer In response to these pressing issues, Comarch is offering its Comarch RealTime Billing System (RTBS). It enables real-time rating authentication and authorization of users for 2G, 3G and IP-based services. It also allows operators to introduce new kinds of services that require user authentication, authorization of services provided and the real-time rating of service usage. The system is Parlay/OSA compliant, therefore it operates irrespective of the type of network used. However, www.comarch.com
it contains a Service Control Point for cooperation with SS7 enabled networks and RADIUS and DIAMETER servers for IP-based networks. The system includes strong support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) which allows independent software developers to leverage a broad range of 3rd party application servers, media servers and SIP-enabled end-user devices to create next generation services. IMS service delivery architecture is based on SIP and Parlay and provides secure, mediated access to network resources, and conceals the complexities of the underlying SS7 signaling network to allow new services to be deployed faster.
Session control Thanks to the Session Manager (SM) deployed on the Parlay Application Server, Comarch RTBS maintains complete control of users who are trying to use the operator’s network. SM is able to determine session specific parameters and track session progress. Whenever a session needs to be terminated it can send a termination signal (in case of SCP) or pre-calculate maximum session time (often used in RADIUS-based IP services). Each session creates a single event in the billing system with detailed information about the volume used. Events are based on incoming data from the Parley Resource Gateway. Additionally, SM adds information about the user, services, pre-rated call cost, etc. The event can even be generated without complete information from the network device. When records are lost, for example in the case of STOP, the event is generated based on the last common network event (INTERIM record). Session Manager allows multiple, open sessions for single users, depending on the specific user and definition of services. Typical examples of such functionality include UMTS and GSM/WLAN services. Session Manager, which is similar to Account 12
Information, also stores data about available services and user subscriptions. Depending on the service, authentication can be based on, among others, SIM, username, password, PIN, phone number, IP address and EAP-based schemes.
Session Authorization Session Manager also controls the services accessed by users. During the authorization process, the system always checks users are subscribed to the services they are trying to access. The system determines the volume of a particular service available to users, for example, maximum service duration or maximum data transfer. This action is performed when a session begins and is based on additional information, such as account balance.
Convergent system Thanks to the Session Manager and Real-Time Rating capabilities of Comarch RTBS, the solution can serve as a convergent system for the operator’s billing and pre-paid platform. Service control also provides important fraud protection features that control services in appropriate ways, in accordance with their design. One of the key elements of the Comarch platform in the context of IMS pre-paid services is the Parlay Resource Gateway module. Based on network events, Parlay Gateway generates correlated network events for Session Manager. RTM also receives answers from Session Manager. It is this feedback which determines the behavior of each service for users, allows users to access services and limits volume usage of each particular service.
eWallet Session Manager stores information about “virtual” money which is assigned to each particular user account or set of accounts. eWallet can be shared and used simultane-
ously by several user sessions or “child” accounts. eWallet is especially useful for pre-paid services and post-paid limited. eWallet supports reservations, rollover, automatic recharges, and minimum service threshold. It can be recharged by incoming events from Billing Systems, IVR and eCare systems.
Account Storage In order to efficiently process sessions, Session Manager caches users’ Account Information from the Billing System. Accounts are stored in readoptimized databases, such as Memory Database. Information in the database is refreshed when the system starts up and whenever it is necessary to modify information (push model). Session Manager doesn’t permit data modification. The only way to change account information is to alter it in the master Billing System. In this way, the system maintains data consistency and it prevents the possibility of accepting traffic from accounts which are not registered in the Billing System.
Fast implementation of new services The module and object-oriented construction of the Comarch RTBS Platform allows fast and easy implementation of new services offered by carriers in harmony with their development. This is especially important when a wide range of services are offered in the context of IMS technology. These changes do not require modification of the application code. Event–driven 3G billing with flexible event format definitions for IP, VoIP, GPRS and UMTS, including numerous tariffs and discounting schemes, are open for future (3–4G) services. With Comarch, carriers can offer the latest services at any time without having to update the system.
Comarch Billing System The Comarch Billing System (BS) is the fully configurable product at the heart of the RTBS platform. During its construction, great emphasis was placed on creating a flexible and easy system to ensure that changes could be introduced without modifying the system code. The efficiency of the solution has been proven in implementation projects with numerous operators featuring highly varied modes of operation. Thanks to its flexibility, the system can operate in a variety of configurations with different operators. “Ready-To-New” technology also makes it possible to develop new business rules on-the-fly. The system enables operators to deploy new
services without changing the existing application code. Moreover, Billing System facilitates customer account management, including the defining of products and rating plans, management of invoices and dunning processes, and of course interfacing to 3rd party systems, such as General Ledger systems.
Data Processing Server “Ready-To-New” postulate can be fulfilled because of the heart of billing – Data Processing Server (DPS). DPS is a rule-based rating engine that prerates events in real-time, and performs full rating at the end of each user session. The rules in the DPS ensure the maximum flexibility of rate plan definitions and allow the creation of very
sophisticated rating and discounting procedures.
Open for the future One of the key needs for an IMS carrier is the capability to efficiently and accurately bill customers for services. Comarch BS System allows IMS providers to account for a full range of services. Comarch BS prepares carriers for next generation telecommunications products (i.e. 3G and 4G), ensuring that companies are ready and able to implement and gain revenue from new products, well before their introduction to the market. Tomasz Przybylik BSS Consultant
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T R E N D S & S T R AT EG I E S
Business Process Management
Adopting a Modern Design for Your Company The term Business Process Management (or BPM) refers to a set of activities which organizations can perform to either optimize their business processes or adapt them to new organizational needs. As these activities are usually aided by software tools, the term BPM is synonymously used to refer to the software tools themselves.
As the definition states – BPM tries to answer one of the most important questions for business organizations – how to create an operational backbone for a company which is strong (yet flexible) while improving information flow within an organization rather than overloading it with unnecessary procedures and decision making delays. Usually a company’s business processes are adapted to the best methods delivered by external consulting groups or based on the experience on staff members. As the company grows, their business processes also evolve while unfortunately becoming more complex. Such complications can be avoided by redesigning the processes periodically or when a major change arises in a company’s 14
operations. Arguably, one of the most common catalysts for a process redesign occurs during the implementation phase to help manage design, execution, monitoring and reporting processes.
The Advantages There are several benefits to the introduction of a new IT system supporting BPM. The primary one is of course the reduction of time necessary to complete complex tasks through optimizing the task route by assigning available personnel with the best skills for the particular task. Examples of such time reduction are numerous. A major financial services company cut down the steps necessary to service a customer by 50% and reduced the
staff required to perform such services by 30% while at the same time reducing the processing time 5 times and increasing customer satisfaction by over 30%. Such a success was of course achieved by combining several factors – of which the introduction of BPM was the driving force. An automated process flowing through the entire enterprise enables users to focus on their specific area of expertise without worrying about the complete process – thus increasing productivity of the staff. Additional benefits can be realized through the monitoring and control of these processes. Most of the available systems on the market have built in automatic alerting and escalation mechanisms ensuring the attention of group managers is raised if the
T R E N D S & S T R AT EG I E S
execution of certain tasks within the process is not meeting the SLA conditions – e.g. when a VIP customer waits for a claim solution for more than 72 hrs. The reporting capabilities of the IT system represent a very significant opportunity. Based on the information from the system, managers can verify process optimization and if necessary redesign it. Such functionality also comes in handy whenever there’s a need to observe a certain trend in the company – e.g. a rapidly increasing number of claims from a certain customer or a variation from the standard reaction of CSR’s and customers due to a changing environment (prices, quality etc.). Without monitoring and reporting capabilities, such observations would be very difficult and often appear too late for an appropriate reaction.
BPM Standards Business Process Management systems are based on a number of standards adopted by major BPM system vendors. Lately one of the most referenced is BPEL4WS which provides a language for the formal specification of business processes and business interaction protocols. In doing so, the Web Services interaction model is extended while enabling it to support business transactions. BPEL4WS defines an interoperable integration model that should facilitate the expansion of automated process integration in both the intra-corporate and the business-to-business spaces. Also worth mentioning is Wf-XML which supports run-time interoperability between different business process management systems as well as XPDL, a standard for exchanging process design between process modeling tools.
BPM versus EAI As for IT systems, very often the name Business Process Management is used in place of the name Workflow – however there is a difference – workflow usually refers to a part of the business process performed on the single system whereas BPM relates to all
operations joining multiple systems together. Usually BPM systems are supported by a middleware – Enterprise Application Integration components which organize and standardize the data flow between systems joined in a common process. Very often such systems are also referred to as the Business Integration Layer (BIL). Depending on the software vendor’s approach, this can be built into the BPM system or offered as a separate solution together with the adapters for particular technologies or directly for most known systems in the market (such as SAP or Oracle). Recently the term SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) is often mentioned in relation to integration technologies. The beauty and simplicity of SOA lies in the concept of loosely coupling the systems that provide services rather than depending on a heavy integration bus managing all communications.
• Task routing can be based on •
Comarch’s Business Process Management Following the trends in the telecommunication market, Comarch has created the Business Process Management system helping the operator design and manage their business processes. Comarch Business Process Management was built according to the standards and recommendations defined by the Workflow Management Coalition, an international organization focused on standardization of Workflow and BPM systems. The system is dedicated to all companies within high levels of management regardless of its field, size, traffic, services or ambitions: for small start-up operators to mature companies. It is dedicated to all companies which must lead teams and would like to enhance their internal communications. It enables easy communication and optimization benefits. The key features of Comarch Business Process Management System include:
department, security group, task or ad-hoc. Alarms and Milestones can be set to alert the user that a deadline is approaching. The timer parameters are configurable by days or hours. A complete audit trail and document history is provided. System administration tools allow queue reassignment, queue and table maintenance, data modification and exception handling. Reports management allows monitoring of productivity and anticipation of resource issues. For instance, business managers can dynamically substitute absent users with available ones. These managers are also able to quickly allocate required rights for particular users or user groups. Forms and correspondence can be integrated through the most popular word processors. Built in integration layer – with capabilities of integration using Web Services, JMS, RMI and XML files. Graphical process design tool – used to design and manage processes.
Comarch Business Management is built using state-of-the-art J2EE compliant technologies. It runs on both Oracle and Microsoft databases. With a web-based end user interface and a rich windows client for administration, it creates an easy to manage and operational tool for helping a company run their processes. Comarch Business Process Management has received the highest opinion from a number of customers in the US, Latin America and European markets – including telecommunication operators, MSOs, MVNOs and many other businesses where flexibility, adaptability and work optimization are key factors for success. Andrzej Przewiezlikowski Head of Strategic Research Center
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A standardized next generation networking architecture for telco operators
IMS is one of the current buzzwords in the telecommunications industry. But beyond the word, what does IMS really mean for BSS and OSS vendors? This article will discuss the drivers for adopting IMS and how it represents a changing practice in the telecommunications industry. We will also outline the principles of IMS deployment and try to foresee its future role.
Telecommunications is a well established industry with its own rules, practices and culture. During most of its lifetime, it was largely protected by governments and bound by state control. Only recently, when competition between private telecommunications operators started to appear, links to governing bodies became weaker. From a technical perspective, the privatization of the telecommunications industry has resulted in a range of international standards, such as GSM, CDMA and UMTS. The advent of the Internet further revolutionized the industry. Together with the widespread adoption of broadband access, this new form of competition and convergence has triggered international competition between telecommunications and other industries. IT and mass media are among the industries competing in what is now commonly referred to as the “communication services industry”. Examples and statistics reflecting this relatively new market trend are 16
ubiquitous. In France alone, official figures from the national regulator, ARCEP, shows that in the second quarter of 2005 there were 1.9 millions VoIP lines other than ADSL while there were only 1.5 million during the first quarter. At the same time, France Télécom is losing 10,000 fixed line customers a week.
The Emergence of the IMS Standard The IT industry has always been a highly competitive market characterized by intense competition, constant innovation and a pragmatic culture. As a result it has a long list of standards based on best practices. One of the most interesting standards originating from the IT industry is the IP protocol. The IMS standard outlines a general architecture for offering VoIP and multimedia services. It is an international standard established by the 3GPP. This standard is independent from different types of network access, includ-
ing GSM, WCDMA and WLAN among others. The IMS standard is based on IPv6 for the network layer. Beyond its technical and short term implications, IMS represents a change in direction for the telecommunications industry. Indeed, after relying mainly on its own rules for many years, the field now integrates the best elements of each competing industry. For users, IMS will enable them to communicate through a variety of different services, including video, voice, pictures, text or a combination of all of these. Accordingly, communication can be channeled from one person to another or from content to content.
Improved time to market and lower costs IMS will enable operators to reduce costs, implement new services and improve time to market through the use of IP networks and improved standardization, thereby allowing
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Communication services industry
The telecommunications, IT and media industries are merging into IMS to drive the Communication services industry
carriers to compete more effectively against other industries. As a direct result, other systems will also have to improve. Indeed, while IMS services are faster to implement, if a carrierâ€™s billing system is not prepared to charge for services, the advantages of IMS are lost. In this context, we can predict that BSS and OSS systems will have to provide increasingly higher levels of API in
order to improve integration time. In terms of standardization, we may also see the wider use of OSS/J type standards in order to reduce integration costs and time.
Increased partnerships As the telecommunications industry becomes more closely linked with IT and media, the borders between billing systems will also disappear.
Imagine that you decide to pay to watch a movie on your mobile phone while returning home on the metro. When you arrive at home you continue to watch the movie, however this time with access via the optic fiber Internet. When you buy the movie from the service provider you can pay the mobile phone operator directly for the film. The mobile operator will later redistribute a percentage of the money
T R E N D S & S T R AT EG I E S
to the film service provider. When you continue watching the film via the optic fiber, your mobile operator will have to redistribute a proportion of the payment to your ISP as well. In this example, the billing process and revenue sharing between third-parties is based on a single product and a single session, that is, the film. Naturally, such a scenario would require more tightly integrated billing systems and a standard revenue sharing protocol amongst billing system vendors.
Complete OSS system for complex network IMS is also aimed at reducing costs through the management of network logic. However, this does not come without problems. OSS systems must be adapted to handle increasingly complex networks. A comprehensive OSS system is vital to manage the multi-services (IM, VoIP, VoD, push to talk) and multi-layers (layer application, session, transport) which IMS promises to make available. An additional benefit of IMS is the increased flexibility and time to market it can offer by using a higher application layer. Accordingly, the rate of network change is likely to increase and also the activation and provisioning requests from the OSS part.
A convergent OSS system As in every technological change, there is often a long period of overlap. During this time, operators are forced to maintain two systems: their legacy wireline and wireless networks together with their IMS-based network. This scenario calls for a convergent OSS system which is able to deal with both systems. Together with mediation issues, the need for a convergent and comprehensive OSS system for provisioning and the activation of mixed layers and technologies, encourage the use of message bus. A message bus such as JMS is able to aggregate and manage the flow of information in a coherent, simple and fast way. It is the backbone that supports the entire OSS system. 18
Fraud detection and SLA management In an IP world, the pragmatic IT approach can sometimes cause problems. One pressing issue is security. Security in traditional telecommunications networks is significantly easier to manage because they do not offer as much functionality as IP-based networks. In this packet-based network, wireless voice is likely to become a commodity for which users will pay a flat fee – in the same way some operators now charge for wireline voice. Service level management will gain importance as it may become the main billing source for some services because users, especially business users, are often willing to pay more for a guaranteed high service quality.
What next? Like other technological breakthroughs, IMS will also evolve over time. There are signs that changes are already taking place. These emerging trends are not yet widely known in the telecommunications industry. One of the first is the COTS approach and the need for open standards and open systems. Open standards and open systems generally offer lower cost than proprietary and unique platforms designed by vendors. Having open standards and systems distribute the costs amongst all the participants that choose to become involved with the standard. You might say that this trend is already happening with IMS. However IMS does not define every aspect of the communication – the next versions of IMS will probably see more standardization in the higher levels of the OSI model. Secondly, we will probably see the development of distributed architecture. Skype is the best example of such distributed architecture: Every Skype user routes other close peer calls and chats and thus removing the need for a complex and costly centralized system. In this situation, end users pay indirectly for others.
Another example of distributed architecture is the Internet. The Internet is completely distributed as opposed to the earlier attempts to build such global networks, such as the Minitel. Dramatically reduced costs is arguably the strongest driver for distributed architecture. Distributed architecture may also occur at a level lower than IMS, and possibly in the world of wireless. Fon Technology, for example, has a very interesting business model based on this particular type of architecture. It is not a coincidence that both Google and Skype recently invested in the company.
The necessity of modern BSS/OSS infrastructures In order to gain all the benefits that IMS promises to deliver, operators will need to have best of breed BSS and OSS systems. These systems will have to be inherently more complex if they are to deal effectively with constantly appearing convergent products in order to monitor and rate in real time. The IP protocol shares some of the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principles with Unix. In the past, many industry analysts failed to consider this principle when developing huge costly projects that appeared perfect on paper. BSS and OSS vendors should also bear this principle in mind for the user part of their systems, if they want to offer operators a complete system with a simple user interface, fast integration and a good API that is prepared for IMS. In the same way, IMS also looks nice on paper. Operators should always keep this in mind when implementing IMS. Otherwise, in a few years, IMS will be just another buzzword from history. In this scenario, the amalgamation of telecommunications together with the IT and media industries as part of the new “communication services industry” could be endangered. David Gourdelier BSS Consultant Comarch France
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