Outsourcing is the solution to managing the increasing complexity of next-generation network operations, but like any project, it's important to launch and manage a network outsourcing project effectively to ensure a positive outcome.
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Step 1: Select one of the two basic models available:
- The NOC-outsourcing model: The operator outsources network operations center (NOC) responsibility, including staff and facilities;
- The staff-outsource model: Only the staff is outsourced. Except where an operator has a large and non-recoverable facilities investment, the NOC-outsource model is generally preferred because it will reduce risk the most.
Step 2: Develop a transition plan.
- While some operators prefer to have their own staff develop a transition plan, the best practice, based on outcome, is to have the transition plan developed by outsource bidders as a part of the proposal.
- Where outsource interest stems from a major NGN infrastructure project, it is best to have the transition plan developed as a part of the project.
- If a network integration contract was awarded during the infrastructure project, the integration winner could prepare a plan, and should be encouraged to bid on the outsource project as well.
Creating effective network operations outsourcing plans
The major goal of a transition plan is to shift responsibility to the outsource provider in an orderly way. The transition plan must address the following points:
- How will the new outsource staff be certified as qualified to take over support? This requires setting specific milestones with a specific timeline.
- How will existing network management, business and operations support systems be linked into the new network operations center (NOC)? How will any new products or systems be accommodated over time?
- What responsibilities will remain with the operator, if any? In some cases, outsource contracts explicitly target next-generation network (NGN) deployment and legacy systems remain in house. If this is the case, how are issues with NGN-over-legacy or other cross-technology issues going to be resolved?
- What are the processes associated with transitioning out of the outsource arrangement if the operator decides not to renew it or change partners down the line?
Moving from transition to daily outsourced network operations
In addition to the transition plan, carriers need to create an operating plan for outsourced network operations that addresses basic ongoing plans to go into effect once the transfer is completed, including fees, contract terms and responsibilities.
Network operators should give special consideration to the following when working on a plan to outsource network operations:
- What are the outsource provider's specific responsibilities with respect to facilitating the introduction of new services and technologies, and the accommodation of new business and regulatory requirements?
- What specific response to problems can be expected under both "normal" conditions and in exceptional conditions? A natural disaster, for example, is likely to impact many of an outsourcer's customers and potentially load down the resources of the outsourcer's NOC.
- Is there a guarantee contract renewal at a fixed price or at a higher price for a specific number of additional contract periods?
- What are the remedies in the event of a default? Monetary payments are clearly a part of an outsourcing agreement, but a potentially more important question is the right of the customer to terminate the deal and either pull operations back in house or transfer responsibility to another partner. If this is done because of a breach of contract, what responsibility does the old provider have in facilitating the transfer?
- What specific external interfaces to network, business and operations systems does the outsource provider promise to support for integration of new products and services?
Back to part one, Telecom outsourcing: network planning and operations guidelines
About the author: Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal addressing advanced telecommunications strategy issues. Check out his SearchTelecom.com networking blog Uncommon Wisdom.