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The marriage of Agile and Waterfall in a Telco World


We often hear of organizations undergoing the aches and pains associated with the transition from a traditional waterfall to a fast paced agile model. During the course of this transformation, the waterfall model is looked down upon as slow or rigid that hinders the responsiveness to business needs. However, that does not mean Agile is most appropriate in all cases.  What probably works is something that lies within the spectrum.

I will illustrate the case using one of our Telco clients as an example. There are three key layers within the Telco landscape as illustrated below.

Channels: This is the customer facing layer. It needs to be highly responsive to changing customer experience trends, competitive pressures etc. The channels are expanding beyond the conventional call center, stores and web to include virtual agents and mobile apps. Agility is a must at this layer.

BSS/OSS Applications: This is the layer where the core IT applications like CRM, Billing, Provisioning and Assurance reside. This layer provides the capability that lies behind the channels. This layer is also relatively more complex and less agile as any change here may impact multiple upstream and downstream touchpoints. Therefore, changes at this layer typically go through established software development and release lifecycles that involve extensive testing.

Networks: This layer is the heart of any Telco and delivers the actual services such as mobile and fixed line connectivity. This layer has become more agile with the advent of Software defined networks and virtualization of the network functions.

What are the means of increasing agility within this landscape?

Each layer can be made more agile by leveraging the evolution within that layer

    • Virtualized network functions provide increased ability to automate the provisioning and the activation of various services on the network.
    • The complexity within the BSS/OSS layer can be hidden behind a layer of abstracted services or API's. These services should provide the most common functions based on an industry standard model. They should support most of the data requirements of the channels so that the channels can evolve independently.

    • The channels can leverage micro services based on a DXL framework to further decouple the back end complexity. This will allow the channels to be highly agile.

 What use cases can leverage this kind of agility?

  • Launch of new products or services based on current capabilities available across the layers.
  • Expand customer self-care capabilities using data and information available via existing services.

  • Provide more capabilities in the hands of Enterprise Customers to manage their own services

What use cases will still need to be supported by the conventional waterfall model?

Enablement of a net new capability eg: VoLTE requires extensive changes at the network and the BSS/OSS layers. It would need to go through a dedicated project lifecycle, typically following the more conventional waterfall model.

There is no 'one size fits all' as far as Telco projects are concerned. The organization would need to select the right methodology based on the nature of the change and its impact across the layers.

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