I have had innumerable debates about the definition of “charging”. Before giving my own I must admit that I believe that a lot of definitions in IT – especially in telecommunications – are often driven by vendors. “Call it something” and you have captured the market – or at least de-positioned the competition. It’s like the adult version of teenagers inventing the lastest craze in slang.
And of course, vendors try to capture existing terms and “make them their own”. If they succeed all their competition that use the same terminology are put in a position of saying “we don’t really do that”… a recipe for losing deals. Getting the TMF to buy into the definition is the coup de grace.
So, instead of defining charging, let’s call it “showmethemoney”. Is it one process, one service or many but together? I leave that to the strategic marketers. Here is a view of the process of “showmethemoney”:
1. Identify that Someone wants to purchase Something (point of sale…)
2. Make sure the Something is available from Us (is stock available, is there bandwidth)
3. Make sure the Whomever agrees to sell it (reseller cases)
4. Make sure the Someone is legitimate (can we securely identify them)
5. Make sure the Someone is allowed to buy the Something from Us (legal, company policy)
6. Price the Something in context (when, where, who…)
7. Make sure the Someone can pay (via invoice, credit card, pre-paid balance, points…)
8. Whomever, Someone and Us shake hands (directly, via existing contracts…)
9. Debt is created – between Us and Whomever, between Someone and Us (this is what I consider to be charging in the strictest case)
10. Payment against debt is demanded (invoice, statement, reservation request to balance manager…)
11. Debt is recovered (customer pays, balance is debited…)
I would say that there is a universe of subtlety at each step. What is important to recognize is that key to succeeding is in how each step is done – it is an art not a science. Technology must enable these – but leave a whole lot of power in the hands of “Us” to creatively define how to get resellers to sell cheap and buyers to part with their money.
eTOM should identify that “showmethemoney” requires a lot of processes and services to be successful. Above all, it should help “Us” from engineering or purchasing solutions that gloss over some steps… the commonest problem in early generation Telco architectures. I see this as the TMF’s key contribution.
When TMF begins to mandate the subtleties – in the name of better integration – I am less sure. Making sure vendors comply with integration standards is great – it avoids lock-in. But we must avoid eTOM becoming a force to do just that = lock-in ways of doing business that suits application vendors not the industry.
I am big SOA believer. For me applications are ultimately ways of packaging services and processes. The packaging itself is a convenient way to market the technology – but ultimately meaningless in a true SOA.
Doug Zone CTO www.MetraTech.com