Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blueprint Column: Quality Counts When Managing Millions of Network Elements Worldwide

By Deepti Arora, Vice President of Quality and Executive Board Member, NSN


Complex network infrastructures, a shortage of engineers skilled in cutting-edge technologies, and demand for fast-paced service deployment, are making it increasingly appealing for network operators to tap into additional resources and talent through outsourced managed services. Yet, the moment an operator considers leveraging a global service delivery model, the issue of how to deliver quality becomes a concern.
“How do we ensure a consistent customer experience when delivered by people across so many time zones and organizations?” How can we keep the lid on costs while managing so much complexity? How do we protect the privacy of our company’s operational and customer data with so many touch points across the globe?”
Best-in-class quality management is fundamental
When taking on these challenges, best-in-class quality management systems are important for achieving the outcomes operators and suppliers strive for. Adherence to global multi-site quality management (ISO 9001) ensures clear processes are defined and a regular rhythm of discipline is implemented for all employees. Environmental systems management (ISO 14001) is designed to help understand, manage and reduce environmental impact, and also leads to operational efficiencies in many cases. ISO 27001, an information security management system (ISMS) standard, addresses information systems with controls across 11 domains such as information security policy, governance of information security, and physical and environment security.
To raise the bar further, the QuEST (Quality Excellence for Suppliers of Telecommunications) Forum has created TL 9000 to define quality system requirements for the design, development production, delivery, installation and maintenance of more products and services. Common processes and metrics within and between companies ensure consistency and a basis for benchmarking and continuous improvement.
Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) has made a strategic commitment to quality as a pillar of its transformation. Integral to these efforts is the commitment to Quality Management Systems to help drive improvement. This encompasses a customer-centric closed-loop approach to measuring quality and value, a rigorous focus on proactively preventing defects, and actively building quality competence and disciplines amongst employees and with suppliers. NSN is investing significant senior management attention and dedicated resources to raising the bar on quality end-to-end for operators and their subscribers.
Global delivery demands a high standard of quality management
In NSN’s primary Global Delivery Centers (GDCs) in Portugal and India, and in smaller hubs around the world, NSN supports more than 550 customers globally, including remote management of almost one million network elements and approximately 200 million subscribers annually. This means a tremendous volume of data traffic and network operations and subscriber information. Day-to-day performance management is a cornerstone for network operations’ business growth and efficiency. Relentless performance monitoring and the ability to take immediate action are imperative.
Quality at the delivery centers means implementing systems and processes to comply with the highest level of accreditations and certification. Implementation of such standards is a massive undertaking, involving the education and testing of every individual at the delivery center. Achieving a ‘zero non-conformity’ audit result from Bureau Veritas audits, as the GDC Portugal did recently, is an indicator that NSN team members have adopted the commitment to quality. Building awareness and training employees within the organization to adhere to processes and protect information and related assets also goes a long way to foster customer confidence in network operations and service delivery. The certification has provided operators with another proof point that their networks and related information are in safe hands.
A common language for quality accelerates improvement
After introducing TL 9000, one NSN business line reduced problem reports by 82%. But accelerating alignment with operators has been one of the greatest benefits of TL 9000. “With one Asian operator, we were able to use a common TL 9000 metric to evaluate monthly alarms across different vendors. Together, we were able to implement changes that improved performance and reduced costs for both of our companies,” says Scott Schroepfer, Head of Quality for Small Cells/CDMA. A common language for quality with operators around the globe is allowing NSN to accelerate improvement actions and collaboration with its customers.
Looking Forward:  Planning for Quality when tapping the Cloud
Beyond managed services, operators are increasingly exploring cloud-based technology offerings as a way to completely change their business model. The benefits are compelling: expanded on-demand network resources through virtualization, faster innovation cycles for top line growth through leveraging a broader open eco-system, and a greater level of productivity and efficiencies through automation. 
But again, the issue of how to deliver quality becomes a real concern. Security, resiliency, availability, and stability can all be impacted negatively when managing and orchestrating across a myriad of virtual machines on different platforms, all in a multivendor environment. New complexities associated with the cloud paradigm will require the right set of tools and a commitment to plan for quality management from the start.
NSN is working closely on planning for the network quality requirements of cloud technology with major operators, leading cloud stack vendors such as VMware Inc., and industry forums such as the OpenStack Foundation and the ETSI Network Functions Virtualization Industry Specification (NFV) Group and the QuEST Forum. A series of proof of concept projects have provided the foundation for viable telco cloud by demonstrating the running of core network software on top of virtualized network infrastructure. Further tests have shown end-to-end VoLTE deployment readiness in a telco cloud and verified the automated deployment and elastic scaling of virtualized network elements, live migration of virtual machines from one server to another, and recovery from hardware failures.  
The conclusion is this: When operators strive to scale and improve productivity, through managed services or the cloud, quality cannot be an afterthought. The good news is the tools, technologies, standards and expertise are increasingly available.  Find out more about quality at NSN at http://nsn.com/about-us/company/quality. Learn about the QuEST Forum’s TL 9000 platform based on ISO 9001 to improve supply chain management effectiveness and efficiency at http://www.questforum.org.
 About the Author

With more than 25 years of international experience in the telecommunications industry, Deepti Arora is the Vice President of Quality at Nokia Solutions and Networks.  Deepti has held various roles in quality, business operations, engineering, sales and general management. She has a reputation of being a dynamic, results oriented leader with a passion for customer focus, and continually challenging the status quo. Her strong technology and business expertise, along with an ability to build high performing global teams has made Deepti a valued executive in driving organizational success.

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