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The evolution of TIBCO FOS

Update December 2017: TMNS is now Devoteam

Evolution of TIBCO FOS from a PSG framework to a full blown catalogue driven order management and fulfilment solution

A new product driven solution

In 2007 by chance I encountered what was then called TIBCO OFF (Order Fulfilment Framework) for the first time. Some of the TIBCO professional services members decided to put together a few existing TIBCO products in order to provide a configurable and product driven solution for Telco providers. This solution would enable the users to rapidly reduce their time to market periods and empower triple and quad play product offerings. The method: capitalising on the bundling capabilities while reusing the existing products and fulfilment tasks.

Back then all major operators were looking for ways to keep their revenue flows while bringing new services and offerings; as the mainstream voice and SMS ones were already being included in initial tariffs, thus bringing no additional revenue. Also the data services were gaining ground. Surely, the bigwigs in the product and services departments in the Telco industry already had the future roadmap in their heads, preparing to introduce complex VAS (value added services), content based services, digital services, dynamic pricing and discounts, etc.

The visionary concept of this solution was to subsequently provide the business users within a Telco with a way to create their customer facing commercial product model in a modular and reusable manner, underpinned by the technical product model that would orchestrate the order fulfilment steps towards the backend BSS and OSS systems i.e. various provisioning platforms, HLR, billing systems, CRM, PCRF, ERP, etc. Initially the product catalogue wasn’t there in reality but the fulfilment part was.

However, although it definitely was an excellent idea, they only had the already existing tools to use for the first framework, called OFF.  OFF was based on iPE (iProcess Engine – flagship BPM solution acquired with Staffware, some of you oldies out there still remember the good old Staffware days), iProcess Conductor (Java based sort of orchestrator with a questionable performance numbers) and BW to integrate to backend systems.

The subsequent incarnation was called AFF (Active Fulfilment Framework) and already offered major architecture redesign, retiring iPE and iPC and basing it this time on Business Events, a TIBCO CEP product providing a real time event based rule engine, used for orchestration and eligibility rules.
At this point the framework had already been introduced to a few large Telcos which embraced the idea and tested its limits, thus partially affecting its destiny for the better.

Therefore, the framework got productized under the name of AFS (Active Fulfilment Suite) and last year got rebranded again as FOS (Fulfilment Orchestration Suite), with a significant change in underlying architecture but the same vision with regards to the functionality and client facing components.

FOS – what is it?

Now, you’ll ask me, what then is this FOS exactly.  I’ll try to explain this  short and clear.

The current version is 3.0, maybe a few minor versions up by now, and the major components are:

  • Fulfilment Catalogue (FC) – a TMF SID based Telco product catalogue used to model, maintain and publish all commercial product offerings as well as the technical products used for the orchestration of fulfilment steps
  • Fulfilment Order Management – set of runtime engines used to consume the FC product models and provide order management and fulfilment capabilities to all input sales channels in a channel agnostic way
  • Fulfilment Provisioning (FP) – set of components used for low level provisioning, to be consumed by the service tasks from FOM
  • Custom PSG-ware components
    • namely Offering, Pricing and Inventory components, developed by TIBCO consultants for specific use cases before being introduced alongside the core product from AFS 1.2, mostly used for delta provisioning, complex eligibility rules and dynamic product pricing and discounting models
    • these components were also productized from FOM 3.0 under the name of OPC (Offering and Pricing Components)

The latest FOS provides significant improvements in terms of configuration, performance, load balancing and fault tolerance compared to the previous AFS versions, as well as augmentations on the FC part in order to stay up to date on TMF models. By now we can safely say that it is a choice solution to be used in a modern and flexible Telco world where the operators are struggling to get into their customers’ heads, running targeted campaigns, releasing new bundled offerings on daily bases, and working proactively instead of reactively.

It offers the full journey, from conceiving new and exciting products by the products team – based on reports from new shiny TIBCO BI tools like Spotfire-, to rapid modelling capitalising on reusability, to using those models to run UXPs (User Experience Platform) for Telcos that measure over 100 million subscribers. It’s goal is optimising the user experience while choosing and selecting the product offerings and finally fulfilling those customer orders to multiple distributed backed systems while keeping all the relevant notification parties in the loop.

Of course, it comes with all the added bells and whistles, like dashboards, error handling, rollback capabilities, automatic retries, jeopardy management, etc. which should prevent those unpleasant situations when you sell a full set to a customer in the shop and the day after  your customer service gets a call saying “my service is not working!”.

With FOS all the departments within a Telco, like Products and Services, BI, IT Planning, Development, Operations, have a tool to use which will optimize and expedite their tasks in order to reach that ever elusive “concept to cash” and “time to market” targets so harshly placed upon them by the senior management.

Most important advantages

From all mentioned advantages I’d like to reiterate the three I see as most important:

  • Reducing the time to market for new and updated product offerings from months to only days
  • Providing a fully flexible and catalogue driven UXPs for large Telcos
  • Providing a catalogue driven order fulfilment solution optimized for high throughput

To recap, I’d say that TIBCO is definitely going the right way with FOS but luckily is also influenced by trusted partners like us at TMNS, who use the product extensively, demand improvements and offer breakthrough advice based on experiences from the field.

This is why the healthy partner ecosystem is a crucial approach to maintain in the years to come.