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The need to fundamentally restructure underlying architectures and adopt collaborative approaches was the strongest message to emerge from this year's Digital Transformation World event, held earlier this month in Nice, France.

Hot topics included 5G intelligent operations, AI and data strategy, customer experience, and cloud-native IT, but underpinning it all was the underlying message that CSPs need to adopt new collaborative models if they are to deliver the necessary business and IT agility. Several of the event tracks focused on cloud-native approaches, including DevOps, open APIs, and microservices-based collaboration and co-development. There was also a flash of controversy during the keynotes, when Telecom Italia's CTO accused vendors of not moving fast enough with cloud-native software.

The TM Forum is pushing ahead with its Open APIs program, consisting of over 50 standardized REST-based APIs intended to enable zero-touch integration and partnering. CSP adoption has clearly picked up, showing that the work put into industrializing the APIs is beginning to pay off. Vendors are implementing a broad range of TM Forum Open APIs, and most new vendor product announcements these days include an Open API name check. There are also numerous case studies in which CSPs such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, MTN Group, and Telstra are using TM Forum Open APIs to share IT components, expose network domains, or unify back-end systems.

When commenting on last year's Digital Transformation World, I expressed disappointment that the TM Forum Open Digital Architecture (ODA) initiative appeared to be moving too slowly. Unveiled in February 2018, the ODA is important because it is a blueprint for a more agile replacement for existing OSS/BSS architectures, intended to radically simplify and automate CSP operations and reduce development cycles. More promisingly, this year, TM Forum CEO Nik Willetts announced the launch of the Open Digital Framework as a collaborative environment bringing together tools and standards in this space and unveiled a series of TM Forum Collaboration Program and Catalyst Program initiatives.

A good illustration of the progress within one portion of the ODA is the Business Operating System (BOS) proof-of-concept catalyst project championed by Orange and Vodafone, which won an award this year for best new catalyst. Participating companies include Globetom, IBM, Sigscale, and Sigma-Systems. The BOS catalyst is an open reference implementation of the ODA Core Commerce Management platform, using open-source components and involving IT applications that include product catalog and order management. The idea is to reduce the cost and time involved in integrating and customizing multiple software applications and allow CSPs to focus more on service innovation, something that will be crucial if CSPs are to manage and monetize 5G.

The BOS catalyst is significant because it is an example of a collaborative environment that allows TM Forum members to co-create code. Initially, the software will remain part of the BOS catalyst project, but if it goes well the TM Forum intends to use the BOS catalyst as a starting point for a new open-source initiative.

It is encouraging to see so many new initiatives taking shape. But given the slow rate of progress in the telecoms sector up to now, it remains to be seen whether a critical mass of CSPs, and not just market leaders, will move fast enough to adopt the architectural changes and collaborative practices required to support digital services.

Straight Talk is a weekly briefing from the desk of the Chief Research Officer. To receive this newsletter by email, please contact us.

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