Oracle continues to expand its Application Integration Architecture (AIA), which provides a Web services-based framework for integrating vertical applications for industry-specific business processes.
AIA is at the heart of a joint effort by Oracle and Capgemini to provide applications such as Web portal based self-provisioning, a service-oriented approach that allows customers to modify their phone account without talking to a customer service representative.
Fewer calls to service centers means cost savings in a price competitive industry, so self-provisioning is a very hot application with telcos, explains Greg Jacobsen, global leader for the telecommunications, media and entertainment practice at Capgemini.
"We just finished a very interesting project for Vonage," he said of the VoIP Internet phone service provider. "The goal is for the customer to self-provision. That allows the telco to offer lower operating costs. That's the goal they all have. Turning on a new service. Turning off or modifying a service. Changing a service plan. Troubleshooting a network problem."
The business process is called flow-through provisioning.
Jacobsen described flow-through provisioning for ordering a DSL line for a home. Jacobsen explained: "I go through a portal. I pick the service I want. I enter my billing information. I push 'enter' and that whole business process is automated all the way down to turning on the service to making sure I'm billed properly."
While Charles Phillips, Oracle's president touted AIA as "out-of-the-box" integration, Jacobsen said he did not want IT professionals at telcos to think that such provisioning applications could be bought off the shelf.
"Flow-through provisioning is extremely complex," Jacobsen cautioned. Some of the complexity goes beyond just putting together business objects for processes such as order-to-billed. The application also depends on hardware considerations unique to telcos such as the type and state-of-the-art of the wiring used for landlines.
"It is doable but I don't think we're completely there yet." said the executive of Capgemini, which has been working with Oracle AIA in telecommunication projects since it went commercial in early 2007.
Jacobsen credited Oracle with making a significant effort in not only assembling a suite of telco-specific software packages, which Oracle senior vice-president and general manager Bhaskar Gorti, characterized during his Oracle Open World presentation last week as taking integration to the next level.
Gorti touted the Oracle telco product's "out of the box" integration with competitor's products such as SAP's ERP suite.
Jacobsen said the Oracle AIA solution for telecos is a work in progress and he doesn't want to give telco providers the idea that it is just off the shelf software that is "ready to run."
While enterprise software vendors emphasize the ability to implement their products out-of-the-box with a minimum of customization with its attendant development costs, Capgemini as a system integrator points out that customization that enhances applications can provide a competitive advantage.
And especially with the older telcos that still have copper wire and are not the green field that as startup VoIP provider might be, some coding will still be required.
"This whole notion, we used to call is 'telco in a box,' does a disservice to everyone," Jacobsen said. "It's never been that simple."