Call Accounting Featured Article

Streamlining Carrier Database Management with Outsourced Services


November 21, 2011

Database maintenance is a necessary evil for telecommunications carriers, but paying highly skilled engineers to do manual database updates can lead to inefficiency and errors. In this article, we’ll look at alternatives to paying network engineers to update carrier databases.

Database Updates are Vital

The network is always changing, so the databases must be updated continually. Carrier databases house critical information about what constitutes the network. They contain records on all of the pieces of equipment deployed, all of the configurations of that equipment, and how it is all connected together to form the network. These databases are vital for troubleshooting during network outages. When networks go down, carriers rely on an accurate representation of how the network was configured in order to troubleshoot the problem and assess the impact of the outage.

Database updates are especially important during mergers and acquisitions in the telecom industry because databases must be integrated. After an acquisition, for example, a major carrier had records of circuit paths in its database, and those circuit paths had to have a certain piece of information to correlate when a circuit went down. This piece of information wasn’t entered into the database when the database was integrated into the acquiring carrier’s system, however, and as a result the carrier had a prolonged network outage.

Traditionally, network engineers have been responsible for database updates. The engineer figures out how to make a change to the network and sends it to an implementation team to implement it. The engineer then has to update the database as to what change was made.

Database Management Alternatives

From a personnel management standpoint, having engineers update databases means that highly skilled people are doing highly valuable work (network design), and they have spend part of their time doing manual database updates. Since it is the least interesting to the engineer, the database update work tends to fall by the wayside, and then when network outages occur the database is not accurate.

In short, the traditional database update process is inefficient for two main reasons:

Engineers don’t perform updates in a timely manner, so the database is inaccurate;

Highly paid engineers are being asked to do low-level database updates by hand, leading to errors and inefficiencies.

When engineers are overloaded, carriers will sometimes bring in contractors to do the manual data entry. Because they are paid by the hour, however, contractors aren’t incentivized to work as efficiently as possible. Productivity can vary widely between one contractor and another, so the cost to process a particular database transaction can also vary widely.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is another way to handle database updates, and it overcomes the problems with using in-house or contract personnel. In an outsourced contract, the carrier pays for database updates by the transaction, so it only pays for actual work performed. As a result, the carrier’s costs are predictable. In addition, the process is optimized, because it is incumbent on the outsourcing company to perform the work as efficiently as possible.

In some cases, outsourcing companies may bring their own tools that expedite the database update process. For example, a large wireless carrier hired an outsourcing firm to do database updates and the vendor brought a proprietary database loading program that enabled its employees to process eight times as many database transactions per hour, resulting in a savings of $8 to $10 million per year. Along with driving up productivity, the automated database update process reduced errors.

BPO Advantages

In addition to higher efficiency, there are several other advantages to outsourcing database work.

Reducing the OPEX (News - Alert) budget – Outsourced transactions can be tied directly to a projects budget, so BPO services can often be charged to capital expense budgets rather than operating budgets to help hold down operating costs.  

Making costs predictable – Staff or contract employees can vary in the amount of time they take to do work (and hence the cost of the work), and workloads vary from time to time, making it difficult to predict the ultimate cost of handling a particular set of tasks. However, outsourced work is billed by the transaction, so the cost of getting the work done becomes predictable and easier to budget.

Eliminating ancillary costs – With contractors, telecom providers must deal with the cost of on-boarding, off-boarding, training, facilities, and so on. With BPO, the work is performed offsite with the vendor’s equipment. In an outsourcing engagement, the outsourcing company is the one that has to deal with ups and downs in workload – the customer doesn’t worry about this anymore.

By outsourcing database management, carriers can empower their highly skilled employees to do more important work while ensuring fast, timely, and accurate updates to their databases.

 

Charles Thon

During his more than 7-year tenure with TE, Charles Thon has held a variety of Services related positions with the company including Sr. Quality Auditor, Program Manager for the BellSouth (News - Alert) account and Program Manager responsible for TPS-India operations. In his current position with Professional Services, he is responsible for business development and operations of the Outsourced Services program.

Thon’s more than 23 years of industry experience includes 16 years in telecommunications engineering. He also has held various positions within quality organizations focusing on internal quality as well as ISO/TL9000 certification.

Thon holds a B.S. degree in Management Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va.


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Edited by Juliana Kenny