Collaborate to Accelerate: What We Learned From TM Forum Action Week
TM Forum certainly knows how to pick a fabulous spot for an industry conference. While the organization’s regular venue for the annual conference is the dazzling Nice, France, this time the Forum members gathered in the Portuguese Cascais, west of Lisbon, for the Action Week meeting.
On 5–9 February, Amartus’ technical team, including myself, attended the action-packed event of coding, networking, and face-to-face team meetings. Our goal was to check the current progress of TM Forum’s work, and understand where the organization is heading. We also wanted to learn how Amartus could increase contribution to the Forum’s work as a member, and benefit from its success at the same time. Here’s what we found out.
by Konrad Herba, our Project Manager
TM Forum’s Vision: Industry Collaboration for Digital Transformation
TM Forum is a non-profit organization representing over 850 members, communication service providers and their suppliers, across 180 countries. In its vision, TM Forum greatly stresses the importance of member collaboration in fostering digital transformation.
The cooperative aspect of TM Forum’s activity is expressly highlighted by the Action Week initiative. Action Week is a collaborative gathering of service providers, suppliers and industry experts committed to driving digital business innovation. While we were at the event, we indeed participated in several workgroup meetings that were designed as collaborative hands-on problem-solving, solution-seeking sessions rather than one-way presentations.
Those collaboration efforts serve one common purpose: digital transformation, which is the second pivotal element of the Forum’s vision. TM Forum has an ambition to lead the industry transformation towards the automated, digital era. At first glance, the idea may seem a bit vague. After some research into the organization’s collateral, however, the concept becomes much clearer.
Communication Service Providers Champion the Digital Change
TM Forum has an ambition to synthesize communications service providers’ (CSPs’) business needs and propose a standardized approach to it. It is expressed in TM Forum’s Frameworx suite of best practices and standards that provides the blueprint for efficient business operations.
While CSPs provide the business context to the framework, the remaining ecosystem members make use of the organization’s standards, resources, and open APIs to implement the use cases suggested by the providers, some of which include British Telecom, Orange, NTT, Vodafone, Telefonica, Globe Telecom, Verizon, etc.
TM Forum Projects and Explored Trends
TM Forum areas of involvement are very diverse. They’re best explained in the following chart:
To achieve the goals expressed in the focus areas, TM Forum organizes itself in a project-like manner. All work is executed through a portfolio of projects.
Three major types can be identified:
- Collaboration projects
- Open communities
We will focus on the first two. For more details on Open communities, which are open discussion fora dedicated to areas such as SDN, NFV, IoT, ONAP, or Open APIs, please refer to this website: https://engage.tmforum.org/home.
TM Forum Collaboration projects
The main goal of collaboration projects is to enhance Frameworx best practices and standards. Participation in the project can be seen as contribution to the TM Forum’s knowledge database. There are many types of participation levels to choose from. One can decide to passively observe the progress of the ongoing work (the observer status), or — at the other end of the spectrum, to lead a project stream as a project/workstream lead.
TM Forum collaboration projects are gathered in four project areas, API Apache 2.0 Project, Applications Project Area, Core Project Area, and Smart City Project.
Project teams for all TM Forum projects set up recurrent calls (usually weekly or bi-weekly) to discuss the progress of their works. Events such as TM Forum Action Week are an opportunity for them to meet face to face and get more work done in a short period of time.
TM Forum APIs — The Current Status
At the Lisbon event, we closely followed the status of all collaboration projects. However, because of our integrator profile, we have a vested interest in workstreams related to APIs:
- TM Forum has more than 40 different API specifications available in its portfolio at the moment (a detailed list can be found under this link: https://projects.tmforum.org/wiki/display/API/Roadmap). Those are mostly generic specifications, which require further elaboration when applied to a real business problem.
- The TM Forum API team is currently planning the details of its contribution to ONAP platform development (Beijing release). This also explains the creation of the first IPR area — API Apache 2.0 Project which, in short, is going to replace the current RAND TM Forum API licensing schema with Apache 2.0 (for ONAP compliance).
- The API project team is also well-advanced in the process of creating a lab for the Catalyst project (see below). The purpose is to expose, in an automated fashion, reference API implementations following the principles of a microservices architecture.
- Within the projects in the Applications Project Area, TM Forum is extensively exploring Blockchain and AI as game-changing technologies.
TM Forum Catalysts
‘Catalysts’ are fast-paced proof of concepts. What’s extremely valuable in TM Forum’s approach to these PoCs is that the problem statement is driven by a service provider’s business need. Usually, a service provider plays the role of a ‘champion’ mentoring a demo.
- The presented solution intends to utilize TM Forum assets, best practices, and standards (such as Frameworx, CurateFx).
- The preparation stage usually takes about 16–20 weeks, which are followed by approximately 6 months of a post-catalyst period.
- During the post-catalyst phase, the results are presented.
- One of the ways in which TM Forum promotes Catalysts is through live demos during the Digital Transformation conferences (formerly known as TM Forum Live!), which are held on three continents, in Europe, North America, and Asia.
How Can Your Company Contribute to TM Forum?
TM Forum offers many different ways for any organization to contribute to their projects. For example, we are a software development and integration company with deep networking expertise, so in our case it is natural to seek options in the API, ZOOM, and ONAP space, or similar.
Industry Collaboration through Knowledge Sharing and Networking
Depending on your company profile, business scenarios, skillset, and priorities, the projects where you would like to join and the contribution pattern will vary. However, the ultimate goal remains the same — to collaborate with other member companies to increase operational agility while reducing costs and risks, and to deliver better, customer-driven services.
Here’s the full list of projects to explore: https://www.tmforum.org/collaboration/current-projects/.
How Can You Profit From Joining?
Similar to MEF or other industry organizations promoting innovation and industry collaboration, TM Forum is based on the principle of mutual advantage.
Here are some key benefits that your company may derive from the activity in the Forum:
- Increase brand recognition
- Build new business relations
- Promote and evaluate your products
- Gain industry insight
Like similar industry organizations, TM Forum identifies cooperation, knowledge sharing and collaborative problem-solving as crucial elements of technological acceleration and evolution. The aim of our visit to Lisbon was to verify how the association implements those ideas in practice, and so far, we’re pleased with the results.
We’ll continue our engagement by getting involved in the Forum’s next event, Digital Transformation World, 14–16 May, in Nice. Are you going to be there?
Send us an e-mail to schedule a meeting: firstname.lastname@example.org.