Adelphia leaned heavily upon ADC and Sigma Systems in building a high-speed data provisioning system that it has described as best-of-breed, customized and flexible (see “Cooking Up OSS,” Communications Technology, October 2003). While the role of SupportSoft’s automated service software was previously noted, Matt Bell, Adelphia director of high-speed data and applications development, now adds that the project also incorporated ADC’s FastFlow broadband provisioning manager (BPM) and Sigma Systems’ service management and activation platform, along with customized software from other providers. Launched last July, this fast-paced project—dubbed Power Tools—completed its first phase in October. “The cut-over from the previous provisioning infrastructure and OSS to the new infrastructure was done in a very short period of time,” says Benoit Legault, director of ADC’s technology advisory board. Give me your best, now Getting picked for a project of this sort is naturally flattering. So what did these two vendors bring to the table? LeGault says FastFlow’s operating system (OS)-level protection of dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP), trivial file transfer protocol (TFTP) and other such processes provides robustness and high reliability; its German deployments have given it two years of commercial voice experience; and its decentralized processing architecture eliminates bottlenecks and ensures scalability. Sigma CEO Time Spencer simply notes his company’s “proven track record in large tier 1 operators” and “strong domain knowledge in this space.” But he credits Adelphia for the integration’s success. “The best-in breed approaches have often gone awry,” Spencer, says. “In this case, with very tight management by Adelphia, with a clear set of business requirements and objectives, the vendor community was really able to come together.” Adelphia’s focus on speed also influenced its willingness to accept vendor software largely as is, and even adapt its business processes accordingly: “There was little appetite to build, there was a lot of appetite to deploy,” Spencer says.
“The big theme is very significant changes done in a very short time,” Legault says. “So far, the track record is very good.” Adelphia’s Bell agrees, saying the difference between the old and new system is like that of a 747 jet flown blind versus one flown with all instruments working. Phase two, which includes complete integration with Adelphia’s two billing systems, will serve as the “basis for improving efficiencies in customer care and the field,” he adds. Up ahead? “There’s a roadmap of 12 or 15 additional things that are planned for 2004,” Spencer says. “(But) the big work has been completed already.” —Jonathan Tombes An SCTE-sponsored technical session at the Western Show investigated how to defend training programs by calculating their return on investment (ROI). One relevant metric is the frequency of incidents at the workplace. Using data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for example, Roger Paul, regional technical training supervisor for Comcast, noted that the average annual frequency of workplace incidents is 5.6 per hundred employees. Doubling that number to account for a hypothetical cable system with 200 employees and linking it with the $33,000 that the National Safety Council (NSC) associates with each “nonfatal, disabling injury” gives the operator an annual cost of $369,600. If that system then reduces its incident rate in half, from 5.6 to 2.8, it realizes about $185,000 in savings. “That goes right to the bottom line,” Paul said. Yet Paul admitted that such numbers alone aren’t persuasive. Rod Gotthold, regional technical trainer with Charter Communications, agreed, saying it is a mistake to assume that training alone brings improvement. So training is no panacea, and it may be impossible to assign exact figures to a program’s financial return. Still, trainers need to make their case. “Get senior management buy-ins,” Paul insisted. A good way to do so, panelists agreed, is to have managers themselves undergo the training. —Jonathan Tombes The cable industry, after its successful but hurried entry into the video-on-demand (VOD) business, is beginning to retrace its steps and create platforms enabling more sophisticated marketing and operational procedures. Software vendor Everstream is offering one such platform. Time Warner Cable’s national division will use Version 3.0 of its Operational Intelligence (Oi) software in its systems in Cape Coral and St. Augustine, Fla. and Houma, La. The Everstream product works with Concurrent’s MediaHawk VOD servers. The key difference between versions 2 and 3, according National Division Vice President of Engineering Dick Amell, is that the earlier version focuses on pure engineering issues, while the newer release offers data that is appropriate for the organization’s marketing efforts. Amell says that the software provides a deeper level of knowledge about what is happening in a network. For example, it improves the ability to prevent crossed linked fields. Any computer file—including one containing a VOD movie—can become meshed together. This glitch, called cross-linking, clearly can be a big problem for operators: An operator presenting Mystic Pizza doesn’t want to unintentionally switch to Mystic River. MediaHawk servers check for cross-linking once per day; the Oi software checks as often as the operator wants. Engineering meets marketing Operators increasingly are confident that they have a substantial business in VOD. The next step is to gain insights into the behavior of consumers. The types of information that the software can capture include how many subscribers are enabled, how many are active, how many subscribers moved from being active to inactive and vice versa over a set period of time, says Everstream CEO Stephen McHale. The software can compare these trends against the operator’s goals. All told, the system reports on 20 key performance indicators. The goal of the software is to transform data gathered in the engineering process into useful marketing information. “What we have designed is a platform, a tool that extracts, transforms and loads into a data warehouse,” McHale says. Extract, transform and load (ETL) software is designed to automatically make data ready for a use by marketing and other departments. Everstream also offers an outsourced service built around the software, McHale says. —Carl Weinshenk

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