John Brooks: Our goal is to identify situations that will
operators and their customers before they become problems,
so that operators can get in front of the problems before the
customers even know about it
There’s a CFO that John Brooks, vice president of
product management at Subex, knows — he
won’t say who, because he keeps client details
strictly confidential — who has saved his company, a
significant operator, about $20 million by identifying
under-used network equipment.
There’s another one whom he also
can’t name who lost several million dollars in one
month because one of the operator’s partners found
another way to route content to end
"He found out only when he got a bill", because the bilateral
agreement that covered the traffic was no longer as balanced as
it had been previously. "He had no visibility of what was
happening. The operator just didn’t see it
Understandably, the CFO was not happy. "Our analytics could
have shown him what was happening the same day the deviation
started, predicted the impact and automatically issued alerts.
The company would have seen what was happening and adjusted
their business to avoid or minimise the
"Something could have been done at the time, but weeks later
it’s not so easy to tackle," says
And there’s a third operator — again, no
names — that invested over $40 million worth of
network assets, only to find they were all still stuck in
warehouses six months later, unused.
"Operators today are acutely aware of concepts like time to
value, and return on assets; without an accurate analytics
mechanism to holistically monitor all stages of asset
lifecycle, procurement and daily network changes, operators
have virtually no accurate visibility into those
In several cases, Subex’s programme has identified
millions of dollars worth of equipment that seem to have
disappeared entirely. "The warehouses think those assets are
deployed, yet there is no sign of them on the network," says
Brooks. That’s something plaguing most operators
today — but now they can tighten up management of the
supply chain of spare parts.
Revenue operations centre
It’s a surprising six years since Subex introduced
the concept of the revenue operations centre, the ROC, on which
— much developed — the systems that Brooks is
describing are built.
"Our concept of the ROC has evolved considerably in the past
three to four years," he says. It was a revolutionary concept
from the start — giving telecoms operator executives
the ability to monitor revenue-critical aspects of the network
and act on them in real time.
"At first the ROC was focused on metrics — and we used
the metrics for applications such as revenue assurance, fraud
detection and cost management." It was an excellent system
— and still is — for identifying problems
that have already happened.
The significant change in the approach took place when Subex
started using the data not just to analyse past behaviour in
the network but to predict activities and vulnerabilities into
the future. This approach is founded on analytics and insights.
"What can I predict will be the effect on existing products and
customers? What insights can I derive from that prediction and
Subex took the original unifying platform of the ROC and built
it into a suite of products call ROCware, with built-in
"We have an approach that focuses on outcomes — not
just tools. Our advantage is that we understand telecoms. All
we’ve done for the past 20 years is telecoms and
the financial aspects that drive operators’
businesses every day."
By understanding the industry and its vital data, Subex is able
to understand the parameters. "We know what features
you’re trying to analyse. ROCware includes
tailored analytics to answer the problems the telecoms industry
wants to know about."
Take churn, for instance, says Brooks. "Everybody has a churn
solution. In the past two or three years I’ve
talked to 40 or 50 operators. They have a churn solution, but
they haven’t figured out how to predict churn. No
one is getting them to work."
Who’s going to churn next?
The problem is, he says, that most of these churn solutions
rely on metrics — in other words, historical data
— rather than analytics. "They tell you who churned,
and what products they stopped using, but they
don’t tell you who’s going to churn
next. They offer lots of forecasting and lots of trends
– but few, if any of those accurately offer a
segmented, intelligent prediction."
Subex takes a different approach. ROCware "extracts features
automatically — such as billing and payment history,
late payments, overdue balances, calls to the call centre and
usage behaviour. These relate to quality-of-service issues, and
they go well beyond what a customer relationship management
tool does. Someone may have had three wrong bills, and so they
are irritated with the company."
In such a case, if they are a good customer, the company may
endeavour to keep them. "The user can determine what types of
retention offers they want to have available, and ROCware can
automatically recommend an appropriate option from that group.
It may be a discount, a usage credit, or other options, but
based on the insights of why they are at risk, ROCware will
recommend the action," says Brooks.
Subex offers ROCware to help operators manage enterprise
customers, too. "There is a suite of capabilities around
understanding and retaining your customer," says Brooks.
Indeed, the key question is: "How does the customer feel they
are being treated by the operator? We need to understand the
customer’s point of view about how the operator
has treated them."
Bird’s eye view of
It’s also critically important for CFOs to
understand and have visibility into enterprise margin and
profitability, he adds. "ROCware allows the operator to see
which products that are profitable, and which customers are
contributing the highest margin to the business. It provides
predictions around how a new product will actually cannibalise
from your existing offers, which may have a massive unexpected
impact on profitability."
The third leg to this — after the consumer and the
product — is the financial relationship with other
operators. "This includes the complete range of partners,
including interconnect, content, roaming and so on. This
solution offers significant insights into overall relationship
performance with those partners."
The crucial idea is to know the information immediately. "Most
analytical processes use data that is latent, that is five, six
or seven weeks old. You can’t tell if a product is
profitable. You can’t measure the impact of a new
offer from a competitor. And most importantly, you
can’t respond to adverse situations in
Hence his point — at the beginning of this interview
— about the impact of a content partner on an
operator. The partner moved traffic onto a rival without the
Subex was called in, after the fact. "We ran a pilot programme
and we showed them they could have spotted this in hours," says
Brooks. "The CFO had been wanting this level of information
from the beginning, but the capabilities through reporting and
simple metrics could never support this level of
And the CFO must also keep a sharp eye on network capital
spend, he adds. "The biggest spend in any operator is on the
network. There’s massive money being invested
every year to support network growth."
Fortunately five years ago Subex bought Syndesis, a Canadian
company that had a technology which is complementary to
ROCware, as it is capable of automatically discovering network
assets, logical and physical, and service topologies, and
correcting inventory along the way.
"We call this data integrity management — DIM
— and it can give an extremely detailed view of
network assets. DIM has the ability to discover assets
including switches, routers, cabinets, shelves, cards, ports,
channels and so on." The DIM technology has been integrated
The results are startling. "Some companies are using their
platforms at only 50% efficiency, and some at 100% without
realising it" says Brooks. Most operators have a capacity
planning tool already, but those tools are limited in their
capabilities, he says. "They look at IP traffic data to guide
capacity metrics and planning, yet these metrics consistently
lead to flawed planning conclusions, which lead to flawed
Each box in the network
The Subex tool "can see each box in the network" and it can
help operators "calculate the time to exhaustion of any
discoverable element in the network", he adds. "We can set
alerting thresholds — and predict exhaustion with 30,
60, 90, or even 120 days warning. That gives operators time to
tackle the problem before it becomes a
The overall ROCware program around network analytics provides
insight into overall network capital asset management. Using
ROCware, the operator knows what they have installed and where
it is; how much they’re using it — and
where all the spares and extras are in your procurement chain.
This all contributes directly to capital planning, based on
analytics and insights founded on network state, not OSS and
Finally, ROCware will help operators manage the end of life of
network equipment. "You may have equipment that cost $500,000
when new. If you manage its retirement efficiently, you may be
able to get $200,000 on the grey market." If you leave it
de-provisioned and sitting in the central office too long,
however, the potential resale value will
And that’s what too many operators do, he says
— though, maintaining his unblemished record for
customer confidentiality, he doesn’t give
"We’ve come across cases where equipment has been
deprovisioned but it is not turned off. It’s
powered up, burning electricity and losing value in the market.
We can manage all these processes. We can understand the
failure rates, and predict what equipment is needed, where it
will be needed, and most importantly we can provide insights
around when and why it will be needed."
There’s no point in keeping 50 spare network cards
in a warehouse in Dallas if the network growth, retirement and
failure rate indicates that the most you’ll need
is five from that location. If you need more, the vendor will
be able to supply them in the right
"That means you can take 70-90% off your storage and
procurement levels. Some operators are spending $500 million a
year on this equipment — so we can help potentially
save them $350 million in capital avoidance. We can predict all
of that through ROCware."