How Enghouse Aktavara Can Help Conquer One Mountain After Another

Enghouse Networks

Climbing a mountain is the ultimate symbol of overcoming difficulty. Even if you’ve never done it, you know it requires strength and resilience. For some climbers, the challenge itself is enough to drive them forward. For others, the journey is merely the means to an end, which is to enjoy the breathtaking view at the top.

Headquartered in Munich, Telefónica Germany provides telecommunications and internet access to the entire country. We have more than 8,000 employees and achieve annual revenues of more than 7 billion Euros. In the 25 years since our founding, the company has evolved beyond mobile networks. We also have a retail arm that specializes in a variety of consumer products, including mobile phones and tablets.

As part of our commitment to evolving with the industry, our company has climbed many mountains over the years. Most recently, we tackled the need to plan and begin the rollout of our Single Radio Access Network (SRAN) and 5G capabilities. Because we are such a large company, that project involved coordinating hundreds of employees and updating equipment across the entire country. It’s been nothing less than a massive undertaking and meant changing a number of our internal processes. 

But even before that, we scaled many mountains through a series of mergers. Of course, like any climbing adventure, choosing a supportive and reliable partner is a critical decision. 

Keeping Up with Modern Demands

In the almost 20 years I have been with Telefónica Germany, my role has been fairly consistent. I am responsible for the implementation of software for internal customers, specifically around planning, deploying, and operating our network. Because we are a telecommunications company, managing the software we use to keep the network operating is of critical importance.

Although my role hasn’t changed much, the demands of the role are radically different. Twenty years ago, everything we did was automatically a value add. In many ways, we built a telecommunications system from scratch; every task we completed helped our users in some measurable way. At the same time, because everything was so new, there were plenty of low-tech workarounds for problems. A particular application may have made a task easier, but that same task could still be accomplished without the application.

Things are very different now. Our internal users and our processes have become very sophisticated, and we have to be very in tune with our people and their needs before we make any changes or updates. Making a change can help overall processes, but it can also hurt them in a way that was not a risk decades ago.

Another thing that has changed is the expected level of reliability. Today, it’s often the case that all major processes stop when an application is not available. Upper management is acutely aware of even the slightest outage and they expect results immediately. Our applications have to be reliable and stable. Requiring a higher level of reliability makes choosing the right partner even more important than ever before.

One Migration After Another

Telefónica Germany has used Enghouse Aktavara as a planning tool since 2003. For a little more than a decade, our use was limited to just that function. As our circumstances changed, however, so did our use case. Our catalyst for change was the acquisition of HanseNet Telekommunikation GmbH and, later, E-Plus.

Five years ago, we were faced with the challenge of migrating all the data and systems from E-Plus into Telefónica Germany. We took a multiple-step approach. The first step was to use an interim solution, where we modeled each others’ connectivity effectively through "rental" lines. Next, we developed a common future model and determined where technology usage needed enhancements. In the migration itself, we “filled” the rental lines. 

The major challenges we faced involved data quality; site identifications were not always clear, or the information was not always up to date, and the migration itself ran for quite a while on our servers. This was all done while still recovering from a similar process with HanseNet only a year or so before.

Enghouse's Role in Our Success

Between the series of migrations, we found ourselves using Enghouse Aktavara even more. Each of the organizations joining Telefónica came with its own legacy applications and planning processes. We had to repeatedly merge these groups into our own, and each time changed our organization a little.

Despite the other planning options, we stuck with Aktavara because they were flexible enough to accommodate all of our changes. It’s like putting up tiles in a bathroom. Not all bathrooms are configured the same and not all tiles are the same size. You have to use tools that are highly flexible and allow you to make the bathroom into what you want. Aktavara provides us with that flexibility. We can put the tiles on the wall, so to speak, no matter the challenge.

In the last year, we began using Aktavara as an inventory planning tool as well. When looking at the updates required to prepare for 5G and SRAN, we suddenly had to deal with network base stations in addition to the network itself. Given our organization size and the area of operation, this was not an easy task. 

Telecommunications companies survive by using our resources to give customers what they need. The larger and more complicated our operation, the more we need to automate to be as efficient as possible with these resources. However, you can only automate what you know and what you can see. Using Aktavara to manage the mobile base stations and the network gave us an unprecedented amount of knowledge about our system.

This drive to offering simplicity has dramatically changed our work. Before Aktavara, the planning process was static and more time-consuming. If we ever wanted to make changes, we had to physically visit a station and replace technology or applications. Our new system will be flexible enough that we can make changes from a central location.

Eventually, we plan to transfer the management of all tangible work to Aktavara. We are already beginning to see the power of inventory planning. We can better monitor and prepare to distribute replacement parts and more efficiently use our warehouses. We can't wait to see what kind of benefits the future will hold.

Consolidation and Compatibility

Throughout all this, I learned a few things about consolidation processes. Perhaps most importantly, if you want to realize synergies you have to use your resources efficiently. The last thing you want is to have multiple planning resources being used for different purposes. It is incredibly difficult creating cohesive plans using incompatible resources.

If you want to realize synergies you have to use your resources efficiently.

Once you get past the technical consolidations, you have to deal with the diverse focus points and priorities of the different organizations. Until you merge all focuses into a common vision, you won’t be able to consolidate planning. You also have to examine the different database models and application structures. In addition to all parties having to understand the needs of each organization and align those needs, you have to agree on a common model and structure. Then comes the work of making changes to each organization so that everything is compatible.

Finally, you cannot forget about the users. You can change all your hardware and applications, but the consolidation will fail if the users are committed to the old ways. Migrating different systems into a new joint structure involves navigating each of these challenges successfully.

Climbing Mountains Together Is Easier

There is yet another motivation for a person to climb a mountain, and that’s the change that happens within themselves. The way to the top is hard, but it causes an internal transformation that’s worth all of the hardship. The same is true for organizations.

Transformations don't fail because of software; they fail because organizations can't reach their users.

Transformations don't fail because of software; they fail because organizations can't reach their users. Change management has to become a major component of any transformation within a company. You have to remain in touch with the frontline users and the organization’s leadership. Everyone has to understand why the change is important and how the organization will benefit. If you can't convince them that the benefit exists, they can resist the change in a way that delays the project.

That ability to connect to the user is part of the reason our relationship with Aktavara continues to deepen after all this time. Enghouse Networks is dedicated to better understanding Telefónica Germany. When we began using Aktavara, the application was basically just a toolbox. Over the years, as we have become more complex, Enghouse Networks has developed increasingly powerful tools to help us simplify and streamline our operations. They also have a wealth of IT knowledge that we can tap for new ideas.

Like many of the major projects before, moving to the unified 5G SRAN capabilities has been like climbing a mountain. The journey is long and arduous, and the potential benefits are a long way off. However, Enghouse Networks has been by our side every step of the way. Their commitment to growing with us makes them the most valuable partner in the ascent.