Unifying Identity to Drive Customer Experience at a Leading Telco

Eric Allen and Luke Bennett

As telecommunications companies around the world diversify product portfolios, adhere to new regulations and execute acquisitions and mergers to excel in a mature industry, customers’ expectations for flawless service, speed, and availability are only growing. All of these combined challenges put pressure on companies' applications and tech stack.

More and more, telecommunications leaders are turning to open digital architectures to modernize the legacy enterprise architectures that can’t keep up with today’s customer demands. Throughout the industry, TM Forum’s Open APIs are becoming an integral part of digital transformations.

Open source APIs make it easier for telecommunications companies to enable seamless connectivity, interoperability, and portability across a complex ecosystem of services in a consistent way across the industry. MongoDB’s customer, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, is on the trend. Read on to learn how this telecommunications giant collaborated with MongoDB Professional Services to modernize and implement TM Forum Open APIs to unlock data to provide great customer experience.

The challenge: Delivering a simple, consistent customer experience in the telecommunications industry

With founding roots dating back more than 150 years, MongoDB’s customer has a long history that led to a large number of subsidiaries covering a variety of services for end-consumers, corporate clients, and governments.

The company’s surging customer base began to outgrow its data and systems architecture. It became difficult to identify customers who held multiple products across the rapidly expanding portfolio of products and services, especially since⁠ many of the customers were adopted through business acquisitions. As the customer base grew, it became more difficult to provide a positive customer experience, and also resulted in missed marketing and cross-sell opportunities.

To improve customer interactions, the telecommunications enterprise envisioned the creation of a hub that unified customer identity across all services, products, and partners with MongoDB at the heart of it.

At a high level, this would be a data layer that accesses customer information in accordance with TM Forum specifications, creating a consistent single view of the customer. The company also aimed to decouple access to customer information from their underlying legacy systems to empower internal teams to drive their own transformation projects.

The end goals:

  • Deliver good customer experiences for accessing, purchasing, and managing accounts across the company’s existing services portfolio.

  • Make it easier for future services and acquisitions to be seamlessly integrated.

The solution: A profile hub using TM Forum Open APIs

To build this hub, the telecommunications company turned to MongoDB Professional Services, which provided a Jumpstart team in partnership with gravity9. Think of this combination as a complete application development team in a box, ready to bring this solution to life.

This single view of identity, called Profile Hub, would put the company’s customer profile at the core of their data concepts, flipping their previous legacy data model on its head. Going forward, everything would start with the customer profile, and move into products and services from there—instead of the other way around.

Profile Hub is an implementation of several Open APIs established by TM Forum, a global industry association for service providers and their suppliers in the telecommunications industry. The APIs we implemented form the basis for representing a customer, their role, and a set of permissions on that role.

The API microservice applications were built using Java Spring Boot and are powered by MongoDB Atlas running in AWS. MongoDB change streams and Kafka were used to create an event-driven architecture, and a behavior-driven testing approach was used to run more than 1,000 automated tests to form a “living specification” for developed code.

Functional structure of each TM Forum API microservice application. Visualized as a flow chart. The MongoDB data base is connected to TMF API Application. The TMF API Application flows into and receives information back from the client. TMF API Application also flows into AWS/Kafka. AWS/Kafka then flows to the consumer.
Figure 1: Functional structure of each TM Forum API microservice application

Each project contains:

  • Implementation of REST APIs (CRUD)

  • Event notification upon each successful API operation

  • Integration with Amazon SNS and Kafka

Each TM Forum API application is a separate microservice that implements the appropriate TM Forum specification, conforming to the REST API Design Guidelines (TMF630.)

Each one exposes the following operations:

  • Retrieval of a single object

  • List a collection of objects (supports limit, offset, sort, projection, and filtering by properties)

  • Partial update of an existing object

  • Creation of a new object

  • Deletion of an existing object

There are two ways an object may be updated via the application:

  • JSON Patch: performs an update as a series of operations which transforms a source document. We can filter/search documents using JSON Pointer or JSON Path

  • JSON Merge Patch: represents the change as a lite version of the source document

Each TM Forum API Application exposes REST interfaces to exchange data with the client. After receiving the payload, the application stores it in the MongoDB collection. After each successful API operation, MongoDB triggers a change stream event to be fired off—the application is listening for change stream events, and after receiving one it sends an event to the customer.

Our microservice application supports fanout messaging scenarios using AWS services: Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) and Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS). In this scenario, messages are pushed to multiple subscribers, which eliminates the need to periodically check or poll for updates. This also enables parallel asynchronous processing of the message by the subscribers. There are application configuration parameters which decide where the given message should be routed to.

Each event sent to the external system is also stored in the audit collection. If it does not reach the destination, we can replay the events sequence again to restore the desired state. Another library also provides operations logging functionality.

It can trace each request and response sent to the application, push it to the Kafka topic, then through the MongoDB connector to reach the MongoDB collection. This operations logging application can easily be integrated with every TM Forum API microservice application.

For security, we encrypt data on the client side before it gets sent over the network using MongoDB’s built-in Client-side Field Level Encryption. Paired with this, we use a couple AWS services:

  1. First is AWS Key Management Service (KMS), which gives centralized control over the cryptographic keys used to protect the data.

  2. Second, we use AWS Secrets Manager, which is a secure and convenient storage system for API keys, passwords, certificates, and other sensitive data.

  3. Stripped change streams also help us limit the information we send instead of sending the whole payload as a change stream body.

Every TM Forum API is different as they have different domain models to work on. To test these unique applications, we use data-driven testing with the Spock framework. This lets us test the same behavior multiple times with different parameters and assertions, letting us hit upwards of 1200 unit tests per application with only a few test cases implemented.

The results: A modern, customer-centric architecture

The Profile Hub APIs form the core of the company’s new standards-based customer data architecture. This creates a better cx strategy by allowing upstream applications to easily leverage customer data.

The enterprise will be able to reuse these components to accelerate new use case implementations on MongoDB Atlas. In addition, as the company modernizes its architecture, it will realize cost savings by moving off of legacy infrastructure with increased maintenance and licenses costs. Developers also benefit by getting to spend less time maintaining and having more time to build and launch new applications and products.

By working with MongoDB Professional Services and gravity9, the company was able to develop this solution in under 12 weeks, shaving several months off of their original plans. New fully compliant TM Forum APIs can also now be delivered in a single sprint, allowing the telco to respond quickly to new business requirements.

Looking forward, our client’s modern, customer-centric architecture will make it easier for them to navigate customer journeys and unlock revenue opportunities as they provide their customers with better, more connected products and experiences.

Are you ready to meet with us to use MongoDB’s blueprint for accelerating TM Forum Open API implementation? Reach out to our Professional Services team to get started!