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Catalyst program takes off

Remember the first time you flew? The plane felt excitingly fast as it headed down the runway, then the pilot hit the throttle to take off and suddenly it’s a whole new ball game. Last week at TM Forum’s Action Week in Lisbon, that’s how I felt about the Forum’s proof-of-concept Catalyst program.

Catalyst projects exist to accelerate progress on a specific business issue by bringing disparate parties together to work on them intensively. The project teams consist of one or more champions – such as communications service providers, any kind of network operator, city administrations or health providers – and a number of participants or ‘solvers’, usually suppliers. They work on the project for between three and six months per phase – increasingly the projects are multi-phase, with each stage building or expanding on previous ones.

To understand just now powerful this approach can be, see this BT case study – it shows how the central, enabling innovation – its global cloud of clouds ecosystem – was developed over a number of Catalysts to become a commercial product.

The culmination of every Catalyst, whether discrete project or the latest phase in a series, is demonstrated at TM Forum events: The next showcase will be at TM Forum Live! in Nice, France, in May. Which is why what happened at Action Week was so important.

Here Catalyst teams get together, outline exactly what is required and allocate roles and processes to build a solution they can demonstrate and progress. They also identify which TM Forum assets and activities are the most relevant, and how they can be adopted and adapted.

Dragons’ Den

But this year was different, very different! Over 40 Catalysts were proposed – more than double the usual number – and the variety of potential players, industry sectors and challenges was unprecedented. Just to give you a flavor, the verticals include everything from smart energy, cities and health to factory automation, climate change, insurance and monetizing mobile data. Aspects of these Catalysts range from the use of analytics to customer centricity, virtualization, reference architectures for the digital world, privacy and security, agile IT and so much more.

Their proposers vied for the attention of champions and participants from the 200 in the audience. Each had just three minutes to present their case and attempt to win the approval of eight members of the Forum’s Collaboration Committee in a Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank scenario, over two sessions.

Go teams!

And what a great job they did. It’s not easy to keep an audience occupied for over an hour after a grueling day of hack action and other collaboration activities, but they did it in style. It also gave the Collaboration Committee a preview of the range and quality of innovation they will have to judge to pick winners in the run-up to TM Forum Live!

And if the range of questions they asked is anything to go by, it’s not going to be an easy task. Many of these projects are now underway, although some teams are still looking for participants. If you would like to be part of this groundbreaking set or want to get a handle on the latest projects, take a look here.

In the run-up to TM Forum Live!, I will be looking at these Catalyst projects in more detail. Stay tuned and keep your seat belt fastened.