Simplified Information Form (SIF) - Transparency and Quality of Information
With the growth of the digital world, more and more companies are seeking to boost themselves in the market through disruptive technologies or distinct services, in order to be able to fight the great competition existing in a market with increasing complexity. The telecommunications sector is no exception, the business is also widely supported in legal compliance, like the generation and flow of documents.
The sector, over the years, has taken different initiatives with the aim of improving the customer experience and the way in which the contractual information provided to it. SIF is one of these initiatives, where the content of the offer information to the customer is presented in a simple and transparent way.
This article discusses an architectural approach to the implementation of the SIF in the telecommunications sector, trying to illustrate approaches, advantages, and disadvantages of architectures and component decisions in a practical system of transformation and enterprise digital implementation.
Evolution of the Telecommunications Sector
The telecommunications sector has evolved significantly in recent years in Portugal. The national telecommunications market is a market with high dynamism and very competitive. According to the APRITEL the sector is responsible for, in 2019:
- 2,1% of the GDP
- 265 of direct jobs
- Investments greater than 5 billion in the last 5 years
The high dynamism has been reflected in recent years by the growth of broadband internet access service, fixed and mobile and subscription TV service. (ANACOM,2020).
In this sense, as the offer of products and services is similar among Telecommunications Operators, a company differentiates itself from the competition by focusing on something "valuable" to its customers (Porter, 1985). Thus, one of the objectives of operators is to maintain market share, and as a consequence, customer satisfaction and loyalty are crucial factors in obtaining it.
SIF - Objective
The SIF aims to ensure that in the decision-making process, customers access the information in a simple and transparent way. In this document are exposed the main characteristics of the offer, prices and other charges included (for example: charges relating to termination of the contract, among other). In The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) operators should provide consumers with a summary of the contract and services, which, for simplicity, was called the "European SIF”.
Naturally, in the midst of digital transformation, these documents are generated automatically. Automatic document generation is based on the creation of templates that serve as the basis for the document, and that later a software fills this model with the data of each customer, normally maintained in organizations CRM systems. In this way the generation of documents is done automatically, its development and maintenance being faster and more viable than traditional methods, exponentially increasing productivity, reducing errors and increasing employee and customer satisfaction.
Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital technology into all aspects of the organization, which requires fundamental changes in technology, culture, operations and value delivery. To better harness emerging technologies and their rapid expansion in human activities, a company needs to reinvent itself, radically transforming all its processes and models.
Digital transformation requires a shift in the company's focus on more agile data centers to support these changes. This means adopting new technologies and abandoning old technologies, which of course presupposes a high cost and must be carried out incrementally.
SIF – ANACOM regulations
Organizations are constantly involved in various impositions, be they legal, regulatory, ethical or market. In this scenario, it takes a small failure for the company's to bear legal penalties, fines and restrictions, in addition to suffering in terms of credibility and reputation before its customers.
In this sense, companies should have teams specialized in analyzing legal requirements, transpose the new requirements into simplified and transparent documents. These teams of multidisciplinary experts translate the new requirements to project teams that will develop new services, applications, and/or changes to existing computer models.
In a view, organizations should be agile and efficient in the adoption of new regulations, being that “battles are won by the organization or by the person who first takes the best competitive strategy and, second, make the least mistakes” Sun Tzu (400-320 A.C.).
SIF – Example - ANACOM (standard model)
SIF - Implementation example
In our implementation example we have divided the the SIF Generation mechanism in different phases:
- Generate SIF - Generate the SIF document, example: via PDF.
- Archive SIF - Archive the generated SIF.
- Consult SIF - Consult the SIF document in the system that requested generation.
- Send SIF to Customers – Sending documents can be made in various ways, such as: SMS, Email, Letter or Fax.
The automatic document generation model involves the use of different technologies and states. From obtaining data via SQL (database queries), structuring of data obtained via XML and webservices (using SOAP Protocol), and object-oriented programming (java, C#...), where the SIF generation API is invoked by different applications , which allows us to query or send the document. In the following section we describe an example implemented in a real system.
Figure 1 – Component diagram in SIF generation
SIF - Automation in Document Generation
- Data (SIF Generation Diagram)
The document automation system consists of several components which, of course, may be different in each organization. Still, the implementation architectures should be similar. Obtaining information through the use of programming in databases: SQL, T-SQL, PL/SQL, to obtain information from one or more silos. The SQL language is the feature best known to DBAs and programmers for executing relational database access commands, and the most common challenge is the optimization of queries to get the information in the shortest time possible.
SQL (DML, DDL, SP)
Often the interaction with the databases is performed through commands of: DML - Data manipulation language, DDL - Data Definition Language and SPs -Stored Procedures. The querys of type DML are used to work the data (collect data, insert rows in tables and materialized views, modify values, etc.). DDL statements are used for creating and managing objects in a database, can be used to create, modify, or delete tables, indexes, views, Stored Procedures, etc. Stored Procedures are routines that run on the server side. These allow for the construction of data access logic and centralized control.
The programs are build as modules and separated into several components. This technique allows each module to be loaded only at execution time, thus being loaded to memory only when it is necessary- more quickly and with increasing efficiency.
- Business Logic (SIF Generation Diagram)
This layer is where the most business logic resides and abstractions are done in data retrieval and the integration between different technologies. In our example Webservices available have Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) as base protocol, and communication is done using the XML language. For defining and describing these services, the WSDL format is used.
The information to be carried over is structured in XML format, both for input and output of the services. XML is composed of TAGS that contain the information needed to identify each item of document information. XML is therefore a metalanguage, that is, a standard way of representing other languages. Through XML it is possible to define custom markup languages for different types of documents.
This layer is based on a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). It presents a form of communication between two components, SOAP being the protocol used. The SOAP protocol is an application-level web protocol that allows the exchange of information in decentralized environments in a simpler way, is XML based and can be combined with several other web protocols. There will be (as in all components) other options, being nowadays much used the REST protocol.
One note in relation to XML, to represent the data in transit, is that XML does not imply a specific interpretation of. Due to the names used in the tags, it can often be inferred by a human, but in reality, the XML itself does not specify how it should be interpreted. In fact, the fact that it is not general turns out to be a strength and a weakness of XML, since you can encode many data types and structures through it unambiguously, not specifying the semantics, and therefore, when there is data exchange, both parties must agree in advance on the vocabulary, use and meaning.
- Presentation (SIF Generation Diagram)
It focuses on interaction with the user, therefore containing technologies used in the construction of applications for this purpose. It should be noted that these in the context of good software engineering practices (aligned with the entire architecture) are based on object-oriented programming. They are well encapsulated in such a way as to adequately represent content in class schema. This allows services to be truly independent and that they can be managed and maintained independently of the system that calls them.
Architecture - multilayer model
This architecture is based on the multi-layer architecture model where data processing is done separately. In this specific case, it is an implementation based in 3 layers: presentation (customer-oriented), business logic (application and service processing), and data processing layer. Transitions between layers are made up of interfaces, where transitions must be simple and fast, communication occurs through the interfaces of each individual middle layer (for example, an information presentation application program does not communicate directly to the data structure).
Layered architecture can be defined as a process of decomposing complex systems into layers to facilitate their understanding and maintenance. The main advantages are:
- Each layer is isolated, so it can be developed and improved regardless of remaining layers
- Creates a hierarchy of access mode levels, protecting the innermost layers
- Facilitates modeling programming
- Greater flexibility and simplicity of implementation
- Simplifies understanding and visualization of the process
Naturally, this layered model has also disadvantages. Being one of the examples, the existences of many layers make the process slower and more bureaucratic. An example of a technical difficulty consists of communication between the different layers, that is, when there is a problem in the information presented, the debugging of information is slow because it is necessary to analyze layer by layer until the root of the problem is found.
Another problem of this type of implementation, is the performance of applications. It may slow down to get final information if you have too many communication interfaces (API'S, services...) and each of these with its validations. An example of a technical difficulty is the performance of obtaining the information is too time consuming, and it is necessary a layer-by-layer analysis, in the communication interfaces, to evaluate where an optimization can be made in obtaining the information.
WorldIT and Digital Transformation
At worldIT the digital transformation process is seen as an opportunity to support the growth of its customers, helping them to adapt and optimize business processes, define actions to be implemented and ensure their implementation through technology. “The ability to know how to lead and guide the ongoing transformations is crucial to achieve success. Technological tools are "only" the means to achieve a certain goal".
The area of specialization of worldIt (CRM, Marketing and channels - portals and mobile) is undoubtedly associated with digital transformation, being one of the main objectives of the company to ensure that its customers interact with the cutting-edge tools and technologies best suited for each organization.
With the constant digital transformation and the new technological era, companies must be constantly updated at the level of the tools used in the execution of tasks in the various in order to improve the performance indexes of companies. In this sense, the process of automatic document generation is a process that can always be improved and updated.
 APRITEL – Association of Electronic Operators Communications
 Michale Porter (1985) COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: : Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance
 Customer Relationship Management
 Database administrator
 Extensible Markup Language