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Collaboration life cycle

This web page gives a high level overview of the collaborative lifecycle; more detail can be found in the process definitions

Discussion Groups & Communities

To successfully launch a new project requires committed support from multiple members, so most projects begin as a Discussion Group or Community in the online Community, building the momentum and commitment levels required to kick off a successful project. 

Discussion Groups & Communities are also formed by communities of users of TM Forum collaborative products, and can be used to share experiences, discuss best practice, explore new ideas etc.

Any member of the TM Forum or Forum staff may propose a new Discussion Group or Community.

The best way of establishing a discussion group is to request a new Community to be established on the Collaboration Community Environment.

If the proposed new community has a clear statement of focus, and is not substantively overlapping or in conflict with other communities, the new community will be established and will be promoted to TM Forum Members in the next edition of our email newsletter in order to solicit further participation.

The Discussion Group on the Community Environment allows members to interact, contribute and share information, identify common needs and goals, etc. within a safe anti-trust and protected intellectual property environment.

When there is a clear need to collaboratively produce deliverables that are useful to the industry (or to make modifications to an existing deliverable), and there is commitment from members to put adequate resources into the project in order to achieve success in a defined timeframe, then a Project Charter is required.

See the Ground Rules for Successful Collaborative Projects, as a guide.

Project Charters

The official start of a TM Forum Collaborative R&D project is approval of the Project Charter.

The Project Charter is a concise statement of

  • the list of planned deliverables and their business value (how the project will be of benefit to the industry)
  • the (buyers/champions) requirements that have been agreed,
  • milestones for the production of the deliverables,
  • the IPR mode which the project will operate under 
  • any dependencies (e.g. relationships with other organizations, staff support required etc. to ensure the project is successful)
  • details of the committed participants and the level of commitment agreed.

The project team leader must be identified, along with other roles as specified in the Project Charter template. Team leadership is reserved for Corporate or Subsidiary Member representatives. On an exception basis, and with the approval of the President, an Affiliate Member may be permitted to lead a project.

The initial group of members are responsible for selecting the IPR licensing mode that the project team will work under.  During the discussions regarding the choice of an IPR mode, if a member company disagrees with the majority's preference of IPR mode, and is unable to convince the majority to agree to the alternative IPR mode they prefer, that member may decide not to participate in that project. 

Discussions related to choice of  IPR mode will be time limited; if agreement cannot be reached within 30 days, the discussions should be suspended and will need to be re-constituted from scratch.  There can only be one IPR mode per project, and all participants are bound by this.  In the case where agreement cannot be reached, final adjudication will be done by the Technical Strategy Sub-committee.  Additional information regarding IPR modes can be found here.

If the work product of the project team builds on existing Forum work, the IPR mode chosen must match the IPR mode of the existing work. For the majority of TM Forum existing material, the IPR mode is RAND.  Under special circumstances there may be stand-alone deliverables that are extensions to existing Forum work which may qualify for a different IPR mode.  These special situations will be approved by the TM Forum Chief Operating Officer on a case by case basis

It is expected that some projects will be carried out on a Best Efforts basis, where they are primarily managed and driven by members. Some strategic projects will be carried out with resources committed to participate from their company. The same project charter template is used for both cases.

Where a project is established to produce a key deliverable in support of a Board Initiative, the team leader may be a member of Forum staff. It may also be appropriate for TM Forum staff to serve as participating members of the team, contributing directly to the advancement of the deliverables.

In order to show steady progress toward a useful goal, it is recommended to limit the scope of a project such that it can be completed (with all documentation finished) in 6 months or less. Only in exceptional circumstances will a project be approved for any longer than 6 months. It is recommended that larger projects are broken into more appropriately sized phases.

In January 2011 the Board of the Forum approved a mandatory set of Rules of Engagement for collaborative work to be used immediately for all collaborative activities within the Forum. These rules are intended to help projects with decision-making and speed up activities by ensuring all project team members are focused on delivering the committed outputs in the defined timeframe. These rules are included here.

During the development of the Project Charter, and before written contributions to the work are accepted, a project team should state any criteria that will be applied to the acceptance of contributions.  If such criteria are invoked, the project team must take steps to ensure that the criteria are applied uniformly and without bias.

Project Charter Approval

Project Charters are reviewed and recommended by a wide range of advisors and approved by the Head of Collaboration Programs on behalf of the Technical Strategy Sub-committee.  Every effort is made to respond quickly, and project teams are notified of the latest date by which they can expect feedback.

Factors that are taken into account when approving project charters include, but are not limited to:

  • Clear description of the problem that the project is addressing
  • Clear definition of the deliverables and milestones
  • IPR mode is appropriate for the identified deliverables  
  • Identification of the benefits to the companies and individuals who commit to be involved in the project
  • Appropriate commitment from member companies so that the project has the right resources and skill-sets to deliver successfully in the defined timeframe
  • A plan for how the project will be run in order to get maximum benefit from contributions
  • Compelling evidence that the project will deliver the identified deliverables in the identified timeframe
  • Compelling evidence that the deliverables will provide true value to the industry in alignment with the TM Forum Strategic Plan
  • Identification of links with other related projects that are licensed under the same IPR mode (not just within the TM Forum)
  • Identification of risks and dependencies and well thought-through risk mitigation plans
  • Track record of participants from previous work.
  • Other evidence of complying with the Ground Rules for Successful Collaborative Projects

Approval of a project charter is valid for a certain period of time, per the expiry date specified in the Project Charter template. In some cases, the Technical Strategy Sub-committee may decide to charter a project for a shorter or longer period than that requested by the project team in their Project Charter submission. The approved expiry date will be documented in the Project Charter and will be communicated to the project team.

On approval, the Project Charter with the list of initial members is published on the TM Forum web site for general public review.   As team participants receive approval to participate, the Project Charter’s list of participants will be updated.

Executing the Project

This section provides high level guidance; more detail can be found in the process definitions .

Working Mechanisms

The online community environment enables members to participate in general discussions, socialize ideas and build consensus for project proposals.  Members may share versions of documents which are being used for general community information and/or for the creation of a project charter.

Once a project is approved, a secure project area is created for project work and the initial team participants will be notified that they can now join the project.  Member participants can make an online request to join a project and will be asked to confirm that they understand the IPR mode and that their participation is governed by the Forum's IP Policy.

If the authorized IP Contact has pre-approved participation for the IPR license mode that the project will operate under, the Member is immediately granted access to the project area.

When the Authorized IP Contact has asked for case by case authorization, approval is required before the applicant can join the project team.   In these cases an email will be sent to the nominated Authorized IP Contact designated representative, with a copy to the eligible person attempting to join the project.  The Authorized IP contact is asked to approve their request to join this project.  The contact details of the Authorized IP Contact are made known to the applicant so that they can they can follow up if required.  The eligible person may visit, www.tmforum.org/IPRAdministration , to view the status of their pending approval requests.

When authorization is received, the eligible person will be given access to the project area (becoming a Team Participant in the terms of the IPR Policy), and will be notified as such.  Until authorization is received, the Eligible person will not be able to join the project.

Membership of a collaboration project team is per person, not per organization, and is not transferable from person to person. 

Project teams may use a combination of working mechanisms, as they deem appropriate, such as:

  • Written contributions from member companies within the community environment
  • Conference calls
  • Face to face meetings, either at TM Forum events such as Action Week or separately

In order to comply with existing and emerging regulations regarding transparency of standardization, project teams must use the standard support tools and structures outlined in the Online Help area of the Community Environment, including the Calendar Functionality (to ensure all interested parties know details of the planned meetings). Meeting notices must have a clear agenda, time limits and objectives. Meeting minutes must also be produced, using the template provided, and stored in the recommended area of the community for ease of reference by all members.

For key strategic projects, where member companies have committed their resources to produce critical deliverables in specific timeframes, these projects are expected to remain focused on the agreed deliverables. With approval from the authorized person within their company, other "non committed" resources may join the project to observe and comment and in some cases may volunteer to assist with the work. However, the pace of the project must be maintained and delays may not be caused as a result of this.

Intellectual Property Rights 

All Collaborative R&D work is governed by the IP Policy of the TM Forum (Annex 1 of the By-Laws). All contributions must be made via the online collaboration environment. As such, any intellectual property associated with contributions to the work must be identified at the time of submission of the contribution.

A Contribution is defined as any material submitted to a TM Forum Collaboration Project Team by a Team Participant in writing or electronically, whether in an in-person meeting or in any electronic conference or mailing list maintained by the TM Forum for the TM Forum Collaboration Project Team and which is or was proposed for inclusion in a TM Forum Deliverable.

A Company is obligated to provide licenses specifically related to that contribution.  If the company has an approved Team Participant on the project, and withdraws from the project team in less than 60 days there will still be a contribution obligation and therefore will have to provide licenses for that contribution.

Members will have the capability to formally withdraw from the project team. However, there may be an ongoing licensing obligation on the member company depending on the time period that their employees/representatives have been officially members of the project. Non-attendance at meetings and non-participation in the Project Area are not considered to signify formal withdrawal from the project.

Any contribution or feedback to a collaboration project team is governed by the approved IPR Mode of the project and therefore must be submitted under the same IPR mode license.

At all meetings project team leaders are obliged to remind all team participants of the IPR mode of the meeting, and team participants are obliged to abide by it when making or accepting contributions to the project team’s work. Each meeting must begin with a declaration of the IPR mode for the meeting using one of the following IPR statements.
  • Project Meetings (open to Team Participants Only)
    • This meeting is being conducted under the terms of IPR Mode” xxxx” as defined in the By-laws Annex 1: Policy on Intellectual Property Rights.   All IPR should be declared.
  • Cross-Team Project Meetings (open to Eligible Persons Only) 
    • This meeting is being conducted under the terms of IPR Mode” RAND” as defined in the By-laws Annex 1: Policy on Intellectual Property Rights.   All IPR should be declared.
  • Informational Meetings (open meeting)
    • This is an open information meeting in which no information or materials furnished or provided by the attendee shall constitute or contain intellectual property and will not be treated or protected as such.  All attendees understand and accept this statement.

Making Decisions

If consensus cannot be achieved on an item within the project team after appropriate debate, the project team-leader and project manager will revert to using Robert’s Rules of Order in order to agree the way forward. In this situation each participating Corporate member company is entitled to one vote, even if they have more than one participant involved.

The project manager is responsible for regular reporting on the status of the project to the Head of Collaboration Programs and ultimately the Technical Strategy Sub-committee and the Board of Directors. Where there are problems with delivery or where commitments on participation are not being upheld this will be rapidly escalated to all the stakeholders, including the line management of those involved.

Documenting Decisions

Meeting notes must be produced for every project team meeting, and will be stored on the community environment using the template provided and in the storage area recommended in the online help, so that they can be easily found by all members. At a minimum meeting notes must document the attendees, decisions (including voting status if applicable) and resulting action items.

Producing Deliverables

A number of document templates are provided by the TM Forum. These are offered as guidelines, and it is not necessary to use every section if it is not appropriate for the needs of the project team. Current templates are available here

All templates show the Notice Statement to be used during the earlier phases of development, (e.g. Standards Draft Deliverable, Member Evaluation etc.). As the document advances through its review and approval stages, the TM Forum office will change the Notice Statement accordingly.

Explanation of the Approval levels for Deliverables

Once a deliverable has come to a point of development where it is stable and it can be formally shared it will enter the approval process. To ensure the material is of a high quality there are a number of levels of review & evaluation. Full details of the approval process is available at this link

  • Team Review

    Before a deliverable can exit a working team, it must have completed a formal ‘Team Review’.  The objective of this stage is to ensure that the Team are satisfied with the technical content of the material, all identified bugs are addressed, the template has been applied correctly and that both cosmetically and technically the deliverable is of a high quality. Upon gaining team approval, the deliverable becomes a Standards Draft Deliverable

    The IPR Mode for each deliverable is clearly identified in the Notice Statement associated with that deliverable. Where the IPR mode requires a license from an IPR owner, contact details for applying for such a license and where possible terms and conditions should be supplied.

    Other peer teams, discussion groups and communities may be invited to participate in this review stage.

    Member Evaluation and Expert Review

    Once the team has ‘blessed’ the deliverable, it is submitted into the next phase of the approval process.  At this point it may be reviewed and edited for format by the TM Forum office. In some cases, the format editor may find inconsistencies requiring consultation with the team leader or editor, and a final review by a team representative may be required.

    In order to make the material readily available, these two review phases run in parallel.  The Expert Review team, is made up of the Team Leaders Group, Change Control Group, TM Forum Staff etc.  This group of people are requested to verify that the material is technically sound and has not introduced conflicts with other work activities.

    The objective of the evaluation stage is to get review and input as early as possible. 

    The member evaluation period gives members the ability to see and provide formal comments on stable TM Forum work before non-members see it – a direct benefit of belonging to TM Forum.

    The evaluation interval can be as short or as long as necessary, depending on complexity of the material it will typically be between 30 – 90 days, and will be reflected in the document’s time stamp. When a document is placed on the www.tmforum.org web site for Member Evaluation the notice appears in the next TM Forum electronic Newsletter.

    Feedback providers are required to submit their feedback in writing (no verbal feedback is allowed) using an online feedback form and to agree to the terms of the Feedback License (Appendix A of the IPR policy).

    In order for feedback to be considered by the project team, the Authorized IP Contact of the submitter will be asked to approve the feedback submission request. If the IP Contact has given pre-approval matching the IPR mode of the project feedback, the feedback will be immediately approved and sent to the project team for consideration; i.e., “ALLOW ALL” for RAND projects applies to CRs and Feedback as well as joining project teams.  

    Authorization must happen before end of Member Evaluation period for feedback to be considered.  Feedback is made available to project team on receipt of approval from Authorized IP Contact.  All approved feedback received during the evaluation period is considered by the project team and handled appropriately.

    Feedback which is unapproved by the Authorized IP Contact or approval from the Authorized IP Contact is not received by the end of the Member Evaluation period  is not required to be addressed in the deliverable, but can be considered at the discretion of the project team.
    If, during the Member Draft or Evaluation period of a deliverable, it is desired to give the document to another organization, that can be done with appropriate authorization as defined in the by-laws of the corporation . Any Member Draft or Evaluation versions of the deliverable to be passed to liaisons must be sent via the TM Forum office, where the appropriate Notice Statement will be applied. Our ‘authorization process’ also requires a formal liaison agreement to be in place, and a signed agreement on how the receiving organization will manage the document distribution. Many organizations now have policies requiring all contributions to go on their public web site, so we need to be aware of, and agree, to each specific case. 

    Liaison organizations that want to use our document may do so, but they still must respect our control of the copyright, by providing appropriate source references.

    At the conclusion of the Member Evaluation period, the team may need (based on feedback received) to update the document before going to Formal Approval stage. Regardless of whether changes to the document are made, the version number will be up-issued to reflect its change in status.

    Technical Strategy Sub-committee authorization

    At the end of the Evaluation Cycle deliverables that require formal approval by the TM Forum Corporate Members, must undergo this part of the process:

    The Technical Strategy Sub-committee will review the document in light of the following criteria:

    • Does the agreement solve the business problem cited in the Project Charter?
    • Is it following the strategic direction of the TM Forum?
    • Are there known outstanding problems with the material, which could cause problems or confusion in the industry?
    • Is this in conflict with existing best practices and standards?
    • Is the IPR mode appropriate?
    • Was there involvement (comments and/or implementation) from more than just the ‘inner circle’ who developed it?

    The objective of this is to provide a final Board representative quality check prior to submitting this to the complete TM Forum Membership for final approval.

    If the Technical Strategy Sub-committee recommends the document for formal approval it will enter the final phase. Once again comments and slight adjustments maybe required to be applied to the deliverable prior to going for ‘Corporate Vote’.

    Formal approval by Corporate Members

    The purpose of this process is to achieve official “TM Forum Approved” status for deliverables that have been created and agreed upon by TM Forum members in the Collaboration Program.

    Gaining membership approval for our work is an important step in industry adoption of TM Forum best practices and standards, as well as an obligation to the membership at large in the by-laws of the corporation .  

    The document approval process consists of two parts; approval voting, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) considerations.  The approval voting is done by "Corporate" level members of TM Forum, while all members are asked for declaration of any IPR. 

    It must be noted that only the named Principal Contact of each member company will be directly notified in relation to this phase of the approval process.  

    Because this activity can only be completed by Principal Contacts, and it is realized that not all Principal Contacts are involved in TM Forum Collaboration Program work, the TM Forum staff can provide information on who within the member company has been involved in creation of the deliverables up for approval. This will enable the Principal Contact to gain the necessary input to determine appropriate action for the particular company.

    Click here for the steps of the Corporate Vote sub-process .

    Upon approval, the deliverable becomes a Standard Final Deliverable and is prepared for publishing.  Included in the final deliverable are:

    •    A list of obligated Parties
    •    A list of feedback providers
    •    A link to feedback that was used

    In addition, the deliverable is updated to reflect the appropriate notice statement as stated in By-laws Annex 1: Policy on Intellectual Property Rights, section 14.

    To the extent that patent disclosures are made, a sentence is added to the Notice Statement as follows: “This document may involve a claim of patent rights by one or more of the contributors to this document, pursuant to the TM Forum’s Policy on Intellectual Rights.  Interested parties should contact the TM Forum office to obtain notice of current patent rights claims related to this document.”

    A Standards Final Deliverable produced under a Forum Click-Through License (FCTL) has two separate licenses; a Forum Click-Through License for Review and a Forum Click-Through License for Implementation.  Both of these licenses are executed through an online “Click to Accept Terms” capability.

    A FCTL for Review license allows a company to review the Standards Final Deliverable to determine if the company is interested in implementing the Deliverable.  If after reviewing the Deliverable the company wishes to implement the Standards Final Deliverable commercially, the company must accept the FCTL for Implementation license.  

    All companies executing a FCTL for Implementation license will be added to the list of obligated parties for this Standards Final Deliverable.

Closing a project

There are a number of mechanisms whereby a project may be closed. These include:

  • Once the deliverables of a project are completed, the project is considered closed and the secure project work area will be closed. To take on new work or go on to another phase, requires a new project charter and approval and the creation of a new secure project work area.
  • When the period of approval agreed by the Technical Committee expires, the project is considered closed and the secure project work area will be closed. To continue the work requires a new project charter and approval.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the Technical Committee may decide to revoke approval of a project charter. For example, the strategic direction of the TM Forum or the structure of the Technical Program may change, and as a result of such a change the Technical Committee may decide that a particular team is no longer required. In this case, the decision is communicated to the members of the project team, and the project is immediately considered closed as well as the secure project work area.