The Business Process Framework (eTOM) is a catalog of processes required to run a service-focused business. The processes need to be performed one after another, depending on their importance, to be effective.

eTOM has three components that pertain to critical focus areas of typical organizations—strategy, infrastructure, and product (SIP); operations; and enterprise management.

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Brief History of eTOM

The TM Forum created eTOM in 1988 to standardize the business processes for telecommunications service providers. It was initially designed to facilitate the development of network management products that work with all systems.

The first part of eTOM was the Telecom Operation Map (TOM) published in 2001. It aimed to create an industry-owned framework of business processes that defined commonly used enterprise-independent terminologies for service management. It was also designed to set the scope of information management to execute the processes involved.

TOM was extended in 2001 to become eTOM, an acronym for “Enhanced Telecom Operations Map.” In 2013, eTOM was renamed the “Business Process Framework.” Since then, many versions of eTOM have been published, the latest of which is Version 14, published in May 2014. It was made part of NGOSS and renamed to Frameworx.

The following image shows an early version of eTOM:

Source: Wikipedia

Parts of eTOM

eTOM has three building blocks—hierarchy, rows and columns, and three broad sections.


eTOM comprises processes distributed across five levels—strategy, network operations, level-2, level-3, and level-4. These levels show the importance of each technique.

Rows and Columns

A company’s eTOM comprises rows and columns that intersect to denote specific business processes. The top row includes customer-facing activities like marketing. The bottom row shows supplier-facing and support activities. As such, the map covers the entire value chain and shows how each component interacts with others.

Three Broad Sections

As mentioned earlier, eTOM processes are classified into three primary areas—SIP, operations, and enterprise management.

Uses of eTOM

eTOM can help an organization do the following:

  • Create a common language that all departments, systems, external partners, and suppliers can use to reduce costs and reduce risks related to system implementation, integration, and procurement
  • Adopt standard business process structures, terminologies, and classifications to simplify internal operations and maximize partnership opportunities
  • Apply disciplined and consistent business process development across the enterprise
  • Understand, design, develop, and manage IT applications for business processes, so they better match business requirements
  • Develop consistent and high-quality end-to-end process flows, eliminating gaps and duplications
  • Identify cost and performance improvement opportunities by reusing existing processes and systems

Why Use eTOM?

eTOM is ideal for companies looking for comprehensive but customizable best practices. It works for different companies with varying organizations, products, or services.

Service providers like an Internet service provider (ISP), for instance, can use eTOM as a reference for internal system restructuring or crafting relational agreements with other companies. 

A telecommunications company can use it to plan, design, and implement technology upgrades across its network without negatively affecting product delivery and customer satisfaction.

A media business can use it for knowledge management, as it can create a system for teams and companies to share information, keeping everyone on the same page.

Standards Other Than eTOM

If eTOM is the standard for the telecommunications industry, its equivalent in information technology (IT) is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). These two frameworks are part of Total Quality Management, which formalized various industries’ processes to improve product and service quality and increase productivity. Total Quality management has been in use since 1950.

Some process and results improvement standards like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 are more generic than eTOM or ITIL. Another example is OpenReference, which was developed for product and service businesses. It includes processes, metrics, and best practices.

eTOM is a flexible framework. Users can choose to focus only on parts that are relevant to them. They can also use the entire framework to put up a new venture from start to finish. And, since it is universal across digital industries and companies, users can communicate and collaborate with everyone concerned, including suppliers, marketers, and laborers.