The Gulf Oil Disaster and Telecom Management

| June 7, 2010 in Economics | Comments (0)

Charley Ellison

How tempting it is to use the benefit of hindsight to criticize those in charge of BP PLC’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) coverage even informs readers that BP and its drilling contractor Transocean celebrated 7 years without a serious injury. The introspective reader, especially IT/Telecom professionals, can learn several valuable lessons from this incident.

Gushing Revenue Can Change into Huge Loses in Minutes.

In the course of a few hours multiple warning signs were not fully appreciated. To use an IT/Telecom term, “alarms” quickly built up before they could be assessed. As a result, liquid gold (“revenue”) turned into a fire ball then a toxic sludge that will cost BP billions and is possibly the largest man-made environmental event in recorded history.

Monitoring for Event and Resolution Management

WSJ and other narratives pointed to various warning signs (“alarms”) of potential problems hours prior to vast amounts of methane lifting to the surface and igniting. The lesson learned is not only the need to monitor and set off alarms but the importance of correlating alarms to determine the underlying event proactively before it becomes a major issue. A telecom/IT example is that several warning “alarms” of low severity may mean nothing individually but viewed together, they can point to a power outage. Accurately and quickly identifying the event is necessary to resolve the underlying issue.

In summary, commercial grade infrastructure management systems should correlate alarms into events (based on past history and solid design). Accurate identification of events leads to the right resolution.

Communication is Key

Dual lines of authority and a lack of event/resolution planning reportedly contributed to missed opportunities to stop the chain of events that led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The take away for IT/Telecom professionals, is to figure out what you can do to improve communications in such a manner that takes advantage of the tools on our desks, smart phones and various management systems, especially with the gradual roll out of Unified Communications features such a presence. The challenge is how to communicate the right information (alerts/events/resolution) to the right resources and decision makers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is your experience with proactively identifying and resolving events?  Do you have a way of seeing all of your alarms in a “single pane of glass” in order to correlate them?

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Siemens Augments SMB Portfolio with OpenScape Office MX

| May 28, 2010 in Tips & Tricks | Comments (0)

Perry Lundquist

Last week, on May 25th Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC) announced OpenScape Office MX which is an all-in-one unified communications (UC) solution designed to meet the business communications needs of small to medium business (SMB). OpenScape Office MX is the successor to HiPath OpenOffice ME and is an upgrade that requires a simple software procedure, no hardware changes are required.

OpenScape Office MX has been designed to better address the needs of the SMB market and offers the full benefits of end-to-end unified communications at a price point to match the cost sensitivities of small to medium companies. Supporting up to 150 users, Siemens Enterprise communications has made more than 50 improvements to OpenScape Office MX.

“In the development of OpenScape Office MX, we listened to the needs of our channel partners and the market,” said Eve Aretakis, executive vice president of voice and application platforms at Siemens Enterprise Communications. “In order to stay ahead of the curve, small and medium enterprises need to be able to offer dynamic and responsive customer service, without incurring significant expenditures. Our channel partners can offer the next generation of a highly advanced UC product that dramatically reduces installation time and is intuitive and easy to use to ultimately accelerate business communications.”

Over the last couple of years, Siemens Enterprise Communications was been working hard to distinguish itself in a very completive marketplace by offering full featured, easy to implement UC solutions. This has allowed SEC to not only retain enterprise and government clients, but to also gain traction against competitors such as Avaya and Nortel (now owned by Avaya).

What’s your experience with HiPath OpenOffice ME and do you think OpenScape Office MX will offer significant improvements for your business? If you found this post useful, please leave a comment, share with your peers, or subscribe to the news feed to have my future posts delivered to your news feed reader.

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Perry’s Predictions and Prognostications for 2010

| January 21, 2010 in Tips & Tricks | Comments (0)

Perry Lundquist

I’m gazing into the crystal ball to make some predications and observations about what we can expect in 2010 in the telecom and IT markets.

1. Although we aren’t out of the woods yet, U.S. business and consumer confidence is growing and should reach a peak about the third quarter of this year. However, attempting to guess the level of corporate or consumer spending is a dicey business because there are multiple factors that go into purchasing decisions.

image 2. I’ve been hearing that there is pent up demand for technology (both software and hardware) that will drive new purchases in both SMB and large enterprise businesses. Regarding pent up demand for technology, my gaze says that this will only have a small impact on spending trends in 2010. We heard similar wishful thinking in the years following the technology bubble and subsequent telecom bomb of the early 2000’s. Historically, pent up demand had no impact on business spending patterns then, and I suspect it will have little impact now in 2010.

3. Lessons learned. During our recent economic down-turn both companies and consumers have learned to make do with less. As a matter of company survival, projects and improvements have been shelved or cancelled all together. The net result is that businesses have learned they can protect profits by tightly controlling the bottom line when growing the top line is difficult (back to Business 101). This means that increases in spending will be slow in 2010 and largely driven by efforts to branch out into new markets or to increase competitive advantages.

4. Products and services that help businesses and consumers save money on essential services will continue to do well in 2010. Good money can be made by those who figure out how to deliver the things we can’t live without for less than we’re already paying. For example, AT&T has recently asked the FCC on the behalf of RBOCs around the country (and itself of course) to stop maintaining the country’s public switched telephone network (PSTN). AT&T says it wants to focus its maintenance efforts towards new fiber optic infrastructure that reaches further and further towards the end customer. In the near future look to see neighborhood micro-cell sites designed to service a customer base that isn’t driving between cell towers. This type of phone service can be installed for a fraction of the cost of trenching and running copper lines between homes, pedestals and central offices.

5. The demand for DSL technologies (ADSL, IDSL, VDSL, etc.) will decrease as increasing demand for faster Internet services push beyond what copper lines can deliver even with new modulation/DSP techniques. During 2010, the preferred Internet delivery methods will be fiber, digital cable TV and satellite systems.

6. Improvements in VoIP over wireless technologies will come this year, making it more practical and cost effective to deliver last mile access for VoIP and Internet services.

7. Last mile wireless technologies with fiber runs between pedestals and central offices will be the savior for America’s aging PSTN infrastructure.

8. Wireless Internet services owned and operated by municipalities will disappear this year as the cost of maintaining such systems increase beyond what local governments can afford.

9. In 2010, VoIP is no longer considered new. This year VoIP is a mainstream technology and simply is the way phone systems and voice services work.

10. Green was good in 2009 and saved money too. Look to see green technologies such as virtualization to do very well in 2010.

11. Late in 2010, 1 gig Ethernet within the data center and enterprise will begin to look slow as manufactures release 10 gig and 40 gig Ethernet products.

12. Software applications that merge office automation with business communications (both VoIP and cellular) will gain greater acceptance in 2010. However, due to business financial constraints all that Unified Communications promises to deliver will not be fully realized this year.

These are the changes in business infrastructure and focus that I am seeing for 2010. Do you agree? What other areas of change do you anticipate in your firm in 2010?

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The Economics of Owning an Application vs. Using an MSP

| January 13, 2010 in CTO Learning's | Comments (0)

Hal Anderson

Have you wrestled with the economics of purchasing a software application vs. paying a monthly fee to a managed service provider (MSP) for access to the application? You’re not alone. I have found that in most cases the specialization and economies of scale of an MSP delivers greater value than trying to do it yourself.

A couple examples of this for our company was in our decision to use a hosted project management solution by Clarizen and a hosted Microsoft Exchange solution by Mailstreet. MailStreetExchangeHostingFor example, for us to purchase, install and manage our own Microsoft Exchange server, we estimated that it would cost us at least $10,000 in the first year alone for hardware, software licenses, installation fees and ongoing administration. Instead, we pay less than $100/mo for our employees to have access to MailStreet’s Hosted Exchange service, allowing us to add and delete users any time we need to. For those partners, contractors and customers that need email boxes from us, we simply provide them an IMAP mailbox from our hosting provider, 1and1.com. This approach has saved us thousands of dollars a year and many hours of headaches we used to have trying to manage our own email server in-house.

image Our customers find themselves needing to make this same type of evaluation as they consider using our cloud-based monitoring and information management tools – a service offering we call Monitor+. We have learned firsthand that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of developing, integrating and supporting all of the components of Monitor+ over the past 3 years has been much higher than we expected… despite how much due diligence we initially did. Fortunately, we have been able to spread that cost across multiple customers over a period of years and thus we are able to offer very competitive monthly fees.

When considering all the direct costs associated with creating the Monitor+ service offering, I believe our partners and/or customers would end up spending nearly 80% more to acquire and support all of the applications that comprise Monitor+ vs. paying the Monitor+ monthly service fee we charge. When requested, we help our customers evaluate the "rent vs. own" costs for themselves, and typically they end up choosing the MSP option verses trying to develop a proactive monitoring solution on their own. Ultimately, Monitor+ frees our customers and/or partners to focus on their core business and avoid the risk of disruption of their voice and data services.

Depending on your tax situation, the after-tax cash cost to finance the development, installation and support of an integrated application platform like Clarizen, Mailstreet or Monitor+ would favor an MSP option. Since MSP fees are expensed, a growing company can essentially use the MSP’s capital. In today’s environment of tighter credit and a scarcity of cash, most companies should have a bias to a managed service or cloud computing as part of maximizing after-tax return on assets/equity.

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Technology Projects Require Applying the Project Management Methodology, Part II

| December 31, 2009 in Tips & Tricks | Comments (0)

Perry Lundquist

In the first installment of this thread, I laid a foundation for a continuing discussion about the value of formal project management practices for technology related projects. As a matter of fact, I stated that it’s not possible to deliver technology projects on time and on budget without using a project management methodology such as the Project Management Institute’s 42 processes and nine knowledge areas. In this installment I want to recognize a couple of reader’s comments and also share some thoughts about appropriate project management tools and processes. It’s a long post but if you can hang with me we may generate some interesting discussion together.

One reader commented that project management for technology projects is actually a myth. The reader’s perspective was that project management is actually a business management tool and not a tool for technology or information systems. I appreciate this reader’s perspective and agree that a project manager working in technology should be a good business manager first and a technologist second. In my opinion, it is a rare person who is a great programmer, application developer or hardware design engineer that also makes a great project manager.

The reason for this is the skills needed to be a good technologist versus a good project manager are very different. Also, a good project manager understands that they are managing a segment of the company’s business; they have to be concerned with a project’s profit objectives and the overall impact the project has on the company. What do you think about this? Does a good project manager working in technology need to first be a good business manager or can a good technologist also be a good project manager without business management experience?

Another reader commented that they wanted to be sure that I wasn’t confused about what a work breakdown structure (WBS) is. The comment was triggered by my sentence, “A task list, activity list or work breakdown structure (WBS) is an important tool of project managers, but this tool doesn’t scratch the surface of what formal project management entails.” After rereading what I blogged I understand why they made the comment and feel the comment was warranted. Many people confuse an activity list with a WBS, but a WBS is nothing like an activity list.

A WBS often looks like an organizational chart; however it isn’t an org chart. It shows a complete hierarchy of a project and allows the project manager and their team to breakdown the work into manageable bites called work packages. It also shows the interdependencies of work packages and details the deliverables of the project. Worked on as a team effort, the WBS allows the team to mentally walk through a project making it seem more achievable and enabling the team to identify ill defined requirements that need clarification. Here is an example WBS that details the work of a project to hire a new employee.

image Borrowed from http://www.spottydog.u-net.com/images/wbs.jpg

Most often the description of a work package in a WBS is only a few words like, “Job Spec.” A brief work package description allows the project team to convey the fitness of the work package in the overall WBS, but it doesn’t define the work in enough detail to explain what’s actually needed. The WBS has a companion document called the WBS Dictionary, which is a listing of all the work packages for a project explained in greater detail. Information included in the WBS Dictionary can include when the work is scheduled to begin, identified resources, milestones and other information. Don’t let the word dictionary throw you, you won’t find any word definitions, roots or entomology listed in a WBS Dictionary. Instead you will find detail explanations of work packages listed within a WBS. Tell us about how you create a WBS and WBS Dictionary and how helpful you find the process of creating them.

Lastly, an important principal of any formal project management process is iteration. What does that mean? It means not many project managers and project management teams are able to create all the plans, schedules, registers and other documents that go into a complete project plan fully baked the first time they sit down to work on them. OK, let’s modify that last statement a bit; no project managers or project teams are able to create a fully baked project plan during their first pass.

Actually, as you collaborate on project documents like the WBS and WBS Dictionary, you define work packages with the best information that you have available at that time. All project documents go through multiple iterations and during each pass you incorporate the latest information into them. What does the mean? It means don’t put yourself under the pressure of thinking you need to know every detail of a project to create a good project plan, WBS, WBS Dictionary or any other document related to a project. Revisions to the project plan are a natural part of managing any project.

Ok, I just introduced something new into our discussion; the term “project plan.” Tell us what a project plan looks like in your world and maybe that will provide kindling for the next installment of this thread. By the way, if you want more detail and even a bit of history about the Work Breakdown structure visit www.hyperthot.com/pm_wbs.htm. On this same website you’ll find a nine minute free video by Jim Chapman called 5 Steps to Successful Project Management. Jim succinctly makes excellent points about successfully managing projects. Also, if you want real help learning to create good work breakdown structures, investigate a program called the WBS Coach, http://wbscoach.com/. Developed by Josh Nankivel, WBS Coach is a training course that provides video tutorials and lessons on seven tools for creating great WBS and WBS dictionaries. The WBS Coach isn’t free, but it is reasonable.

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How Has Cloud Computing Impacted You Lately?

| December 18, 2009 in CTO Learning's | Comments (0)

Hal Anderson

First of all, hats off to Johna Till Johnson and her article this morning in Network World entitled “Cloud computing: The telcos’ game to lose“. In addition to helping all of us understand the role that traditional Telco’s play in offering cloud computing services, she breaks down cloud computing into 3 basic areas:

1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

2. Platform-as-a-Service

3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service

My goal today is not to dig into the differences of these 3 categories of cloud computing (a good future topic), but to simply ask if cloud computing has impacted you lately – either positively or negatively. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Telizent’s service offering to intelligently monitor and maintain business communication systems (Monitor+) is accomplished largely through cloud computing. Using Johna’s definition above, we’d likely be categorized as a SaaS offering, and 95% of the time we are able to remotely resolve any alarm / problem that is identified by Monitor+ using our SaaS toolset.

Work Management Solutions - ClarizenBut what about our internal use of cloud computing? We actually try to walk the talk. About a year and a half ago, we were searching for an easy-to-use project management tool that we could use to manage some of our telecom projects. Microsoft Excel was not interactive and Microsoft Project was too complex and too expensive. After a little research we discovered a SaaS Project Management tool called Clarizen and we haven’t looked back. It enables us to manage projects across multiple locations, clients and users via the web, without having to load anything on a project member’s machine… in fact much of the interaction is done right from their email inbox!

OfficeLiveOn the bumpier side of the equation, about a year ago we began using Microsoft’s Office Live CRM tool to track our web inquiries and manage our opportunity pipeline. All was going well until one morning (about two months ago) we woke up to find that the “create new opportunity” function in Office Live was no longer working after a new release the night before.

After 6 weeks of submitting several requests to their message board (they have no direct support phone number any longer) and not getting any resolution, I had to find an alternative option for our organization. So far we’re very pleased with our new CRM solution from Tigerpaw Software. However it is with some chagrin that I share with you as I write this blog entry that I decided to check one last time to see if Microsoft had resolved the Office Live issue without notifying me… you guessed it, the “create new opportunity” feature is now functioning again.

Just keeping it real. Cloud computing is of tremendous value to businesses, but there are some risks that we each need to plan for accordingly. What are your experiences with Cloud Computing? If you found this post useful, please leave a comment, share with your peers, or subscribe to the news feed to have my future posts delivered to your news feed reader.

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Technology Projects Require Applying the Project Management Methodology

| December 4, 2009 in Tips & Tricks | Comments (0)

Perry Lundquist

I’ve worked on many technology and telecom projects over the course of my tenure in the technology marketplace. Some of these projects were short term and included a handful of contributors. Some of the projects involved dozens of participants and millions of dollars. Shamefully, most of these projects weren’t managed using a formal project management methodology, but relied mostly on the experience of the project participants and a few tools for its success.

Project management has been practiced by people since ancient times. All major human endeavors that required the coordination of resources, materials and finances involved some level of project management even if it wasn’t recognized as such. For an excellent overview of the history of project management visit Wikipedia.

Everyone does project management; there is any number of home, personal, work tasks or events that we naturally organize into a project. Recently, I had an instructor who mentioned that in their home they have a defined project plan for Thanksgiving dinner; the plan documents who prepares what food and in what order, who sets the table and at what time, who carves the turkey, etc.

image Formal project management is more than most people think. If you believe that project management just involves writing a project charter, or a task list, then you don’t you understand the depth and value of project management. A project charter is an important document, but should only summarize a project’s business goals and objectives, define the business case for the project and detail the authority given to the Project Manager to complete the project. A task list, activity list or work breakdown structure (WBS) is an important tool of project managers, but this tool doesn’t scratch the surface of what formal project management entails. Likewise, a Gantt chart is a tool used to display the status of project phases or activities, but project management done right is a lot more than a diagram.

What is project management? According to the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org),

“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the 42 logically grouped project management processes comprising the 5 process groups. These groups are: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing, and are illustrated in the diagram below. Managing a project usually includes: Identifying requirements, addressing the needs, concerns, and expectations of the stakeholders as the project is planned and carried out, balancing competing project constraints including, but not limited to: scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk.” Project Management Book of Knowledge, 4th Edition.

image 

Technology or telecom projects cannot be done right without the application of formal project management methodologies. Too many projects end up needing more time and or capital to complete than was expected because the project was poorly planned. Therefore, a formal project management method is required to conserve all resources associated with any specific project.

Project management software is available for different scales of projects. Using the correct PM software for the right project is analogous to using the right tool for the job at hand. For technology projects that are frequently executed and everyone knows their role, such as implementing a server farm, a simple Excel spreadsheet would suffice. However, for large, multi-year software implementations and/or transitions such as moving to a cloud-based environment, a more formal project management application would be needed.

Personally, after completing a 17-week certification course in project management at Colorado State University, I’m now studying to take PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam. While completing the course and working on the PMP exam preparation, I’ve been looking at how to best apply what I’ve learned to my job and the telecom projects I manage.

Look for part II of this post in which I detail some of my lessons learned and recommend a few tools and techniques that I find helpful to appropriately implement a formal project management methodology.

What have been your experiences with project management tools for IT? Share your positive and negative experiences so we can all learn together.

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How Does Cloud Computing Impact Enterprise Voice Systems?

| November 30, 2009 in CTO Learning's | Comments (0)

Hal Anderson

Who hasn’t heard of, planned for or even begun using some form of cloud-based service? From a personal use perspective, if you have a Gmail, Twitter or Facebook account, you can consider yourself an early pioneer of cloud-based services! However, for the enterprise, many IT executives believe cloud computing is or will soon revolutionize business infrastructures. In fact, according to a new poll by Deloitte of more than 750 enterprise-level IT executives, almost 25% see the cloud as a viable option to on-premise server and storage (see Channel Cloud Computing). However, security and ownership issues must be effectively addressed before cloud computing becomes fully adopted.

But how does the cloud affect enterprise voice? Many associate hosted VoIP systems with the cloud craze, but according to No-Jitter’s contributing writer, Dave Michels, hosted VoIP actually pre-dates it. In his article, “Ten Ways the Cloud Will Reshape Voice,” Michels does an excellent job of describing how cloud computing technologies are dramatically impacting enterprise voice. However, the one sentence in his article that I most agree with is “the cloud changes everything and nothing”. I’d like to focus this post on the nothing.

1867031Even if 2010 holds the promise for an organization to migrate to a cloud-based enterprise voice solution, IT / Telecom managers realize it rarely happens quickly, and that they still have to keep the existing phone system fully operational. Fortunately, this is where the cloud can be used just as effectively to remotely monitor and maintain existing premise-based phone systems. Managers can extend the life of their existing systems and/or seamlessly migrate to a new phone system at whatever pace is most appropriate for their organization.

As a third party telephony monitoring and maintenance company, our experience shows that over 97% of the alarms generated by a premise-based phone system can be resolved by a remote technician in the cloud. By using a cloud-based monitoring service, IT managers can cost-effectively prevent system outages by using remote telecom experts and deploy their IT resources to focus on other important IT initiatives.

Remote monitoring, maintenance and management of business phone systems have been operational from “the cloud” for over a decade. This underscores the validity of cloud computing and actually helps usher it in by enabling IT managers to intelligently migrate to cloud-based enterprise voice solutions at the right time and for the right reasons.

What do you think? If you found this post useful, please leave a comment, share with your peers, or subscribe to the news feed to have my future posts delivered to your news feed reader.

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Are You an Emerging IT Leader? Do You Have An Elevator Pitch?

| November 12, 2009 in CTO Learning's | Comments (0)

Hal Anderson

A friend of mine who used to work at Gartner invited me to attend an event hosted by the Colorado Chapter of Society for Information Management. At first I was a bit hesitant to accept the invitation because I was not familiar with SIM Colorado and I was afraid it might just be another sales "networking" event. After doing a little research, however, I discovered that there are SIM chapters around the world that consist of information technology experts, including CIO’s, CTO’s and emerging IT leaders. Their mission is to help develop the next generation of effective IT leaders by establishing a forum to bring together IT professionals from across industries.

Suffice to say, my friend convinced me to attend the event and I found it to be very valuable and enjoyable. However, when the key note speaker announced what the "ice breaker" activity was going to be to kick off the evening, several of us looked at each other in shock and considered sneaking out the back door. You’ve heard of "Speed Dating"… well we were asked to introduce ourselves to 6 different individuals and spend only 2 minutes clearly describing who we were and what we do for our companies! They called it "Speed Networking"!

speed_networking_01[1]After all the groaning and moaning around the room subsided, we began the terrifying activity of talking (and intently listening) to one another… and I’m happy to say everybody survived the ordeal. What this forced each of us to do was to convey who we are and what we do as IT leaders in words that are not laced with techno-jargon, but are easy to understand by anyone. By the 6th person, most of us felt pretty good about how we could summarize what we do in a way that was both concise and interesting… what many refer to as your elevator pitch. Here is what mine ended up sounding like:

"At Telizent Communications, we help companies proactively monitor and maintain their business telephone systems. Just like regular medical checkups help prevent heart attacks, our proactive health checks help prevent telephone systems from having major outages by alerting us of symptoms before major problems occur. Telizent can always revive a downed phone system after the fact, but consider the impact that an outage can have on your company financially as a result of lost sales, or on your reputation due to poor customer service, or even on your employee safety due to them being unreachable on the phone. As CTO, my role is to architect and manage our proactive monitoring and maintenance SaaS toolset that we call Monitor+.  It is designed to prevent telephone system outages."

I had the privilege of meeting IT leaders from Microsoft, Frontier Airlines, Great West Life and many other prominent companies and state agencies in Colorado, and the "elevator pitch" that I had finally come up with above actually made the conversations with each of them even more valuable. So how about your elevator pitch? Are you ready as an IT Leader to convey what your company does in a way that most anyone could understand? I’m not sure I did a great job with my pitch above, but I can tell you that it has helped reduce my fumbling for words to describe what we do at Telizent Communications.

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How to Overcome the Challenges of Managing Enterprise Telecom

| November 6, 2009 in Economics | Comments (0)

Charley Ellison

Rolling out large enterprise telecom solutions across many sites, as well as supporting geographically disbursed systems and call centers with maintenance, break-fix, and upgrade services creates numerous logistical and economic challenges. C-Suite executives are intuitively aware of the challenges, but often are unaware of how to address them in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

The Challenges:

1. The single vendor fallacy

Selecting a single telecom (Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Mitel, Siemens etc…) platform accomplishes far less to meet the goal of reducing long-term ownership costs than you would expect. Several flies appear in this well reasoned ointment including:

  • Single Vendor maintenance services for the platform you choose/chose are largely an illusion. These global platform developers increasingly rely on small to medium distributors of varying and limited geographies and capabilities. You may have a support contract with the manufacturer; but at the end of the day, your staff will be coordinating and otherwise dealing with multiple service providers to cover your nationally distributed sites. To illustrate, Avaya and Siemens are pushing more tier 1 through 3 services to their partners. In a further outsourcing play, Siemens is outsourcing all field services to broader territories to a third party who traditionally relies heavily on hourly contract workers.
  • An acquisition of other companies is likely to create a near instant mix of communication platforms. Your firm ends up managing at least one new platform with each firm acquired assuming the acquisition target had previously standardized its enterprise telecom platform. If the target hadn’t standardized, your telecom team is facing the need to manage and maintain multiple platforms over night.
  • As manufacturers rapidly move to develop their VoIP and Unified Communications server technologies, legacy PBX systems are placed on end-of-life and end-of-support status prematurely; long before the installed systems fail to address the 95+% threshold of user needs for a technology refresh. The business case for a platform refresh is absent, yet the voice communication partner has an end-of-life gun pointed at your head.
  • Managing new server-based communications technologies along with legacy systems presents similar interoperability and support challenges as managing multiple manufacturers’ platforms. Mix 2 manufactures with legacy PBX and IP-telephony systems and…you get the idea.

2. Multiplication issues

The internal support of IT/telecom systems spread across 50-100 cities compounds the management headache of coordinating service providers. Multiply the number of cities by the number of different platforms in the network and the headache becomes a migraine.

The primary challenge is not the physical distance. The primary challenge is information management. When the headquarters IT/Telecom team has scant records on the remote site, they view the distance (to go look and see, i.e. collect information while trying to fix a service affecting issue) as the challenge. If the design and other records from the original installation were maintained, the need to dispatch a tech to go, look and investigate would be less.

Consider the following recommendations to addressing these challenges:

  1. Let go of the illusion of single vendor support. Call them PBX, IP-Telephony, Unified Communications solutions providers. This provides a clearer picture of just how many different communications vendors are entrenched in the firm. These vendors say their main business is developing and selling software-based solutions. The ongoing maintenance and support is being pushed out to distributors and channel partners. It is the rare customer who is supported directly by the manufacturer.
  2. Equip your staff with tools that proactively manage the network, servers, and other devices. By proactively managing, I refer to:
    • Active monitoring and with the flexibility to fine tune what events represent “Majors” to your business.
    • Proactively build, manage, and maintain the design, carrier, cable, rack lay out and other information. Having this information readily available will accelerate problem resolution. The on-going management of this information is easier than trying to research for it under battle conditions.
    • Collaboration tools leverage the monitoring and information among the team members (employees, vendors and partners), streamlining the routine support and project management functions.
  3. Become more independent utilizing proven tool sets that are designed to manage multiple platforms and generations of technologies.

These challenges and recommendations are often woven into the sales presentations of large IT outsourcing companies. They can hire large staff, apply best practices, and invest in tool sets. However, not all companies are willing to trust that an outsourcing play will not result in less control and personalization than can be accomplished by an internal team.

Telizent offers enterprises the tools and services needed to self service and fill the gaps of the challenges cited above.

What are your thoughts on the prospect of self maintaining your communications environment? If you found this post useful, please leave a comment, share with your peers, or subscribe to the news feed to have my future posts delivered to your news feed reader.

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