California cold feet on E911 Legislation?

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CPUC-MLTS Logo.pngIt’s no great secret that for several years now California has been touted as being very progressive with its E911 legislation. After initial Public Utilities Commission hearings in 2010, Bill A.B. 911 has recently been moving forward at lightning speed as it navigates its way through the legislative process.

A few weeks back, the bill was put into “SUSPENSE,” and today a Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Bill Analysis was published on the California PUC website explaining the reasoning for this change.

Cue the suspenseful music!

The analysis reports a change to the Fiscal Impact (as proposed to be amended):
“Unknown one time costs, possibly in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, from General Fund and various special funds to replace and update any ML TS system owned and operated by the state to be able to transmit the required information with 911 calls.”

As proposed, the bill would go into effect on January 1, 2016, and would require that the MLTS be operated and maintained so that dialing 911, or 911 and any additional digit for access codes (9 for example), route the caller to the PSAP with the “automatic display of the callers number address and location of the phone.”

161-5Percent-iStock_000014802700XSmall.jpgAs stated earlier in the PUC report, only a small fraction of companies would be affected by this new legislation, however that would account for a large majority of constituents that are serviced by these systems. The report documents that 95% of the 1.3 million businesses and government agencies within California would actually be exempt from this legislation, and the remaining 65,000 businesses “employ 9,521,366 Californians or 60.5% of the California workforce and serve countless visitors, customers, clients and tourists, are the business MLTS customers and end-users that require this critical E9-1-1 emergency services protection and would benefit from Enhanced 9-1-1 legislative mandate.”

Part of the issue here is that, despite the data presented during the PUC workshop in 2010, there is still a perception that 911 remediation is a costly undertaking for an MLTS environment. It is also clear that some of the base guidelines that are stated in the NENA MLTS Model Legislation document have not been taken into consideration. For example, requiring station level reporting to the PSAP becomes the burden for enterprises when implementing an E911 solution. Many stations within the enterprise do not have their own individual direct inward dial telephone number, and an organization with several thousand telephone instruments could be challenged with the operational costs managing locations at the individual device level.

As the NENA model legislation states, zone level reporting with the appropriate on-site notification mechanisms is adequate when establishing emergency response plans for a particular address. This reduces the complexity of the solution, as well as eliminates the ongoing and costly maintenance of the carrier PS-ALI database, which can now become static. Based on Avaya’s experience, eliminating this complexity not only reduces cost, but improves the chances of systems actually being implemented to where they will do some good. Let’s face it, you can have the best solution possible but if no one uses it, it’s worthless.

While I’m a proponent for legislation around E911 services in the enterprise, I do not believe in legislation that doesn’t actually solve the problem. California has an excellent opportunity to follow in the footsteps of states like Michigan, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the 15 other states that have implemented legislation and guidance around emergency services and multiline telephone systems.

Adopting this legislation, without clarification on zone level reporting requirements would be a huge mistake, now or in the future, and delaying the implementation of this bill until 2017 serves no purpose whatsoever. If there was a level of concern over requiring existing implementations enough time to evaluate and become compliant, there is always the proverbial “grandfather clause” that would allow existing systems to operate for an extended period of time past the implementation of the bill. New systems purchased on or after that date would require compliance, with of course a six month window at the beginning of the bill effective date to allow those businesses with construction plans already in place a short grace period.

martha.pngAPN Legal Correspondent Martha Buyer says, “There’s an old adage about never wanting to watch either legislation or sausage being made. My suspicion is that lobbyists got in the middle of this draft legislation and convinced the bill’s author and those supporting it, that the requested change was paramount to its adoption. Unfortunately, in the course of modifying the legislation to appease someone, the teeth–and effectiveness–may have been removed. At the end of the day, E911 legislation is all about safety and protecting people. Employers, who may have lobbied against an additional regulatory burden, may be unaware that they continue to have exposure, with or without legislation, for creating and maintaining a safe workplace, both for employees and guests.”

Again, most systems today will provide some level of 911 location granularity and reporting. This is not new to the industry, and we’ve worked closely with our DevConnect community to make it available several different solutions, at several different levels of functionality, and several price points which are nowhere near the costs indicated in the recent Bill Analysis.


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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Leveraging Big Data to Fine Tune Customer Experiences

Whether you realize it or not, big data is at the heart of practically everything we do today. Billboard companies, for example, are now leveraging eye tracking and traffic pattern analysis to gauge interest among drivers. Chances are one of those drivers owns a 4G-enabled vehicle that can track such things as performance and maintenance history. That person can also now record and analyze their utility usage via smart home solutions—anywhere, anytime. On a more critical level, doctors can now record and analyze patients’ heartbeats and breathing patterns to develop life-saving predictive algorithms.

In today’s smart, digital world, big data has opened the floodgates to never-before-seen possibilities. It has the power to course-correct potentially devastating outcomes, and it’s become a necessity for continually refining the customer experience. If you ask us, though, the best customer experiences today are supported by customer journey analytics.

The Need for Customer Journey Analytics

Customer journey analytics is a process that requires tracking and analyzing the way customers use a combination of available channels to interact with an organization. These channels range from human interaction (like speaking with a contact center agent) to fully automated interactions to assisted service (like live chat and co-browsing).

The need for customer journey analytics is simple: data solutions of the past simply won’t meet the next-generation customer needs of today and the future. Consider that just 10 years ago, channels like Web chat and social media were in their infancy (Facebook had only been around for two years). At the same time, the world’s first smartphone had only been on the market for one year. A lot has happened to transform the customer experience in a very short amount of time. As companies move forward in today’s age of rapid tech innovation, they must be armed with the right data strategy.

As mentioned, customers today use a vast number of channels and devices to interact with the brands they love. Each channel and device offers its own set of diverse scenarios for linking to other channels and devices, making no two customer experiences the same. Companies must be able to understand customers’ actions on any given channel or device in order to infer insights and create anticipatory engagement at the individual account level. For instance, why did one customer choose to purchase a product in a retail store verses online? Or, why did a customer end a live chat session before his or her inquiry was handled?

This level of understanding requires a comprehensive view of the data gathered from all channels and interactions that proceeded the moment in question. Customer journey analytics is a process designed to provide this comprehensive view and deliver deep benefits organization-wide—so much so that 60% of all large organizations are expected to develop customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018, according to Gartner.

Making Customer Journey Analytics Work for You

Companies need a data-driven customer approach to survive—and it needs to be effective to thrive. Many companies, however, struggle with taking their customer data and turning it into actionable results. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by PwC found that 43% of companies obtain little tangible benefit from their data, while 23% derive no benefit whatsoever.

To effectively apply your data, you must first determine what you wish to achieve with your data in the first place. In other words, what key objectives do you hope to achieve or improve upon by using big data (or specifically, customer journey analytics)?

Not sure? Here are four core initiatives to start you on a path to maximize your customer journey analysis efforts:

  1. Enable self-service.

    Self-service options—especially mobile—are rapidly increasing in popularity. Just consider that in 2015, Apple users downloaded over 51,000 mobile apps per minute. Also last year, 90% of customers used their smartphones in stores to make price comparisons, research specific products, and check online reviews.

    In today’s mobile-first world, businesses should leverage customer journey analytics to develop a sophisticated and integrated mobile experience—one that seamlessly integrates self service into their mobile app via visual, in-app self-service options. Conversely, this experience should offer customers callback options (either immediate or scheduled), as well as mobile chat (automated or agent-assisted) and video service. In addition to offering a stellar mobile UX, businesses should ensure backend capabilities that intelligently route customers to agents based on available context in order to drive relevant, meaningful interactions.

  2. Improve resource matching. We live in a world today where cars can park themselves and doctors can 3D print new organs, yet we still struggle with routing callers to the right subject matter experts. The time for next-generation routing is now, and it all starts with improved resource matching—specifically, attribute-based matching. This means matching customers with agents based on rich context, business KPIs, and organizational goals across all work items, channels, and resources to drive segmentation, increase prioritization, and determine the best course of action per customer.

    This also means choosing the right resources for each customer, regardless of where the resources reside within the organization. The right subject matter expert, for example, could be a contact center agent, a supervisor in your billing department, or your VP of sales. Customer journey analytics provides a 360-degree view of available resources organization-wide to support this level of attribute-based matching.

  3. Increase agent awareness. Not only is it important to collect the right information, but it must also be presented in a way that is visually understandable and easily accessible for agents. Imagine, for example, an agent being able to see where a customer has been on the company’s website over the last month, as well as that person’s live chat interactions last week. Imagine an agent being able to quickly see that a customer sent an email two days ago regarding a recent bill, or reached out via SMS because the company’s mobile app wasn’t working properly. Imagine if agents could gain this 360-degree, comprehensive view all in just one or two clicks of a mouse.

    Data is continuously generated in different ways, and is consumed by different people across different processes and applications. Having the right information at the right time empowers agents to focus on customers’ needs without having to ask for the same information multiple times (which, as we all know, is one of today’s greatest customer frustrations).

  4. Ensure continuous improvement.

    When it comes to big data, businesses can’t manage what they can’t measure. Therefore, it’s important that companies measure their data both in real-time and historically to help improve systems, processes, and applications over time. This is what will enable them to consistently deliver on key business objectives, operate within budget, and maximize every customer experience. Here are four key technologies for ensuring continuous improvement:

    • A data collector that can collect, standardize and normalize raw data across any data source so it can be used for enterprise-wide reporting and analytics.
    • A processing engine that can correlate, translate, calculate and publish normalized data into meaningful business measures.
    • A visual presentation platform that provides unified, real-time and historical reporting and analytics dashboards that can be used to visualize, analyze and explore key business measures.
    • Predictive analytics to discover new trends, apply changes based on insights, and continuously improve applications, workflows, self service and routing decisions.

So, how can you succeed with these four objectives to fine tune your customer experiences? That’s an entirely new discussion—however, we can tell you this: invest in a customer engagement platform that:

  • Provides a single view of customer interactions across all systems
  • Allows you to add data sources quickly
  • Can correlate data across both real-time and historical systems
  • Boasts an open and extensible reporting and analytics framework

Experience is everything. Learn How Avaya Oceana Works.

Quiz: Do You Know How to Choose the Right Support Services Provider?

All too often, we find that IT executives who are facing budget cuts buy unauthorized support services for their Avaya solutions. Doing so puts IT departments and their mission-critical networks at considerable risk. We’re raising awareness about the true value of having legitimate Avaya support services for your communications. We want to help IT managers learn that selecting the right support provider and service levels matters. Get started now by reading Support Services: Separating Fact from Fiction.

And take our True or False quiz:

  • All support service providers are the same.
  • Even if my current support option does not cover all, additional services can be bought for time and materials. It’s no big deal.
  • Third-Party Maintenance Providers (TPMs) can get access or entitlements to software patches, updates, or security advisories as needed.
  • My support services provider does not have automated diagnostics and auto-resolution capabilities. But, no worries. The team will still resolve my issues in a timely manner.
  • To keep costs down, TPMs rely on a network of vendors to support some sites.
  • I trust that my support provider is current with their manufacturer certification and methodologies. I don’t feel it’s necessary to periodically check.
  • Recovery capabilities from a catastrophic outage are offered by my provider. Protection for software or hardware not covered under contract might cost more, but it is a reasonable risk.
  • All equipment purchases, whether bought refurbished or slightly used, have worked out great so far. No complaints and we saved money.
  • I was notified about service support being discontinued with no “end of life” or “end of support” on any system, regardless of age. I did not have any other credible options.

Many IT managers operating in a harried world and reacting to the daily challenges of keeping their networks running at peak performance would undoubtedly answer “True” to at least one of the above. That’s where the problems start and re-evaluation is sorely needed.

It’s Time to Evaluate Your Options

As the end of the year approaches and budgets are being settled, now is the perfect time for many IT managers to take a second look to ensure that their systems remain at peak performance and to protect against unnecessary risks associated with unauthorized maintenance providers. Choosing the right support partner matters just as much as choosing the right products. Adjustments to meet growth will be needed. User needs will change. Disasters happen. How will you handle these challenges?

While selling support services, unauthorized maintenance providers are not certified, putting your network and systems at considerable risk and invalidating your warranties. To make the best choices, we suggest that Avaya customers consider the following key questions:

  • When did you last check to ensure that your services provider was current on training or certified on the products in your network?
  • Do you have access to Avaya support staff with technical expertise? Anytime, anyplace, from any device?
  • How often are you involved in resolving issues that your non-Avaya provider should be preventing or auto-resolving?
  • Do you have sufficient time to work on new projects or innovation?

All Services Are Not Equal

How much does downtime can an unplanned outage cost your company? On average, it’s $2700 per minute. Some TPMs state that their enhanced service level agreement is four hours to restore! The average cost of an hour of downtime is a staggering $163,674. Can you afford that?

It’s important to understand that unauthorized and third-party maintenance providers do NOT have access to time and material support, intellectual property, replacement parts, software patches, or certification. Unauthorized maintenance providers also do NOT have access to:

  • Avaya’s award-winning EXPERT SystemsSM automated diagnostic and proactive resolution platform
  • Avaya training for products, diagnostic tools and methodologies (e.g., EXPERT Systems, Avaya Knowledge Management, and Avaya SLA Mon™ technology)
  • Avaya Tier 3 support engineers
  • Avaya’s battle-tested Emergency Recovery team

What’s in Your Support Services?

Did you know that Avaya’s lifecycle policy is designed to protect our customers’ investments and support their mission-critical networks even after our products move from End of Manufacturer support? Did you know that Avaya now offers Remote Only Support (access to Intellectual Property and remote technical support through to Tier 3), and Indefinite Access (access to Intellectual Property)?

Because unauthorized maintenance providers claim to provide 20%-50% savings versus the standard for the same or better service, it is best to make an apples-to-apples comparison. The best support services companies offer world-class customer service, as demonstrated by Avaya’s third year in a row win of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award, which is based on actual customer satisfaction scores.

Remote automated diagnostics and resolutions help repair potential problems quickly, saving time and reducing the risk of an outage. Focusing on proactive problem prevention, rapid issue resolution and continual solution optimization helps make effective use of time and communications resources in alignment with your organization’s strategic objectives.

Avaya support comes with the following benefits:

  • 73% more likely to avoid an outage
  • Auto-resolution of 93% of alarm-generated service requests without human intervention
  • Restoration of 90% of outages in less than two hours

So, as the end of year approaches, it’s time to look forward. Consider your best options to keep your systems running at their peak throughout 2017. And remember, the quality of the support you get matters…especially when you most need it.

Serving Customer Buying Patterns Means Our Partners are “Living on the Edge”

Today’s business environment is a competitive and dynamic landscape that necessitates innovation in communications and collaboration. Technology solutions are more than mere infrastructure investments, they are business success enablers. This has led to a major transformation in customer buying patterns. Customers have changed how they approach, purchase, and deploy ICT—information and communications technology–and we’ve changed how we sell to customers. Simply put, customers are requesting as much agility in their solutions and infrastructures as they require functionality, if not more.

Here at Avaya, we recognized several years ago that one size NEVER fits all. That’s why we made the strategic decision to transition to a software-and-services-led company providing solutions and platforms. To keep pace with customer buying patterns, we totally changed our product mix, made everything available as a software component, and gave our customers more flexibility in how they consume our solutions.

That last point reflects another major shift for Avaya—we put our customers first. That may sound self-evident, something all companies should be doing all the time, but it all too often doesn’t happen in the IT industry. It certainly wasn’t happening at Avaya. In 2011, our Net Promoter Score was hovering in the 20s, placing us … well, on par with most of our competitors, which is to say not very good. Today, we’re at 59, or Best in Class, which is in the 50% to 70% range with Apple and the Ritz Carlton.

So, putting the customer at the heart of everything we do has paid off for us big time. Consequently, our channel programmes have to evolve taking that new reality into consideration and that is exactly what we have done.

This month saw the global launch of Avaya Edge, our brand new and streamlined global partner programme, designed to give our partners the edge in the marketplace. Our vision for the new programme has three pillars:

  • Put the customer first
  • Protect and represent the Avaya brand
  • Be highly rewarding for the professionals and organisations that are a part of the programme, wherever they may be.

Avaya Edge also addresses some of the biggest needs for technology partnerships—a simpler structure, greater benefits, and flexibility—and builds them in as the key defining characteristics of the programme. To achieve that we gave our partners a choice to decide in which marketplace they would like to thrive, i.e., Enterprise or Mid-Market, since each of those segments require different level of profiles, skills and investments.

Here’s another way we’re bringing partners more closely into the fold. In previous years, we’ve hosted separate events for partners and customers around the globe. The partners had their own specialist Avaya Partner Forum event, while customers attended Avaya Technology Forums. Fair enough, specialization is not exactly a bad thing—but achieving the best possible outcome requires everybody pulling together in the same direction. The Avaya business teams, our partners (resellers, systems integrators, distributors, etc.) and, above all, our customers need to be aligned if we are all going to achieve our business objectives.

This month in Dubai, we’re hosting Avaya Engage—our first event that brings everybody in the Avaya ecosystem under one roof. Avaya executives will meet with partners, customers and industry leaders, giving everybody an equal opportunity to network, learn latest industry trends and understand where Avaya is going.

Get more details on Avaya Engage in Dubai. I look forward to seeing you there.