The Great Tech Thaw: Are You Ready?

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Signs of invigorated business spending in 2014 are evident in double-digit CapEx growth predictions by leading global asset managers. Many IT managers, having seen budgets frozen since the 2008 recession, are also experiencing anxiety stemming from having underspent on technology and communications since the recession and desperately need to leapfrog a generation of technology.

For some businesses, the decision of what to take on themselves and when to tap outside resources to help can prove perplexing.

While it may seem unusual to see a topic related to upgrades on a services-related blog, there is a tremendous downside to sweating assets incorrectly, and a services organization is often left to help pick up the pieces when things go wrong. In some cases, sweating assets can be a savvy financial strategy, but it can also backfire.

Generally, any technology solution that is more than 8 years old will likely be in some level of “extended support, ” which only provides ‘best effort’ services if something goes down. Bug fixes are usually no longer being developed for these old solutions.

Parts are likely being sourced from the gray market, leading to quality issues and long acquisition times. On average, these “new” old parts are up to 4 times more likely to be dead on arrival. The next stop on the support lifecycle is end of support, which only increases exposure to risk.

According to IDC, downtime costs for mid-size businesses can average $70,000 per hour. If the part that you need is available in Australia, how many hours of downtime are you going to be forced to endure? What would 3 or 4 days of downtime do to customer satisfaction?

What if this downtime happened during a busy season? What would happen to the IT department if it was forced to do an unplanned, hasty upgrade? Is the asset sweating worth the costs to customers, partners and employees? The benefits of sweating assets need to be very carefully weighed against the business risks of letting a technology solution age.

How do you make the best decision at this inflection point? Many IT leaders leverage new money to make revolutionary, versus evolutionary changes. Traditional upgrade paths normally lead to an on-premise, CapEx-based solution, but today’s cloud-based options might be the best path forward.

Many early cloud initiatives were tactical in nature, as businesses tested the water on new technology consumption models. But cloud solutions have now advanced to the point that they can provide the communications foundation for IT organizations to shift from being producers of technology to consumers of it.

Also providing a support option for IT managers are managed services companies that can handle legacy systems while enabling the Business IT organization to invest resources in next generation technology and consumption models that provide rapid access to the latest application benefits.

Applications are transforming how organizations deploy and capitalize on technology. While this innovation can help boost business growth and improve efficiency, new solutions can further burden IT organizations that are already being compelled to handle growing service demand with shrinking staff resources.

New applications may also require skill sets beyond those of existing staff. This imbalance between requirements and resources can prompt organizations to explore staff augmentation options beyond the typical “manage my switch” arrangements.

With companies waking up from the thaw and deciding how to minimize the issues associated with sweating legacy systems and catching up to new apps and technologies in the market, there has never been a more critical time to consider getting expert advice to help define a business IT roadmap.

Are you seeing a thaw in budgets?
Who do you rely on guidance to help define your roadmap?
What are your biggest concerns given your 2014 investment goals?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

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Achieving Secure, Mission-Critical Technical Support is a Two-Way Street

Recently, an Avaya customer—a major global financial institution—encountered a pretty disruptive network issue. Avaya support technicians encountered roadblocks in resolving the issue, and the customer’s IT personnel were unhappy. As the issue escalated through Avaya support channels, it quickly became apparent that the customer’s internal security policies were thwarting Avaya efforts to look into the customer’s system to solve the problem.

You see, their IT personnel were not allowed to give Avaya technicians network access to capture the information necessary to properly diagnose and repair the issue. Cybersecurity was the concern. Avaya and the customer struggled for nearly a week without resolution.

To break the stalemate, a senior Avaya executive called the customer’s CIO and explained that without proper access, Avaya couldn’t resolve the issue. Once we explained how we secure the connection, the CIO gave permission, our remote access solution was brought online, the issue was diagnosed within 30 minutes, and then it was immediately resolved.

Three Keys to a Secure Remote Access Solution

Similar scenarios can be avoided if customer decision makers ask important questions upfront, before they buy technology solutions, about the measures their vendors take to provide both high-quality support services and security. Typically that will involve some sort of solution that provides remote network access. At Avaya, we call it Secure Access Link. Our Secure Access Link Gateway is the remote connectivity method that enables us to deliver rapid problem resolution, problem prevention, and solution optimization.

But not all solutions are equal. As you consider your next technology solution, consider the three key attributes of secure remote access:

  1. First, it should be smart.

    There should be flexible deployment options with minimal hardware and software requirements. It should enable efficient and timely delivery of service packs for software updates and easily integrate with automated and advanced diagnostics solutions. And when support is required, it should allow your personnel to connect with the vendor’s experts with a single click.

  2. You should have complete control.

    The solution should give you total approval/denial control over who accesses your network. If you do grant access, the solution should track and provide a detailed log of support activity so you see which vendor personnel did what and when while logged onto your network.

  3. It should provide high-level security.

    The solution should have no inbound connections into your enterprise—all connections should be strictly outbound from your datacenter so you have the ultimate control. The solution should feature host containment, to automatically prevent support personnel from host-hopping from server to server. Each support session should be encrypted and then quickly be torn down when concluded. And, finally, the solution should require two-factor or multi-factor authorization by any vendor support personnel who request a support session.

In today’s cyber threat environment, CIOs can’t take chances with the security of their networks, yet they still need rapid and responsive technical support. By asking important questions upfront, you can be assured that your communications solutions are smart, give you control, and provide the level of security you need. So when an issue arises, you can get the support you need, without unnecessary delays.

Is your company making full use of the Avaya Secure Access Link Gateway to optimize and protect your Avaya solutions?

New Avaya Healthcheck Tool: It Just Got Easier to Keep Your Communications Network Operating at Peak Performance

While the Patriots and the Falcons battle at the Super Bowl February 5, many of us will be trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions on track. The odds are daunting—stats show that more than 40% of resolutions will be broken by Super Bowl Sunday. For most resolutions, I can only wish you perseverance and success. But if you’re a CIO/IT director accountable for keeping your Avaya solutions running optimally, I’ve got a new Avaya Healthcheck tool that will help make your 2017 network performance goals a lot easier.

If your days are like mine, you’re seeing all kinds of projects getting thrown at you. I tend to do what my boss asks me for first and then work on my own to-do list afterwards. Sometimes that means the tasks that need to be done to keep me on top of things and producing the best outcome get moved to “later.” Not always a good formula for moving my goals forward.

So, with all the distractions, how are you actually making progress on optimizing your communications network? Is your IT staff is working on new projects or fighting fires each day? How can you reduce those fires or escalations? Or what if you just added new equipment on your network and before you sign off on the work you want to run some tests? Or you want to be proactive and check that your legacy equipment can connect to your systems and that the alarming is working correctly?

Running such tests takes time and resources. You need a fast and easy way to keep your Avaya solutions running at peak performance. Avaya Healthcheck is your answer! It’s a new tool included in your Avaya support coverage.

Schedule Healthcheck to run automatically or on demand. Healthcheck provides you with actionable steps to resolve potential issues before they become service impacting. Healthcheck brings together four separate tests and thousands of individual diagnostic routines for connectivity, alarming, configuration, and product health. Healthcheck features a simple dashboard that helps keep track of your tests—think of it as your professional health tracker.

Green is good. Red means it is time to pay attention. Now, your Avaya solution’s health can be checked in minutes, not hours. The online dashboard can track all and drilling down is easy. Just connect and get started. Set up tests to run anytime. Results can be quickly exported to Excel. And rerunning any test with a single click is easy.

Still need the experts to resolve an issue? Avaya Support technicians have the information necessary to manage the job quickly.

So you still need help keeping that resolution? Try Healthcheck today. You will have more time to work on your personal New Year’s resolutions—and beat the statistics.

Avaya Predictions for 2017 Services Trends: Top Focus is on Smart Customer-Centric Engagement

Recently, we asked six Avaya services experts to help us reflect on the past year and to peer ahead into 2017. Our panel:

  • Richard English, Managing Director, Avaya Professional Services
  • Camille Lewis, Product Management Director, Avaya Client Services
  • Barbara Sidari, Customer Engagement and Executive Cadence, Avaya Client Services
  • Thomas Brennan, Vice President of global support services, private cloud and managed services delivery
  • Michael Sale, Director Online Engagement, Avaya Client Services
  • Dan Pratt, Senior Director, Business Transformation and Strategy, Avaya Client Services

According to our six experts, our predictions for these 2016 trends proved to be spot on—and they will continue to be a force in 2017:

  • Use of hybrid/private cloud

    will continue to dominate for large enterprises until public cloud providers can demonstrate that compliance to privacy/security regulations such as HIPAA can be achieved. However, Public Cloud is quickly becoming a flexible and effective delivery model for the midmarket.

  • A flexible delivery model

    to achieve growth in modular steps that helps IT maximize ROI and support rapid business scaling has been, and will continue to be, extremely successful. Taking some of the burden off the enterprise enables IT managers to focus on more strategic corporate initiatives.

  • The need for person-to-person human touch

    will continue to rise. It will become critical in 2017 as unassisted support and self-healing systems grow smarter in identifying trends and problems before they happen and engage in machine-to-machine maintenance for resolution. The use of video will be more widely used, providing personalization and higher customer satisfaction.

The panel thinks that 2017 will mean an increasing focus on smart customer centric engagement when it comes to service. In 2017, it’s all about using analytics and even smarter technology to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, loyalty and revenue—and to achieve a better return on investment.

The Avaya panel sees these three trends emerging in 2017:

  • Transforming legacy systems and increased customer use of omnichannel will streamline the customer journey to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.

    For example, many retailers will transform their Contact Centers into profit centers. The shopping experience for their customers starts on the mobile device or web-based applications—retailers want it to end with an order placed. The customer will experience a seamless transition from mobile to voice (or to web chat or video) without having to repeat who they are and what they want to purchase. The agent will already know the value of the customer to their company and will provide a personalized shopping experience.

  • Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will enhance the experience of the Customer Journey.

    The predictive and preemptive active workflow will match people to people, machine to machine, as preferred by the customer for maximum satisfaction and profit. For instance, service vendors will use data captured from customer service requests, alarms, outage history, and project volume to identify risks and take appropriate actions to proactively mitigate issues. Utility companies can leverage web-based applications to proactively communicate to customers the status of affected service areas via maps on smart phones, reducing the burden of customers calling the service center to report an outage. Similarly alarm companies will analyze alarms and preemptively fix them before the consumer arrives home.

  • Demand for holistic application service management will grow as siloed and disparate cloud applications shift focus from managing assets in the field to delivering on business processes.

    Enterprises will need a dashboard that provides a single pane view by business process vs CPU performance. The workforce needs to be trained to leverage all the data in a way that includes human touch.

The year 2017 promises to be very exciting as service transforms and demonstrates its value by preemptively fixing issues before they become problems. It is imperative that knowing the customer and providing what they want, as well as the human touch, will become ever more critical in a big data world. After all, it’s all about the customer experience!

What do you see emerging in 2017? Drop me a note at sithomso@avaya.com