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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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

Maximizing value from your support services investment

Commitment to 5 core practices will lead to peace of mind and growth.

In the world of support services we are always striving to reach that nirvana state where everything is perfect, and that requires keeping networks running at peak performance while contending with the onslaught of new employee technologies, cloud applications and mobile solutions.

As the leader of a global support services organization, I am constantly striving to reach this stable state for our customers. We are dedicated to harnessing the latest communications technology and processes to deliver an award-winning omnichannel support experience and help IT managers achieve the best benefits of automation while avoiding unforeseen problems.

Here are five actions that IT departments can take to gain the most value from their communications support services coverage:

1.       Take full advantage of automation. Automating remote diagnostics, alarm monitoring, and issue isolation and resolution can reduce preventable outages dramatically. In our experience, such tools can auto-resolve 90% of alarms requiring service requests without human intervention, while lowering outage risk by nearly three-quarters. If the systems are unable to resolve a problem, they automatically forward relevant information to a technician. By taking advantage of these advanced diagnostic capabilities, your organization can equip itself for proactive prevention, rapid resolution, and continual optimization of communications systems.

2.       Establish healthy connectivity. Realizing automation’s substantial benefits requires reliable access to remotely provided tools and services. Solid connectivity is vital to ongoing monitoring, accurate measurement and fast issue resolution. Adopting a standard remote connectivity methodology can help enhance security and enable more effective use of end-user and administrative controls, make for smoother and more reliable alarm validation and clearing functionality, and allow for more detailed logging and audit trails.

3.       Prevent and predict network issues onsite. User-controllable diagnostic tools can speed diagnostics while reducing costs and equipment requirements. Intelligent software agents continually collect relevant data and detect potential problems before they impact service. The tools equip system operators and their vendors to better diagnose, analyze, and address incidents remotely without compromising system stability. Based on individual Avaya and customer experiences, diagnostic tools can help resolve issues up to 50% faster.

4.       Tackle the outage top 5. The major causes of communications outages are no surprise. The surprise comes in not knowing which one will pop up, and when. According to our research, depending on the specific cause, one-third to three-quarters of reported outages could have been avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices:

  • Power outages: Regularly scheduled audits can help determine if facilities and uninterruptible power supply systems are capable of meeting power demands and warding off problems, with particular attention given to hardware that is approaching the end of manufacturer support (EoMS).
  • Lack of routine maintenance: Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can help IT departments catch the telltale signals equipment emits when a problem is approaching.
  • Software bugs: A sound patching strategy and proactive approach to patching to eliminate known issues can help maintain software performance and avoid software-related outages.
  • Hardware failures: Proactive upgrades of equipment approaching EoMS, audits to verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems can help reduce hardware-based outages.
  • Network issues: A simple audit of the organization’s underlying network can often help identify where certain performance issues, such as jitter, delay and latency, exist. A network diagram can prove indispensable in isolating an outage, while rigorous configuration control processes can help keep system changes and refinements from inadvertently triggering outages and other problems.

5.       Confirm that your records are accurate. Support services providers can address issues faster if they know what systems they are dealing with and whether those solutions are up to date. If you have a disciplined process for accurately registering equipment, you can facilitate ongoing remote maintenance support, improve the accuracy of contract renewal price quotes, and help your support vendor update hardware inventory records and test device connectivity and alarming.

Achieving nirvana in the chaotic world of IT with its many moving parts, increasing productivity goals, and the ever-growing world of cloud applications requires a continuous commitment to these top five practices. But once achieved, nirvana can be sustained. It can lead to happier customers, more productive employees who are able to focus on initiatives that will move the business forward, and for IT managers, peace and stability.

Six Questions to Help Non-Profit IT Managers Pick the Right Partner

Every organization knows the importance of stretching each dollar. That’s especially true of a non-profit trying to keep operating costs at a minimum. They must keep their IT system investment running at peak performance, ensuring constant communication with members and achieving the organization’s underlying goals.

According to the recent 9th Annual Non-Profit Technology Staffing and Investments Report, IT staffs at national non-profits are falling into four categories:

  • Struggling:

    “We are struggling; we have a failing infrastructure, and our technology time and budget generally go towards creating workarounds, repairing old equipment, and duplicating tasks.”

  • Functioning:

    “We keep the lights on; we have basic systems in place to meet immediate needs. Leadership makes technology decisions based on efficiencies, with little to no input from staff/consultant.”

  • Operating:

    “We keep up; we have stable infrastructure and a set of technology policies and practices. Leadership makes technology decisions based on standard levels according to industry/sector information and gathers input from technology staff/consultant before making a final decision.”

  • Leading:

    “We’re innovators; we recognize that technology is an investment in our mission, and leadership integrates technology decisions with organizational strategy. Technology-responsible staff is involved in overall strategic planning.”

More than half of the surveyed organizations reported that they were at “Operating” level when it comes to technology adoption. The report also found that “Leading” organizations are nearly twice more likely to include technology in their strategic plans than” Struggling” organizations.

Large Charity’s Challenge: Support 100+ Sites with Lean IT Team

Recently, one of the leading organizations, with 125 locations in the U.S. and an array of business communications solutions, faced their own three challenges:

  • Small IT staff overseeing large number of locations
  • Support required for multivendor environment
  • Insufficient tools to troubleshoot end user business communications problems

“I run an extremely lean staff,” says the telecom manager at one of the US’s top 25 non-profit organizations. “We do 25-50 major projects a year. Opening new locations, upgrading existing locations—all on top of day-to-day business. For us, it’s imperative that we operate as efficiently as possible with the tight resources we have.”

To overcome these challenges while boosting stability and allowing IT to focus on high value projects, the IT Manager looked for answers to six critical questions for a potential support services partner and their systems:

  1. Does the partner have the experience and resources to keep systems up and running while allowing the team to focus on high priority projects?

  2. Does the partner have the skills necessary to work in a collaborative multivendor environment?

  3. How does the partner optimize the performance of the current business environment while proactively preventing problems before they become outages? Do they use self-healing automated intelligent systems or is it manual?

  4. Does the partner have a continuum of services to support an evolving environment from maintenance to proactive support to managed to private cloud?

  5. How quickly can the provider restore systems during a disaster or emergency scenario?

  6. Can the partner provide an easy-to-use tool that helps diagnose reported intermittent network issues?

 

What are some of the questions that you are asking partners?