How Avaya Augments the Work of its Support Engineers

In late January, Microsoft announced a virtual reality project called HoloLens. The reviews of the prototypes have been positive, and I can see why: Virtual reality has been something geeks have been reading about, seeing in movies and TV shows, and dreaming about for years.

While virtual reality systems are not entirely new, what is different this time is that Microsoft is behind it.

While Microsoft may not be known for cutting edge “cool” technologies, they bring something new that may just drive adoption of VR like we’ve never seen before: The enterprise.

The demo of this technology even includes a Skype conversation that appears within the VR goggles and can be “pinned” in virtual space, allowing the wearer to look away as need be. The demo takes this use case even further, by using that video call to help someone do some home repairs. When I saw this, it quickly reminded me of this older video from BMW:

In this video, we watch a mechanic use similar VR goggles for diagnostic assistance in working on a BMW engine. These glasses give the mechanic information on exactly how to do each new step, including the tools and motions for successful completion. Not only does this allow for fast, uniform, and high-quality repairs, but it does so with reduced training of the mechanic, enabling the vendor to provider excellent customer service.

I’ve always found this vision inspiring in my daily work of improving how Avaya Support Engineers do their daily work. How can we build diagnostic tools that augment our engineers (and the engineers working for our certified business partners) by providing them the real-time information they need to quickly identify the root cause of a problem and implement a solution?

Given that most of our work is software, and not hardware, we don’t exactly need Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles, but the mental framework is the same.

Like Microsoft’s home repair example, we know that sometimes you need more than a written or video-based knowledge article; sometimes a fellow human is what you need.

As such, Avaya enabled audio- and video calling between our customers and our engineers as well as enabling our engineers to quickly video call each other to “swarm” around a customer issue. We’ve also built scripts that know what to check on our products and create a red/yellow/green dashboard report for the user so they can quickly scan for known configuration issues.

We’ve found that this not only speeds up the checks our engineers would have done anyway, but also gets them to look at things they might not have thought to.

What’s even faster than speeding up the work an engineer does? Automating the work entirely. We’ve invested years of effort in automating how we handle the alarms our products send, allowing us to handle 85 percent of alarms without any human interaction, drastically improving resolution times and CSAT.

What diagnostics tools do you use in your work? Any you would recommend others use for troubleshooting Avaya products? Or just for doing plumbing or other things we all get involved with from time to time? What do you wish was available to make troubleshooting faster and better?

Related Articles:

The Tool That Helps You Determine Root Cause Without Leaving Your Desk

A large global financial services group was having problems with their Avaya UC VoIP solution running on a Cisco data network. As soon as they deployed a tool from Avaya Support, they quickly identified Quality of Service issues at three major sites globally: routers were misconfigured and were not preserving the DSCP QoS tagging.

That’s right − an Avaya tool quickly identified a misconfiguration with Cisco routers in a global network. The tool is the SLA MonTM Server, part of the Avaya Diagnostic Server. It’s free, and I think you should be using it.

In-House Innovation

On a snowy Denver day in March 2010, one of the research scientists from Avaya Labs, Jean Meloche, presented a prototype that monitored performance monitoring of data networks using code embedded into the firmware of our phones.

We immediately saw this as a big value-add for our support customers, as customer-provided data network performance is crucial to proper operation of Avaya applications.

Under the guidance of Jean, the Avaya Client Services’ own R&D organization brought this prototype to market with patented technologies, launching SLA MonTM in 2013. While there are third-party vendors that offer similar capabilities in the market, SLA Mon™ is differentiated in two ways:

  1. We leverage the Avaya phones already spread throughout the customer network, instead of requiring new monitoring hardware or software to be deployed.
  2. SLA MonTM is a free entitlement to our customers with Support Advantage Preferred coverage on their Aura CM, or with support on Avaya Networking solutions.

Use Case

Imagine that an end-user reports poor audio quality on a phone call at 3 p.m. a few days ago. The IT department uses SLA MonTM to see how the data network was operating over that link at that timeframe and notices significant jitter.

The engineer has a hunch it was due to load, so she uses SLA MonTM to remotely control 50 phones, placing real phone calls on the network, while remotely doing a packet trace directly on the phones in question. With real-time confirmation that the jitter returned and the packet captures matching, she knows she has root cause. All that … without leaving her desk.

Creating Value in Support

This free application has many more capabilities than covered in the use case above, but hopefully I’ve given you a glimpse into how a tool like this can add real value to any VoIP customer.

There is a reason that Avaya doesn’t sell this application separately: we saw it as being very valuable in keeping our products running well and troubleshooting issues that came up, and so we bundled it into our Support Advantage Preferred coverage.

We know that Proactive Support − gathering data to avoid major outages − is key to our customers’ satisfaction. Simply, it is how support coverage creates real value in an enterprise.

By enabling our customers with tools like this, Avaya Support is leading the industry in support delivery. Furthermore, if the customer needs more assistance with an issue, the supporting party (Avaya or an Authorized Business Partner) can access the tool via SAL to quickly get to the root cause.

To learn more about the value of SLA MonTM Server, how it works and its various features, watch the 11-minute video below:

To learn more about installing, licensing, configuring, and using SLA Mon, check out our videos on YouTube.

Please be sure to read the other blogs in this series:

  1. How Switching to Proactive Customer Service Could Save You More Than $500,000
  2. Remote Connectivity: The Trick to Getting the Most Out of Avaya Support
  3. Customers Who Use This Tool Are 73% More Likely to Avoid an Outage

Contact or follow me on Twitter: @CarlKnerr

Customers Who Use This Tool Are 73% More Likely to Avoid an Outage

Ever mutter to yourself, “Yeah, well, let me just get out my magic wand, and take care of that for you?”

I know I enjoy using that phrase in conversations about turning a situation from “snakes on a plane” to “ponies and rainbows.” Well, when it comes to preventing customer outages, I’ve actually got one of those magic wands: EXPERT SystemsSM.

A 2014 internal study from Avaya showed that customers who utilize EXPERT SystemsSM are 73 percent more likely to avoid an outage. And with the average industry outage costing a customer $575,000, this means real value to our customers.

Since the average Avaya customer’s support coverage cost well below that figure, and given that most customers’ coverage already includes EXPERT SystemsSM, this is a magic wand that has a big return on investment.

Of course, this solution isn’t magic; it was built over decades of hard work, intellectual property and investment, which makes EXPERT SystemsSM so effective at its job. Rather than investing in large NOCs with large displays and lots of humans manually monitoring every alarm that comes in, Avaya has invested in sophisticated automation that’s able to programmatically filter, correlate, triage, and/or clear 99.96 percent of all received alarms without engaging one of our support engineers. That investment means our customers get their alarms managed in the time it takes a script to execute, ensuring that their issues are addressed before turning into costly downtime.

What about the 0.04 percent that do require and Avaya Support Engineer to engage? We programmatically run our Configuration Validation Tool (CVT) on the alarming device so that when the support request makes it to the engineer, the engineer already has a report on the application’s configuration, highlighting areas of concern, as well as the log files. This enables the engineer to get right to work instead of tracking down someone at the customer location to get information and log files from.

So, if you or your customer is interested in fewer outages and faster resolution of issues, validate you have Support Advantage Preferred coverage on your applications and then use Avaya’s Global Registration Tool (GRT) to onboard those applications for EXPERT SystemsSM.

To learn more about the value of EXPERT SystemsSM and how it works, watch the six-minute video below, which includes an animated diagram of how alarms flow through the systems:

Please be sure to read the other blogs in this series:

  1. Proactive Support
  2. Remote Connectivity
  3. This blog
  4. SLA Mon Server

Contact or follow me on Twitter: @CarlKnerr

Remote Connectivity: The Trick to Getting the Most Out of Avaya Support

If there’s one “trick” to getting the absolute most value out of your Avaya support coverage, it would be enabling remote connectivity. Allowing a trained Avaya Support Engineer access to your Avaya system in times of need delivers 21 to 50 percent faster resolution times than without.

In the past, Avaya used the prevalent technology, modems, to provide remote connectivity. In 2009, we introduced our Secure Access Link (SAL) technology which delivers high-speed connectivity over a HTTPS tunnel. The SAL Gateway is a component of a downloadable package called the Avaya Diagnostic Server. This application is deployed on the customer’s network, providing remote connectivity and alarming back to Avaya. It’s a free entitlement to all Avaya customers with active support coverage.

Another component of the SAL solution is the Policy Server, which enables the customer to manage and control policies of how their applications are remotely accessed. Like the SAL Gateway, this application is deployed in the customer’s network. The customer then uses it to build policies that control who, when and how Avaya can access their systems. One of the most popular policies available is inserting a step where the customer’s IT department must manually approve a connection request from a support engineer before connectivity is established. This is certainly more manageable than only plugging in that old modem phone line when you know an engineer wants access.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details here about the security features of SAL, but it’s important to understand that all connections are established from the SAL Gateway on the customer’s network, outbound, to Avaya − never inbound from Avaya to the customer. All traffic is encapsulated within a HTTPS tunnel, thus only port 443 outbound must be open on the customer’s firewall.

Our Authorized Business Partner community is an important part of our support offerings, and as such, many of our partners utilize an Avaya SAL Concentrator, which also allows them to use the SAL solution for remote connectivity as requested by the customer.

While implementing SAL is relatively straight-forward, it’s important to understand that for the solution to work, each Avaya product must be properly registered with Avaya in the Global Registration Tool (GRT), which gives the product its own unique ID (“SEID”). Then that SEID must be properly onboarded in GRT so that connectivity can be established.

In August, we made a new tool available to Avaya and partner account teams to not only report out on how healthy the connectivity is to every customer-deployed Avaya product, but to also provide actionable information on how to resolve any issues. Please be sure to work with them to make sure your entire Avaya solution is getting the value of remote connectivity.

dashboard

In summary, remote connectivity is the linchpin in getting the most value out of your Avaya support coverage. With it, you get faster resolution times and the ability to have proactive alarm monitoring and remote diagnostics.

If you missed my first blog in the series about the value proactive support brings compared to reactive support, please read it here. Stay tuned for the rest of this series, where I’ll speak to the value out of alarm monitoring via EXPERT SystemsSM and the SLA Mon™ Server.

The video below covers the material above and more about SAL, including a flow diagram of how connectivity is established with SAL:

Contact or follow me on Twitter: @CarlKnerr