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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Don’t Underestimate Smart and Secure Remote Access

Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time watching great NCAA March Madness games in the last two weeks. During the commercials, I’ve been thinking about the challenges faced by athletes aspiring to get to the Final Four—and realizing that many careers bring similar tremendous pressure. In my communications industry, I think of IT professionals trying to solve technology issues, bridging legacy and new solutions, always on tight deadlines and tight budgets. These teams need things to go right—and when there’s an error—they need smooth, secure, fast fixes from their vendors.

Underestimating the skills of the remaining NCAA players might be a mistake—don’t blame their current success on luck or a fluke. That’s basketball, but I’ve seen IT departments underestimate the problem-solving power of remote connectivity in a similar way. Remote Access is often dismissed as being too risky for network security.

In his blog “Achieving Secure, Mission-Critical Technical Support is a Two-Way Street” Mike Runda, President of Avaya Client Services, refutes the misconceptions IT can have about remote access. Mike discusses the three key attributes that IT managers should demand of a remote access solution. Before you choose your communications solution, make sure that the provider’s connectivity into your enterprise is smart, secure, and gives you full control.

Secure remote access connectivity is the foundational component for resolving complex network issues. Mike tells the real-life story of an Avaya customer having a network issue, and blocking remote access for Avaya support technicians. The techs needed access to diagnose and resolve the problem. The customer was steadfast in its cybersecurity. The situation became a full-court press (i.e., escalations) by both teams. Once both teams got together and discussed the power and security of Avaya’s remote connectivity, the issue was quickly fixed. Read the whole story in Mike’s blog.

For now, we know the teams heading to the Final Four are doing all they can to bring their A Games to Phoenix. Likewise, when the pressure’s on in IT, Avaya customers can work with us via remote connectivity—with confidence that the pros at Avaya will protect security and bring proven results.

Three Attributes that Lead to Great Customer Satisfaction

We all know that customer satisfaction dictates success in business. You’ve heard it all before: CSAT scores help determine likelihood of future purchases, customer turnover, branding, and differentiation from your competition. What are you doing now to raise your company’s CSAT scores? What are the biggest pain points you’re trying to solve?

Three CSAT Attributes

Personally, I am happy with a company if our interactions have these three qualities:

  1. It’s easy. I want it to be easy to find the answer to my questions on the website. Why should I buy X vs Y? Which one fits my needs? If I can’t find the answers on my own, I want to talk to a human quickly. I get very impatient when I have to search for how to contact a company.
  2. There’s a multi-touch experience with subject matter experts. When I do reach a human—whether it’s through chat, phone or video—I want that person to be an expert and answer my questions, without having to ask one of their peers. They should know what products I am looking at before we start interacting.
  3. There’s a proactive element in the service. I love it when an agent takes initiative and suggests a solution that I hadn’t thought of. “I know you’re looking at X and Y, but based on the needs you just described to me, I think you should consider solution Z.”

Given all of the budget pressure and changing customer needs, a company needs laser focus on improving customer satisfaction. It takes strategy and execution to transform people, processes and technology. And it takes patience!

Avaya’s Customer Service Success

Northface ScoreBoard Award
At Avaya we have been transforming customer service over the last several years. Our CSAT scores have been rising each year. In 2016, once again our customers gave us an all-time high score with 95% rating in the excellent, very good, and good categories. Customers said we improved support services performance by 8% since 2015 in Web Effectiveness, Web Quality of Documentation on support.avaya.com, and in Web Search Function. For the fourth consecutive year, we’ve been awarded the NorthFace ScoreBoard AwardSM in recognition of achieving excellence in customer service and support.

 

The detailed and transparent opinions our customers give us through direct conversations and surveys drive our strategy. We are focused on providing proactive support. We use data gathered from client satisfaction surveys, service requests, and historical customer design issues to identify potential risks and resolve the issues before customers even know about them. We’ve launched an updated Avaya Healthcheck tool to provide a simple, fast, and easy way to help keep Avaya solutions running at peak performance.

Avaya’s Continuous Improvement Approach

Today, our customers don’t have to repeat any information as they move from a web interaction to a live agent. We assign service requests based on attribute matching. In the future, we’ll know if a customer has been to a particular product hub site, if they’ve viewed Knowledge Base documents, or if they’ve gone to pages to manage their service entitlement. The live agent will see these actions in their workspace as part of the customer journey—a true multi-touch experience.

And that’s not all. We know data breaches are top of mind for all organizations. When we connect to your company via our Secure Access Link to deliver mission-critical support, not only do we resolve your issues 42% faster but you will have the control you need to make sure your company is protected.

Responding to customer feedback is critical to competitive differentiation. We keep striving to give our customers the best and we are thrilled when we receive feedback like this: “The skill set demonstrated by the Avaya Support engineer in resolving the issue was timely and precise, rare commodities in most industries.”

But our work is never done. We’ll keep surveying our customers to see where we need to make things easier, improve performance, and be more proactive throughout our customers’ journey with us. Our services and solutions are about helping other businesses do the same.

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?