Is the Velocity of Change Impacting Your Business Communications - UC Solution?

6 May 2015

The rate of changes and configuration events that are required in new business and unified communications solutions is accelerating rapidly. UC Experts like Marty Parker and Nemertes Research have identified that in today's advanced enterprise communications systems over 50% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) is change management (i.e. administration and operations).

It is easy to understand how the increased sophistication of multi-vendor, multi-application, multi-device environments of today's enterprise communications solutions have dramatically increased the cost and effort of operating these systems. In a typical traditional telephony system, the rate of change or what are often called MACDs (Moves, Additions, Changes, and Deletions) came at a relatively low rate. Common knowledge held that the average changes were about one per employee per year.

This change could be a new employee arriving, an office move, or an employee leaving. In traditional PBX systems, the feature set and devices were both relatively limited as well as relatively fixed, feature changes were fairly infrequent, and were often applied universally across the user population. Changes from an advanced feature set such as might be assigned to a receptionist or executive assistant phone were infrequently, if ever, applied elsewhere. Even the advent of VoIP did not dramatically change this model as most VoIP PBXs were configured and operated as their TDM predecessors were (or it was often the same software, just with VoIP added). Furthermore, the changes were generally simple and required few complex configurations. For example, a move for an employee from one office to another might require a telecom technician to reassign the phone number to a different phone. As the caller ID name was associated with the phone number, this type of MACD could be accomplished in a few minutes, and the potential of errors was relatively low.

The result was a defined and relatively low caseload of changes. For a company with a thousand employees, each having a desktop phone, there would be about 1,000 changes per year, or about five per day for 200 working days. If the average change took 15 minutes to do and verify accurately, the workload was an hour or a little more.

However, UC and the advances in business communications have dramatically changed the situation in two ways. First, the rate of changes is much higher due the sophistication and range of the systems. With modern systems supporting multiple devices, multiple communications modalities, and new capabilities like mobility, presence, video, collaboration, etc., the number of changes is increasing significantly. A new device, a new capability, or some other change now occurs 5-10 times more frequently than in the past. Also, the changes are now much more complex, and getting even more so. As our communications systems have moved to multiple servers and applications, and even multiple vendors, what was a simple change now may require configuring three, four or more systems, each with a unique and often complex management interface.

Also, the systems used to implement these changes are often legacy based. For most organizations, a change will require a phone call or email to a helpdesk to initiate the change. Agents will then write out a ticket or enter the request into a ticketing system, which ultimately ends up in the in-tray of an engineer. The engineer schedules the task; however, their immediate priority may be on other tasks. In the end the engineer completes the task (maybe within 24 hours, maybe longer) and the ticket gets closed out and the original user is informed of the change now being available. The whole process rarely takes less than 48 hours, unless it is given the highest priority. Compare this antiquated process to today's online consumer environment, where you can book an airline ticket or a hotel in real-time and the transaction is fully automated through a web browser and completed in seconds.

The result is that lifecycle change management has become a significant issue for many organizations. With 5-10 times as many changes and often a 10x increase in the complexity of implementing the changes, the impact is huge. Instead of five changes per day, now there may be 25-50 changes. Implementing the changes now involves touching multiple interfaces, often translating data from one to another to assure proper interoperability. The result is that implementing a change in a modern UC system may take an hour to two hours per change. When taken together, these increases of changes per day and time per change result in the same 1,000-employee organization a workload of 10-20 hours or more of change administration per day.

Assuming that the organization has five telecom employees managing the operations administration, we have gone from it being a small percentage of their time to being over 50%. The results of this can be seen throughout organizations. Our staffs are overloaded, working significant overtime and often staffs are been augmented to keep up with the flow. As Zeus Kerravala noted, the result is often errors and those errors account for 30% of outages. Ultimately the most significant impact may be a higher turnover of disgruntled staff, who often leave, taking with them the training and design knowledge, further weakening the ability to manage the systems.

UCStrategies has identified Business Communications Operations Management (BCOM) as the category of products and services designed to enable organizations to deal with this new sophistication and complexity. More information on BCOM can be found on UCStrategies in the article Introducing Business Communications Operations Management (BCOM) - A New Management and Operations Paradigm. To better understand how BCOM impacts organizations, I talked to some UC teams that have deployed BCOM solutions in their organizations to get a feel for how BCOM solutions were impacting their organizations.

One of the groups I talked to was the team that managed the 2012 London Olympics. According to them, "Setting up and tearing down an Olympic Games is like building and then closing a 100,000-person company in months. With VOSS Solutions we were able to manage the complexity and intensity of all those changes without requiring an army of highly skilled engineers. Plus we were able to administer a richer set of UC services in real time, with a much lower error rate compared to previous Olympics."

I talked to a few Unimax customers, and a common theme emerged. As they said, "Using the Unimax solution, we have automated 90-95% of the grunt work that was causing our technicians to not have the time to do the important work of new systems and driving adoption. We are now implementing self-service, accelerating the use of the solution, while keeping my team focused on outcomes, not data entry."

Finally, I talked to Marc Ossart, of NTT Communications, a Service Provider using the Kurmi Unified Provisioning product. While indicating that he would prefer that enterprises move to the cloud, he said, "Using BCOM is critical to meeting our goals for profitability in our cloud operations. If we were using more traditional configuration methods, our costs would explode. I think enterprises that are, in effect, operating a private cloud can learn from our experience and see that BCOM is critical to their success."

In these discussions, I heard a consistent message from all of the end user organizations as well as the vendors: BCOM is critical to enabling staffs to have the time to deliver the promise of UC through new capabilities and driving adoption. BCOM also eliminates errors and reduces overall costs through automation and identification of excess resources. In fact, in discussions across these organizations, it was clear that the payback for a BCOM investment is generally measured in months and virtually always less than a year. This make BCOM one of those critical investments for IT organizations that reduces costs, while at the same time driving adoption and productivity results.

Whether you have an existing advanced UC/Business Communications system or are considering a new deployment, a critical component is to understand how your team will implement and operate the new system. A BCOM system is a critical element of enterprise communications in order to ensure your project success.

This paper is sponsored by VOSS Solutions, Unimax, and Kurmi Software.

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