Infrastructure Consolidation - Creating Agility by Moving Away from Multi-system, Multi-site Communications Infrastructures
Today, IT is expected to be a vital business unit as well as technology provider, and IT leaders must provision a more versatile voice and data infrastructure to meet business objectives, at the business’s pace. However, multi-system, multi-site communications infrastructures are not conducive to being “nimble” — the result of non-standardized legacy equipment, greater network impacts for data storage and reporting, disjointed administration among systems and locations, and the integration complexities that are native to such disparate architectures. The time and resource demands on IT also contribute to the inability to react quickly in delivering new infrastructure-driven products and services, as do cost restraints and working within existing or diminishing IT and corporate budgets.
In a similar sense of consolidating infrastructures to perform “at the speed of business,” versatility in the consolidation process can be of tremendous benefit. By taking incremental steps and focusing on one multi-point component at a time, or a manageable number of components or applications at a time, businesses and their IT teams are able to consolidate infrastructure more cost-effectively and successfully.
The ongoing move to standards, applications, and cloud-based solutions
Along with the SIP standard, Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) continues to gain acceptance among IT leaders as a mechanism for making converged data network configurations both more flexible and robust. Beyond consolidating networks and simplifying network management with solutions such as SIP and MPLS, IT can further simplify the infrastructure by consolidating applications, physical servers and even processes. In contact centers and more recently in the enterprise, voice and data applications are continually being consolidated into integrated and easily managed all-in-one suites that significantly reduce physical server volumes.
By design, most all-in-one application suites currently on the market allow a contact center (and an enterprise) to simply activate or “turn on” only those applications it needs, when needed, such as ACD, IVR, voice mail, etc. Hosted cloud-based services such as Communications as a Service (CaaS) are taking the same approach with their pay-as-you-go pricing models, in that an organization pays only for the apps and functionality it actually activates and uses.
For planning and making incremental moves in the contact center and enterprise, consider this scenario:
- Pinpoint an event that triggers the need for a new system, say an IVR reaching end-of-life status.
- Identify an all-in-one platform — whether on-premise, cloud-based or a hybrid combination — that allows you to replace your IVR with like or better functionality. Make sure the platform (and vendor) will support subsequent growth with standards-based integration to handle all applications your contact center (and enterprise) requires.
- As other triggers occur — needs for advanced ACD features, outbound dialing, a new messaging system, etc. — look to the all-in-one platform you invested in for your IVR. A benefit of today’s software-based all-in-one platforms is that features are available and easily activated via a basic licensing process; the key is selecting the platform that offers “the most apps,” as well as the broadest integration to new and existing business systems such as CRM, ERP, etc.
- In time, move the rest of your multi-point system functions and applications to the all-in-one platform in a “natural” progression. Multi-site locations can also be transitioned in the same manner.
To transform the data center in stages, consider this approach from a leading OEM, which views consolidation as part of the bigger infrastructure picture:
- Increase the level of virtualization throughout the data center. This is inevitable anyway, and helps build the foundation for the next- generation data center.
- Consolidate — move away from having resources dedicated to specific applications
- Standardize on more components, such as blade servers or management protocols so that the data center supports more industry standards. As new technologies come out, standardization makes it easier to just “plug & play.”
- Optimize and develop a more automated and services-based infrastructure and create cross-function IT teams, so that knowledge is shared and silos are eliminated. This is particularly critical as CIOs and IT leaders are faced with providing an infrastructure that contributes more directly to the business in the form of corporate-mandated business models and revenue streams. Infrastructure consolidation is both the best place to start and the best solution.
IT and operations benefit
- Single point of administration and maintenance
- Less time required for operations management, IT management and administration
- The ability to more rapidly develop and deliver IT-based products and services
- Reduced system maintenance costs and telecom expenses 2 The contact center benefits
The contact center benefits
- Greater visibility and management control of inbound and outbound call volume
- Improve agent productivity, service levels, and sales
- Achieve more accurate forecasting and workforce scheduling to reduce overtime costs and overstaffing while improving agent adherence
- Increase agent utilization through unified, cross-site queues
- Reduce overhead for site-specific work creation and consolidation, such as dialer campaigns
- Support a “central command center” view to create and keep high-level visibility strategy and tactics in perspective and under control
- Increase customer satisfaction through decreased wait times, lower abandon rates, and increased service levels
About the author: Shaheen Haque is the Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert). Originally from Bangladesh, he spent his early years being educated in London, U.K. and subsequently has worked in the U.K. and Europe for predominantly U.S. software companies since graduating from University in 1993. The list of organizations includes SPSS (News - Alert) (now IBM), LBS, Oracle, Seagate Software, AppSmart Software. It was his job with Micromuse (now IBM) that first brought him to Dubai. After his stint in Micromuse, he worked with IBM (News - Alert) Middle East for a while in the Tivoli division. Then in 2007 he joined Interactive Intelligence when the company opened its first Middle East office in Dubai Internet City (News - Alert).
Edited by Maurice Nagle