By Jim Pixley, Director of Information Technology, Telnet Worldwide
On Technology Issues
One of the biggest technology issues I’ve faced during my career in Telecom has been the broad spectrum of data sources, languages, standards and interfaces our team supports for daily operations. This ranges from file formats, APItypes, EDI transactions, transfer protocols all the way through what types of browsers users require for partner portal requirements. Each situation presents an opportunity to analyze and craft a scalable solution aimed at automation and to minimize variation. We mediate various call detail record sources from multiple native formats into two primary file types to minimize rating variations and simplify support.
We’ve implemented a data warehouse from multiple data sources, simplified with a user friendly data model and leveraged excel to provide enterprise standard and ad hoc reporting to our business users. To provide a single sign-on user experience, my team has leveraged a unified data access layer to integrate and standardize data access for all user interfaces, as well as integrate other portals.
One change we made a few years ago was the move from physical hardware to a virtualization model. One of the immediate benefits to this approach was the ability to be geographically redundant, as well as support our business continuity and disaster recovery strategies for far less capital than a comparable hardware solution. In terms of training, I made a paradigm shift two years ago. We standardized on an enterprise technology training site with classes and courses covering all varieties of languages and technologies. Coupled with “Training Day”, an arbitrary day where my team can focus on a class or language of their choice to complete and pass the certification. This has reduced our yearly training budget by 60%. I also have responsibility for desktop support in our call center, and shifted strategy from desktops to laptops for agents increasing the number of remote agents available.
One of our newest marketing initiatives has involved our sales force automation, database marketing, and direct email integrated with our call center platform for follow-up calls based on customer interest. This was an exciting project for me because it combined four separate tools and platforms into a single cohesive marketing and sales effort. Each campaign is guided by the business user requirements or list segmentation and filtering, and can scale seamlessly. Future expansion includes leveraging this same process to provide live-chat sales, ordering, finance and technical support. Our 24 month development roadmap is dominated by training, automation and work force optimization projects to leverage technology for productivity and scalability.
Identifying The Right Tool
Strategically, we’ve taken the approach of identifying tools that meet our business needs, use standard technologies and have a proven integration and access methods. We then develop around those tools to meet any custom business rules, or strategies such as an integrated customer portal. The importance of solid integration capabilities, robust APIs coupled with thorough vetting of any potential new system for weaknesses is a lesson learned by trial and error throughout my career, and the fallout from that selection made it one I won’t repeat. By design, we develop on platforms that are well established, well adopted and industry standard for all enterprise applications.
Adapting to Technological Changes
We have to continue to adapt to growth, changing technology, business needs, product launches, and market changes, while continuing to support the existing operations. For IT to be successful, we have to continue to deliver on the ability of technology to leverage productivity, and that spans a variety of platforms. Leveraging the operational support system, workflow and automated messaging empowers business users to deliver messages to the customers without IT intervention. Workflow coupled with task management and automation enables growth without requiring additional headcount. Self-service portals, websites, and the IVR enable touchless customer support, reducing support costs. Live chat delivered directly from the websites to the technical support results in a lower cost interaction. Leveraging database marketing, lead generation and data mining, email marketing and direct sales provides low cost, high ROI sales campaigns, minimizing the cost of sale. In each case, our contribution is either empowerment, productivity gains, scalability, or cost savings based. If our team meets that mark, we’ve been successful.