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Improving Operational Maturity Maximizes UC ROI

Operational maturity measures the effectiveness with which organizations operate IT assets to drive business outcomes. IT organizations at the low end of the maturity scale are designated as chaotic or reactive, whereas mature ones are proactive, automated, and, eventually, business aligned. Mature IT organizations can maximize the return on technology investments and consequently drive competitive advantage for the businesses they support.

Today, many organizations are still in the reactive state; business users or customers inform IT of issues rather than IT operations detecting and resolving issues proactively. This consequently leads to firefighting and escalations, which pulls top resources from critical projects.

This is particularly true for the unified communications ecosystem, where the user experience is only as good as the weakest link of interconnected components. The UC ecosystem includes headsets, mobile devices, laptops, wireless networks, LANs, the WAN, session border controllers, SIP trunks, and so on. With complexity growing exponentially, the user experience depending on real-time communication is most sensitive to any performance degradations.

The slightest issue anywhere in the ecosystem will turn that link into a kink. It will torpedo the UC experience and lead to dissatisfied customers and frustrated internal users -- and consign an organization to the lower rungs of the operational maturity scale.

UC problems can occur in any organization: garbled voices, jittery video conferences, dropped calls. The goal is to catch them early, before customers and internal users experience them and complain. The big question IT organizations need to ask themselves is, "Are we reactive or are we proactive?"

Obviously, you want to be proactive. You want to solve problems before customers, users, and business units are negatively impacted. The last thing you want is users coming to you and saying that their video conferencing session with a key customer just crashed, causing that customer to do business elsewhere.

The reality is that chaotic and reactive organizations are usually stuck in firefighting mode. When issues surface, they have trouble pinpointing the exact cause of the problem. They don't even know where to start. Should they begin by looking at the network, the contact center application, or the endpoint devices?

Stepping Toward Operational Maturity

As a first step toward operational maturity, you must simplify management complexity. Look for tools that allow IT administrators to triage UC issues quickly, even if they're not necessarily experts. In fact, the right tools can provide accurate and immediate data about where the problem lies and how to remediate it. Then, with this information, the operations team can approach the network team with clear evidence that there is, say, a degradation between two network hubs that needs to be fixed.

You've heard the term "mean time to resolution." Well, in the UC world, it's all about "mean time to convince." You need to persuade the team that's responsible for the problem to take ownership and quickly address it. When it comes to resolving UC issues, the 80/20 rule has never been truer. IT spends 80% of the time identifying the problem and arguing about who's responsible for fixing it, and only 20% on actually solving it.

Another critical piece of operational maturity is the ability to do forensic analysis. This is the capacity to go back in time and discover the root cause of a problem by correlating various data sets and identifying what triggered the problem and the resulting chain of events.

The final element of operational maturity is the ability to do rapid troubleshooting. This is finding the needle in the haystack. When issues arise, companies need technology that can immediately figure out what's wrong and fix the problem. Finding the glitch in an advanced UC system requires an expert system that can automatically look across your entire digital ecosystem and find the issue, then understand the root cause and fix the problem in real time, before any damage is done.

Focus on What Matters Most

When UC systems work well, they're truly transformative. When they don't, they can cause executives to start second-guessing the value of their UC deployments. They can result in lost productivity and squandered opportunities, and cause customers to question the ability of a company.

But by gaining operational maturity, organizations can gain the power to proactively diagnose problems at all levels, from the network to the endpoints, identify root causes quickly, and get back up and running without delay. Then they can focus on what really matters -- innovation and growth. That's real maturity.