Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | December 01, 2013 |


Reduce Telecom and IT Support Costs with Help Desk Offload

Reduce Telecom and IT Support Costs with Help Desk Offload Telecom and IT departments need to use their senior engineers for more high-value tasks.

Telecom and IT departments need to use their senior engineers for more high-value tasks.

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post discussing why telecom and IT departments need to change their support model in order to scale IT. The thesis of this post was that organizations should move to a self-service model where employees could perform many of the run-of-the-mill, mundane tasks that senior engineers are processing today. This includes things like voice mail password resets, setting up speed dials, changing call forwarding numbers and many others.

Since writing the post, I've received some feedback from IT managers. These managers indicated that shifting to a self-service model is a great option. Many organizations like the concept, but may not want to shift every administrative task to the user.

I still stand by my thesis, though, that the current operating model for IT isn't scalable. As proof of this, ZK Research has calculated that currently 83% of an IT budget is used to just "keep the lights on". Why such a high number? Telecom environments have continued to get more complex as companies converge networks, virtualize resources and mobilize users. This means adding more to the workload of senior engineers while expecting them to continue performing their current tasks. For IT to thrive and be a strategic asset to the business, that 83% number must be reduced.

While self service can play a significant role in reaching this goal, another option is to offload these mundane, repetitive tasks to the help desk and let lower-cost help desk agents process the changes rather than having the senior engineers do it.

Unimax, the vendor I discussed in the last post, has a solution which complements its LineOne self-service product. It's called HelpOne. It can be used to offload costly, redundant telecom related tasks from senior telecom engineers to tier 1 help desk agents. This can offer organizations significant cost savings and allow the senior technical people to focus on more strategic initiatives.

The challenge in implementing this strategy is that help desk agents, no matter how technical, really don't understand telecom. Additionally, the native interfaces included with communication systems can be very complex, overwhelm a help desk agent and provide too much access. Even a help desk agent who is trained to use these native interfaces could make an incorrect change that takes a senior engineer more time to resolve than if they had made the change in the first place.

Obviously, when it comes to IT projects, the solution should never be more complicated than the original problem, and allowing carte blanche access into communication systems definitely opens the door to having big problems arise from small ones.

To combat this, HelpOne has the following features which enable help desk agents to safely perform these repetitive tasks:

* Roles-based access. HelpOne provides hierarchical access into the communication systems, allowing the company to decide which functions are safe for a help desk agent to change and manage. Without a front end, this can be challenging because each communication system has hundreds of settings which could be changed.

* Single pane of glass management. Another challenge with managing communications is that each system has its own, unique configuration interface and syntax. This adds a layer of complexity that can cause long lead times for changes or human error that could result in unnecessary downtime.

The HelpOne system acts as a management "middleware" layer and presents the various configuration attributes from multiple vendors on a single screen. Additionally, HelpOne can normalize the various vendor solutions. Most communication vendors do not adhere to standards when they develop phone and voicemail systems. Because of this, every attribute, no matter how minor, can be different from vendor to vendor. HelpOne masks all the systemic differences for the help desk agent.

* Support for corporate policies. It seems the only thing consistent today about corporate policies is that they are always changing. BYOD, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory changes, and other factors can cause companies to continually change corporate policies and data naming conventions such as password length, acceptance criteria, reset rules, name formats and other issues. HelpOne enables first-line agents to make changes with one consistent policy.

The current state of IT, combined with the oncoming BYOD wave, is putting already overburdened and understaffed senior engineers in a position where they simply can't keep up with the multitude of demands they face every day. Shifting focus from the repetitive tasks associated with telecom to more strategic initiatives will put less stress on the senior engineers, while lowering the cost of support and improving SLA resolution times.

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Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
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