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Infrastructure Consolidation

November 30, 2011 • Opinion

Lower costs and greater efficiency have long been common refrains in IT, and will continue to be. But with IT becoming more central to a business’s ability to launch new products and deliver services, CIOs and IT leaders have become increasingly concerned with their infrastructure’s ability to execute — and are more concerned that IT isn’t fast enough to meet the goals of the business.

Fokion Natsis, Interactive Intelligence’s South African country manager (image: Interactive Intelligence)

Versatility

Today IT is expected to be a vital business unit as well as a 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-standardised 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 their 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 centres 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 centre (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 organisation pays only for the apps and functionality it actually activates and uses.

For planning and making incremental moves in the contact centre and enterprise, consider this scenario:

1. Pinpoint an event that triggers the need for a new system, say an IVR reaching end-of-life status.

2. 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 centre (and enterprise) requires.

3. 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.

4. 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.

IT and operations benefits

* 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

The contact centre 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 utilisation through unified, cross-site queues

* Reduce overhead for site-specific work creation and consolidation, such as dialer campaigns

* Support a “central command centre” 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.

In the growing movement to offer IT-driven products and services, consolidating multi-system, multi-site infrastructures that impede communications, business processes, and contact centre and enterprise operations can help alleviate such concerns, and enable IT to succeed in its new role.

Fokion Natsis, Interactive Intelligence’s South African country manager

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