By Robert Hankin
Partner, Starfish Associates

In our daily lives we have grown accustom to getting what we need now, not later.  Whether it’s real-time information or on-demand services, we expect instant results.  At work, we bring those same expectations with us.  However, businesses are struggling to find ways to satisfy us when it comes to making their labor-intensive & tedious business processes easier, faster and more efficient.  For many businesses, automation is the answer and is being embraced as a way to respond to constant change and to drive operational efficiencies.   

When it comes to managing communications for the contact center or the desktop, businesses stand to achieve the most significant benefit by replacing manual telecom tasks with automated business processes that integrate with IT systems such as Active Directory, Identity Managers and HR applications. Such automation results in a faster, more reliable and efficient communications operation. 

The top benefits widely associated with automation include:

  • Reduced Operation/Administration Costs
    Streamline on-boarding, off-boarding and maintenance of telecom resources
  • Improved Security
    Immediate and accurate de-provisioning (or disabling) of telecom resources
  • Enhanced End User Productivity and Satisfaction
    Real-time response/resolution for services requests; self-service capabilities
  • Elimination of Human Error
    Execute tasks and work orders consistently alleviating the need for re-work

When businesses start to think about automation, it’s a popular misnomer among many telecom managers that certain environments are too complex for automation.  In fact, the more complex the environment, the greater the business benefit. Anything that can be performed manually (“hands on keyboard”) with defined decision points can be automated.  Typically, higher paid staff are engaged in day-to-day manual, routine tasks.  By leveraging automation, these individuals can be freed up to work on higher priority assignments, where their training and skills are more appropriate. 

While most large enterprises face similar telecom challenges, automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution; every organization and industry vertical has its nuances.  The most common areas that are ideal for automation are either related to routine service requests that can be delegated to end users, or service tickets in which automation can be injected into the current process.  A large part of automation involves extending self-service tools to end users in order to perform tasks such as resetting passwords, changing phone settings and requesting telecom services. 

Building a Business Case for Automation - ROI

Perhaps the best business case for automation lies in the ROI which can be determined, quantified and evaluated by analyzing several common data elements including:

  • Infrastructure data points (number or users, agents, core telephony systems, etc.)
  • Provisioning activity (number of requests & systems that require touching)
  • Volume of tickets to be automated (voicemail password resets, IP phone password resets, button changes, name change requests)
  • Cost and time per transaction type (if metrics are available, the ROI analysis is easier)
  • Amount of employee churn (with higher churn, the number of automation requests are greater)

There are several formulas and calculations that can help compare costs of automation versus manual processes; all show that the cost of manually performing activities (accounting for human error, rework and time savings) is significantly higher on a per transaction basis versus deploying an automation solution. Furthermore, with automation as the number of transactions increase (end user education on tools, business growth, expanded automation processes etc.) the cost per transaction drops.

In addition to hard dollar savings that can be achieved with automation, there are many soft benefits that should be considered in a holistic ROI analysis. Soft benefits can be defined as either intangible, hard to quantify in dollar value, or represent some form of cost avoidance. These benefits include:  

•    Productivity enhancements by reducing the normal amount of time to complete a task (can be turned into hard dollars)
•    End user satisfaction derived from immediate resolution to requests
•    Cost avoidance which comes from being able to handle greater volume of transactions without increasing head count

Final Analysis

IT professionals will continue to be challenged to find innovative and cost-effective solutions to optimize telecom operations.  Technology that can streamline communication business processes and automatically resolve service ticket requests will be on the table for consideration.  Introducing automation into the fabric of the IT infrastructure is something every large enterprise should strongly consider.  In fact, many of the world’s largest corporations are already experiencing impressive results using automation – often with an ROI of under six months.  It’s clear that automation will play an even larger role in the future as businesses continue to “do more with less” as the standard business model.  In an automation white paper I recently read, one IT director was quoted as saying, “I used to be in the dark ages, but thanks to automation, I now see the light.”  I think that sums things up really well.

About the Author
Robert Hankin
Partner, Starfish Associates
Rob is co-founder of Starfish Associates, as well as a telecom and IT industry veteran and thought leader. Before launching Starfish, Rob and his business partner David Raanan co-founded CCOM Information Systems, a telephony and directory software company that was acquired by Avaya/Lucent Technologies in 2000. Rob spent five years with Avaya in several capacities as a Director in Product Management. He started his career with AT&T Bell Laboratories where he found his passion and immersed himself in the telecom industry.  Rob is a member of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, a frequent speaker at leading industry conferences and contributes to a variety of industry media outlets. He received a B.S. in Statistics and Computer Science from The George Washington University.

About Starfish Associates
Starfish is a leading provider of telecom management automation, self-service and optimization solutions. Starfish technology enables organizations to streamline and optimize business processes by integrating with and unifying existing IT and telecom infrastructure. Starfish technology supports multi-vendor platforms including Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft and Starfish solutions are deployed globally across many Fortune 500 companies and other large enterprises. 

To learn more visit starfishassociates.com or connect with Starfish on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.