Prevention is better than cure, says US health giant

Managers of complex telephony systems are finding new ways to prevent incidents before they cause problems.

Don’t expect thanks

Business communication keeps improving. We’ve never had so many options at our fingertips – more channels, more devices, faster speeds, bigger files, better performance, even cheaper prices. Stuff just works, which is partly the reason why people are so intolerant of variable performance. When a call is dropped, or when a screen freezes, red mist descends. It puts special pressure on the people who manage systems that underpin communication. The director of enterprise telephony and call center solutions at the US medical services provider said he knows about technology and expectations of performance. “Last year our telephony network performed beautifully and I didn’t receive a single thank you,” he said.

But through his smile he accepts that that’s the way it is – people expect technology to work – always. However, the trouble is, the job is getting tougher, because managers are expected to do more with less – even as underlying systems spread and get more complicated. For the director and his team of technicians, new tools are helping to maintain performance ahead of rising expectations.

Bringing ITIL to telephony

The medical services company operates two call centers – one with 150 agents and the other with 250 agents – and a wider communications environment supporting 2,000-plus employees. Maintaining a smooth operation is tough work, but certain automation eases the load.

In the contact center, the company’s agents deal with a mixture of health providers and everyday people. There’s a lot going on. Health Coach Professionals dispense advice on smoking cessation. At another desk, an agent processes a request for a drug coupon, and helps callers who haven’t been able to find answers online.  If something goes wrong in the contact center, the director and his technicians hear about it. It’s not ideal, because by then it’s too late – the root cause is now a problem.

IT service management tools iron out kinks from IT environments, by building a clear picture of assets (hardware, software and other devices), their interrelationships, and how they impact services. From this position, managers are able to watch the right things, understand the consequences of component malfunction and failure, and how things should be fixed to avert problems before they disrupt users.

The director saw the advantages of an ITIL-aligned service management tool and got down to work with Virsae Service Management (VSM). VSM is a cloud-based toolset that shines a light on every component (handsets, servers, gateways, voice mail systems) and in every corner of unified communications environments.

“It’s a good tool for preventive maintenance,” said the director. “We have to check things daily – so there are no surprises. We can check things simultaneously… Are trunksets available? Are any circuits down? How is call quality? Dashboards give us the full picture."

Case in point: recently our employees dialed in to listen to our CEO address the company. We were able to monitor available trunk capacity across multiple locations to ensure we had sufficient bandwidth to service normal business.

VSM ITIL Framework

IT service management tools and frameworks like ITIL are helping technology managers to improve their game. People who manage other business functions are following suit. Telephony systems managers, for example, are starting to adopt the same clever monitoring and incident management tools that have improved IT. They’re able to look deeper into complex systems and deal with incidents before they become big problems. 

Healthcare Case Study Details

Virsae Service Management

Unified communications is getting more complex, making it harder for management tools to detect problems and correct them before things go pear-shaped. Knowing what assets you’ve got is a good start to managing them better. VSM connects the dots between different management tools and telephony network items, and uses monitoring and alerts to help remedy problems before they impact system users.

VSM is a cloud-based platform that shines a light on every component (handsets, servers, gateways, voice mail systems) and in every corner of unified communications environments.

What the health information and management services company found

To misquote a business adage: you can’t manage what you can’t see. Shining new light on his company’s network, the director was pleased with his first discovery.

“The network team has done a good job of setting up our network and VSM has validated that.” he said. “Before we used Virsae it took a lot of effort to check multiple locations for alarms and pinpoint problems. Now we have email alerts, so we’re able to respond faster.”

Virsae has helped the company to spotlight a number of other issues, which in past circumstances could have developed into bigger problems: a misconfigured network port; a storm damaged voice circuit; and the largest of all – an incorrectly installed IPSI (IP server interface). Avaya control networks are intolerant of poor network performance, and when an IPSI starts to miss successive heart beat messages the risk of a major outage skyrockets.

“VSM’s unique ability to pinpoint these issues has protected us from potentially significant communications outages,” said the director. “In our business an hour’s downtime during business hours can cost us considerable revenue. VSM has been money well spent – many time over.”

It was estimated that the potential lost revenue could be upwards of $50,000, depending on the division and company site impacted by an outage.

With Virsae, the director and his team have added another layer to network performance through application layer management of the company’s unified communications environment. It’s good for callers, and business. But they’re not expecting any thanks. And that’s just the way they like it.

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