Are you in flow?

Are you in flow?

 

What is the most expensive part of a telephony job?  It’s not the materials.  It’s not the labor.  The most expensive part of any telephony job is the engineering time.  The truth is, this concept can carry forward to any industry.  The most expensive part of any job is the expert time.  In telephony, a good engineer can cost you anywhere from $100/hour up to $250/hour.  In order to minimize your costs, you want to be as efficient with your engineering time, as possible.

How do you accomplish this?  By being mindful of inefficiencies in your operation.  Let’s take a scenario.  You’re installing a new phone system from scratch.  Here are some of the technical tasks you would involve an engineer in:

  • Programming the phone system
  • Programming VoIP Switches
  • Installing Voicemail
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
  • Installing IP Phones
  • Testing the overall programming

That sounds about right.  However, let’s now examine areas of potential inefficiency:

  • Programming the phone system
    • Loading customer user data
    • Programming Button Templates
    • Programming Incoming Call Routes
  • Installing Voicemail
    • You’re going to waste an engineer’s time for this??
    • Logins and passwords aren’t valid.
    • OS is not properly installed.
    • Server specs don’t meet minimum requirements.
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
    • Is the engineer doing the same thing for every customer? Are there any templates than can be created, and just modified?
    • Loading greetings.
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
    • Basic testing doesn’t require engineering time. I agree that in a hot cut you want the engineer involved from the get go, due to time limitations.
  • Installing IP Phones
    • Physically installing each phone is a waste of an engineer’s time.
  • Testing the overall programming
    • This is pretty much a waste of an engineer’s time.

 

In fact, performing any replicable action is a waste of an engineer’s time!

 

You may be reading this and thinking, so, what is NOT a waste of an engineer’s time?  You just mentioned the entire job?

 

Allow me to propose a new paradigm.  A paradigm of scalability.  This is a paradigm that enables a company to utilize a few top notch skilled resources, and force multiply their skills onto the entire technical staff.  What does THAT mean??

This means as follows.  The most valuable asset an engineer has is not the work he or she performs.  It is what’s in his/her mind.  By assigning an engineer repetitive and/or manual tasks, you’re significantly underutilizing him, and you’re burning him out.  An engineer’s mind works at a million miles an hour, and can accomplish great things for you, if you know how to leverage that asset.  Well then, how DO you leverage an engineer?

You leverage an engineer by allowing his mind to flow.  What is flow, and what does THAT have to do with telephony?  The following definition was taken directly from Wikipedia: In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

An engineer is in flow when he can tap into his natural essence, his creativity.  He does this by planning.  Allow the engineer to be in a state of flow by assigning him the following tasks:

 

  • Programming the phone system
    • Write a detailed implementation plan that a lower level technician can follow and perform basic programming.
    • Create a template that a lower level technician can reuse for every customer, by uploading that template and just modifying the specifics.
    • The engineer performs only the most advanced or complicated tasks.
  • Programming VoIP Switches
    • This can be tricky as it is advanced work.
    • Engineer can create templates for certain tasks and reuse them for each customer.
  • Installing Voicemail
    • Let a lower level technician do the basic install with an instruction guide that the engineer writes.
    • Technician verifies server readiness by testing login credentials and OS/Server minimum requirements.
    • Engineer is utilized for troubleshooting issues.
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
    • Engineer creates reusable template which a technician modifies for each customer.
    • Engineer provides written instructions to technician on the process of loading greetings.
    • Engineer performs only the most advanced tasks
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
    • Basic testing doesn’t require engineering time. I agree that in a hot cut you want the engineer involved from the get go, due to time limitations.
  • Installing IP Phones
    • Utilize the engineer to provide guidance, and to troubleshoot when necessary.
  • Testing the overall programming
    • The engineer should create a written test plan that can be reused and/or modified for each specific job.

 

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas that you can apply to your daily operation to improve operational efficiency and to maximize your profits.

Please feel free to leave me a comment and share with me your methodologies for improving operational efficiency.  I’m always willing to learn to methods and to grow!

For more information feel free to visit http://www.simiplex.com.

 

 

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Anatomy of a perfect phone system installation

Anatomy of a perfect phone system installation

 

Have you ever wondered, what is the differentiator between your typical phone installer, and a World Class Telecommunications Superstar?  The difference lies in one thing, and one thing only.  Planning.  Both vendors may possess the technical skills and know how to effectively get the job done.  However, the World Class Superstar knows how to properly plan so that the installation goes right.  To properly plan an installation, you have to visualize it, from start to finish.  You have to foresee every aspect of the job, and create an installation blueprint.  You can almost say, that the World Class vendor performs an installation by design.  He designs the outcome, by visualizing the end result.

Consider the following.  Every telecom job has the following components:

  • Phone System
  • One or more servers
  • Telephones
  • Phone Lines
  • Jacks
  • Wires
  • Call Flow
  • Automated Attendant
  • Greetings
  • Button Mappings
  • Overhead pagers
  • Possible door phones
  • Button Labels (aka Desi Strips)
  • Training

 

If you’re a telecom vendor, you’ve done this installation thousands of times.  Every job has its ups and downs.  However, if you perform a post job analysis, you can probably calculate where you’ve wasted time at the jobsite.  Time wasted = wasted money = lower profits = higher job costs = risk of losing sales.  So, the idea is to tighten your act so that you’re performing at peak efficiency, so you’re lowering your costs while maximizing your profits, and raking in those sales!

Here is how to become a World Class Telecommunications Superstar:

  1. Project Management – Invest in some Project Management time and facilitate a kickoff meeting or conference call with the customer, for the purpose of collecting raw data (i.e. station review, wiring layout, etc.).
  2. Go onsite for a detailed site survey. Look at EVERYTHING.  The wires, the jacks, the speakers, door phones, etc.  Count the number of wall mounted phones, etc.  Make sure you have a detailed wire map.  If not, arrange (and charge) for a tone/tagging visit.  Don’t wait until you’re on the job to do this.  It will take forever, and you’ll make lots of mistakes.
  3. Engineering Review – Invest in some Engineering time. Have your engineer contact the customer to review the data collected by the Project Manager, and use it to build the call flow.
  4. Document, document, document. Build a written installation plan, and have the customer sign off on it.  I mean a physical signature.  This becomes the phone system bible.  When done properly, there will be no disputes as to who said what.  It’s all written down clearly, in black and white.  This doubles up as a written record of what was done, so that 3 years from now when somebody is trying to perform system maintenance, it’s very easy to understand how the system was programmed, and mistakes are minimized.
  5. Phone System – Every job has one! Have the equipment delivered to your office, as opposed to the job site.  Unpack the boxes, inspect the equipment, and ensure it works!  I don’t have to tell you about all those times we had the equipment shipped to the job site and it was DOA!  We all know how it kills our schedule downstream.  Order the equipment far enough in advance so that you have time to react in case the equipment is defective.  Upgrade all firmware, apply service packs, and ensure the licenses show up as valid.  Program the system in its entirety, and fully test every feature before packing it up.  Hint – create a checklist!
  6. Servers – Ensure servers are operational and licensed. Install all software (i.e. voicemail, call accounting, contact center, etc.) before it leaves your office.
  7. Telephones – this is a big one. Nowadays, every phone requires firmware.  While you may be tempted to let the phones just upgrade themselves at the job site, experience has taught me that it is much more cost effective to stage this ahead of time.  There are so many potential issues that may happen when you simultaneously light up 100+ telephones at a job site.  For example, they all hit the phone system at once, resulting in either defective phones (bad) and/or defective ports (worse!).  When it’s done ahead of time, you have guaranteed quality control.  Your actual on the job time goes by much quicker.  Using my methodology, my team installed a 120 station phone system on a Sunday afternoon.  From start to finish took 5 hours!  The next day, first day of business was BORING!  There was nothing left to do!  The customer chased us out of there because they didn’t need anything from us!  Plan ahead properly, and the most expensive part of the job, onsite time, can be reduced to a mere fraction.
  8. Phone Lines – Whether it’s PRI, SIP, or plain old analog, make sure you understand the settings. If possible, arrange to come onsite after hours (plan and bill for this service – it’s not free – build it into the job) and test the lines with either the new system, or a lab system of yours.  Just make sure you can make and receive calls.
  9. Jacks – Make sure the wiring layout is fully documented. See #2 for more details.
  10. Wires – Understand what and where you’ll be cross connecting. See #2 for more details.
  11. Call Flow – What are the business hours? Which line rings which phones.  Who’s answering who’s lines?  Who gets private lines, etc.
  12. Automated attendant – “Thank you for calling XYZ corporation, if you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time. Gracias por llamada XYZ corporation, etc.”  What are the prompts callers can enter, and where do they send the calls?  How does day time calling differ from night time?  Where does the general mailbox go? Etc.
  13. Greetings – Who records all these wonderful greetings (i.e. welcome message, etc.) Hint – record a place holder before the installation so that the system is 100% functional from the get go.  Make sure the person recording the greetings onsite is scheduled for a SPECIFIC time slot, otherwise it will never happen.
  14. Button Mappings – Everybody wants stuff on their buttons. Find out ahead of time, so you’re not running around fixing button features when you really need to concentrate on the installation.  See #3 for more details.
  15. Overhead pagers – Ok, you can all relate with me on this one. It’s a KILLER!  There is always something that goes wrong.  I would suggest performing a test during the scheduled after hours phone line test.
  16. Door Phones – ditto for these.
  17. Button labels – You know those pesky paper DESI strips that go on the phones. Thankfully, they’re being phased out.  However, they still exist, so have your admin print them out, and apply them to the phones, before they go back into the box.  Then write the destination extension number on the box, so you know exactly where this phone will live.
  18. Training – Schedule training a day or two prior to the cutover. This way, the first day of business is not pandemonium.

 

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful to you.  I’d love to hear from you what you think about this article, as well as any of tips or suggestions that you’d be willing to share.  If you can leave me a comment, that would be very much appreciated.

For more information, feel free to visit http://www.simiplex.com.

Thank you.

Avrohom