Why I love the Avaya IP Office : Part 2

WhyILoveIPOffice2

 

by

Avrohom Gottheil

 

I was recently at a technology expo and had the pleasure of having a very animated conversation with the Google Cloud Infrastructure team.  One of the things we discussed was a practical application of the Google Cloud Infrastructure as it pertains to Telecommunications.  Now, you would ask me, but what on Earth does Telecom have to do with Google Cloud?  One is phone equipment installed in your office, the other, I imagine, is a server farm in a bunker somewhere under a mountain?

Now, imagine this…

You are a New York City hedge fund broker, and you’re looking to purchase a new phone system.  What are some of the fears and pain points you are concerned with at the moment?

Having dealt with hedge fund brokers and knowing how demanding their schedule is, I imagine the fears and pain points to be as follows:

  • Fear of being without phone service.
  • Fear of being without phone service for even a second!

This kind of sums it up.  Without phones, their business grinds to a screeching halt, or even worse, plummets into the abyss of major losses.  So, how can a telephone system calm the broker’s fears, and what does Google have to do with it?

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fears listed above and explore what the broker really wants.  On a high level, he wants his phone to work ALL the time.  What does that mean?  In order to understand this, we need to understand what can go wrong.  Here are a few scenarios:

  • The phone system crashes – ouch!
  • The phone lines go down – double ouch!!
  • The phone breaks.
  • Power goes out – for a whole week!
  • Internet goes out.
  • Hurricane.
  • Tornado.
  • Earthquake.
  • Atom bomb.

You get the picture.  Regardless of any and all of the situations listed above, this broker still requires his (or her) phone service to be completely operational!  Now, you will ask me, seriously!  How can a person’s phone work without phone lines?  Or when it’s broken?  Or when there is no power for a week?  Or during an earthquake – or an atom bomb explosion?!?

The answer is, Yes!  It is possible, and the hedge fund broker requires this level of service!  But how?!?

Now you’re starting to understand why I was so excited when I spoke with Google.  Let’s roll over the scenario again.  A hedge fund broker in New York City decides to purchase a new phone system for his business.  The primary requirement is that the business should continue to function despite any and all external happenings.  So, how does a phone system facilitate business continuity during a disaster?

There is where the versatile IP Office from Avaya enters the picture.  In my last article I mentioned how someone was able to program it to make coffee for him!  So, if you haven’t read that article and if you like coffee, you may want to check it out.  Or even if you don’t like coffee, you still may want to check that out!  You can find that article by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/25gJVdf.

For starters, let’s take a few simple scenarios (before we get to the atom bomb explosion):

  • Scenario 1: There is a raging hurricane outside and the roads are not passable.  People just can’t get to the office.  So far, all utilities are intact.  We have power, phone service, and internet access.  We just can’t physically get to the office.  With the Power User license for IP Office, you can enable Remote Worker functionality on an extension.  You can then take home a phone, plug it into your broadband internet connection, and have it connect to the office via its integrated VPN client.  Congratulations!  You now have an office phone, at home!  With this, you can calmly handle all your responsibilities as a hedge fund broker, from the comfort of your home.  Let the storm rage on!
  • Scenario 2: The hurricane just took a turn for the worse.  The wind is howling!  The rain is coming down hard!  Trees are being uprooted and tossed around like children’s toys.  Then, finally, the unthinkable happens.  The office loses power!  Fortunately, this customer has a very experienced phone vendor who supplied sufficient battery power to get the phone system through the day, until, hopefully, the power gets restored.  The broker is able to continue making phone calls from the comfort of his home, with peace of mind.
  • Scenario 3: It’s a quiet, sunny day.  Everyone is in the office, and life is great.  Some kid is flying a drone outside the office.  You think it may be a bit too close for comfort, but you have other things to do than to concern yourself with what’s going on outside.  All of a sudden, BOOM!!  That is not a good sign.  The drone crashes into the wall and rips down the phone wires!  Fortunately, your phone vendor set you up with backup SIP lines, which route calls over the internet.  Calls are still coming in and out, and business is still progressing as if nothing happened.

 

So far, so good.  Let’s take this a little further now.  Let’s revisit the hurricane scenario.  The winds have increased in intensity.  The rain is coming down even more forcefully.  Suddenly, the internet at the office goes out.  With no internet at the office, how are you going to connect your remote phone and continue making calls?  Even if you, somehow, made it in to the office (not advisable under these conditions), you wouldn’t be able to do anything since all the lights are off (power outage – remember?) and the phone system is running on limited battery power.  Besides, the phone lines are out – remember the kid with the drone?  Since the internet is out, the SIP lines won’t work either!  Business must continue… at all costs!  What is a broker to do?

 

Do you remember my meeting with Google?  This is the scenario I presented to them, and this is why I was so excited when speaking with them.  This is also why I love the Avaya IP Office.  You see, installing equipment into buildings is so 20th century!  We are now well into the 2nd decade of the 21st century (I know, it’s hard to believe!).   In this day and age, there is no value in installing boxes.  Today’s focus is all about solutions.  There is a technology called VMWare which enables you to install a server virtually.  This means, you can create a new server on top of an existing server.  It runs in its own memory space and has no idea that it does not “own” the hardware its installed on.  The Avaya IP Office Server Edition support this virtualization technology.  Now, things are starting to make sense!  In order to support the resilliency that this broker needs to ensure his business is well protected, you can install an Avaya IP Office Server Edition virtually on a server in Google’s cloud based infrastructure, on a server farm in a bunker under a mountain, somewhere in Idaho!

 

Let’s head back to the hurricane.  Internet at the office just went down.  Fortunately, you deployed a resilient Avaya IP Office Server Edition virtually in Google’s cloud!  With dynamic DNS technology your VPN URL will repoint itself to your Google data center.  Your Avaya IP Phone has a built in timer that will cause it to re-register onto the backup server after a 3 minute timeout.  When the phone is not able to see your network after 3 minutes, it will reboot itself.  Upon rebooting itself it will register to Google’s VPN thanks to the dynamic VPN URL.  The phone will then automatically register onto your virtual phone system in Google’s cloud.  Your extension and voicemail will come back to life!

 

This sounds great!  However, how will you drag phone lines into Google’s cloud?  The answer is, you don’t have to.  With SIP technology your phone lines reside in the cloud.  Even the kid with the wobbly drone can’t rip out your phone service.  Your phone service has now kicked into overdrive!

 

You are so excited that your phone system is working, despite nature’s best effort to thwart your business, that you fail to notice a scuffle break out between your dog and cat.  Your dog is chasing the cat around the house, when the doorbell rings.  You get up to answer the door.  It’s your brand new piano, being delivered… in a hurricane!  After all, New York is the city that never sleeps.  It keeps on going, no matter what.  Just like your business.  As they are bringing the piano into your office (hey, a guy needs his music!), several things happen, all of them simultaneously.  The dog chases the cat onto your desk, the cat knocks your Avaya VPN phone off your desk, the piano mover trips on your phone, and drops your piano… right on your phone!   A loud CRUNCH is heard, and time stops for a moment… until your cellphone rings.  It’s the million dollar client from London whose call you were waiting for all day.  Thankfully, you have enabled mobile twinning for IP Office.  This feature pairs or twins your mobile phone to your desk phone, enabling you to receive all your business calls directly onto your mobile phone.  Your business is able to continue, even without an office phone!

 

A little bit about myself.  I am a telecommunications consultant and I am passionate about telephony.  I am focused on one thing, and one thing only.  Helping YOU get the most value out of your communications flow.  Not equipment, not infrastructure, but flow.  As a business owner, what matters the most to you is how your business is flowing.  I help customers like you optimize their communications environment so that communication is truly flowing.  To find out more about the services I offer, feel free to visit my website at http://www.simiplex.com.

 

Avrohom

 

 

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Why I love the Avaya IP Office : Part 1

avayaipoffice

In my honest opinion, there are few telecommunications solutions that can compare to the innovate and versatile IP Office by Avaya.  IP Office can do anything.  Seriously!  From simple tasks, such as making phone calls (you kind of need that in a phone system!), to ultra complex tasks, such as third party application hooks via VBScript and SQL Database dips.  With IP Office, the sky is the limit!  I once saw a video where someone programmed the IP Office to make coffee!  For real!  Granted, that’s a bit extreme (unless you’re really serious about coffee); however, the point is that it CAN be done.  So, if your phone system can make coffee, it can CERTAINLY do other, less intensive and more business focused, tasks.

Let’s talk about end user administration.  What are the most common headaches a phone system administrator deals with on a daily basis?  While I’m sure that the aggravating tasks are numerous, the most common ones I’ve run into are as follows:

  • HELP! I forgot my voicemail password!
  • HELP! My calls are going straight to voicemail and I don’t know why!
  • Can you please forward my calls?
  • Can you please help me figure out how to turn OFF call forwarding?
  • How do I program a speed dial?
  • Can you PLEASE program a button on my phone to do ‘X’?

Let’s examine how the Avaya IP Office will make YOUR life, as a system administrator, much more pleasant.  There is this really neat feature called Self Administration.  You enable it in the end user’s profile, and can select which features you want to enable.  Features range from timid to dangerous, and can be set based on the end user’s technological competence level.  So, let’s roll through each individual support related task and see how Self Administration solves this problem:

END USER:  HELP! I forgot my voicemail password!

YOU:  No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click Voicemail, and enter your NEW password in the Voicemail Code section.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

END USER: HELP! My calls are going straight to voicemail and I don’t know why!

YOU: No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click Do Not Disturb, and set it to NO.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

END USER:  Can you please forward my calls?

YOU:  No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click Forwarding, and enter the forwarding destination.  Then set Forwarding to YES.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

END USER:  Can you please help me figure out how to turn OFF call forwarding?

YOU:  No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click Forwarding, and set it to NO.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

END USER:  How do I program a speed dial?

YOU:  No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click on Personal Directory, and knock yourself out.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

END USER:  Can you PLEASE program a button on my phone to do ‘X’?

YOU:  No problem, just log onto your self administration portal, click on Button Programming, and knock yourself out.  Don’t forget to click save!

 

Now, wasn’t that easy?  In fact, you can even post these instructions to your IT home page, so that your standard response to EVERYONE is “Just check the IT home page!”  Life is great!

NOTE: if the user forgets their portal password…. well let’s just say, you still need to earn your paycheck!

 

Ok, this sounds good for simple tasks.  How about something a bit more involved?  For example:

END USER:  I moved to a new desk.  Can you PLEASE move my extension to my new desk?

IP Office by Avaya makes this task easy and stress free.  If the end user has an IP phone, just ask the user to move his/her phone to the new desk.  Problem solved!  You can sit back, put your feet up, and relax!  Life is good!    If the end user has a digital phone, it’s not a big problem.  Open your web browser, log on to the Web Administration portal, click on Call Management, then Extensions.  With just a few clicks you are able to painlessly remap the extension to a different port.  THEN you can put your feet up and relax!  Never, in the history of mankind, was it as good of a time to be a telecom administrator, as it is today!  Let’s just hope your boss doesn’t find this article!

In conclusion, life is hectic enough as it is.  Why not choose a product that will calm your environment for you, so that you can get back to focusing on what’s really important:  running your busines and supporting your customers.

A little bit about myself.  I am a telecommunications consultant and I am passionate about telephony.  I am focused on one thing, and one thing only.  Helping YOU get the most value out of your communications flow.  Not equipment, not infrastructure, but flow.  As a business owner, what matters the most to you is how your business is flowing.  I help customers like you optimize their communications environment so that communication is truly flowing.  To find out more about the services I offer, feel free to visit my website at http://www.simiplex.com.

 

Avrohom

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.

 

 

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