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Streamlining the delivery of complex, custom solutions

Written by  Milan Belohoubek & Ittai Bareket
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Milan BelohoubekIttai Bareket Issue: North America 2010
Article no.: 10
Topic: Streamlining the delivery of complex, custom solutions
Author: Milan Belohoubek & Ittai Bareket
Title: Milan Belohoubek, Director, Pre-Sales Engineering, Bell Canada & Ittai Bareket, CEO for Netformx
Organisation: Bell Canada
PDF size: 133KB

About author

Milan Belohoubek is Director, Pre-Sales Engineering at Bell Canada. Mr. Belohoubek has spent the last 28 years in the high technology industry. He spent 19 years as a member of the Nortel Networks technology team prior to joining Bell Canada in September 2001. Mr Belohoubek holds a Bachelor of Engineering Science degree from the University of Western Ontario and obtained his Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute in 1998. Ittai Bareket joined Netformx in 2000 before being appointed CEO in the summer of 2005. Prior to Netformx, Mr Bareket held various positions at Mercury Interactive Corporation (now HP) including President of Mercury Interactive Japan K.K. and General Manager for Japan and Korea.

 

Article abstract

The ability to efficiently design, redesign, sell and implement custom solutions is at the heart of success in today’s communications environment. By applying automation and integration to the task of solution management, service providers can significantly increase productivity, reducing the time required to design complex solutions from days and weeks to just a few hours.

 

Full Article

Operational excellence enables service providers to quickly meet the business demands of customers. Rapidly evolving customer requirements combined with the increasing complexity of advanced telecommunications solutions presents opportunities as well as challenges for service providers. Providers that utilize automation to rapidly respond to changes enjoy distinct competitive advantages. But providers mired in manual, non-integrated processes typically endure losses in productivity that translates into missed opportunities and unhappy customers. Bell Canada has demonstrated how the ability to efficiently design, redesign, sell and implement custom solutions is at the heart of success in today’s communications environment. By applying automation to the task of solution management, the service provider has been able to reduce the time required to design complex solutions from days and weeks to just a few hours. In one particularly impressive implementation, the company conducted a case study to document the results achieved for a large enterprise customer. The solution involved deploying an extremely complex MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) network across more than 1,200 locations with a multi-phased rollout plan. The service provider’s system engineers were able to take advantage of automated solutions management to quickly and easily design a proof-of-concept to build out and test a sample network. Using design templates that employ standard, reusable components for various profile definitions or recommended solutions, the provider was able to quickly respond to customer change requests. The ease and efficiency with which the engineering and sales teams were able to respond to the customer’s needs helped secure the sale. Previous approach to solution management prevented rapid response times Complex solution offerings must be amenable to dynamic change, enabling them to be rapidly reconfigured to meet the unique needs of a wide range of customers. However, most providers are faced with lengthy design and sales cycles. Many business processes were previously rooted in inefficient procedures. As a result, inaccurate specifications were able to make their way into designs and proposals – not only because of the large number of ‘moving pieces’ but also because different internal organizations could not effectively collaborate with each other. Today, service providers are increasingly using automation to overcome the many challenges that prevent system engineers and other personnel from effectively and efficiently collaborating on large projects. Customers often make several iterative changes to designs to adjust price points, redundancy requirements and other factors, so design validation has grown into a multi-step, time-consuming effort fraught with miscalculations. Design, configure and validate Among the many hurdles that personnel typically have to overcome are the numerous tasks required to gather information that is dispersed and often maintained in different formats. Labor-intensive processes not only increase opportunities for errors, but sales engineers sometimes lack the expertise to correctly collect and report the complete solution-design information that is required. Assembling all of the required information, which is typically maintained in disconnected ‘silos’, requires an inordinate amount of time and further increases the challenges of producing superior solutions. Overlapping, uncontrolled processes introduce inefficiencies, inconsistencies and contradictions, which makes it difficult to synchronize and manage changes. Further complicating matters is the fact that customers often request proposals that include non-standard equipment, non-standard service offerings, or a combination of both. Simplified and integrated processes ensure consistency, accuracy and successful proposals By automating and integrating the end-to-end processes involved in design, sales and provisioning, Bell Canada has been able to dramatically streamline workflows and simplify work procedures for staff. All of the provider’s designers use the automated solution that includes a centralized repository of accurate data on more than 200,000 networking components. The repository also employs an expert decision-support software engine that uses over two million rules to automate the process of analyzing and designing network solutions. A separate but integrated repository contains all of the design blueprints for the solutions produced on behalf of customers. All of the information about hardware, software, dependencies, slot allocations, port allocations and network topology are clearly documented and within easy reach. Utilizing this approach to developing designs and proposals enables personnel to easily employ best practices as a routine part of their daily jobs. By integrating, automating and simplifying processes for the sales support and sales teams, the provider is now able to more quickly respond to customer changes and customer requests for customized, non-standard solutions. Additionally, deployed solutions are precisely aligned with customer requirements. Service providers and their customers benefit from this automated approach to lifecycle management because future updates and expansion plans can be implemented efficiently. With an automated approach to solution management, service providers are eliminating manual processes and significantly accelerating their lead-to-order response times. Disparate tools that were previously used to support the sales and implementation cycles are being discarded. Additionally, the integration of various configuration tools and applications has opened up productive collaboration across organizational entities and personnel. By using such an automated, structured and rules-based approach for capturing design information, Bell Canada now has the ability to perform a ‘one-click’ analysis that highlights errors for missing information or conflicting definitions. Flags for non-standard components and inaccuracies in the design are immediately highlighted, and numerous options for addressing the situation at hand are now immediately available to designers instead of scattered across tools and organizations. Other benefits of an automated and fully integrated solution include: • All design diagrams are automatically generated and provide a precise, diagrammatic description of the solution and network topology; • An automatically generated bill of materials report provides a list of CPE (customer-premises equipment) standard and non-standard elements included in the solution, addressing both new and existing equipment; • A design summary report describes the highlights of the solution for a quick overview; • A detailed design document provides the internal technical documentation for the service provider’s staff; and • A customer design document provides an attractive, customer-facing presentation that illustrates the final list of services to be sold along with a readily understandable diagram of the proposed solution. One click document generation: Bill of Materials and Equipment Configuration hierarchy Using automation and integration has not only accelerated the sales cycle but has also enabled the provider’s sales team to spend more time on real design issues and less time on tedious copy/paste and clerical functions. The time required to respond to customer requests has been significantly shortened by standardizing pre-sales processes via the use of baseline templates and related design tools. Additionally, the process of handing-off design information between teams has been greatly improved by enforcing consistency in the processes of gathering the requirements and producing the design. Templates: 4 types of sites x 1200 locations Quick re-designs are possible because staff can begin the process from a known and documented ‘as built’ state. A shorter sales cycle now allows faster deployment of larger, more complex, and next-generation solutions. Designed solutions are also better positioned for the successful provisioning of add-on services. Additionally, using this approach to solution management has lowered costs for personnel because staff with less technical expertise can be utilized to achieve greater results. Automating the requirements-gathering and proposal-generation processes significantly increases productivity for service providers. Design and proposal teams can use an integrated tool to perform work that previously required multiple tools and applications. Collaboration among engineers and sales staff is easier, and complex, customized solutions no longer present obstacles to fast turnaround times.

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