Digital transformation and rapid technology adoption are competitive differentiators for today's businesses, accelerating the pace of growth. By leveraging communications in everything they do, businesses can make decisions faster and improve operational efficiency.
An omni-channel communications approach is key — putting the choice of communicating by voice, SMS, chat or social media squarely in the hands of the user. All of this depends heavily on the performance of the cloud-hosted unified communications (UC) networks that create the foundation for digital transformation. Even the best technology won't be successful if delivered on an unreliable network (see related post, "Secret to Digital Transformation Is Strong Foundation").
We offer five tips to ready your network for stellar digital transformation performance.
Tip No. 1: Monitor everything
Typically, when there's a network problem, finding its source is the most time-consuming part of the IT professional's challenge in resolving it. That's especially true for UC networks. Voice quality is very sensitive to network problems, and pinpointing the cause of poor voice quality is often like finding a needle in a haystack. To get the most from your UC investment, it's important to take a holistic performance management approach.
While a standard issue IT monitoring tool may seem like a good bet, the truth is that UC networks need active monitoring of both the UC system and the IT infrastructure of servers, routers, and switches surrounding it. Here's why: Since UC performance problems like poor voice quality are typically caused by events in the IT infrastructure, only active end-to-end network monitoring and alarms will help you correlate events. For example, a bandwidth capacity issue may manifest in alarms for trouble reaching an edge router and for a voice quality decline. Tying these two data points together gets you to the root of the problem faster — and being able to do that from a single dashboard makes your team more efficient.
Tip No. 2: Test your network before deploying new services
Onboarding is a critical success factor in a UC deployment's performance over time. Yet, in most cases there are a lot of unknowns on the network when we layer on new UC capabilities. Pre-deployment network assessment offers visibility into what we can expect. However, since voice traffic places different demands on a network than data, most available bandwidth and speed testing tools won't tell you what you need to know most: what will happen to voice quality.
A web-based site qualification tool specialized to UC will test what matters to voice quality. Using a tool like our UCScore, for example, will show what will happen to a call's voice quality as the number of simultaneous calls increases. This gives you a more accurate picture of your network's fitness prior to deployment, arming you with the knowledge needed to increase capacity or bandwidth and prevent future problems.
Tip No. 3: Change your support game from reactive to proactive
The cloud has changed user expectations for both reliability and easy access. Your support model has to keep pace. Break and fix is yesterday's news — digital transformation depends on the ability to be proactive when it comes to network performance. Knowing before your users do when there's a problem can have an impact on your bottom line — IT resources are used more efficiently, and adoption of new services skyrockets.
How can you become more proactive? Use threshold-based monitoring of key performance metrics like voice quality. Set thresholds lower and you'll know when a problem is brewing, before it's impacting the user. If you have a cloud-hosted performance monitoring system like the one used by Mitel customers, take advantage of the data and tools at your fingertips to troubleshoot and resolve problems remotely.
Tip No. 4: Focus on the most important problems
As devices are increasingly interconnected, networks have become more complex, with many moving parts — and that means alerts and notifications are coming at you from all sides. The thing about alarms is that they're only helpful if you actually look at them; often alarm fatigue sets in and we start ignoring notifications. Some monitoring tools have tackled this head-on with sophisticated alarm management approaches that use machine learning, thresholds and customizable alert profiles to point you toward your most important problems. Visualization features like network diagrams that tie alarms to the trouble spot on the network can also help you pinpoint your most important problems quickly.
Tip No. 5: Understand your user's experience
User experience is at the center of digital transformation. Users want to access information, services and collaboration tools when and how they choose. So, how do we know that the UC user's experience is a good one? Network performance data can provide valuable insights on the user's experience. For example, network health KPIs like bandwidth utilization, ping time and latency can point you toward overcapacity that will result in a slow or interrupted user experience. On a UC network, SIP trunks that are over capacity can cause a busy signal when your user picks up the phone, so staying on top of trunk usage is important.
Achieving return on the digital transformation investment requires a strong network foundation. Check out this infographic, "5 Tips to Get Your Network Ready for Digital Transformation," to see how.