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The client partnered with TEKsystems to support an enterprise-wide deployment of the Cisco Unified Communications (UC) telephony system to 165,000 devices, including call flow discovery, call flow design, hardware installation and support services.
The client, a leading property and casualty insurance provider in the Midwest, has more than 65,000 employees and 17,000 agents in North America. With coverage across the U.S. and Canada, the client offers private automobile insurance, home insurance and—through partnerships—life as well as non-medical health insurance. TEKsystems has partnered with the client since 1995.
Cisco Unified Communications, ICM Scripting
Business leaders can agree that technology advances such as mobile devices, voicemail and email have greatly helped the way business gets done. Yet, having several disconnected technologies can sometimes actually decrease efficiency. Unified communications (UC) is a solution. Many large organizations are switching from legacy telephony to UC systems, taking IP-based technologies that operate in silos—such as email, instant messaging, mobile and video conferencing—and integrating them to improve business efficiency and collaboration.
Switching to a UC solution comes with many benefits. Legacy telephony systems can be costly to maintain and scale with business growth; whereas UC systems can significantly reduce long-term maintenance and support costs. Enterprise-wide UC systems incorporate real-time service—IP telephony and presence functions—into a company’s workflow. This improves productivity, availability, and user and customer satisfaction.
Deployments of UC systems can seem overwhelming. The products are complex, and customization and integration work can be extensive. Plus, companies face the initial expense of the equipment and loss of time spent on organizing and implementing the deployment. And what many companies may not recognize at first is the amount of internal buy-in and education that will be required for a successful deployment. Approaching UC deployments with an openness to change, improve and learn along the way will ensure a smoother deployment and ultimately, a stronger, more impactful system.
The client, a major U.S. insurance company, was embarking on a transition from a regionally-run to an enterprise-wide telephony system. The company’s previous phone system was divided into regions, each operating very independently with little to no standardization across zones. Depending on each individual customer’s requirements and location, the user experience would be very different. The client had begun an effort to build a large integrated customer platform (ICP) to integrate and consolidate many different business units across its operations, such as policies and claims, into a back-end application. One of the first phases of the ICP, and a major cornerstone of the project, was the deployment of Cisco Unified Communications (UC). It would bring a level of standardization and consistency to the company; each customer would receive the same level of service when calling the client, regardless of the individual’s request or location.
Standardization of different zones presented many challenges. Each zone was using its own system, each with its own technical nuances and unique challenges. New devices and entire infrastructure would have to be replaced and reformatted. And due to the size and scope of the deployment—at a total of 165,000 devices, this would be the world’s largest UC deployment to date—it would require multiple vendors, technologies, teams and projects. In addition to the technical challenges of the deployment, cultural changes would also come into play; getting user buy-in and educating them on new standards would be functional business challenges.
At first, the client attempted to accomplish this deployment in-house; however, during this process, the client realized that it didn’t have enough expertise and resources to achieve the goals desired. A decision was made to work with several vendors, break the project into various zones and deploy UC under a rolling schedule.
The client had aggressive timelines and budget, and resource management would need to be kept within assigned targeted goals. The client defined success as deployment of 13 zones on time without loss of customer interaction or data.
As one of several partners supporting this initiative, TEKsystems had the opportunity to prove our value and widen our footprint through a managed services model, where we could provide a greater level of oversight, robust reporting and continuous improvement capabilities. Due to our long-standing relationship with the client and past success, the client was confident in our ability to deliver. We were awarded four zones to perform call discovery and development, support quality assurance (QA) and testing, and provide call center support using our Unified Project Management Methodology (UPMM) approach.
During the Discovery phase, business analysts would conduct on-site interviews with identified business representatives to gather current call flow and business requirements and pull historic information from the old system. Our deliverables would include current state summaries; future state business process inventories; future state business process flows; future state call flows; application detail design documents; business requirements inventories; and gap analysis.
Upon completion of the deliverables for each business group—each zone averaged 600 call flows and over 15 business groups—an analyst would review with the client and make updates to ensure quality. After validation from the client, we would hand off to an on-site team at the client’s headquarters to build out the call flows.
During the Call Flow Development phase, we would diagram how a call should progress through a series of prompts. Then, we’d perform scripting generation and enter call flows into a simulated environment for testing.
The UC deployment would be “flash-cut,” meaning that users would see an immediate change in their telephony system with no phase-in period; all call flows and operations would go active in the production environment. We would then provide help desk support services for the first three days following deployment when the greatest amount of support requests would be coming in.
Deployment would happen in a rolling schedule fashion; when one zone was nearing completion, another zone would begin its Discovery phase. Resources would be managed and reallocated as needed.
We placed a comprehensive team to support the client throughout deployment. Three full-time delivery managers, a part-time delivery manager and a project coordinator worked on the project design, assumed ownership of delivery and supported the engagement end-to-end. A team of 28 business analysts supported the Discovery and Call Flow Development phases; three QA and systems analysts provided end-to-end testing; and post-deployment, 25 resources supported the client’s help desk.
We iteratively approached each zone, applying lessons learned to improve our processes for subsequent zones. One improvement involved defining and explaining standards set by corporate to better educate users during the process. Through this process improvement, we recognized and assumed the role of both change and educational agent. We also improved the review process by refining the call flow designs and replicating them across future zones. Approvals needed by various elements of the organization were garnered before we scripted calls, which eased some of the pains in the review process for all deliverables.
An improvement in approach, tools, methods and resources resulted in fewer defects and decreased rework. It also demonstrated to the client that our work was higher quality and more cost-effective than other vendors working on the project. This resulted in the client assigning TEKsystems an additional four zones that were originally slated to another vendor who was not experiencing improved success over the course of the project. All zones scheduled for TEKsystems were completed on time and within budget. By outsourcing this project, the client was able to focus on other areas of the UC project that required greater attention.
The successful deployment of the UC system will provide the client’s employees with a stable and foundational platform for their day-to-day telephone and presence functions that will improve productivity and collaboration. Additionally, end-customers will experience more consistency when contacting the client, no matter where they are contacting them from. Ultimately, the UC system will go on to support the client’s overall migration from a regional operation to an enterprise operation where operational areas will be shared across all offices to increase efficiency, effectiveness and consistency across the organization.
TEKsystems has been a long-time IT partner of the client’s and has established a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Even though we hadn’t performed this type of service for the client before, our previous experiences and reputation for delivering quality results allowed them to trust that we could deliver value and results.
Whereas other vendors weren’t investing in process improvements to pick up speed or provide better quality, we took a lessons-learned approach, making process improvements along the way. This dedication and openness to improvement caused the client to assign TEKsystems four additional zones that were previously slated to another vendor.
The client was impressed with how TEKsystems focused first and foremost on what the client needed, working collaboratively with all vendors and teams engaged on the project and building trust with key customer contacts. Since we set this project at a fixed-fee, TEKsystems earned the client’s trust by knowing that we were working towards what was best for the client, not our own bottom line.