6 Reorg Steps To Bring Telecom, Mainstream IT Together - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
11:25 AM
Marty Parker
Marty Parker

6 Reorg Steps To Bring Telecom, Mainstream IT Together

It's time to bring telecom and other IT services under one umbrella. Keys to success: eliminate silos, consolidate expertise, leverage new skills.

OK, you get the picture from my previous articles in this series. The PBX is obsolete. Communications functionality is now delivered as software applications on a converged data network. The big money comes from streamlining communications in your business workflows. Almost all communications innovations will be built into the users' personal or business applications on a mobile computing device.

So why should you still have a separate telecom department? Why should you still have a separate help desk for telephone users, or staff members who move phones around?

If you haven't already reorganized, now's the time. Here are six helpful steps.

1. Map your organization and roles to the disaggregated future, not the vertical system past. The future has arrived as a layered architecture of software applications on industry-standard servers, networks, and gateways that users consume on a wide range of company and BYO devices. The monolithic telecom silo is history. The organization and roles should match the new IT architecture for communications.

2. Blend the telecom user services staff with the application design and management team. Instead of having a separate telecom department manage the PBX desk telephone, voice- and videoconferencing, mobile voice communications, and voice messaging, create a team that looks at all communications through the lens of usage profiles. That team should define and support the communications modes (voice, video, text, email) and devices (desk phones, smartphones, laptops, tablets) according to the workflow requirements of each usage profile.

3. Educate and empower business analysts to define and design communications workflow elements. Your IT team probably already has business analysts who work with lines of business to optimize workflows, so make communication workflow analysis a part of their activities. Telecom teams that work with call center, interactive voice response, and auto-attendant features already have these analysis skills. Blend those skills with those of the business analysis team.

[Want to make collaboration click? See Enterprise Social Networks: 4 Pillars.]

4. Move communications services (e.g., the communications apps mentioned above, including the functions of presence, IM, voice, video accessed through SOA and Web services APIs) into the applications organization. This structure makes those communications services available to the teams who create user experiences, mobile apps, Web portals, etc. The integration of these two departmental roles will avoid duplication, save money, and produce better services.

5. Merge the staff that manages communications network technologies, gateways, and carrier services into the existing data networking organization. The parallels are clear: SIP trunks for voice communications are just another IP pipe. Gateways, session border controllers, and other security tools are very similar for telecom and data networking. Furthermore, bandwidth is a negotiable commodity, and the price of Ethernet bandwidth services is at least half the cost of SIP trunks from the regulated telecom carriers. Consolidating telecom network management and procurement with the data networking team can lower costs while improving reliability and services.

6. Merge communication help desk personnel and technicians with PC/Mac/tablet/user software help desk teams. This move may seem obvious, but only a small fraction of enterprises have made it. In the converged IP network used for VoIP and UC, almost all of the endpoints are IP devices with some level of computing power and usually some type of operating system. Increasingly, employees don’t even have a telephone on the desk. So the team that has the skills to support IP devices, BYOD policies, and user applications should support all the applications, including telephony.

In the end, the organization will look something like one of these two high-level models, sourced from the UniComm Consulting report "Organizational Concepts for Unified Communications."

The org structure on the left is totally converged. The org structure on the right has two application teams: one for "functional" or "line of business" support (such as a care delivery system in a hospital) and another for "administrative" support (such as hospital admin, finance, facilities).

The illustration below, from a 2008 Gartner report, "Organizing for Unified Communications," lays out a requirements-driven plan, based on forecasted technology evolution and maturity.

Since all of that forecasted technology is now available, this organizational evolution should be viable for most enterprises.

Getting your organizational structure right is a big deal. If the communications team is still operating in a silo, its ability to innovate will be constrained. Remember that employee time spent on communications consumes more than 20% of an average company's revenue. If you want to realize breakthrough communications cost savings, you must get the IT organization right.

A recent study showed that more than half of the TCO of UC and IP-PBX systems is in operational management costs. Companies can cut this cost by 50% or more by applying published IT staffing standards to telecom operations.

Furthermore, aligning your team structure to emerging cloud-based communications services, which are embedding communications directly into applications, will position you to gain the advantages of those services.

Organizational change is never easy, but your HR team should be ready to help. Ultimately, your employees will benefit, since the changes recommended here can enhance their skills and their careers.

If the world wasn't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)

Marty Parker, Principal and co-founder of UniComm Consulting, has more than three decades of experience with computing and communications technologies. He has been a leader in strategic planning and product line management for IBM, AT&T, Lucent, and Avaya. Now, as ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
9/19/2014 | 1:09:54 AM
Re: 6 Reorg Steps For Telecom
This is a great list, Marty, and as you say, it's most suited for organizations that are lagging behind on some changes they probably should have made years ago. After all, even if these employees still have telephones on their desk, they probably aren't using them all that much! The notion that anyone even still has dedicated telecom staff seems strange to me, but as they say, someone's got to do it. In the sense, some of the more heady concepts here seem like great things to keep in mind for even the most cutting edge companies.

Some of these tips are  pretty straightforward (disaggregated > vertical), but others are bound to be a little more painful depending on your organization. Your 'business analysis team' might just be one guy, and he might already have his plate pretty full. If your telecom support is outsourced, it might be a little tricky to merge it with IT support (or, heck, maybe your IT support is outsourced). App integration might be slow or impossible if your pipeline is already set, or it might be not relevant for you. Seems like an area where your needs are going to vary widely based on the type and size of your business. Regardless of all that, your point is on the money - it's  high time we rethink how we view telecom.
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