Agility in Practice to Deliver Automation Extension
Author: Rob Hamlin, Director Solutions Engineering at VOSS
Across development methodologies there is a good amount of buzzwords that you hear used - and somewhat abused - frequently. One of the single most abused buzzwords is Agile. There are claims of agility all over the development spectrum. To claim to be agile should be more than just a vague declaration of speed and accuracy.
All of our customers are seeking to extend automation in their environments to achieve greater efficiencies, higher levels of service quality, and better cost savings. Successfully supporting this overall business objective requires vendors to spend time properly understanding the unique customer requirements for automation extension, and then being able to deliver these in an agile and quick way.
At VOSS, we have a defined Automation Extension philosophy; we do not just make claims about being agile, we put that claim into action. One of the biggest “value adds” of engaging with VOSS is access to development engineers that are enabled by our business model and the architecture of our products to deliver solutions in a truly agile way.
Typically, when we initially engage with a new customer, there is a preconceived notion on the customer side that VOSS-4-UC can fulfill all of their needs out of the box. Anyone who has worked in unified communications will likely confirm that there are any number of ways to achieve a given end result, and the process is very specific to a given engineer's background, the physical infrastructure in place and the existing business requirements of the customer. When we start to dig into the business practices, we sometimes find gaps in our solution because nobody has previously asked us to perform a given set of tasks in the same way. This is where VOSS’ agility comes into play.
In a recent engagement with a new VOSS-4-UC Enterprise customer we were working through what a “retail location” definition was to the business. We worked through the really deep details of how the dial plans needed to be constructed using a feature in Cisco Call Manager called local route group. At the time, we did have support in our next generation dial plan toolset for use of the Call Manager standard local route group, but not for the specific deep array of standard local route groups required for these locations. This customer used roughly seven different local route groups to carry out device-based routing of their calls. In an “agile on paper” development organisation this could be a “full stop the project and wait for a release” kind of hill to climb, but not at VOSS.
In the deep dive on site workshops, we jointly debated all the details of how this unique customer treats their calls and took those requirements back to the hotel that afternoon/evening. When we reconvened the next morning we had built in end-to-end support for the local route group features of Call Manager in order to meet the customer’s presented use cases. Was the initial implementation perfect? Admittedly no, but we had a firm foundation to meet the customer’s requirement that we were able to present immediately for validation, and based on interactive feedback from using the new developed feature, we were able to further tune the VOSS-4-UC workflows to quickly and fully solve the customer’s requirements.
The customer was amazed, having worked with several software vendors across their enterprise over the years. They are used to the “request enhancement” then wait for a release approach to development. Not only was the feedback very positive for the speed of development, but also in that on-site engineers from VOSS were are able to debug and mediate bugs in real time.
At another customer, a major home improvement chain, a senior manager at said “I have never had a vendor come into our office to engage in a proof of concept where engineers can fix bugs in real time”. We believe this was one of the major differentiators we had that resulted in VOSS winning this business.
Once the on-site work was done, these newly developed features were deposited into the VOSS code repository for peer review and testing. One of the greatest by-products from this approach has been the creation of new features that are added to VOSS-4-UC for the broader customer base from these proof of concept engagements, even when the company did not move forward from proof of concept. Every experience we gain from our potential and established customer base helps to add to the agility and the breadth and depth of the VOSS-4-UC toolsets.
Since this initial workshop, we have continued to deliver new and cutting edge solutions to meet every requirement the customer has put forward. The core philosophical pillar at VOSS that field solution engineers are free to deliver functionality in near real-time, is a key reason we have made great inroads into expanding the uptake of VOSS-4-UC into the large enterprise market vertical.
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