Testing critical contact center networks involves a lot of factors, as demonstrated by the recent Gartner report in which Empirix was included (Vendor Landscape for Predeployment Assessment and Testing for Unified Communications, March 2013). I’ve been asked a number of questions about how companies should think about their strategies and execution plans, and the truth is there’s no quick answer.
With that in mind, here is the first of a two-part post on the key points companies should think about when preparing to conduct testing. In this first part, I’ll comment on end-to-end preparation and planning. In the second post, I’ll comment on the tactical, execution-related considerations.
Set goals and evaluate risk
The first step when considering testing contact center networks is to make you have a clear set of goals that others in the organization buy into. Your test plan can affect many other departments in your company beyond the contact center: marketing, finance, etc. You need to get them to buy in and you need to make sure the tests you’re performing covers their needs as well.
Also, I strongly recommend you understand the risk profile of your deployment and at what level this is consistent with the risk profile of your company. When I talk about risk, I mean that you should gain an understanding of the costs of a new deployment through measurement of costs. Include fixed and variable costs, but also include unplanned costs based on outages, downtimes, long times to resolutions, etc. These ones that really can hurt.
Test end-to end
When considering your customer satisfaction and cost goals, be sure to think about testing end-to-end. What I mean by that is that you should test as realistically as possible, from the caller all the way to the agent. You’ll be amazed as you discover unknown bottlenecks that occur while calls traverse the network, voice portal, and routing infrastructure, and as the call are presented to agents. It’s important to gain insight into the business goals of cost reduction and improvement by thorough testing of all key elements.
Plan for system optimization (virtual)
Closely related to an end -to-end test strategy is the notion of system optimization through virtualization. This involves setting your goals with the best financial metrics (ROI or NPV) in mind. Most companies don’t seek perfection – it’s too expensive. Make sure you test to your targeted goals and make the right investments to address these goals.
Budget, budget, budget
Include testing in the deployment budget. It often gets forgotten, but I’ve found that the companies that see testing as a strategic line item in their plans are the most successful. They set goals, plan for the testing, budget for it, and then execute on it. Once companies get into the virtuous cycle of deployment, including test, they tend to do it regularly as new contact center technology is added.
Understand the testing to monitoring lifecycle
Develop a follow-up plan to your test phase. Include an active or passive monitoring strategy. Think of the network as a live organism which needs to be monitored. Things start changing as soon a test is complete, which means the testing report is aging from the moment it’s produced. Therefore, you must continue to monitor as time goes on.
I also recommend you think of companies that can provide a continuous and seamless cycle as you move from a test phase to a monitoring phase in a live environment. In this way, you can have confidence in a consistent approach to understanding your network.
Evaluate your multichannel contact through voice/video/data channels
It’s critical for you to have complete understanding of the way your customers contact you, and of course, your goals. It’s vital that you test each of these channel s exclusively, but it’s also really important that you measure the impact of one channel on another.
For example, if you’ve recently installed an SBC in which both voice and data traffic enter the enterprise, you should do the following: test voice at load, test data at load, and then test the impact of voice on data and data on voice.
Plan for a network assessment that includes all of the network elements that will be working together. This will give you a good sense of network status, before you spend money testing at the application performance level, where you will invest to get the best perspective of customer experience.
Plan for thorough complex testing
- Real time synchronization: Test configurations where end-to-end performance is measured in real time. Validate that calls are routed to the correct agent, data is passed at the CTI layer, and screen pops are timely and accurate.
- Meaningful reporting: Make sure the test reports you receive are consistent with your company and test goals. Moreover, ensure those reports are meaningful to both you and others on the company staff with whom you may have to share the reports.
Consider third party integration (open/closed) API
Consider all data sources in your test plan, not just the one in the new system you’re installing. Be sure those sources can be captured by your test system in order to present you with the best view of what’s happening in the network.
Also, try to take into account how you may be monitoring the system in the future, in maybe in a third party dashboard or visualization system.
Get additional advice from market research firms
Many market research firms such as Gartner are advising on predeployment strategies. You should connect with a market research firm for third-party, unbiased advice on next steps.
What other steps would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.