With the drive toward remote working leaving organisations looking for the ideal unified communications tool to suit their requirements, it can be quite easy to be swayed by slick graphics and interesting features. However, there is far more to this than meets the eye, and the focus should instead be on whether stability forms the foundation of a service, before it is improved upon through continuous innovation.
Stability of a platform is key from the outset – it has to be always available, and end users must be able to get full functionality out of it as expected. The design has to look at reducing single points of failure, as well as other elements that can have an impact on the quality of service, such as where your service is hosted.
However, at the end of the day all applications can crash as they can have bugs, while hardware and networking gear can also fail. Mitigating against a service failure as a result of software or hardware failures requires investment in duplication. Take for example a web server: to ensure that it is always available to visitors, an organisation can have their site duplicated in another web server.
If one system fails – which will normally result in an error for users visiting the site – users will now be redirected to the second one while the issue is fixed, resulting in uninterrupted service. This is easier said than done in telecommunications and unified communications though, where there is a preference for microservices and the use of containers – and these need the necessary redundancy to ensure seamless failover in the case a container fails to behave as expected.
While the drivers of instability can include poor design, poor selection of software, hardware and networking gear, or even not choosing the most optimal location to host your online service. It extends well beyond this however, as there are also factors that are beyond your control such as the users quality of connectivity, issues with their Internet Service Provider, or even damaged or cut cable.
Overall, there is a vast ecosystem of software and hardware that needs to work in synchronicity in order to provide users with the best possible communications experience. Of course, organisations will have service level agreements with customers to determine what can be counted as ‘acceptable downtime’. At Telviva we do all we can in order to keep our hardware, software and network stable, with high availability.
Once you have a stable system up and running – you have a database that works as it should, containers that failover seamlessly, have multiple connections going into your cabinet and are able to provide a reliable service – you now need to fulfil the promise you made when you sold the service to your customers, be it letting people make calls, leave voicemail messages, transfer calls and more.
The functionality comes down to what happens when a user starts pressing various buttons on their device; are these commands that then provide the user with the ability to access the basic expected operations that they want. A few are mentioned above, but in reality a modern communications system might include up to 20 or more features as standard, and these need to be functional from the start, over and above the need to ensure overall system stability.
However, even if you have the most stable system, and the base functionality works as expected, your work hasn’t ended. In Telviva’s case, this has seen us take the Enswitch platform, which provides us with core functionality, but increasingly our customers are looking for omnichannel communications solutions, regulatory compliant call recording, single sign-ons and more, and there has to be continuous development in order to drive interest and adoption.
Other innovations can include using data to give customers more context or background information about people calling in (or being called), developing a mobile application so that they can keep in touch even while on the move, and even the introduction of a desktop application that provides a richer experience than using a web-browser.
Your product might be state-of-the-art when launched, and even elicit the ‘wow factor’ from users, but after a few months, they will demand more. Simply stopping here without further development will result in your product or service becoming irrelevant as time goes by. You have to keep building on what your platform has to offer – otherwise someone else will, and take your customers in the process.
By Antony Russell, CTO at Telviva