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IDS Financial takes charge of big management challenge.

With thousands of stations on a massive headquarters telecommunications network, IDS Financial Services had its hands full when it came to management.

The company has moved to gain solid control over the network of nearly 6,000 stations in downtown Minneapolis, for which the telecomm department serves as an in-house telco.

Carolyn Deters, telecomm analyst for IDS, says the company used to rely on a mainframe-based TSO (time sharing option) facilities control system tied to its Northern Telecom Meridian SL-1 PBX.

"That file was the basis of keeping track of extensions and charge units associated with equipment, to be able to bill back monthly and to connect to a call accounting system to bill back long-distance usage," Deters says. "It was designed by programmers to be easy to get reports, versus being easy for people to use to maintain information."

The file was cumbersome, had limited functionality, and wasn't particularly user-friendly. But IDS worked with it for many years until moving to a PC-based management system.

IDS uses CRMS (Communications Resource Management System) from Chi/Cor of Chicago. It operates on a server on a token ring LAN used by the telecomm department. Five people currently have access to CRMS.

"As we make further use of it, we might give vendor technicians access to that information," notes Deters. At AIDS, vendor technicians actually pull cable, redo cross-connects and move equipment.

IDS' original interest in CRMS was for its cable management capabilities.

"That was something we were not doing at all," says Deters. "We know we needed to fill a gap.

"About the same time, there were things we wanted to change on the PBX, and our call accounting system was no longer supported by the vendor. We switched priorities and replaced the combination of the TSO file and the call accounting package."

IDS uses a Telemate call accounting system from Complementary Solutions, Atlanta, Ga., that interfaces with the CRMS system.

In call accounting, Deters says, "part of our focus was to avoid a duplication workstation, and whether they had a single line or multiline set. We needed that to compare with the information in of the database. We really need that information just once a month when we do the accounting functions."

The telecomm staff creates a flat file out of the relational CRMS database, then imports that file into the Telemate accounting system to make it current.

"We don't have to do any maintenance at all in the Telemate database," she points out. "We just update it from the CRMS information."

Physical inventory

The telecomm staff spent months accumulating a physical location inventory for the CRMS database.

"We verified jack locations at the the PBX and what we had recorded in the old file," explains Deters.

"We did check how many pairs went to that station. As far as the total cable runs from the workstation to the IDF (intermediate distribution frame) closet and on to the PBX or interim PDF (premises distribution frame), we have not done that step yet."

Despite IDS' initial interest in CRMS for cable management, the company is holding back on that huge undertaking, Deters says.

"That will be an enormous job. People are trying to evaluate the benefits versus the resources and what it takes to administer it," she says of the eventual massive cable database that would be created.

"Once it is in place, if you don't keep it updated at all times it can be as bad as not having any information to begin with."

Tracking DIDs

The software helps IDS keep track of DID (direct inward dial) number assignments.

"When a DID number gets taken out, you don't want to reassign it to someone else right away, because of the lag in billing, so you put it in 'cold storage,'" Deters says.

"It was easy to set up an aging routine. We run a monthly check on those DID numbers, and after about two and a half months they can be put back into the pool of available numbers."

It is also easy to retrieve the kind of information that the telecomm department's "customers" need, Deters explains: "We get requests from different departments to provide information on what specifically they are paying for in their phone service. With CRMS built on a relational database, I can write different reports and select information in a way we need it."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Words:728
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