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Just how application-savvy are you?

Telecomm professionals like you are regularly swamped with an endless stream of new technologies. And you are frequently introduced to adaptations of current technologies. Whenever you read vendor documents, you probably see words like solutions, benefits, strategic, and applications-oriented.

This month we'll examine an essential, but largely forgotten, skill for telecomm professionals: application analysis. Translated, that means, "Do you really know your company's business, and can you identify telecomm technologies to address it?"

Over the years, telecomm professionals have found ways to use systems and facilities for business challenges. Three classics are touchtone service, which made it easier and faster to dial telephone numbers (plus it could converse with computers); 800 service, which attracted business; and automatic call distributors (ACDs), which are probably the most application-driven products on the market today.

The first step is to thoroughly understand the company's business before proceeding. Several important issues must be discussed. Understand the company's true business. For example, what does the firm manufacture? The company's true business is not necessarily providing great service.

Identify the application. Is the real application manufacturing widgets or is it improving a customer's ability to place an order for widgets with the firm? Understand specific business problems. Is the existing situation really a problem? Determine the impact it has on the firm, its employees and its customers.

Then, discover solutions. Determine if the problem can be solved, and if it really needs to be solved. Identify existing telecomm products and services that can be used. Define selection guidelines for the optimum solution.

Define the solution's impact to the firm. Research the solution's potential impact to company productivity, profitability, competitive position and employee morale. Make sure the firm's business objectives are satisfied, and that the expected results occur within company operating guidelines. Let's examine each of these issues a bit further.

Once you have identified a specific situation or application, try to confirm or validate it. Don't be surprised that the situation you start with is part of a larger, more complex operation. You must work closely with people in the target business area if you are going to identify the real application. Following are four steps to take in this process:

1. Discuss the situation with the department manager or senior executive responsible for that area;

2. Make sure you understand the situation by obtaining concurrence from the department manager;

3. Without offering specific solutions, suggest that you believe ways can be identified to solve the problem; and

4. Recommend analysis of the problem as a business activity, with technical input, rather than a purely technical project.

Next, define the situation in terms of the company's business and potential ways telecomm can address it. Don't focus on investments or other expenditures yet. That should occur after the application has been defined and confirmed.

Don't assume you have all the answers about an application, and its impact on the company. Discuss it with business line management. Check with other key departments, like DP/MIS, as they may have experience with the same situation. Why not discuss it with other telecomm professionals--your peers--as well? A fourth option is to retain the services of a telecomm consulting firm that has experience in your situation.

Following are 10 items to analyze when defining an application:

1. Define the specific situation, problem, opportunity;

2. Identify who it impacts inside/outside the firm;

3. Determine when it occurs, e.g., is it seasonal?;

4. Determine how often it occurs;

5. Identify where it occurs, e.g., single or multiple locations, domestic or international;

6. Determine the financial impact on revenues, profits, stocks;

7. Identify the competitive aspects of the application;

8. Determine the strategic impact, e.g, changes in the industry that could impact the company;

9. Discover the reason for the situation, e.g., merger, downsizing, new management, competition; and

10. Find out how the firm has handled previous situations: determine if previous solutions can still work, or if new solutions are indicated.

Once an application has been identified, make sure management concurs on it. Next, begin to identify at least two solutions, a primary (more costly but most effective) and an alternate (less costly and somewhat less effective). The good news is that plenty of telecomm-based solutions exist today for virtually any business problem. The bad news is also that plenty of solutions exist. The most obvious solution may not be the best one. You have to do some digging before deciding. Just make sure you address the issues we described.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Column; Communications Management
Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Tutorial
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Should you migrate to client/server computing?
Next Article:IVR, touchtone replace timecards at Northrop Corp.

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