Some magazine or other once asked me to identify the biggest barrier to computer telephone integration (CTI). “No logical organizational sponsor,” I replied. “Telecom managers see it as just another headache, IS directors figure it’s telephone stuff, and call center managers see it as the devil’s tool since callers will have to interact with technology.”
It was a good answer, but wrong. Lack of a sponsor (now a non-issue) was reason number 2. The biggest obstacle to CTI, then and now, is PBX reliability.
PBXs deliver “five-nines” quality — they work at a 99.999% service level. That’s good, and it’s why telecom managers do well running data centers — they don’t think downtime is normal.
It’s also bad, because as long as your PBX continues to deliver dial-tone, explaining why you need a new one is hard. Old PBXs don’t support CTI, though, so they, rather than lack of sponsor, are the biggest obstacle to its implementation.
We’re continuing with our series on creating an integrated IS plan. This week we focus on the company’s operational goals — perhaps “infrastructural” is a better term, or “pain-in-the-neck”. Dial-tone delivery is an important operational goal. So is messaging (voice mail, e-mail, fax), collaboration (groupware), and support for general office tasks (word processing, spreadsheets and so on).
Everything about figuring out operational goals is awkward. Setting concrete goals is hard, calculating payback is impossible, and getting the executive suite interested in discussing anything about the subject other than cost is almost embarrassing since they expect you to be thinking strategically.
The basic question, which can only be answered in the executive suite, is one of lifestyle. We’re dealing with the basic furnishings of day-to-day work life. Over the years we’ve learned two basic lessons: (1) Eventually every desk gets one; and (2) There’s a ratchet effect — you can add items to the list but you can’t take any off. Lifestyle reduction is hard — once you own two cars, going back to one is demoralizing.
The basic lifestyle question is for you what benefits is to human resources. There’s no demonstrable ROI or benefit to the P&L, but the company has to do it anyway. It may not be value-adding in the accounting sense, but not doing it is value-subtracting so you’re stuck.
Settle the basics in the executive suite, then move on to the next agenda item. As CIO your personal focus should be on value-adding activities, so delegate the detailed planning to an up-and-comer who wants it and can get enthusiastic about it (your Information Center manager?), teamed with your data center/network manager.
The plan itself includes a few key elements:
- Lifestyle description — little more than a list of the key tools you’ll be providing and supporting. This list should be by category (telephones, e-mail, groupware). You’ll deal with specific products and standards later on, in your technical architecture plan.
- End-user interest group — a collection of power users, end-user technology thought leaders, and PC mentors. It should meet monthly with your Information Center manager, and be closely involved in your planning and priority setting. It’s an invaluable resource.
- End-user support plan — giving employees a great toolkit and then cheaping out when it comes to helping them use the tools is dumb. Be sure to balance the need for support with a goal of self-sufficiency, though, or you’ll create a bottomless money pit.
That’s about it. Added to the strategic and operational goals we’ve planned for over the past few weeks you have validated, consensused, syndicated, and generally spread around your thorough understanding of what your company needs from information technology.
All that’s left is doing something about it.