The move toward automated processes is sweeping across the IT world, not least in unified communications – where overworked engineers want to relinquish repetitive tasks to concentrate on strategic projects.
A UC provisioning automation platform can minimize manual work, mitigate the chance of service disruptions and outages, ensure consistency across MACDs and minimize licensing costs.
Akkadian Labs has highlighted seven automation building blocks within its flagship Provisioning Manager product that, when put together, can deliver businesses true UC provisioning automation.
The seven elements demonstrate how adding different components together provides more value for a business and reduce UC engineers’ workloads.
The pick ‘n’ mix approach means organizations can choose only the components that are relevant to their communications workflow.
Many organizations, for example, will not need multi-vendor support but can still achieve full automation by utilizing the other blocks.
“We’ve seen from our customers that this is not a single path,” David Levy, Director of Marketing at Akkadian, told UC Today.
“Organisations can implement these steps in different orders, and we actually encourage our customers to roll out different types of automation in whatever order makes sense to them.”
UC Today has expanded on each of the seven building blocks below.
Cross-application workflow is the core component of UC automation and provides the foundation for the rest of the building blocks.
This allows UC engineers to handle moves, adds, changes, and deletes for multiple applications in one go – removing the need to re-enter the same information several times to provision phone numbers, voicemail, meeting applications, etc.
Cross-application workflow can dramatically reduce the time it takes UC engineers to carry out mundane tasks from minutes to seconds.
Akkadian integrates tightly with leading UC vendors so that any task that can be carried out in the platforms can be done quicker and more accurately in Akkadian Provisioning Manager.
Multiple Servers and Clusters
Large enterprises with tens of thousands of employees will often have users distributed worldwide. This makes provisioning complex, to the point where even some provisioning platforms from leading UC vendors do not have the functionality to automate across clusters. This is the case for Cisco Prime Collaboration Provisioning, which has been announced as End-of Life.
Service management platforms, however, can do this – relieving UC engineers of tricky tasks.
Multi-vendor support expands on the initial cross-application workflow stage to incorporate UC platforms from more than one provider.
Many businesses will not need this because they’ve standardized with one supplier. Still, some will find themselves with several UC estates, perhaps through the acquisition of a business that uses a different vendor. There will also be some businesses that have adopted a cloud-based product like Microsoft Teams to run alongside their existing communications infrastructure.
This stage can also expand outside of UC. A new employee in the sales team may need a Salesforce account, for example, or someone in the finance team may need an SAP account.
As an example, Akkadian’s API Trigger feature means its Provisioning Manager can be connected to platforms beyond communications.
Bulk provisioning means UC teams can collect a batch of people that need provisioning and do them in one go by uploading a CSV file, providing economies of scale for teams that want to provision at the end of the day or end of the week.
This is more efficient than provisioning single users at a time, but whether a business adopts this will depend on its size and how soon they need users to be set up. Smaller companies may not want to wait until they have a batch, but larger businesses could have huge numbers of employees joining daily.
Offloading Work to a HelpDesk
A fundamental value proposition of automated provisioning is reducing the workload of UC engineers. The role-based access element of these platforms means that work can securely be offloaded to other teams, such as the helpdesk, without giving them access to the core UC platform.
Keeping tight control of access and privileges means UC engineers can enforce both security and consistency while reducing the risk of human error.
This building block expands on the one above by allowing employees to make minor changes themselves. This could be something like changing their voicemail PIN or forwarding their phone number to another office for the day, providing another opportunity to remove tedious tasks from a UC engineer’s plate.
Akkadian enables this by giving businesses an out-of-the-box, brandable portal that lets employees make basic adjustments to their accounts.
Full-Cycle, Zero-Touch Provisioning
This stage removes humans from the UC provisioning process altogether.
Akkadian’s platform, in particular, integrates with Microsoft Active Directory and ServiceNow to provide full-cycle, zero-touch provisioning.
Active Directory is the de facto standard for many large enterprises, so this integration means that an HR department can input a new employee and kickstart a chain of events that sets up the individual with all the UC accounts they need.
The process is the same with ServiceNow, which is particularly useful for organizations that want zero-touch provisioning but are uneasy about letting too many people access a system as important as Active Directory.
The Journey to Automated Provisioning
Not all businesses will require all the blocks described above. A small business with one UC platform, on one server, with no need for bulk provisioning may only require four of the seven blocks listed above, but can still achieve full-cycle, zero-touch provisioning.
The journey is designed to be customizable. Implementing the elements that are relevant to a specific organization will reduce the workload of their UC engineers and ensure effective, consistent provisioning.
This post originally appeared on Service Management - Enterprise - Channel News - UC Today.