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August 20, 2008

Hosted Self-Service is On the Rise: What's Your Transition Plan?

By Stefania Viscusi, Assignment Desk Editor


Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) recently reported that: “Enterprises looking to upgrade their self-service technology are increasingly considering the hosted model due to the multiple benefits these models bring to the table.” Datamonitor has also reported that hosted speech is growing at a fast rate, with a CAGR of 11.4 percent between 2008 and 2013, speech services will represent almost 40 percent of hosted IVR revenue in 2013 compared to just 22 percent in 2007.
 
One vendor that is leveraging its 25 years of experience to build a name for itself in the hosted self-service arena is Intervoice (News - Alert). The company that is well-known for its expertise in IVR/Voice Portals, IP contact center software and speech application development reached a milestone last year: 1 billion hosted minutes.
 
Intervoice believes that companies that will benefit most from hosting are those that are fully prepared and fully aware of where they are today and where they plan to be after they’ve transitioned to a hosted solution.
 
TMCnet recently sat down with Intervoice’s hosted solutions expert, Scott Manghillis, to discuss exactly how companies can plan for a successful transition to a hosted self-service solution.
 
What should a company do first?
 
Companies typically try to determine a solution before they’ve defined the problem. As a result, greater significance is placed on the problem’s technical aspects rather than on the business aspects. It’s important to define the business side of the problem first, and the technical aspects second. By looking solely at the technical aspects - or looking at them first, you may inadvertently take the project in the wrong direction. Conducting a complete discovery to encompass the company’s requirements both from a business and technical perspective is the first key for a successful transition to hosted self-service.
 
Approaching the discovery process from a business standpoint first ensures that you consider how outsourcing could affect other departments and encourages you to engage with all the right people. If you are in the IT organization, it’s important to engage other departments that will (or might) be affected by outsourcing - sales, shipping, manufacturing, call center management, etc.  
 
What’s the advantage of using an outsourced provider for hosting?
 
You can propose the business problem you ‘discovered’ and allow them to provide the best solution based on their experience working with companies that had similar problems. Talking to various solution providers affords you the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes.
 
What needs to be communicated to potential hosted vendors in order to ensure the vendors advise the appropriate hosted solution?
 
Vendors must understand what is driving you to outsource. You can organize your thoughts by focusing on three areas: Business Objectives, Technical Requirements and Deployment Requirements. And then provide details under each area such as:  
Business Objectives
·        Supported Business Metrics Resulting from Outsourcing
               -- Expected cost savings
               -- Performance metrics and expected improvements
                -- Define service level management metrics in support of customer’s satisfaction.
·        Define budget requirements
·        What mixture and level of management is required between your organization and the vendor organization?
·        Is this solution a replacement, update, or addition?
·        Define legal terms and conditions required to be supported by the partner
Technical Requirements
·        Define technical requirements of the installed network that a vendor needs to consider and adhere to.
·        Define parameters of technical management responsibility between your organization and the vendor.
·        Define management requirements of collocation or on-premise solution
Deployment Requirements
·        What staffing requirements exist to manage the deployment? (Single Point-of-Contact dedicated Project Manager, etc.)
·        Time-to-value - Define your timeline for deployment and full production
 
Eventually there will be an RFP process to narrow down the top vendors best suited for the job. What would you advise that a company include in a hosted RFP?
 
Remember that you’ll be committing to a potentially long-term service contract depending upon the size of the business unit(s), department(s) and/or percentage of your business being outsourced. The more complete your information is, the better positioned you’ll be for handling any problems that may occur after deployment. Here are five points to remember: 
 
1. Develop an RFP(s) specific to an outsourced situation. Companies often create a combined RFP for both a managed service as well as an in-house solution that they’d maintain themselves. The usually results in receiving vague and incomplete responses. The advantage of having a separate RFP for each deployment is that it creates a more defined environment that will translate into more precise responses to help you determine which option or combination is best to deploy.
 
2. Define the service level and performance metrics that support your business objectives. A managed service is successful with a firm but a fair SLA (service level agreement) is negotiated and stuck to. You want to see responses that show what is going to be delivered, percentage of time it will take and cost. And always ask for references and proof of past performance. Proper definition and negotiation will ensure that both parties agree to an achievable SLA. 
 
3.  Define the response format. If you blueprint the format that the responses will be in, you’ll have a much easier time analyzing and evaluating the proposals.
 
4. Provide the problem statement and business objectives you’ve documented in the Discovery to define the solution. The value of the Discovery is only realized if you share it with vendors so they can provide you with the best solution and potentially even improvements you have not considered.
 
5. Provide your justification for outsourcing. Typically outlining your justification for outsourcing will define the business drivers for outsourcing to help guide vendors to suggest the best solution.
 
The bottom line is that if your RFP is comprehensive and honest, then the responses you receive should be comprehensive and honest. Outsourcing to a hosted solution fails when the customer and vendor are discovering information about each other during the term of the contract. Share as much information as possible with prospective vendors. This will allow you to align yourself with the right vendor to get the job done right the first time. It will also allow you to maintain a strong, long-lasting relationship with your chosen vendor.
 
Any final words of advice?
 
Having all the right information in place before making the decision to move to a hosted solution can save a company valuable time and money. Companies that have followed what we’ve discussed have benefited greatly.
 
For more, check out the Speech Technologies channel on TMCnet.

Stefania Viscusi is an assignment editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Stefania’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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