Making the Most of Data to Increase Business Dexterity

Making the Most of Data to Increase Business Dexterity

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  October 15, 2012

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

Technology advances happen for many reasons but, typically, they either are useful to the user or they will generate revenue for the provider/vendor. The greatest chance for success, of course, comes with the combination of the two.

Frankly, when you look at the different versions of the iPhone (News - Alert) and iPad, it’s easy to make the case that Apple could have easily rolled several releases together, which would have been better for users, but would have resulted in lower sales for Apple (News - Alert) and its carrier partners.

In fact, when it comes to most end user technology, vendors tend to roll them out more frequently than they need to. Largely, I believe that’s as a result of eroding brand loyalty, where vendors and carriers need to put new products in front of their subscribers constantly, for fear of losing them to a competitor. So they try to lock subscribers into new two-year contracts, get a few bucks for a partially subsidized device, and get them to pay for more services that run on a network that is far from perfect.

Let’s go back several years, to the supermarket, where inevitably you had to wait in line at the deli counter to get your cold cuts for the week, before you could move on to the rest of your shopping list. Then, one day, miraculously, a deli express terminal appeared, which allowed you to place your order using a touchscreen, then finish the rest of your shopping while your order got filled. It saved time and frustration for everyone.

The same company that first developed the deli kiosk, Dexter Systems (DEli eXpress TERminal), recognized the value of simplification through automation, far beyond the elimination of one interpersonal interaction in the case of the deli kiosk. It began writing automation software for NYNEX (now part of Verizon (News - Alert) Communications), with a focus on customer back-end workflows and OSS software. 

The key to automation is being able to create a system that eliminates human interaction without eliminating human value. In other words, the automation needs to deliver results that mirror human intervention – but produce the same results faster.

“It goes beyond basic number crunching and tracking – that’s the easy stuff,” says William Doyle, Dexter CEO. “The next step is emulating human reasoning and creating a rules-based system that mimics the human thought process.”

He suggests that technician work assignments are an ideal opportunity for them, and Dexter is already working with hundreds of wireline systems, but he sees a major opportunity in the wireless arena as the mobile explosion continues.

It’s not just about geography. Certainly, routing and assigning can be done manually in that way. But, with the data that’s available, if a business is able to harness all that data – both internal and external – and use technology to logically sift through the data to reach logical conclusions, it can become much more lean and efficient in its operations.

Think about the potential of combining GPS data and telematics with customer data, problem characteristics, technician skill sets and specializations, traffic and weather information, and distilling it all in a logical manner to create the best possible service scenario for all service calls for the day.

The Dexter software isn’t quite to that point yet, but Doyle says the company is working on creating learning software that can adapt to new situations and create new rules to enhance its capabilities. For now, it’s built on a scoring system that compiles and processes available data to come up with the most efficient combination of assignments. 

Think of it as a team of four golfers, where each team tries to shoot the lowest combined score possible. One option is to have each individual play four or five consecutive holes. Or, you can factor in each golfer’s abilities and tendencies in certain situations. For instance, you might have a golfer with a great short game, but a tendency to slice drives on long par 5s. It might be beneficial to have that golfer play the par 3s and short par 4s, with perhaps one short par 5 he can play without hitting his driver, since it eliminates two players having to drive all the way from one end of the course to the other for one hole.

The payback, if businesses can achieve optimal efficiency in their processes, is significant, and the potential extends well beyond technicians, to delivery services, car services, packing and loading, emergency services and government, and much more.

Quite simply, automation is a way of creating process efficiencies. Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) showed with its IPA product how internal communications can be automated to enhance operations. Dexter is taking automation to a new level, tying in intelligence to enable variable decision making based upon multiple factors.

It may not be the most glamorous of technologies with flashing lights and bells and whistles, like the iPhone, but it provides a very real benefit to both customer and vendor, increasing a business’ ability to act swiftly and precisely – it’s DEXTERity, if you will – resulting in increased performance and greater satisfaction.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi