Connecting Data and Communications for Maximum Workflow Efficiency

By Erik Linask March 12, 2021

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention.  There has, perhaps, been no better example than the way businesses have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many companies have rapidly transitioned to remote work and have invested in new technologies to drive a new era of digital operations.  It’s a trend that was already in motion, but fell further down the roadmap for most, often because of the cost factor.  But the immediacy of the pandemic pushed it to the top of the list of priorities.  In fact, McKinsey says the pandemic accelerated digital transformation projects by three to four years.

What’s more, these changes – including remote working – aren’t temporary but are here to stay.  The majority of companies have already said they’ll implement some form of permanent remote structure, and they’ll need to sustain the operational efficiencies and other benefits their digital transformation projects have created in a re-defined competitive environment.

“It’s the classic business challenge of how to do more with less, and Digital Transformation is on everyone’s radar,” says Ajit Patankar, Head

            Ajit Patankar

Business Development and Product Marketing, Cloud Communications, at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.  “The pandemic pushed it to the forefront and it’s no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have if businesses want to stay relevant.”

So the challenge the C-suite was tasked with resolving became how to make the right DX investments that would not only help them re-invent their operations, but deliver meaningful CX improvements as well.

One of the keys is improving workflows.  Many processes very likely suffered with a transition to remote work, but they are critical to business success.  Driving efficiency and experiences isn’t just about streamlining communications.  It’s about creating the best experiences through improved workflows, which means getting the right information to the right entities at the right time.  Those “entities” could be people, software systems, devices, or other connected tools, which is why workflows need to accommodate not only people, but software, networks. IoT devices, and communications tools as well.

The goal is to enable real-time sharing of contextual information to drive results.

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

This is something Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) Enterprise recognized well before COVID-19 changed business dynamics forever and, in fact, it began creating its Rainbow platform several years ago.  Rainbow isn’t just another communications platform – there are plenty of those.  Yes, Rainbow provides all the communications tools businesses need to engage with colleagues, partners, and customers – voice, video, chat, conferencing, and sharing – but it goes much further with the workflow paradigm.

To drive faster decisions, better results, and enhanced experiences, Rainbow also includes a workflow platform, Rainbow Worklow, that facilitates integration of business processes, applications, and workflows into the communications process.

“The concept of a workflow platform is one of the arrows we want to put in the quiver of CIOs and CXOs,” says Patankar.  “Workflow automation platforms can accelerate the journey to DX and improve CX by delivering timely, relevant, and contextual information to enhance business processes.”

That ability to connect people with contextual information in real time within the communications infrastructure is the proverbial pot of gold. 

        Pierre-Yves Noel

With the Rainbow platform, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise has taken the communications tools that people use on a daily basis and then, through Rainbow Workflow, added a layer of intelligence  that collects data wherever it is created, filters it, applies business rules, and uses artificial intelligence, and workflow management tools to to deliver actionable data to the right people, software systems, and devices    . 

“What most workflow platforms don’t provide is the core real-time connection to people,” explains Pierre-Yves Noel, Director, Cloud Services, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.  “Rainbow connects workflows inside business processes, but the big difference is being able to attach people to those workflows and data to drive real-time decisions.”

What Does Workflow Automation Look Like?

For instance, take energy costs, which can be among any business’ biggest expenses.  Many buildings already have motion-activated lighting to help reduce energy consumption.  But, if an employee exits the corporate building with the heat still on in his office, there’s intelligence in the network that can be used to increase energy efficiency.  When the employee signs out of the building – whether by actively swiping his badge or because sensors recognize he has passed through the exit – a message can be triggered asking if he is leaving for the day and if the heat may be turned down in his office.  It’s an easy way to leverage building intelligence and the communications solution to lower energy costs.

Or, think about IT teams, who are tasked with managing and securing corporate assets.  When an unrecognized device attaches to their WiFi (News - Alert) network, Rainbow Workflow can immediately deliver device information, location data, IP address, MAC address, user activity, and other relevant information network admins so that they can take informed decisions.  Available information could even include the type of device to help IT staff respond efficiently.  In addition to simply sending the data to appropriate people, Rainbow Workflow can initiate a collaboration session within Rainbow, either on-demand or automatically when a certain level of risk is determined based on the device fingerprint.  The integration of data into the communications toolset allows IT staff to react more efficiently to resolve issues.

A third example might include a school system, where security and safety are an absolute must.  If a staff member notices suspicious or dangerous activity and dials 911 or pushes an installed panic button, it should trigger a variety of actions.  Of course, a notification should immediately go to emergency services, but school administration and security officials should also be immediately made aware of the situation.  In addition, to save time and allow staff to focus on the situation, lockdown procedures and communications might be automatically triggered (or fire protocols, if a fire alarm was pulled) via Rainbow Workflow. 

“Because of where our solutions sit in our customers’ IT environments, we are at the crossroads of many interesting events and information that’s flowing between the elements of the IT ecosystem,” explains Ajit.  “So, we set about creating a workflow platform based on this event-driven, logic-based ‘if-this-then-that’ paradigm.”

The scenarios are endless.  These events happen and the data is generated.  The more connected a business becomes, the greater its ability to leverage that data to power workflow efficiency.

Benefit of Open Technologies

The key, though, as Patankar and Noel both highlight is that ALE has a long history of providing the network and communications solutions, and adding the connecting workflow platform was a logical evolution.  But, as it has also historically done, ALE sees the bigger picture and, rather than delivering a proprietary solution, it has focused on leveraging open technologies to allow companies to leverage their existing investments without restricting their ability to add workflow automation.

In addition to integrating with a variety of hardware and software systems, Rainbow Workflow was developed with a number of key benefits in mind including:  deployment flexibility, edge processing, high availability and performance, built-in security and data privacy, ease of use and management, and AI support.  All of these allow businesses to extend the platform to support new use cases as they emerge.

“Customers benefit significantly from the platform’s ability to consume events and create and execute applications or use cases to handle these events,” says Noel.  “Such applications can significantly enhance the customer experience and drive digital transformation.”

Businesses and their customers create a massive amount of data, much of which is either underutilized or not utilized.  By turning that data into timely, contextual information, businesses can save time and costs by turning dumb networks into intelligent, productivity enhancing ecosystems.  As they continue down the digital transformation path, the amount of data they collect will only increase and, along with it, the opportunity to use that data to transform workflows.

Patankar will be speaking to these and other ways businesses can combine CPaaS and automation to enhance their operational efficiency at ITEXPO 2021 in Miami.  He'll be on a panel, Automating Network Monitoring and Management with CPaaS, and will also be presenting Automating Network Monitoring and Management with CPaaS on Thursday, June 24, 2021.

Edited by Erik Linask
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