Tag Archives: IVR

How to Increase ROI for Your Custom Development Projects

It’s an exciting time to be in IT these days! Digital transformation is gaining in popularity, one element being the move of IT infrastructure to the cloud. Many different platforms that are available today provide a lot of opportunities to build exciting functionality through custom development and platform integrations.

On top of that, companies are looking for more options to provide their customers with self-service opportunities, either through customer portals or through bots using traditional and modern service channels such as telephony, SMS, or instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

All of this requires a significant number of process automations and system integrations, which allows companies to build custom solutions for their internal and external services, so they can provide better customer service and more efficient processes.

Why is all of this important?

Because companies that ignore the digital transformation will miss out on the next generation of customers, and continuously lose ground on their competition, which will be faster and better at delivering business value.

Why digital transformation is affecting project development

Software development is at the heart of the digital transformation!

Here are some examples of contact center and business cloud platforms, innovating for the digital transformation era:

Overall, more and more companies are transforming their applications into platforms or at least investing heavily into APIs that allow for deeper integration.

Unfortunately, the increasing demand for custom development comes with a maintenance cost attached. And that cost can vary significantly, based on the quality of the architecture and implementation of any given solution. If a company relies on an integration to submit orders from their CRM to the order management system, the integration becomes an additional point of failure (in addition to the two systems involved). An error in the code could prevent the orders from being submitted, and in a worst case scenario, this error might not even be noticed right away.

In theory, those automations provide a defined business value, but the reality is that this value is reduced by technical debt accrued during development. This includes not only errors in the implementation that cause the integration to fail, but also the additional effort needed to implement new business requirements in the future. The latter is very difficult to track, since there is no reference point to what a “perfect” system looks like. Nevertheless, it exists, and I have seen simple feature requests take a substantial amount of time refactoring the initial solution because it did not follow best practices.

This brings us to the last question: What can be done to reduce the negative effect that software quality issues can bring to a project or a business solution?

3 steps for improving the quality of your projects

I recommend the following 3 key steps as a starting point to improving the quality and outcome of your custom development projects. There are obviously more things that you can do, but from my experience, the following actions are essential for maintaining the ROI of any project.

1. Use software design patterns and development best practices

Design patterns have been proven to be successful when it comes to increasing code quality in a product. Not only do they introduce consistency between developers, they also ensure that the developed code is easy to understand and extend as your business solution evolves. Applying those patterns even to the smallest components will help to reduce bugs and, consequently, maintenance costs further down the road.

2. Introduce quality processes and automated testing

These elements are core to any software application development these days. First of all, any code developed, whether it is big or small, should be tracked in a version management system such as Git. It is critical that developers can review the history of a file to understand the context of how it evolved. With that, it is also possible to introduce code reviews as a standard process of everyone’s work. Any changes should be peer reviewed to ensure that standards are followed, and to reduce the risk of introducing errors. Adding automated tests, such as unit or acceptance tests, will further improve the quality of the solutions. While code reviews ensure the quality and correctness of the implementation at the current time, automated tests are there to detect regression introduced by future modifications of the code. All automated tests should be executed every time a new change is introduced to the environment.

3. Add Reliability Engineering

This step is the most difficult. Reliability Engineering extends the solution by building a framework of utilities and services that business solutions use for the implementation of the use cases. Those utilities and services are designed to handle malfunction of the business logic by recording incidents, raising alerts, applying strategies of self-healing, or possibly even initiating a restart of an entire system or component. For example, in the situation described above where the integration between the CRM and order management system would fail, notifications could immediately be sent out to IT that the integration is broken. If the reason for the failure was a connection timeout, which could mean that the order management system does currently not have enough resources available to process the order, the integration could queue the record and process it at some later time, assuming that more resources will then be available and the order submission will succeed.

In the best case scenario, human intervention is not needed, but if it is, it is important that every failure is handled consistently. While it is understood that production issues will occur, the goal of the framework is to detect those early and to collect critical diagnostic information that will significantly speed up the root cause analysis. Reporting this information will enable IT to make the right decisions to solve the issue quickly.

It should be noted that many of today’s cloud platforms have these features baked in. The key is to utilize their framework to make sure application and platform issues are handled in the same fashion. There obviously must be a balance between value and implementation time when deciding what reliability features should be included in a solution.

Nonetheless, any steps taken in this area will further secure the ROI, by ensuring that the final solution will work as expected. If it does not, it will have the smallest impact possible on the organization.

The value in following these steps & breaking down silos

It needs to be understood that any of these steps will add development time for the initial implementation of any use case. However, it should be noted that this time increase is mostly just theoretical nature. In practice, if those measurements are not applied, a project typically requires more time for bug fixes and re-work of those use cases, often exceeding the time spent adding those quality processes.

Breaking down the silos between enterprise systems adds a lot of value to the organization. This is an important part of the 4th industrial revolution. However, the applications that link those systems together are becoming a critical element for a company’s operations and must therefore be set up using strategies that ensure quality and flexibility for the future. This let’s your organization focus on continuous expansion rather than chasing the mistakes made in the past.

Modernizing Your IVR is Like Preparing Your Taxes: You Can Only Put It Off for So Long

The deadline for filing taxes is almost here, but are you ready? Did you diligently gather your paperwork in February, and prepare your tax returns yourself? Or did you find that needed home repairs, your kids’ sports events, and the latest season of House of Cards took up too much of your time until it was too late?

If you fall into the latter category, you may have filed an extension, but that only buys you so much time. Eventually you’ll have to get it done.

Similarly, if you’re like many IT directors, your legacy IVR is in desperate need of replacement, but the time it would take to address it is being taken up with day-to-day operations and just making sure your current system is functioning.

To make matters worse (like that friend who tries to persuade you that citizens aren’t “really” required to pay taxes), some checkbook-wielding executives are convinced that IVR is not really worthy of attention compared to emerging social, mobile, or digital customer engagement trends.

A Looming Threat

If you don’t pay your taxes, you can expect the IRS to impose penalty fees, liens, or even jail time.

Likewise, there may be unwanted consequences if you wait too long to upgrade your IVR. With an aging or obsolete system, you’ll spend ever more time, money, and resources trying to maintain something that is becoming less supported and more complex. In addition, your company may end up losing customers due to frustration with the system if your technology falls too far behind.

Not as Bad as It Seems

The good news is that, when you send in your tax returns on time, there’s a chance you could receive a refund, and you get to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to your life for another year.

When you modernize your IVR, you’ll be able to focus on higher-level activities that support your customers and help your company grow. Depending on the technology you choose, the sigh of relief after upgrading your IVR could last for five years or more.

Plus, while taxes and IVR modernization can each seem overwhelming, there are people who can help with both activities. For taxes, you can hire an accountant; for IVR modernization, you can hire a customer engagement solutions provider. In both cases, you get experts to perform lower-level tasks so you can spend your time on other, more important priorities.

Once and Done…For Now

Just as you can continue to procrastinate on filing your taxes, you can put off IVR modernization for a time by implementing multiple fixes to keep your current system maintained.

But, eventually the return on investment will slowly creep down and become negative, causing you to lose time, money, and energy. When that happens, adjust your schedule, get budget approval, call an expert, or whatever else you need to do to get it resolved. As with your taxes, once it’s done, you’ll wonder what took you so long.

To eliminate time, risks and costs associated with IVR manual coding, enhance existing processes and documentation, as well as improve customer interactions, Aria Solutions’ Professional Services Team offers the IVR Modernization solution.