Philips Monitors has recently appointed Computer Repairs Technologies (CRT), a company that specialises in the 'break/fix' sector of the IT industry, as its service centre for all warranty and out of warranty repairs on its monitors.This is providing Philips monitor customers with a specialist service centre that features a wealth of technical and IT experience, delivering a service level that matches the Philips brand.
Says Tyrone Young from Philips Monitors South Africa, "The move to appoint CRT as our service centre was a strategic one as the company's reputation, skills in the field of monitors and commitment to the highest service levels serves the Philips brand best. The company has a national footprint which means that customers from Pretoria to Poffadder will have a branch that is within their provincial reach that will repair their monitor in the event of a fault."
CRT's national footprint includes service centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Bloemfontein.The appointment of CRT means that service monitors which develop faults within the three year 'carry in' warranty period will be repaired within three days.
A monitor is a crucial component of an organisation's ICT arsenal and renders a PC useless if not in working order, making the service centre a crucial component of the after sales service.
CRT will also repair Philips monitors where the warranty has expired but obviously this cost is for the customer's account. CRT will provide a quote to repair the monitor and the customer can decide whether to pursue this course or purchase a new monitor.
Says Rique Palma, Operations Director at CRT, "CRT is pleased to have been selected as Philips'monitor service partner. In this relative short period we have established a sound working relationship with Philips and conjunction with DCC, the sole distributor of Philips monitors in South Africa, have set up the required processes and procedures to enable us to provide best-in-class service to Philips and DCCs monitor customers. As CRT specialises predominately in monitor repairs, we have the required infrastructure to perform all operations relating to monitor repair activities. Along with our national partner network, we provide the complete spectrum of after sales service to all Philips monitors distributed by DCC."
CRT is not only the official service centre for Philips monitors but is also the preferred service centre for LG, Samsung, HP and Lenovo, providing testimony to the company's expertise in the field of after sales repairs and maintenance.
Many contact centre operations have traditionally been outsourced by enterprises, therefore different outsourcing options and models abound.
Depending on budget and business imperatives, organisations may or may not own the call centre, directly employ the agents, or control the enabling technology in an outsourcing scenario. The biggest recent shift, however, is that technology is no longer the focus of contact centre outsource deals; instead, it is functionality and, in particular, the ability to continually measure, monitor and optimise outputs.
Technology has been commoditised to the point that it doesn't matter where you get it - whether you own it, access it as part of a hosted solution, go into the cloud for it, or make use of a hybrid of these options. What does matter is that you have the use of a service with the right functionality to fully enable - even optimise - business tasks, cost-effectively and efficiently. It is what provides a competitive edge. To achieve this you need to find a service provider with the right expertise, experience and technology insight - a partner with a vested interest in seeing your business succeed.
Accurately translating business functionality into technology requirements lies at the heart of a successful outsourcing exercise, and this is perhaps what differentiates the really great outsourcer from the mediocre today.
The service provider may be niche, but must have breadth and depth - be able to supply and operate the technology and/or integrate into an organisation's backend systems, or leveraging the organisation's existing investments in a hybrid solution to meet budget and functional requirements, while also catering to the contact centre's need for flexibility and scalability.
The value of outsourcing the entire function is that the user does not have to worry about upgrades, licensing and keeping the right skills on hand to integrate, configure, support and maintain the solution. They just agree an SLA with the service provider who takes care of it all. In addition, if the strategy is to move this function from a capex to opex operation, a service provider is likely to be able to offer that option. However, if core business functionality will rely on this infrastructure, the smart thing would be to go with a service provider who is willing, and has the ability, to offer more than a 'vanilla' solution.
In the contact centre arena that comes down to the service provider understanding both the business and technology needs - whether the contact centre is running an operation focussed on sales, support, administration or ad hoc in- and outbound campaigns - and being able to offer a suitable in-budget solution. Despite all the hoo-ha about hosted solutions and cloud computing, the reality is that organisations often need to maximise existing investments. The service provider should be able to identify and implement such a solution, migrating to cloud and other solutions as it becomes 'safe' and viable to do so.
The same is true of human resources in the contact centre - to maximise operational performance and productivity, and achieve the right results for clients, agent focus and outputs need to be managed. The service provider should be able to offer the tools - such as IVR and ACD (automated call distribution), predictive dialling and least cost routing (including VoIP within the organisation) - to meet those needs. Again, since the user does not need to own or licence the technology, only paying for use, it doesn't break the bank. It's strategic partnering of the best kind - everybody wins.
And last but not least, the outsource service provider needs to understand strategies and trends, adapting it's outsource offering to maximise benefits for the user. This measured upgrade path should involve new or additional functionality as well as technology models, perhaps moving from ownership and private technology clouds to a public technology cloud as security and scalability capabilities improve.
By Paul Fick, Divisional CEO at Jasco ICT, Enterprise Communication
The proliferation of cloud computing has seen some people happily floating on cloud nine and prophesise an inevitable paradigm shift in IT while others believe it is really just a rebottled and labelled version of an existing technology. Indeed, there are few other IT topics that generate a wider chasm in opinions.
And yes - the advantages are clear: computing power and storage on demand, billing models to complement the demand model, low investment risk, access to applications without prior installation onto the end terminal, direct integration of smart phones and tablet PCs - even the complete outsourcing of the IT infrastructure is possible.
Low power consumption is also a significant contribution to environmental protection. Many companies therefore turn to IT resources and applications from the cloud. IDC analyst Frank Gens even refers to cloud computing as the IT engine of the next twenty years.
However, cloud computing is no silver bullet and whilst the arguments are convincing, it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
Sensitive data, regulatory compliance and security are some of the most pertinent discussions around the feasibility of cloud. Not all data can be moved across company borders, much less into foreign countries.
Corporations increasingly voice concerns about ensuring data privacy, including making sure that foreign government agencies do not have access to sensitive competitive data and intellectual property.
The challenge is to understand what does fit into the cloud model and how this will benefit a prospective cloud user. Public clouds quickly reach their limits as it is just that, public. Private and hybrid cloud solutions, however, offer ways to solve these issues and leverage the advantages of cloud.
For example, with a private cloud it is possible to define clear jurisdictions for each individual company - T-Systems in South Africa has its very own dedicated data centre for cloud users. Access rights for user groups can be narrowed down to a very small circle that has access to the most sensitive data which cannot even be seen by the responsible administrator.
Private clouds also offer the dynamic operation of business-critical services through the implementation of service levels. And all this can be achieved without compromising functions on the customer's side.
Even though cloud solutions are rapidly available for use - the jump into the cloud must not be done as an end in itself. A significant reduction of costs or the rapid mobile integration of applications is only reasonable when it involves a real business case.
Therefore, ensure that you do partner with experts that provide suitable consulting services to reconcile the new cloud services with the existing IT world and its business processes. And importantly, opt for a service provider that meets global standards and roll it out in a local manner.
By Roelof Louw, Cloud Expert at T-Systems in South Africa
In a strategic move to expand its service offering to South African ICT marketplace, Intdev Internet Technologies, a business solutions specialist company, has acquired MegaWeb Internet Services.
The acquisition, which comes into immediate effect, adds a complimentary layer of services to the company’s current value offering plus a team of Internet connectivity specialist that will no doubt benefit both current and future customers and fortify support and service delivery.
Additionally, the acquisition follows the recent merger of Intdev and Liquid8 which saw the establishment of one entity called IntdevInternet Technologies and falls in line with the company’s strengthening position in the SA and African marketplaces.
MegaWeb, is a local success story and has since its inception in 1996 diversified its ISP offering to include software development, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), domain administration, hosting and networking. The company has focused predominately on the SME marketplace.
“Our acquisition of MegaWeb was no doubt a strategic one as we believe the company and its team offers the additional skills and experience to enable us to grow our own business and offer services that differentiate Intdev Internet Technologies in a highly competitive marketplace,” comments Christiaan Mienie, CEO of Intdev Internet Technologies.
“We are extremely excited to; for example, add Megaweb’s software development skills to our own team. In a world where tailored, customised offerings have become increasingly important, MegaWeb’s expertise will enable us to enhance our offering to companies that require solutions that geared towards their specific business needs.”
The recently formed Intdev Internet Technologies will with the acquisition of Megaweb continue to go from strength-to-strength, offering services such as: dedicated servers; 3G; WiMAX; VoIP; ecommerce platforms; and CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) backed by an experienced 24x7 support team and bespoke software development skills.
There is a shift that is driving companies and employees to work remotely; enhancing productivity by unshackling the restrictions that working from a fixed office imposes. It frees employees up from traffic and most importantly, allows for work to be done 'on the fly'. This is no different when it comes to IT support. Businesses are not only realising the benefit of outsourcing their IT support, but they are also able to leverage the additional benefits of remote support and monitoring that is gaining traction in the South African market.
There are three types of remote support: in-house support sees the company's head office provide remote support and monitoring to its branches; the fully outsourced model lets a third-party handle support and monitoring from its premises; and the co-sourced model puts in place a centre of excellence that is co-built by the client and the outsourced service provider. All models have their benefits but the latter two deliver significantly more.
Time and travel = money & emissions
One of the most obvious benefits of remote IT support is that it reduces travel costs and travel time. It takes time and costs money for the support resource to get to the client when a call out is logged. With remote support in place, however, the exercise is simplified. The system is monitored and analysed remotely and the problem is fixed immediately. Thus, traffic and distance between the outsource provider and the client is no longer an issue. In addition, and this is not an afterthought for most companies any more, remote support and monitoring allows companies to decrease their carbon footprint and lessens their impact on the environment. It also provides a far speedier response and resolution for companies that have branches in outlying areas or even different countries.
Compliance to standards
Standards and best practices have become the norm in today's digital world.
However, enforcing them is no easy task. It's particularly tricky when clients have remote branches and offices. Individual IT resources at these remote branches and offices further exacerbate this challenge as more often than not they create their own 'rules', thwarting the efforts of the business to retain consistency and remain compliant. Having remote support and monitoring allows businesses to create a 'golden' standard, one which is rolled out and adhered to by all remote sites and branches, thanks to centralised and remote control.
This benefit became evident for one of RDB Consulting's large multinational manufacturing clients. With its head office based in the Western Cape and branches throughout the country as well as some parts of Africa, compliance became a top priority. RDB Consulting's remote support and monitoring service allowed the company to enforce security standards, use of standardised site documentation, processes and procedures, as well as drive compliance to the Service Level Agreement (SLA) which ultimately assisted them to meet compliance of a variety of Acts.
Time to resolution
Disasters are never planned. Downtime, especially in a database environment, impacts operations -- and the longer the database or a critical application is down, the greater the impact on the bottom line. Resolving the problem quickly is therefore of the essence. Remote support and monitoring is a great enabler of speedy resolution. More importantly, because it's proactive
in nature, it often prevents problems from occurring in the first place.
Control the changes in your organisation Remote support and monitoring also effectively manages change control more efficiently. For example, creating printer rights on the corporate network can be handled remotely, ensuring user rights are applied according to policy.
Access to skills
Outsourcing support and maintenance of the IT infrastructure already delivers the benefit of access to skills and experience. Remote support and monitoring further enhances this as a team of highly skilled resources is monitoring the IT environment and the appropriate skills are at hand - immediately.
So what investment is required to set up remote support and monitoring? All that is needed is a dedicated server. However, as impetus grows with regard to adoption of various cloud computing models, a capital investment might not even be necessary as companies can leverage the benefits of a pay-as-you-use model.
If you already have an outsource provider handling your IT support and maintenance, you may think you already have remote support. The answer is quite simply "no". Many outsource service providers only offer on-site support.
Although remote support and monitoring has many benefits, it is important to understand that this type of support complements on-site support. Without onsite-support, the outsource provider would never be able to forge the relationship that face-to-face interaction enables. In addition, onsite support allows the outsource service provider to gain a deeper understanding of the company culture whilst keeping a finger on the pulse of the business.
This allows the outsource provider to integrate seamlessly with the company, creating a better 'fit'.
Therefore, in light of the above benefits of remote monitoring and support, businesses should look towards augmenting their onsite outsource contract with this type of service. The time to consider is now.
About RDB Consulting
Established in 1995, RDB Consulting is an outsourcing and consulting company that specialises in four areas: Relational databases, Operating Systems, Monitoring and Enterprise Resource Planning. The organisation also offers project management, solutions architecture, and on-going maintenance and support. Our services are designed to provide businesses access to expert technical resources, whether full time, part time, co-managed or via remote administration. This allows companies to focus on their 'core' business and leave their ICT issues to the experts.
Business Intelligence (BI) is touted as the enabler of sound business decisions through the use of accurate reports. However, the high failure rate of BI implementations over the years shows that simply incorporating BI into the organisation and producing reports is not a 'silver bullet'.
Fundamental to the success of a BI project is the quality of the data, and if businesses do not address Data Quality (DQ), it is akin to putting the cart before the horse. DQ tools are therefore an imperative for organisations that are embarking on a BI project as well as those companies that have already implemented a BI solution but are not yielding the expected results.
When an organisation has a BI solution in place, CEOs and decision makers are led to believe they are making decisions based on fact, when often the reports show only a version of the truth that may be inaccurate or have been manipulated. The reality is that quality data is vital in making quality business decisions. It is very well having a highly sophisticated BI solution that generates reams of reports for businesses to base decisions on, but if the data these reports are generated from is poor, the reports will be correspondingly poor and bad decisions are likely to be made.
While the failure of BI may be attributed to a number of factors, research shows that poor data quality is the major contributor towards the high incidence of failed BI implementations. This has led to a growing trend for organisations to begin looking at (DQ) solutions in their own right, rather than simply as part of the overarching BI system or as an add-on solution.
Historically DQ budgets have been spent on manual, unrepeatable processes, which fail to yield on-going improvements and leads to a lack of understanding from business as to why money needs to be spent in this area.
The decisions makers also do not realise that business problems can be a result of data problems, since data is technical and belongs to Information Technology (IT). The relationship between data and business processes has not been clearly understood. However, all business processes rely on data.
Poor data quality is often hidden from the business, since IT will spend vast amounts of time and money producing results that business can make sense of in the form of reports, but the information contained in reports may not bear a complete resemblance to the underlying data. Business assumes that reporting is based on correct, quality data, but this may not always be the case.
The recent partnership between Qlikview, a BI vendor, and Trillium Software, a specialist best-of-breed DQ solutions provider, highlights a growing trend for BI vendors to incorporate comprehensive data quality software as part of a complete BI offering, due to growing customer demand. Decision makers are now realising the connection, and are beginning to understand the need for better quality data in order to drive better decision making.
The implications of poor data quality are highly dependent on the particular business, but since every critical business process relies on data from the supply chain to credit risk to invoicing and so on, the effectiveness of these processes relies on accurate underlying data. For example, if the data received for invoicing is incorrect then incorrect invoices will be issued.
This results in poor collections and has a negative impact on the company's reputation. Even legitimate invoices may be queried or have delayed payment, resulting in cashflow problems and the massive, unnecessary expense of resolving each query. Therefore, poor data quality can introduce a host of problems to any organisation including risk, financial and damage to the organisation's reputation.
When it comes to DQ, there are two paths a business can take. The company can either accept poor quality data, or implement a sustainable, repeatable and auditable solution that ensures data is captured 'right' the first time, managing DQ proactively and preventing quality issues before they become problems. DQ solutions should be selected much like any other business critical tool, based on its ability to solve your specific business problem.
This means that you should evaluate data quality solutions in their own right, just as you would evaluate any other critical infrastructure. You should consider both technical aspects - such as the ability of the solution to integrate to your data sources, and to support both batch and real time data cleansing - and business aspects. Other questions that should be asked
include: does the platform provide a quick start in the form of pre-packaged knowledge of your data? Does the vendor bring data management experience to the table or are they simply dropping a product that is not their core focus?
The importance of DQ quality is a growing trend within the BI space, as highlighted by the fact that pure play DQ vendors such as Trillium have seen impressive growth in Europe and the USA, even in the grips of a massive recession. While South Africa tends to lag behind the technology curve, the
2011 ITWeb BI Survey shows that a quarter of all respondents have cited data quality as a reason for the failure of BI. While only 10% of the respondents stated that a DQ solution was on the cards, we are beginning to see investment into best-of-breed DQ solutions in the country, particularly within financial services, and following international trends, we can expect growth in this space in the next few years.
About Master Data Management
Master Data Management (MDM) provides specialist solutions for data governance, data quality, data integration and MDM. Leveraging the international expertise of its vendors, including Harte-Hanks Trillium, Panviva, Varonis and Expressor Software, MDM has provided solutions for clients in financial services, government, mining and telecommunications.
As the single point for the clearing of all cheques and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transactions in the country, the Central Bank of Kenya clearing house can ill afford any database downtime. Sybrin Systems teamed up with RDB Consulting to deliver high availability and uptime with Oracle's Standard Linux database and fully redundant servers.
Sybrin Systems, a company that specialises in payment processing solutions, mainly across Africa, was awarded the contract, adding to their high profile client portfolio. The solution involved 41 banks using Sybrin Systems'
Client Participation Module, providing an interface to their Central Bank Clearing Module, running off high end clustered servers with Oracle's
Standard 11g database. Sybrin Systems enlisted Oracle experts, RDB
Consulting, to assist with the server configuration aspect of the project.
Sybrin Systems, with the assistance of RDB Consulting, delivered the required solution, ensuring that the Central Bank of Kenya's clearing house continues to function smoothly and seamlessly, since going 'live' on 17 October 2011.
"The challenge we faced with Oracle's database was squeezing maximum functionality out of an Oracle Standard configuration (due to the customer's budget), using scripting and special configurations to provide the required level of redundancy to satisfy the client's requirements. Oracle Enterprise, on the contrary, comes standard with such functionality," says Brendon Paul, Director of Sybrin Systems.
"This required a highly specialist skill, and at that particular point in time we didn't have the correct resource available, so we called on RDB Consulting to provide the expertise required on demand. RDB Consulting has a solid reputation for excellence and came highly recommended by Oracle, so they were the natural choice for the Oracle configuration component of the project," he adds.
The implementation was not a straightforward one, as the servers could not simply be installed. Coding needed to be written to deliver live backups from the database to the data recovery site. RDB Consulting delivered the scripting required to achieve the necessary redundancy coded into the system, linking the live server with the backup server at the live site as well as the server at the data recovery site, providing high levels of failover to ensure maximum uptime even in the event of a problem.
"Sybrin Systems had already provided the hardware and software, so our skills were needed on the testing and implementation phases of the server configurations. As a first phase, RDB Consulting created a stable server environment in South Africa for Sybrin Systems to test the system on. Once testing was completed, the servers were shipped to Kenya, then put through exhaustive redundancy tests and thereafter stabilised before going 'live',"
says Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting.
"The configuration delivered by RDB Consulting is in line with best practice and recommendations from Oracle, and was designed to provide the necessary high availability found in a Data Guard installation, so that if one node fails, it can fail over seamlessly to another synchronised node without affecting service. We have also signed a six month support contract to provide monitoring and remote maintenance to ensure maximum uptime is achieved at all times," he adds.
Thanks to a team effort on the part of Sybrin Systems and RDB Consulting, the Central Bank of Kenya has greatly reduced the risks associated with downtime on the clearing system. The site went live without a hitch, and there have been no problems with the implementation or configuration to date.