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KM opens and smooths lines of communications for telcoms --Searching the (virtual) yellow pages for solutions

This article appears in the issue January 2000 [Volume 9, Issue 1]


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The volume and diversity of data with which the highly competitive, deregulated telecommunications industry must grapple have sent telcoms searching for solutions.

Engineering documents, customer service information, billing and payroll data, disparate information from merging companies and merging infrastructures all place demands on telcoms that must be handled quickly and accurately to gain new customers and keep existing customers satisfied.

Primus Telecommunications used to need 16 business days to connect new customers to its networks. As a result, the global communications company was losing more than 30% of its orders to competitors.

Many customers did not want to wait or changed their minds before installations were complete. They became impatient when they couldn't check on their order status or when one part of the company had no record of what another part was supposed to be doing. No one system or department was responsible for all aspects of order management. Each business unit had been managing data in a slightly different way, creating many opportunities for miscommunication and mistakes.

The company did not have a central repository for all customer interactions. Individual departments did not have the capabilities to track customers' orders, respond to inquiries or account for delays. And a series of acquisitions only compounded the problems of integrating disparate systems, hindering Primus' anticipated growth.

Primus realized it needed to fix its order management problems and reduce the time it took to fill customer orders, said Jordan Darrow, VP of Investor Relations with the Primus Telecommunications Group.

The company began to look for a solution that would leverage the Web, connect various shared information repositories throughout the organization, and interconnect newly acquired business units. Eventually Primus wanted to extend connections to various external business partners, transforming its intranet into an extranet.

Primus eventually chose SpaceWorks , a Web-centric, e-business solution, to automate all aspects of ordering, including marketing and selling, order tracking and fulfillment, and to support a community of selling partners.

In its International Consumer Markets division, Primus has expedited all of the business activities related to signing up new customers, checking the status of orders and fulfilling orders through an integrated series of workflow processes.

In the first six months of the system's operation, Primus has cut its order provisioning time in half, Darrow said, reducing it from 16 days to seven. The sales staff has gained the ability to quadruple the number of orders per month, and the overall order volume has doubled. Outside sales groups can now check rates online.

Primus estimates that it is saving more than $500,000 per year in order processing costs, more than $180,000 in fraud prevention, and an additional $120,000 in the prevention of lost orders, according to Darrow. As a result the company recouped its initial investment in the business application in four months.

More important than that, he added, is Primus can manage ordering, processing and telecommunications provisioning activities asstrategic business processes, improving customer satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.

Integrating CAD

For BellSouth Telecommunications , the challenge was to speed its largely manual Outside Plant Engineering Design Systems (OPEDS) process, which involved sharing hard-copy drawings and documents throughout the organization. The information consists of engineering drawings and related documentation, including approval to do the work. The process took 30 to 33 days on average per job to complete.

"The vision was to mechanize the process," said William Carbone Sr., BellSouth manager, "incorporating document management capabilities with workflow and integrating a CAD solution to substantially reduce the end-to-end process time."

BellSouth teamed with Treev to develop the system, which is built on Treev's document management product suite. BellSouth deploys the system in nine southeastern states supporting 6,000 users.

"The primary business concern we addressed by implementing this system," said Carbone, "was reducing cycle times--from completing an engineering work order to providing telecommunication links to the customer."

The system has reduced cycle times, provided secure storage and easy access for electronic documents, and improved efficiency by consolidating and eliminating work procedures."Reducing the average cycle time by 85% to 90% allows us to be more responsive to our customers' needs," he said. "While we continually look for ways to make this system better, it has met our business needs and allowed us to maintain the competitive advantage necessary in this ever-changing industry."

The application went from user requirements to deployment in four months, and return on investment was achieved within 18 months, Carbone said. However, he added that while the application was user friendly, many training issues had to be solved with limited resources. Also, the client-server environment provided logistics challenges (getting environments set up before putting users on the system).


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