Today I want to talk about one of the guiding principles of modernization: Automation. When I talk about automation, I’m specifically talking about administration automation. At first, it would seem like this is mostly about making life easier for the administrators—and yes, that’s part of it. However, there’s actually a lot of business value that goes along with this type of automation. Let’s take a look at the benefits from the lens of the different stakeholders.
The reality is that typical IT organizations tends to focus on cost savings, letting business value suffer if needed. But as a minimum, it’s a “do more with less” kind of philosophy. So, automation is a no-brainer way to provide that. What used to be a time-consuming process to onboard a new user can be done with just a couple of simple steps.
For example, at ConvergeOne, when a new user gets hired, HR kicks off the onboarding process with a series of tickets to various organizations to get the user set up. With the Avaya System Manager LDAP Synchronization, User Provisioning Rules, and Profile Templates that have been created, our admin team simply finds an available phone number, goes into Active Directory, and plugs that E.164 number into their account, puts the name of the User Provisioning Rule that we want applied to the “Pager” field (because no one uses a pager, it’s available for us to use), and assigns them to an “Avaya Users” AD group. They prepare some onboarding emails, ship out a hard telephone if the user wants one, and are done!
That night, at 11:05 p.m. Eastern, our Avaya System Manager synchronizes with Active Directory, applying any changes/updates to users, and builds any new user profiles and stations that are needed. Done! The setup and configuration of the hard telephone is automated through DHCP (if in a ConvergeOne building) or via DES (Device Enrollment Services) if at home. We use SAML Single Sign On wherever possible to make it easier for the end user to not have to remember passwords and let us maintain compliance with our requirement of providing Multi Factor authentication. And we use our very own PasswordPro to let the end users administer their own Phone Passwords (since Avaya doesn’t support SSO for their hardphones). All of this gives our administrators more time to focus on user experience and innovation.
Here, I’m specifically thinking of supportability of end users. When an end user runs into a problem, it’s generally a lot of work to dig into what could be causing the issue. It could be network issues, it could be adjunct issues, it could be PC issues, it could even be user error, etc. Bottom line is that it could be a lot of things.
The first step is to rule out user error. Is it working as designed or expected? If not, then the troubleshooting begins. Troubleshooting is all about eliminating possibilities. Engineers get pretty good at dividing up a solution to rule out certain things. In my head, I first look to gauge how widespread the issue is. Is it one user, or are a lot of users affected? A lot of users with the same issue points me to look at major outages of the involved components. However, when a single user is presenting an issue (and I’ve confirmed it isn’t a widespread issue), I shift into verifying the configuration of the individual user. I inevitably find that the user is configured incorrectly. The root cause could certainly be that something got changed when it shouldn’t have been, but that’s rare. More commonly, I find that the user was created incorrectly, or “not consistent with our standard model.”
The automation we’ve put in place eliminates that possibility completely. Every user is created exactly the way we need them to be to function within our environment. There’s no chance of a mistake because the process was fully automated with various provisioning templates. When we want to add a new functionality (like when we added the O365 Exchange Collector to our Avaya Presence server, to not just let our end users know when someone was “Busy” in a meeting, but also to tell them when that user will become next available), we didn’t have to go touch 1,400 users to let the system know which Exchange mailbox was assigned to each user. We simply changed one of the templates and it was immediately applied to all our users at the next LDAP sync.
We all know that you don’t just flip a toggle switch to magically turn on security. Security is a layered approach with a lot of overlapping (and non-overlapping) components and configurations. A fundamental piece of security is user permissions. It’s literally what tells the system what that user is allowed to do or not allowed to do.
I’ve gotten brought into my fair share of customer conversations trying to figure out exactly how/why they got hacked. There are a LOT of things that can go wrong, but oftentimes, it’s related to the misconfiguration of a single user or group of users. The last hack I investigated was the result of a combination of having predictable passwords on end-users’ phones—making it easy for a hacker to guess—and the fact that the hacker found a user who had an incorrect “Class of Restriction” assigned, giving them free reign of the system’s dialing access (which led to the toll fraud). It was determined that one of their new administrators created the user with this COR because they thought that was the correct one to use. ConvergeOne’s PasswordPro solved the password compliance issue, and System Manager’s automation solved the issue related to ensuring that new users get created with the correct permissions every time!
Again, there are a lot of reasons to automate technical processes. Everyone benefits from it. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, even end users benefit from it. Just keep in mind, they won’t specifically ask for automation; all they’re looking for is an easy end-user experience. For example, end users and consumers of a Contact Center want automation so that their experience is “accurate and timely.” They want you to do your job faster and get it done right the first time, so that they can consume the services that you are offering them. Whether they’re consuming customer support or the use of a new application or productivity tool, then just want it to work. Now. Automation lets you do that with significantly reduced effort and complexity.
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