Co-authored by : Aparna Mondal
What does product support mean in the context of telecom software?
In a traditional Telecom Tech Product Support model, customer complaints raised either by phone support lines, logging systems or some other means are first analyzed by the Enterprise Support Team. The complaints are then resolved either directly with customer consultations by some configuration changes or routed back to the backend Engineering team for resolution. For any issue resolution, Legacy Telecom Products maintained over the years along with complex and humongous code (running in millions of lines of code) need to be patched and sanity feature tested for many complex scenarios before it is rolled out to customer networks.
Design thinking in context to product support for telecom software
Basic principles of design thinking as reported by Harvard Business Review consist of empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and last but not the least, tolerance for failure. Now, when it comes to product support, these three principles of empathy, prototyping, and tolerance play a major role for telecom software due to the vastness in nature, requirement of improved logging system, number of concurrent users, and number of concurrent failures. A rising demand for better experience mandates several telecom companies to imbibe design thinking in their processes to develop software. The kind of issues reported and the time taken to resolve them from the end user point of view should be provided as input to the next feature development, so that similar issues may be resolved in lesser time.
When it comes to prototyping, it quickly assures the client that something feasible can be done if proper inputs are given to the software system. Tolerance for failure can be improved by providing the end user various options to resolve the issues based on analytics focusing on the kind of issues that happened and the types of solutions provided. Once the basic solutions are tried from the end user point of view, it enables the backend team to work in a better fashion.
Key Improvement opportunities in different Stages
The telecom product support patch submission process undergoes different phases covering issue identification and isolation along with solution recommendation and implementation by the support engineer and then, lastly, release level testing of different feature interaction sanity levels, regression and/or stress testing. Some of the areas where improvements can be targeted by the telecom industry are:
At Tech Support stage,
- anticipate services before they are needed
- ensure reduction in invalid escalations from the customers
- facilitate smarter ticket routing, clustering & assignation to best possible resource
At Engineering Support stage,
- ensure faster triaging and effective bug fix localization and recommendation
- improve Issue isolation and resolution through automation and innovation
- assign the issue to the individual with the right expertise avoiding team conflicts
At Testing/certifying the product patch release stage,
- Resolve recreation problem and verify in limited set of environment
- Improve the resolution accuracy by executing the mandatory test cases, corresponding scripts, environment & test data for validating the changes for this patch
How can we enhance?
- Team collaboration
- In depth knowledge of the overall system can help ascertain the overall scenario in a better fashion.
- One should think at the time of development that the era of unit testing, integration testing, performance testing at the lab ends as soon as code is deployed in the real world scenario. The scale up of the software happens in terms of number of users, concurrent calls, number of switch over of regions, among others. Therefore, how to make the logging system effective needs to be analysed in the design cycle of the software. Brainstorming helps bring out creative ideas from engineers. Someone should ring the bell and that’s it. Others either build ideas on top of it or think of a better idea to compete with the previous one. Healthy competition is anyways beneficial.
- Cognitive product support: Analytics helps in this area to improve billing, contract, performance, and service assurance. It also helps action the solution immediately once a problem is reported. But effective analytics requires the implementation of adaptive software.
Happiness is multiplied if shared. It’s true in the case of telecom product support when the root cause for happiness is shared amongst people. So the key is to share the knowledge and propagate to different teams, thereby expanding the knowledge base. It helps make the test more variant which increases robustness of the software. It trains people at the very initial tech support stage, helping them get acquainted with the product and enabling them to route better and only when needed.
Finally, the adaptive software design from past experiences improves customer satisfaction if the end user equipment is updated with an issue-centric repository, coupled with possible future options.