In my recent blog, I shared my experience on succeeding in Innovation projects and key steps to preparing and assessing for this role. In this blog, I am sharing insights into one such Innovation project which was aimed at automating service delivery.
For over two years at Cisco , I had the opportunity to be a part of a automation initiative aimed at enabling a new service delivery model to Cisco’s global customer base. One way to define automation is the use of control systems to reduce repetitive tasks. The Initiative goals were to bring about – global delivery consistency across Cisco’s core solutions , to avoid duplication of work , to reuse intellectual property and most importantly free-up engineers time to focus more on customer relationships rather than being bogged down in dealing with internal system in-efficiencies and manual reporting.
Problem and the Solution
Everyday, Cisco consulting engineers engages with hundreds of customers across the world helping them design, optimize and operate their Cisco solutions. One of the key deliverable is software code review and recommendation where customer needs advice with either developing an software upgrade strategy through defect analysis or notify them of critical defects affecting their core feature set or simply track software releases with new feature sets. Specific tasks involves fetching defects from various internal systems for a specific target release, analyzing each defect and its impact on the customer feature sets, collaborating with peers for feedback and finally reporting and recommendation to the end customer. This workflow is depicted in the blue arrow in the below diagram.
As one can realize, these tasks are time consuming and manual in nature and creates a high degree of delivery in-consistency in the way Cisco delivers this service to its customers. At the same time, these tasks are highly repeatable in nature which makes it a great candidate for automating.
The automation initiative involved building a new overlay tool called software lifecycle management (refer figure below) with new ‘portal-based’ workflows. The core workflow enabled Cisco consulting engineers to visualize curated data and push targeted code recommendation to the customers. Augmented workflows involved dashboards , critical bug alerts, knowledge sharing, IP capture feature and many more. There was also a new intermediary stage between the Internal IT systems and the automation platform for data curation with the future plan to enable machine learning for these tasks. This new stage capitalized on the repeatability nature of the existing manual approach where the defects are analyzed and curated only once and used by all Cisco engineers. This was a huge productivity gainer.
The automation platform was designed to be cross-architecture (networking, collaboration, security, mobility…) which means that Cisco engineers and customers leverage one platform to analyze, recommend and consume insights on the gamut of Cisco software codes.
As a collaboration architect, my role was to ensure that the collaboration products (unified communications, video and contact center) are fully supported into the new automation platform and eventually our global engineering team is fully leveraging the new workflows from the platform for delivering code reviews for their customers. A great deal of co-ordination between product teams, development and service delivery teams had to take place for this to be successful.
To sum this up, this automation initiative provided customer a digital window to consume services from Cisco and at the same time enabled cost savings and renewed customer relationships with its customers.