I had the great pleasure of traveling to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat a month ago for business. I was invited by some really enthusiastic Avayans to come and speak to Avayans, Business Partners, and Avaya customers about how to unlock the value in their Avaya support coverage. This is a topic I’ve been talking a lot about and my first of a 4-part blog series can be found here: http://bit.ly/1MU22tc.
I had a really good time, despite the heat. Yeah, let’s talk about the heat for a moment: 50° C (120° F) is pretty darn hot. So hot that your own breath feels like a cold breeze. Yeah, that was a surprise. And while I’m told that Dubai tends to be a dry heat, while I was there it was quite humid. But there is so much A/C everywhere (even in the subway system) that it wasn’t all that bad. The people and the architecture more than made up for it.
I was able to catch a direct flight out of Boston to Dubai on Emirates, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Just days before the trip, my beautiful wife convinced me that we, and our four kids (6yrs old and younger) should go camping at the cape with our neighbors. We had a great time.
This gave me an excuse to take the Ferry from P-town to Boston which was a great ride.
So, yes, an amazingly comfortable flight to Dubai on Emirates
that left me rested and ready to see the city, both its old architecture
Their mall is famous as it has an aquarium, ice skating rink, and snow ski hill.
But the best sight-seeing was going up the tallest man made structure in the world, the #BurjKhalifa. On the 124th floor, you’re actually outside looking down at the city. When you go to the 125th floor, you’re at 456M (500 yards or a quarter mile) high.
I was impressed with the elevator. It takes only one minute to go from the 124th floor to ground. Check out this video I took on the way down.
Next was a quick dip in the Persian Gulf just down the beach from the Burj Al Arab.
I worked with a lot of great people during this week, who pretty much lived and breathed Avaya alongside me for a week. Check out the views from the Avaya office in Dubai.
We did manage to get some food and laughs in along the way.
The other cool thing about this trip was that two friends of mine happened to be in town on business as well. I met up with Peter, a Duke friend I hadn’t seen since 2002 for drinks, and then later that evening, I had dinner with this wonderful woman, Jenne, who I hadn’t seen since 1997.
A great trip and I think we were successful in convincing some customers and partners to take another look at our toolset, which felt great. I look forward to an excuse to head back out there again.
The following was originally posted at http://www.avaya.com/blogs/archives/2015/02/how-avaya-augments-the-work-of-its-support-engineers.html.
In late January, Microsoft announced a virtual reality project called HoloLens. The reviews of the prototypes have been positive, and I can see why: Virtual reality has been something geeks have been reading about, seeing in movies and TV shows, and dreaming about for years.
While virtual reality systems are not entirely new, what is different this time is that Microsoft is behind it.
While Microsoft may not be known for cutting edge “cool” technologies, they bring something new that may just drive adoption of VR like we’ve never seen before: The enterprise.
The demo of this technology even includes a Skype conversation that appears within the VR goggles and can be “pinned” in virtual space, allowing the wearer to look away as need be. The demo takes this use case even further, by using that video call to help someone do some home repairs. When I saw this, it quickly reminded me of this older video from BMW:
In this video, we watch a mechanic use similar VR goggles for diagnostic assistance in working on a BMW engine. These glasses give the mechanic information on exactly how to do each new step, including the tools and motions for successful completion. Not only does this allow for fast, uniform, and high-quality repairs, but it does so with reduced training of the mechanic, enabling the vendor to provider excellent customer service.
I’ve always found this vision inspiring in my daily work of improving how Avaya Support Engineers do their daily work. How can we build diagnostic tools that augment our engineers (and the engineers working for our certified business partners) by providing them the real-time information they need to quickly identify the root cause of a problem and implement a solution?
Given that most of our work is software, and not hardware, we don’t exactly need Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles, but the mental framework is the same.
Like Microsoft’s home repair example, we know that sometimes you need more than a written or video-based knowledge article; sometimes a fellow human is what you need.
As such, Avaya enabled audio- and video calling between our customers and our engineers as well as enabling our engineers to quickly video call each other to “swarm” around a customer issue. We’ve also built scripts that know what to check on our products and create a red/yellow/green dashboard report for the user so they can quickly scan for known configuration issues.
We’ve found that this not only speeds up the checks our engineers would have done anyway, but also gets them to look at things they might not have thought to.
What’s even faster than speeding up the work an engineer does? Automating the work entirely. We’ve invested years of effort in automating how we handle the alarms our products send, allowing us to handle 85 percent of alarms without any human interaction, drastically improving resolution times and CSAT.
What diagnostics tools do you use in your work? Any you would recommend others use for troubleshooting Avaya products? Or just for doing plumbing or other things we all get involved with from time to time? What do you wish was available to make troubleshooting faster and better?
974 videos, 2,159 subscribers, 272,211 video views – all in just 17 months. Those are the key stats around the Avaya Mentor program, our fast-growing set of how-to YouTube videos for Avaya products that my team and I have been producing.
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the semi-annual Technology Services World (TSW) Conference, hosted by theTechnology Services Industry Association (TSIA) on the Avaya Mentor program, which I had also written about last August. This was a conference focused on services transformation and TSIA asked that I talk about how we at Avaya put together this video knowledge base, including challenges we faced. The breakout session was well attended and so I thought I would share this presentation with you here. Below is a YouTube video of me doing the presentation (not at TSW), which I’ve also summarized, along with more success metrics, for those who prefer to read.
As most of you have heard, the best example of using video to share knowledge is the Khan Academy. This non-profit’s website has a free collection of over 4,000 educational YouTube videos, surrounded by curriculum, quizzes, and incentives like points and badges. The topics range from simple addition, which has 1.7 million views, to the French Revolution with 400,000 views.
Khan makes a point of having its contributors avoid a teacher-at-a-whiteboard approach, opting instead for a style that feels like you’re sitting at a table with a tutor, working through the topic on a piece of paper. This better aligns with the many of us for whom learning is a visual experience. Being able to see how to do something taps into something different in the brain than just reading about it. The intuitive simplicity of this approach has allowed the Khan Academy to eclipse MIT’s own online education system with a total of 260 million views.
Another good example is Jove, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which helps speed up academic research through online video. When an academic team publishes a research paper, they include instructions so that peers can reproduce their experimental results and thus verify the research. Even to experienced lab researchers, understanding exactly what the authors of the research were trying to convey can be difficult, sometimes delaying the peer review process by months. Jove allows them to more easily include videos to demonstrate the procedure.
By this point, I hope you are asking yourself why you aren’t already using video for your knowledge base. Wouldn’t your employees and customers benefit from your company’s own Khan Academy? At Avaya, we found ourselves facing this question in the fall of 2011.
The President of Services challenged those of us in his extended leadership team to make our organization not just be successful in the market, but to be an organization that the analysts would write about. Put another way, it was no longer good enough to be lean and efficient; we needed to take the lead.
Going All In
My proposal was to put together an Avaya version of Khan Academy. We would use video to expand on the company’s existing knowledge-base-focused-support-model. We limited our scope to basic how-to videos designed to help those that install, maintain, and support Avaya products, be they customers, partners, or Avaya employees. These were to be short how-to videos, not anything that would replace the training that Avaya Learning develops.
Like Khan, we would focus on videos that were more live screen capture than talking heads. Additionally, I proposed that unlike Avaya’s existing knowledge base which is only available to our customers with a maintenance agreement, we would make the vast majority of our videos available for free on YouTube. By doing so, search engines like Google would be aware of this content, making it much easier for an engineer to find the answer to an Avaya-related question.
As we got started, getting buy-in from leadership was obviously important. A big part of that was that my team of engineers would need to reprioritize some of our work in order to make time for generating 800 videos in only 9 months. We had great support from Mike Runda, the leader of Avaya Client Services, who gave us the green light to move forward.
The Gear We Got
We evaluated a number of video production software suites and settled on Camtasia Studio. Camtasia gave us great features like the ability to use templates, splice video and audio in, as well as special editing features to highlight or zoom to certain parts of the screen. These licenses ran ~$150. Adding Camtasia required that we upgrade a number of our engineers’ laptops to meet the minimum specs, an upgrade that everyone was excited to have a good reason for.
We also went with a high-quality $80 USB microphone called the Blue Yeti. All in all, that’s about $230 per engineer. We felt it was important to maintain a common look and feel to these videos, so we built a template for Camtasia with legal and branding-approved intros and outros as well as standardizing on things like transitions. Due to our high quality standards, after reviewing the first handful of videos, Avaya’s branding team gave us carte blanche to publish to YouTube without further oversight.
For topic selection, I was lucky to be starting with an amazing team of subject matter experts. Most had no trouble coming up with topics for videos. For those that did get stuck, the engineer would talk with the support engineers to determine the most common repeat scenarios that they encounter and find a way to use these videos to speed up resolution and/or prevent the tickets from being opened in the first place.
As word got out about our videos, we also started receiving requests from internal and external users. We set a limit of 15 minutes for all the videos and encouraged them to be under the 5 minute mark. The length would really depend on the topic, and I would challenge the author of anything over 10 minutes to see if they could break it into more than one smaller video. To give you a feel for our topics, here are six that show off the variety covering hardware, software, different product portfolios, even our own customer-facing tools.
- Setting up the iLO3 Interface on the HP DL360 G7
- How to Setup Avaya Aura Session Manager
- How to reset the System Manager Web Admin Password
- Administering a SIP Trunk in Avaya Aura CM
- How to log in and run reports using the Avaya CMS Supervisor Web feature
- Avaya SAL and the Egress-based Connectivity Model
As the lead for this effort, the most time-consuming part for me was the review and approval process. It was very important to me that we has a very high quality product and thus I personally reviewed each and every one, sending back to the author a list of changes that I wanted to see. The bar was set high and a single review could easily take me half an hour.
To help reduce the number of errors, I would frequently share an updated list of common problems I was encountering. This was important as some had a harder time with the learning curve than others, encountering more than 20 issues per submittal, and multiple submittals of the same video. It is worth noting though that while everyone got much better at it with time; some were submitting perfect videos on day 1 while others never quite got there. Some of my engineers were frustrated with me as they felt the bar was set too high for quality. If I heard any extra noise in the background, or if a transition wasn’t crisp, I’d send it back.
But our users noticed that quality and complimented us on it. I feel it was important to our success. After three months, I delegated the approval process to one of my top engineers, Bhavya Reddy. She was one of the best at producing error-free videos and thus I knew she could maintain our quality. Here’s her video on setting up Avaya Aura Session Manager, which has garnered more than 6,200 views.
After six more months, Bhavya transitioned this role to the company’s formal knowledge management team where it could be better integrated into the other KM processes. This is important as we made sure we always dual-published all YouTube videos to the standard knowledge base by embedding the YouTube video in an article. This helped us ensure that our users could trust that a search ofhttp://support.avaya.com would return everything. The videos that were deemed proprietary were uploaded to an internal server instead of YouTube and published as internal-only articles in the existing knowledgebase.
Getting the Word Out
Building a knowledge base, or any tools, is pointless if you can’t get user adoption. I felt it important to delay the initial announcement until we had the first 100 videos published. I was concerned if someone came to the site and only saw 5 videos, they might never return.
So once we reached 100 videos, I had the President of Services announce the program internally, followed by similar announcements in external communications to our partners and customers. To reinforce this in a more detailed way, I blogged about it on our corporate site wrote as well as created a Twitter account for Avaya Mentor, allowing people to receive tweets when new videos are uploaded.
At last year’s Avaya’s User’s Conference in Boston, myself and others passed out materials to all the customers and partners we met with, be it at the conference center itself, or in a bar later in the evening. The IAUGgroup was actually so impressed with the program that they helped with advertising on all the plasma screens throughout the conference center. We’ve also partnered with the product documentation teams to include references to our program directly in the product documentation.
With 16 months now under our belt, I thought I would share with you some of the measurable success we have had with the program. As I mentioned earlier, we have published nearly 1,000 videos on YouTube which have been watched more than 270,000 times.
While the U.S. provides our largest set of viewers, I’m happy to say that we are in 196 distinct geographies. What our support folks are most excited about is that we’re at 1,100 hours of video viewing per month which equates to about 10 full-time equivalents of people, which we figure equates to at least 3 FTE of labor avoidance.
But perhaps the most interesting metric is that we are seeing significantly more views per article than Avaya’s text-based articles. Now, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison given that we used some of the company’s most knowledgeable resources and posted our content publicly. However, I still think it is clear that video-enabled content is that much more compelling than text alone.
Three Unexpected Benefits
There are many surprising results from the Avaya Mentor project. The most exciting one for me as a manager was the impact to my employees. At first, I had some resistance from some of my engineers. They were not yet convinced of the value of these videos and combined with the steep learning curve and high quality expectations, some folks just weren’t interested. However, after the good press started, with people directly contacting these authors thanking them for their videos, they came around to its value.
I also saw increase in their self-confidence, which is typical after demonstrating how-to do something to others. Having those people publicly thank you helps a ton, too. Our most popular video is actually about setting up an interface on an HP server – it has gotten more than 19,000 views! This video was created because many of our applications are sold with this server and this configuration is important. What we didn’t expect is that non-Avaya people would find it valuable to their usage of the same HP servers. I’ve found our video embedded in a variety of websites out there, having nothing to do with Avaya.
The last surprise was discovering that a business partner pirated a few of our videos and re-uploaded them to YouTube and other sites, touting them as their own. This is something Avaya typically doesn’t care about as our videos tend to be marketing-based. The upside of this is that the message is getting out to more and more people. What makes me nervous is that if we find a problem with a video and need to take it down and re-release it, this partner likely won’t see that and bad information will continue to float around.
We’ve received great feedback from our users of the program. We get these comments on YouTube, Twitter, and via email. Sometimes we get suggestions for new videos to create, product support questions, or just encouraging statements like the ones shown here. As mentioned previously, feedback like this is very encouraging to our engineers.
I want to thank my team who helped make this program a success. We dedicated at least a third of our time for nine months building this program up and it was no small feat. I’m proud to say that Avaya has recognized all of them with well-deserved awards.