Enterprise IT has reached an inflection point: for the first time in memory, innovation in the consumer space is driving user expectations in the corporate world. As consumers, we expect information and control at our fingertips, no matter our location or the time of day. From Uber to Amazon (and countless others), there’s an app for everything—all of them bringing ease, intuitiveness and predictive insights that make the next interaction better than the last.
Those expectations have changed how we work, blurring the digital experience line between our personal and professional lives. The shift to remote work has accelerated this trend. No matter where we are, we expect to interact naturally and spontaneously with our coworkers and our peers, without friction or delay.
Digital experience = customer experience
In the commercial world, “digital experience” is synonymous with “customer experience.” As consumers, we each have our own preferred methods for accessing goods, services, digital assets, even other people. We expect technology to meet us on our terms.
Once you add artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix, our expectations rise even higher. We assume the online services we interact with (like music streaming services and e-commerce sites) will remember our preferences, suggest other things we might want and anticipate what we’ll need in the future—and present it all to us in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
The network IT experience: flying blind or dazzled by data
Of all the people who have had poor digital experiences in their day-to-day working lives, IT managers have had some of the worst.
Traditional enterprise networks come with data centers that host onerous CRM applications, connected by networks that are hard to monitor and maintain without boots on the ground at every location. In this scenario, IT departments have little visibility into their networks. Alerts about outages and bandwidth issues typically come after the fact, often via phone calls from frustrated end-users. IT managers are left flying blind.
With the increase in cloud adoption, more enterprise apps can be accessed from a common browser without the need for complex infrastructure on site. On the network level, software-defined networking enables IT to monitor network activity with an orchestrator. These advances should mean great times for IT teams—except now they’re dealing with a deluge of application, network and service provider intel streaming from multiple channels. IT departments now have lots of data, but not a drop of usable insight.
How to put IT in the driver’s seat with a digital, data-driven experience
With the merging of big data, machine learning, process automation and AI into software-defined networking, it’s possible to make network management and application provisioning easier and more efficient for IT managers. That means greater network efficiencies and better business results.
- Make it informational: Start with a data lake that incorporates information from a variety of sources—including the enterprise voice network, LAN services, core network, ticketing, quoting, security and SaaS providers—and stream it into an insights engine that turns that data into a complete, understandable view of network performance from the highest level to a site-by-site breakdown. IT managers will gain enhanced visibility and control to help them make decisions faster.
- Make it actionable: Taking that pool of data a step further, use it to alert IT managers about any network events they need to take action on. For example, if the system detects a spike in network utilization from an application that doesn’t have any rules applied to it (a common issue with social apps and YouTube), it can recommend that a business policy be applied to that app.
- Make it automated: Send notifications to IT every time a new app is identified, so the IT manager can decide if they want to allow it on the network and set up a business policy for it. Now add machine learning to automate that policy decision for future applications.
- Make it predictive: Use past indicators to identify future results so IT can get ahead of network incidents. Using SD-WAN as an example, if high latency is detected for a particular application, a secondary active-active connection can be pre-activated to avoid a network interruption.
- Now serve it all up in a single pane of glass: Offer that functionality in a web-based portal that combines an orchestrator, a network monitoring system and a direct link to the service provider to create a true single pane of glass—an all-seeing, all-knowing interface that runs the entire network, applications and admin functions. As a bonus, offer the portal in a mobile app as well.
WE Connect: crafting better digital tools for IT
Windstream Enterprise has dedicated the last few years to creating better digital solutions for our customers. The result is WE Connect, our award-winning portal that offers IT leaders and managers a true single pane of glass for network provision and management of all their solutions.
Additionally, we have invested ambitious resources to leverage and incorporate big data into the WE Connect platform to offer actionable, predictive insights to our customers. That investment is paying off. According to Patrick Morton, manager of information technology at Redi Carpet, “these enhancements are AWESOME! Very impressive!”
Like any software-based product, WE Connect is continuously evolving. Windstream Enterprise is building upon and improving the customer experience it delivers and we anticipate releasing more great things in the future.