iCONX reveals new product enhancements to support the complex and subtle world of routing workflow management.

To paraphrase Bill Gates : the beauty of automation, is that it will always magnify the efficiency of an already efficient process. Sadly, the reverse is also true; for something that doesn’t work right today, then automation will only magnify the problem further. This important insight is at the heart of recent enhancements to the iCONX Routing Optimisation solution, as it deals with the tricky issue of workflow process in a modern carrier environment.

Can’t we just automate everything?

Automation, for the routing management process, tends to focus on a number of areas – be that inputs (of data / by users), outputs (routing plans, reports, alarms), or everything in between (updating and validation of all the essential datasets). In theory, all those parts can be automated. Recognising that automating things is technically possible, but occasionally inadvisable, is important to the workflow management approach.

Automated inputs

In the iCONX architecture, we recognise that many input tasks can be safely automated – an obvious example being the regular importation of essential data such as call events (CDRs) and other variables, such as quality (QoS) measures derived from CDRs. Once routes are configured into the system, then CDRs and other data will flow automatically and the customer need have no more worry other than to monitor that all is well, backed by the reassurance that alarms and alerts will let them know if otherwise.

Semi-automated inputs

When we come to key elements such as prices and codes, the situation gets more interesting. These need to be actively managed, rather than just monitored – and in iCONX we call these ‘System Inputs’. With little or no standardisation worldwide in the formatting of carrier prices and codes, it can be tricky to import these into the routing process. So a technical process needs to exist, in order to efficiently accept and validate the essential carrier reference data upon which routing decisions will depend.

Thanks to clever technical capabilities in its software, iCONX is able to recognise, standardise, and smoothly import such carrier reference data, which sets up a pretty impressive productivity saving against this time-consuming task. However, the full business requirement is much wider than ‘pure import’. Instead of blindly importing a new ratesheet, we need to validate it as well. What if the upload contained dirty data that makes no sense? Even worse, what if it contained data that made perfect sense technically – but brought into our business some changes that we didn’t like? At that point, human beings will rightly switch from enjoying the benefits of automation and revert back to control-mode – aka “don’t change anything without my say-so!

So the iCONX process here is deliberately semi-automated. The system ingests the ratesheets up to a point where they are ready to use, and can be uploaded, but then highlights any parts that don’t make sense. Cleverly, automatic diagnoses are presented to the user – not just for technical mismatch issues (eg. “duplicate” or “unmatched destinations”), but also for business-level issues that you’d want to know about. For instance, a sudden rate change above 25%, say, needs to be noticed. And definitely something we don’t want to be automatically pushed through into routing.

Within iCONX, this and a host of other system activities, such as quality monitoring, are managed according to a semi-automatic logic, which combines the best of both worlds – bringing to you some real efficiency, but balanced by full control over the things that matter.

Manual customisations

There are some types of activity, where it would be unwise to let the system make the decisions for you. These fall under what we call “Business Rules” and will no doubt be unique to each customer’s business and the individuals concerned.

All customers have their own special reasons for excluding a carrier from routing, and so the system’s routing logic may need to be over-ridden. iCONX fully allows you to do that via a rich set of tools to force inclusion, exclusion and overrides.

“In case of disaster, just route it via X”; “Always exclude carriers with an NER below Y”; “I need to define forecast rules that map to our business”. No solution can decide these things for you straight out of the box. The company you work for will have a different view to its competitor of what is right and wrong. However, through the helpful application of automated logic, iCONX again supports the effective decision making of skilled individuals.

In iCONX we can ask the system to define an expected traffic profile based out of real historic data. Or we can ask the system to define appropriate quality thresholds, all by itself, against every destination or breakout – if only to give us an enlightened starting point for the fine-tuning which will take place later. Deliverables such as selling pricelists will always depend on people not software for strategic decisions about margin, special prices and so on. So ultimately, all of these manual customisations are the province of the skilled individual , but the system automation reduces effort, and in time, the unique customisations will also settle down and mature into patterns that can then be converted within iCONX into automated rules which the system can apply on your behalf.

Control freaks make bad users of automation.

Carrier professionals must tread a fine line between using automation to help them understand and deal with immense amounts of data and information, and maintaining their own professional control and workflow authority over the critical decisions that lurk deep inside that data. Do you want to upload new routing plans onto the switch automatically and instantaneously? You certainly can with iCONX, however, it may take a little time to trust the system to that extent. All of that is quite normal, and recognised in the iCONX approach.