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Deeper analysis of VoIP

Going above and beyond

Posted by tggokul on September 18, 2008

Disclaimer : What I have expressed in this post are not views but rather questions that I don’t have answers for. This post was triggered by something that I happened to witness recently.

Two guys X and Y are working on something and they come to a point where there is an external dependency which “Z” has to be fulfil. Due to unavoidable circumstances, Z is not available and if they have to continue X and Y would have to do something that they are not familiar with or something they don’t want to do. Without this activity getting completed, they cannot go about doing their work. They have an option. Either of them or both of them combined could do this work (assuming they know how to do this) or they could raise it to the person who is supposedly responsible for making Z available. X says that they need to do the first option, Y says that it is not his job and walks off.

Question No. 1 : Who did the right thing?

The first impression would be that Y was not being a team player and walked off when he could have assisted X. X went above and beyond the call of duty. Now a small twist, what if Y is extermely competent if not the best person to do the job he is doing? What if he is extremely diligent in the work he has been assigned to and would never rest till his job gets done? Would you call him a person who walked away? He goes above and beyond in what he does, is it really wrong to walk away when he is asked to do things which do not fall under the realm of his responsibility?

What is team work? Is it doing your job well and assisting people when they are having problems or is it filling in for another person when the situation demands? Isn’t Y in some sense being extremely professional? I am not sure how many people reading this post actually follow football (Americal football,NFL). It is supposed to be the best example of team work. And you know where is the emphasis? Making sure the specific player does his assigment ( or his job) the right way? A linebacker’s single goal is to mark a receiever/Running Back and stick with him. History shows that people who botch their assignments the least are the all time greats.

So doing your job well and making sure the team does not stutter on your behalf, isn’t that not teamwork? Does a person have to go above and beyond to prove what a valuable asset he is? Have we all started expecting “above and beyond”? Is “above and beyond” the new average? The biggest problem with over achievers has been that they expect the same from others.

Let’s say that the same X and Y were working for company A and they are delivering a project to customer B. The services that A offered were for 10 days but both X and Y went above and beyond and completed the task in 5 days. Company A is very happy since its employees went above and beyond. Now lets say customer B asks X and Y whether they could do something extra since their business requires it. X goes above and beyond and does it without charging the customer. Customer B is happy and maybe even company A since it has got a satisfied customer. Now lets say that Customer B comes up with these requests 5 more times and X has fulfilled all of them without charging anything extra. As far as customer B is concerned, X has gone above and beyond, but I can see company A fuming since they are not getting paid for the services. I am sure company A would ask X to tone it down. Y on the other hand would have refused to do anything extra because it did not fall under his scope of work. He might not have a good rapport with customer B, but isn’t he actually helping company A?

As a company it is equally dangerous to over-deliver as much as it is to under-deliver. Who is the more professional here? X or Y?  Some time ago, I was involved in the project where there was this large System Integrator, a huge MNC product company and a small Indian services company ( I will not disclose which team I was in 🙂 ). The System integrator was putting together the product of the MNC company and was using the services of the smaller Indian company. There was a meeting on a Sunday where the progress of the project was supposed to be discussed and the system integrator asked the engineers from the MNC as well as the small company to come for that. The senior engineer from the MNC said that it was not his job and the Single Point of Contact from his company ( A program manager) would be there. The large System Integrator could do nothing about this. The entire team was filled with Indians other than that Senior Engineer who was a Caucasian. When he refused, the entire team including senior management in the System Integrator team accepted that the guy was being professional and everybody seemed to accept that.

Fast forward couple of weeks from then. A similar meeting was arranged and a senior engineer from the smaller Indian services company refused to attend the meeting citing personal reasons. This was escalated to very senior levels and this person was branded as a non Team-player.

So is this differentiation based on culture? Is it ok if a caucasian does this but not an Indian? Was this differentiation made because of the size of the companies? We will never know.

It has been a long rant and I know I have raised a lot of questions. My gut feel is that there are no right answers. What do you think?

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

God has the world’s best business plan!!!

Posted by tggokul on September 18, 2008

I want to be God.

Let’s take an example of a company which has a whole lot of customers and loyalists. The company provides 50% of the time expected results and rest 50% treats them like crap and these customers wish they were dead. Now would a company like that be in business in today’s world?

There is and it is run by “God”. How many times have I pleaded with him for better results? How many times I have waited in line to reach an agent? His customer service sucks. Yet I don’t even think of leaving him. But then what are my choices? The competitor ain’t too great. While God demands an arm and a leg ( and in the special case of Adam a “rib”), the damn Devil wants my soul.

So now you know why I want to be God. He has got the world’s best business plan and retention strategy 🙂

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This one is for my bosses!!!

Posted by tggokul on September 4, 2008

TMC reports that VoIP salaries are up.

I am into Unified Communications which is supposed to be the mother of VoIP which I translate as even more salary hike. Bosses, I am not saying anything. Blame the industry. It is them who are asking you to pay me more 🙂

Posted in VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

IP Termination is just a myth

Posted by tggokul on August 28, 2008

There seems be a lot of hype going around of late about how IP Termination is about to get legal in India. I had to wake up from my slumber and respond to this in my blog. Let me make myself clear. I am not brushing this announcement because I am not convinced about this, but to temper expectations. I heard people saying things like there are no more restrictions to terminate calls originated on IP to PSTN lines and I want to say how far from the truth we are.

My first reaction to this announcement was cynicism since TRAI had recommended this 3 years ago as well and the telecom operators convinced DoT to reject TRAI’s suggestion.This is a similar recommendation that has again been placed before DoT.

What the news clippings suggest is the rosy picture. What they don’t say is that all the Telecom operators have already filed a lawsuit that will prevent this from becoming a law. The reason is simple. These Telecom providers have paid 1650 crores each to get these licenses and the new Internet Service providers are paying 0. What the telecom operators are asking for is for a leveling field. Which means the following, if the new ISPs want to play this game they have to pay the same amount for the licenses or if DoT wants to go ahead and implement this TRAI recommendation, they would need to give these licenses to the existing operators. I know for sure Airtel is atleast ready to do this.

Sadly to say, there will not be any impact whatsoever in the way we communicate in the near future. And even in the distant future what I see is, IP calls landing on the PSTN would be permitted, only if the current telecom providers (namely Airtel, Reliance) are also the ISPs. That is how I see it.

So if somebody says that all is well in this world of “Walled garden” ask them to wake up and smell the coffee. But I have hope that this might happen and I have stated the reason in one of my earlier post as well. This can become a reality only when the players feel that they are playing the same field and ADC has to go for that.

Posted in General, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | 8 Comments »

Where Cisco needs to get it right.

Posted by tggokul on July 8, 2008

When you just think that Cisco has almost got it right and is slowly moving from a product based company to a more solution oriented company, they come up with something called CUAE (Cisco Unified Application Environment). Ok, it has been around for sometime but my experiences are pretty recent.

Trust me when I say, they have the right idea but serious introspection needs to be done on the end result. Let me explain for guys not familiar with CUAE. With Cisco betting big on the Unified Communication space, it was a logical step for them to develop an application development environment to build and deploy unified communication applications rapidly. Good thought, you would say. This CUAE is an application server that would be deployed in production and the deployed applications could enrich the UC suite.

I remember the days when we use to write applications on the Cisco IP Phones using standard XML and sometimes J2ME. So we were thrilled to hear about CUAE. We we started installing it, and it was a nightmare. There are two kinds of people ( differentiated by their skill set) in the Cisco world. NCE or Network Consultation Engineers whose primary responsibility would be to install and deploy the network elements and the ACEs, the application consultation engineers who would write applications on top of it.

The installation of the CUAE is so difficult an ACE would not be able to do it on his own and would require the help of an NCE. That is a flaw right there. A person should be able to install the environment he needs to use. Now think about it, lets say that an end customer would require some UC applications delivered very fast. The ACEs would write the applications, but to deploy it would require an NCE. Which pretty much means the partner company that is writing these applications need to have Network skills as well, which is pretty bizzarre. The cost would be high and the very premise of low cost/quick deployment model goes for a toss.

We are trying to get a database access plugin to work for the last three days and we just haven’t been able to do it.There are no trouble shooting documents/help forums available and needless to say, I am very disappointed with CUAE. This is how disappointed I am, I am in half a mind to throw this off and get back to XML programming. That is how bad it is.

It is not very often you see Cisco/bad in the same line, but CUAE seems to fit that bill very nicely.

Posted in Cisco | 1 Comment »

When plain old whacking works!!!

Posted by tggokul on June 27, 2008

I am a firm believer that machines are becoming more like people because of the amount of interactions that take place between Humans and machines has become multi-fold. OK, I accept I sound like a nut. But check this out.

MY four month old DSC-T70 Sony Digital Camera, started giving me some problems. Whenever I switched on the camera, I got the error E:61:00 and I couldn’t take pictures at all. There was no mention of that in the Manual other than the fact that it was an “out of focus” error and has to be given for servicing. I decided to see what others though about this problem and I reached this site.

The fix for this problem was a simple giving a whack to the camera. I honestly thought this was a prank being played but their seemed to alteast 50-60 people who seemed to have done it. I decided to try it out ( since it was anyway under warranty) and couple of smacks later (whacked it on the back of a book), the error went away and it as good as new!! In fact it could be my imagination. I think the clarity is better as well!!

Now you tell me, aren’t machines becoming more like humans?

Posted in General | 19 Comments »

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!!

Posted by tggokul on June 20, 2008

Here is a company ( we shall call “X”) that is an outbound call center mostly for Indian companies. They were on a certain outbound solution and decided that though it was a very good solution, it was not cost effective when they wanted to grow into a 3000-5000 seater. For every seat, they had to pay for a license which increased their TCO. So they decided to go with the Outbound Solution of another (2nd ) vendor. This was last November time frame.

The second vendor’s outbound solution would take sometime to be ordered,shipped and installed. So this “X” decided to go with a third vendor, who had a very cheap solution, quick to install and go live on production. This was a stop gap arrangement till the second vendor’s solution could be fully installed. Now the third vendor had given some hardware specifications for the expected load and the hardware was slightly expensive. “X” rationalized that since they were going the second vendor way in the near future, and the current solution was only a stop-gap arrangement, decided to use some cheap servers instead of the suggested servers.

Needless to say, the six months ‘X” ran with the third solution was a miserable experience for both “X” as well as the third vendor. There were performance issues, late night crashes, lack of stability. “X” finally went to the second solution early June and were relieved that they didn’t have to go through the mess. They bad mouthed the third solution and the damage was done.

Now, who is to blame. The third solution would have been perfect had it been run on the hardware that had been suggested. Was company “X” to be blamed for going cheap? Was it the mistake of the third vendor not to have put his foot down and say that “X” had to run in that specific hardware. To be honest “X” got what it wanted and wouldn’t care about what happened to third vendor. The third vendor would have to build its reputation all over again.

There is a popular saying “Whether you put cloth to a knife or knife to a cloth, it is always the cloth that gets torn”. It was the vendor’s mistake and it was its responsibility to have set the expectations right with “X” that they are paying peanuts and they will get only monkeys!!!

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Who is going to buyout Avaya?

Posted by tggokul on June 11, 2008

By now, the storm of Lou stepping down as CEO has passed over. Yet the question still remains. What is going to happen to Avaya that was bought over by SilverLake partners just over a year ago.

I have been hearing from different sources that top guys ( one was even close to Lou) are being let go and this would only mean that Avaya is going to be sold to the topmost bidder. Either as a whole entity or after splitting them into different entities.

Interestingly though, there are two names that are being floated as possible buyers. One is Cisco ( is there any deal in the world, where their name is not flouted?) and the other is very surprisingly Nuance. I can understand why Cisco’s name is prominent. The interim CEO who is taking over from Lou is none other than Charles Giancarlo, a prominent ex-Ciscoian. 

Nuance is trying to enter the PBX/ACD world to further stabilize their speech market and this would be a logical step. Microsoft and upto some extent IBM are developing Speech engines and the only way for Nuance to continue their stranglehold would be to enter the PBX sector as well.Nortel seemed a little interested a year ago, but with their current state of affairs would not be brave enough to venture in this.

One thing is sure. The face of Avaya would change in the next couple of months.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 2 Comments »

Am Back

Posted by tggokul on May 15, 2008

Am back after a tiring yet very productive two week visit. I did not get a chance to go anywhere and was in Princeton for most parts of the two weeks. I had a chance to visit Londin during Transit and though the transportation ( Tube, Trains, Buses) looks overwhelming at the beginning, it actual is a very simple system and easy to understand.

Needless to say, I still prefer US over Europe and the casual attitude of the Americans never cease to amaze me. Krisy Creme and Dunkin Donuts still rock and Best Buy/Staples are as cool as ever ( wow, does that make me nerdy?) and Telecom Service providers are as closed as ever 🙂

I did not buy anything fancy other than a Sony Headset and am pretty impressed with it already. I was itching to buy an iPhone but considering it is still not supported officially in India, I had to let it pass. I am hearing that Sep 1st, Airtel is going to support it, but then haven’t they been saying this for like a gazillion years already.

Oh,oh, before I forget, I learnt poker and am already hooked. Lost some money, but hey who cares. It is all part of getting the “007” Persona 🙂

Now back to serious work.

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Travelling to the US

Posted by tggokul on April 17, 2008

I am on official travel to US starting next Thursday and I will be there for couple of weeks ( from Apr 28th to May 9th). I will be in the New Jersey/New York region. Drop me a note if you want to meet.

It has been nearly five years since I left the shores of US to come back to india for good and can’t believe it has been that long. It just feels like yesterday. Was never a fan of New York and liked the calm of Florida more, but I hope to re-discover the “Yorker” spirit and hey I might even like it this time around 🙂

Posted in General | 3 Comments »