A top priority for every major telecom provider is bringing new services to market more quickly, but many of their internal organizations are designed for anything but speed. One notable exception to that rule is the carrier solutions group at Windstream, which recently reorganized its operation to include a dedicated IT development team. (See Windstream Launches New Carrier Solutions Portal .)
That approach had an almost immediate payoff when Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) this week announced a customer portal for its wholesale business, about 10 months after it was first conceived. Building on previous work done on its voice-over-IP (VoIP) service, Windstream now offers a Carrier Solutions Portal that allows its wholesale customers to price offers, submit orders and manage those orders seamlessly and efficiently through a single interface, designed for simplicity of use.
The portal is a response to customer demand for a simpler way to price and order wholesale circuits and a means of pulling together multiple systems that Windstream previously operated, which would have required the classic "swivel chair" movement between pricing and ordering systems.
"I had a small separate IT development team dedicated to carriers and we have a separate product market/management group, and a business process group that includes both IT and engineering," says John Nishimoto, VP-Business Development for carrier sales at Windstream.
The product marketing and management team outlined what they wanted in a carrier solutions portal, the business process group translated that into "geek speak," he says, and the IT team took it from there.
The business group and the IT developers worked together, he says, to create a human interface that is intuitive: "It is as simple and logical as possible and not an engineering project," he says.
The initial effort was then debuted for Windstream sales and their feedback was incorporated, and subsequently rolled out for beta customers, whose feedback also helped improve the final product.
"It was an iterative process," Nishimoto recalls. "And because we have our own IT group, we can incorporate the changes and try things out very quickly. We can't think of everything -- getting that feedback and being able to turn it around and respond is our advantage."
The portal is considered a competitive tool but it has other advantages as well, including a cleaner ordering process based on automation that eliminates human errors, faster time to market (and revenue) for services and more immediate access for customers to expansions in capacity or extensions in footprint. In the latter case, any change in inventory can be added and immediately reflected in what customers see and can order.
Windstream had gone through a company-wide engineering effort to clean up and consolidate the company's many acquisitions -- 10 in the last nine years -- and to rationalize its different local footprints with the longhaul core network backbone the company built to connect them. That larger system inventory process is ongoing, but this portal sits on top of all of that and abstracts the complexity for Windstream's wholesale customers.
The portal reflects Windstream's move to more standardized pricing and away from what Nishimoto calls "ICB" or individual case basis pricing, another change the company's customers had sought.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading