Essential Skills for Today’s Unified Communications Operations Staff

December 2, 2011 - 0 Comments

Just a decade ago, supporting enterprise voice services was simpler, our voice operations support scope was smaller, and one person could be proficient in everything you needed to know for voice operations. But as IP telephony capabilities grew into Unified Communications, the skills our engineers had to be proficient in grew exponentially.

Today, we support UC systems and collaboration platforms, both on traditional hardware and now on virtualized server platforms (Cisco UCS). We still support phones and softphones, but now we also support mobility services, video phones and mobile devices like the Cisco Cius, voice and video conferencing, menus of phone-based services, and ever-more sophisticated customer support tools in our contact centers. There are now so many things within the scope of the UC systems that we manage that it would be extremely difficult in an enterprise the size of Cisco to be an expert in everything. So, individuals on our voice operations team need to specialize.

Some specialists in our voice and video operations team are very good at traditional call routing, but also have a fundamental skill set across other technologies. Other people from a traditional voice background are now focusing on management of video systems. An increasingly critical skill set for today is virtualization and management of virtual applications The size of our operations teams allows this specialization, but we still expect everyone to have foundational knowledge and skills for all of the technologies that we manage.

For our customers and partners who have trouble finding qualified employees to staff your voice operations, I can sympathize with your situation. If I could find someone with the perfect resume for UC operations today, their skill set would include:

  • For voice, knowledge of traditional voice call routing principles and techniques, including dial plans, because voice routing is very different from data routing.
  • For voice and video, knowledge of routing/switching and QoS techniques and their impact on application   performance.
  • Understanding of end-to-end UC infrastructure provisioning and management.
  • Specific enterprise experience with Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Unity Connection, Cisco Unified Presence Servers, and Cisco Unified Application Engine.
  • Enterprise background with video systems, specifically Cisco Telepresence and Cisco Tandberg video platforms  and services.
  • Scriptwriting skills to automate monitoring and management tasks.

Of course, it is extremely challenging to find people with everything on this list. Internally, we often find candidates among the engineers in our Technical Assistance Center. Otherwise we look externally to the market to find engineers who we bring in to fill certain operations needs. As a benchmark, we always look for CCNP or CCVP qualified engineers, and certainly existing or aspiring CCIEs.

What types of knowledge and skill do you look for when recruiting staff?

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