Internetwork Packet eXchange or IPX is the technology for connecting all IP networks, enabling an easy interface between new and legacy networks, creating the platform for the future of wholesale voice and data services.
The future of voice is all about integrating telephony with other services – messaging, video, apps, social media, on a one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many basis: exactly what IPX has been designed to support.
For their Network Operations Centre (NOC) based clients, SmartIPX is an outsourced partner helping to remotely operate and maintain clients’ critical infrastructure and network elements.
For their Managed Services (MS) based clients, SmartIPX is a solutions partner helping to design, build, operate and maintain critical infrastructure (Switch, intelligent Network, eSBC), Operational Support Systems (OSS) and Billing Support Systems (BSS). They may act as primary provider or an integral member of the supply chain.
Randolph Stewart is Operations Manager at SmartIPX. He joined the company when SmartIPX bought out Global Network Operations (GNO) in 2011. We spoke to him about his job role and the challenges he faces working within an ever changing industry.
What is your job title and what does that involve?
I am Operations Manager. The majority of my work is to organise the shift engineers providing 24/7 coverage 365 days a year at our London NOC (Network Operations Centre). We have a team of engineers working 12 hour shifts on a four days on, four days off rota, which they prefer. The engineers work four days from 7am until 7pm, have four days off and then return to work a night shift from 7pm to 7am.
We have a 15 minute turn over period at the beginning and end of each shift at which information is passed over to the team. That can be done via email, notes or through information on a notification board. Sometimes, if there’s something significant ongoing, such as a fraudulent attack, or a new client onboard, we will call them in early so we can ensure the necessary information about a client is passed over.
What else are you involved with as Operations Manager?
I write and manage processes and monitoring systems and am responsible for the 24 hour surveillance system we offer our clients and work on configuration of the alarms and operational systems which manage the 24 hour services. I’m also involved in training and on-boarding of staff and clients.
How do you keep up to date with changing technology and how do you pass that information on in terms of training?
I stay abreast of new processes and technologies within the industry. When it comes to the team, we like to have a central point at which all the information can be accessed which is kept up to date and which allows information to be distributed to all staff, no matter what their skill level.
For on-boarding with a new member of staff with no previous experience, we keep them working on days on a 9am to 6pm shift being trained in-house for a number of weeks, even months learning our procedures and processes, until they reach a point where they can then shadow an experienced engineer on the night shift.
Whenever any of the engineering team learn about a technology through training or desk research, we have peer learning process that allows them to cascade that information down to the rest of the workforce. We also have on-site training with certain clients if they have an existing system with their own customer processes and services.
What are your biggest challenges?
Training and communication are the things which cause the biggest challenges. Making sure we have a central information point which is accessible to everyone and from which information can be cascaded out.
On-boarding of new clients requires a flexible process: some clients have their own systems which we have to go and learn, rather than provide our own to them. Depending on how complex they are, we’ll go on-site to work with them, training individually before then taking over. During this time we’ll make sure our systems are aligned so what we have is what should be there and that it is aligned with theirs. We have somebody on call to talk us through any potential problems.
When we’re happy, we’ll take over day time cover and then once all parties are confident, we’ll take over out of hours and overnight monitoring. We have a number of clients for who we’re always working in the “dark hours”, i.e. in the US, where our coverage of their systems is always evening cover for our London based team.
How does your job work on a day-by-day basis?
No two days are the same. I am the ultimate point of contact for anything relating to the NOC. There are three of us who are what we call “escalation points” based on who the customer is: myself, Ian Eldridge, the Technical Support Manager and Paul Tindley, our Chief Executive Officer. I work closely with Ian, we cover for each other and he’s usually aware of what’s happening on the service desk. We can’t both be on holiday at the same time so there’s no break in the information flow.
I also have crossover with Ole Steffen Hylby-Henriksen, our Commercial Manager/Support Engineer. The NOC team are there at the sharp end of delivery, so he works with me in terms of Service Level Agreements (SLA), making sure we achieve these, process changes to help support SLA delivery and more.
How long have you worked for SmartIPX?
I have worked for SmartIPX since they bought GNO in 2011, where I had been part of the old organisation with Harbour Exchange. I’d worked for GNO for four years in a similar role.
Anything else you want to add?
Working at SmartIPX has always been good: the job keeps me on my toes with the new developments in the industry. We’re all treated as valued members of a team and it’s certainly both challenging and exciting to be involved with an organisation that is rapidly growing in the forefront of telecoms technology solutions.