The objectives of the project include the development a Customer Portal system that will interface to Signalhorn’s existing back-end operational support systems to provide accurate and timely information on the history and status of the relationship between Signalhorn and its customers. This includes all information concerning the assets that Signalhorn manages on behalf of its customers and the people involved in the management of these assets and in the receipt of services from Signalhorn.
A software platform will be developed, tested, trialed internally and trialed with customers, and then launched into the market, starting with Signalhorn’s existing customer base and then into the wider market, positioned as an integral component of any network service or product offered by Signalhorn.
Signalhorn aims to become more competitive by providing a platform from which customer-supplier relationship and communication can be improved. Customers are more demanding than ever and are used to web based customer portals. Customers are no longer prepared to wait for a supplier to respond to an email with the information that may be inaccurate. Therefore the Portal has to provide accurate and immediate information as standard reports and presentations.
There are no known critical issues that will affect the development of the Portal. This is a commercially driven project that will provide Signalhorn with the ability to compete within its chosen market. Without such a Portal in today’s environment, Signalhorn will lose business and win less new business, therefore reducing the company’s viability. With the Portal, Signalhorn can become more competitive and successful, particularly in positioning satellite communications as a viable alternative to traditional terrestrially based communications alternatives.
The benefits of a Customer Portal are significant, from cost savings to service improvements, for both Signalhorn: enabling it to become a competitive business and to retain its viability as a service provider; and to Signalhorn’s customers: delivering accurate data and on-time. This duality will significantly improve customer-supplier communication, strengthening the bond between Signalhorn and its customers in a virtuous circle of improvement giving Signalhorn advantage over its competitors. There are many forms of customer-supplier interaction and Signalhorn employs them all from telephone to fax, and from email to text. However, each has its pros and cons; the key differentiators between them are the speed of access to information and the accuracy of the information obtained. If information is provided in (near) real-time and formatted as standard reports and presentations that are predictable and in some cases configurable to the customer’s requirements, the Portal will therefore deliver immediate benefits to both Customer and Signalhorn in:
- Reduction in ad-hoc calls, emails and faxes to the NOC Helpdesk.
- Increased accuracy of information for both customer and Signalhorn.
- Increased availability of information, both externally and internally to a wider audience.
- Reduction in ad-hoc meetings with customer for issue resolution or clarification of data.
The Signalhorn Customer Portal uses and supports different technologies from various manufacturers or providers. The Portal is designed to integrate various techniques and platforms to present technical information that can be understood by user with a non-technical background. Specifics of a device or platform are turned into an abstraction level that encapsulates the specific terms and phrases to a unified level of understanding, i.e., a site’s health state is simply determined by four different state items: Up, Down, Critical or None independent from its implementation.
The core of the system is a Relational Database Management System (RDMS) that stores data collected from different operational support systems. The information from these sources is made visible to a user through a web interface.
There is no product in the market that can be used to integrate Signalhorn’s environment at a reasonable cost, or that supports the setup of data in its ERP system. Therefore, no existing software or systems will be re-used, only original code will be developed, with the exception of standard routines and libraries. Initially, dynamic real-time access to Signalhorn’s primary ERP system (SAP) was investigated; this idea was rejected and so a data export/import interface will be designed in order to exchange data from the ERP system.
Signalhorn’s primary network monitoring facility is a feature rich implementation of the Open Source product Nagios, which is an industry standard in IT infrastructure monitoring. There is a wealth of experience in the company of adapting Open Source products to our company specific needs at improved efficiency and cost reduction.
In order to satisfy the requirements of visualizing networks and sites on geographical maps the adequate selection of a relational database management system is key and will form an essential component of the overall system architecture.
Work on the project began in April 2013 and has been structured to follow the classic 5 stage product development and introduction process: Feasibility – Plan - Development – Test – Launch. Each stage in the process includes set deliverables and quality gates between each stage. Development will complete in November 2013 and will be followed by internal trialling and a beta trial with selected customers. Following collection of feedback, modifications and re-test during January 2014 the Portal will be soft-launched in February with on-going assessments in March and April. Preparations during this time will be made for market introduction in May 2014.
Subject to a CCN, the project scope has been increased into include the support of site health status and site volume information for multiple satellite platforms that include: Gilat 180, Hybrid, SCPC, Vipersat and KA Sat hubs and terminals.
WP5.4 & WP5.8 have been completed and the Customer Portal now supports a mobile platform and customer sites using this technology in conjunction with satellite (WP5.4) and the new feature of site performance (or throughput) of the strategic platforms that are supported by Signalhorn (WP5.8). It is now possible to view site health and site volume for these sites. Additional language translations have been added.