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ROI: Cisco Unified Communications Provisioning Tools

Simplify Management to Reduce Unified Communications TCO

As a software provider, the Akkadian Labs team spends significant time speaking with Cisco Unified Communications (UC) practice managers, solution architects, and account managers at value-added resellers, integrators, and service providers across the country. We also engage with CTOs, IT leaders, and UC engineers from SMB to large enterprises. Across the board, we see companies looking for ways to simplify Cisco UC management. At the same time, these companies are looking to boost UC user and feature adoption rates.

Akkadian Labs has identified one area of Cisco UC administration where companies may be able to reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO). Through research, Akkadian Labs has found companies may reduce their TCO by reducing time spent on provisioning users and devices within the Cisco UC ecosystem. Provisioning within this environment, or the process of setting up employee phones, voicemail, and other applications, requires expertise and time. Both of these requirements are costly. Therefore, reducing time spent on provisioning will reduce a company’s TCO. And, given that the average life expectancy of a new Cisco UC deployment is about 5-6 years, these savings could be significant over the life of a deployment.

A Closer Look at Cisco UC Provisioning

While all users and devices need to be provisioned from day-one of a UC deployment, there are many events and trends within an organization that may require an IT team to spend more time on provisioning beyond initial deployment. Below are all examples of companies Akkadian Labs has seen experience pain around day-two provisioning.

  • The IT team at a large financial services firm in Milwaukee is growing rapidly and overwhelmed by new hires.
  • Cisco certified engineers at a Boston regional health system are too busy with provisioning tasks to get to higher priority projects.
  • An inexperienced engineer accidentally deleted users from a New York law firm’s network.
  • UC engineers at the European HQ of a global organization are busy responding to day-to-day requests from regional offices, like resetting voicemail PINs.

The first step at looking at reducing TCO through reducing time spent provisioning is to examine the types of actions involved in provisioning. It is important to note that phone service changes associated with an employee, as listed below, require an experienced UC engineer to perform. These phone service moves, adds, changes, or deletes (MAC-D) within Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) and other associated applications. Some examples of MAC-D work include:

  • On-boarding a new hire
  • Provisioning any (or all) of the following:
    • Desktop Cisco IP phone
    • Soft phone
    • Mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, and Android
    • Cisco Jabber client
    • Cisco Webex
    • Voicemail
  • Adding a conference room or lobby phone into the network
  • Deploying new phones as part of a CUCM upgrade or new Cisco UC deployment
  • Removing an exiting employee from the network
  • Swapping old phones for new phones
  • Changing extensions or reassigning phone coverage for office administrators

The time spent by a UC engineer to perform a MAC-D differs by UC deployment. For example, the more devices and applications involved will mean more individual servers and applications for the engineer to access, as well as more opportunities for mistakes. It’s possible and common for the UC engineer to need to visit fifty different screens before completing the MAC-D, taking at least 30 minutes.


What do all of these companies have in common? They are all struggling with the inconsistencies and complexities of day-to-day provisioning in Cisco – the moves, adds, changes, and deletes or MAC-Ds – that seemingly eat up the cycles of highly-paid resources while threatening to burden help desk and IT administrators of companies large and small.

Saving Time and Money by Simplifying MAC-D Processes

Along with being known as one of the top Unified Communications platforms, Cisco UC deployments are also known for their complexity and lack of streamlined, user-friendly functionality. Not surprisingly, the MAC-D processes are not simple and require expertise to perform. Moreover, Cisco-certified engineers and administrators enjoy higher salaries than their UC engineer peers. If a company is able to reduce the time highly-skilled engineers spend performing MAC-D tasks within its Cisco UC environment, then the company may reduce its TCO.

Costs Per MAC-D: Comparing Salary Costs to Time Spent on Provisioning

Studies indicate that across all major UC platforms (Cisco, Microsoft, ShoreTel and Avaya), the average number of MAC-D orders per phone is about 0.14, with each MAC-D requiring 15 minutes per service order. (Note that Cisco and Microsoft come in a little higher at 17 and 18 minutes, respectively.) In an independent study by Akkadian Labs, which was focused on Cisco UC deployments, we see large enterprises (25,000+ users) with multiple provisioners and support staff, all full-time, doing about .9 MAC-Ds per user. In one case, we saw a company with 10,000 users doing 400 MAC-Ds per month, averaging about 2.1 MAC-D orders per user, per year. What is significant about this is that Cisco engineers make on average about $85,000-$110,000 annual salary, thereby driving the operational costs of these MAC-Ds significantly above the averages. (In traditional telephony environments, MAC-D orders are more likely to be completed by operational staff or non-specialized technicians. Cisco and Microsoft deployments are more likely to require certified skill sets, leading to the higher compensation, thus higher operating costs.)

For any companies often involved with mergers and acquisitions, streamlining this process is a no-brainer.

Provisioning Tools Reduce Time To Perform MAC-D Actions

0.14 5.45 17 minutes < 1 minute
Average MAC-D orders per phone* Dedicated MAC-D Resources per 1,000 phones Time to complete MAC-D order in CUCM Time to complete MAC-D order with Akkadian Provisioning Manager™

Sources: Aberdeen Group, January 2012 and Akkadian Labs, 2015

*Study was done per phone, not per user. Average devices being provisioned in today’s Cisco UC deployment can vary from 1-7 per user. For this study, we used an average of 3 devices (i.e hard phone, soft phone, mobile phone) per user. We are also seeing an average of about 1.5 MAC-Ds per user per year as per our independent study, which is notably higher than the Aberdeen Group study.

Using the data in the table above, and applying Akkadian Labs’ updated research from September and October 2015, a company with 5,000 users deployed in a Cisco UC environment is doing 7,500 MAC-Ds per year. Assuming a $100,000 salary, or $48/hr, let’s compare provisioning in CUCM versus provisioning using a MAC-D tool such as Akkadian Provisioning Manager™.

Companies using Akkadian Provisioning Manager™ saw savings in two areas: time spent provisioning, as well as dollars saved on salaries. Because Akkadian Provisioning Manager is easy to learn and easy to use, resources without Cisco certifications and credentials are able to perform MAC-D orders. Accordingly, the annual salary of the resources doing the MAC-Ds won’t be at the same level. In the example below, we used a $75,000 salary, or $36/hr.

# Users Ave # of MAC-Ds/yr Provisioning time: CUCM Provisioning cost: CUCM Provisioning time: Akkadian Provisioning Manager Provisioning cost: Akkadian Provisioning Manager Time/Cost Savings
1,000 1,500 425 hrs $20,400 25 hrs $900 94% / 96%
5,000 7,500 2,125 hrs $102,000 125 hrs $4,500 94% / 96%
10,000 15,000 4,250 hrs $204,000 250 hrs $9,000 94% / 96%
25,000 37,500 10,625 hrs $510,000 625 hrs $22,500 94% / 96%

*Factoring in the perpetual licensing and maintenance cost of Akkadian Provisioning Manager, the ROI in every one of these cases is less than 1yr.

ROI of Cisco UC Provisioning Tools: Why businesses of all sizes should consider implementing Akkadian Provisioning Manager™

Small Business (1-100 employees, annual revenue less than $50M) – Akkadian Labs partners report that in smaller installations, companies utilize the Cisco Business Edition 6000 or 7000 platform. In these smaller companies, it is common for one or two network administrators to support the company’s entire communications infrastructure. With IT team members wearing so many hats, a tool such as Akkadian Provisioning Manager would serve to bring simplicity and consistency to otherwise complex, time-consuming tasks.

Midsize Enterprise (101-1,000 employees, annual revenue between $50M and $1B) – If your company is growing, perhaps you’re looking to free-up your top-tier engineers to focus more on mission-critical activities. Consideration should be given to offloading MAC-Ds to lower-tier help desk personnel. Akkadian Provisioning Manager gives you peace-of-mind when handing over provisioning powers to non-Cisco certified resources. With a user-friendly interface, repeatable action templates, and built-in security (you only need to log into Akkadian Provisioning Manager, which is fully-integrated with CUCM), you can enable less technical team members to perform MAC-D work while protecting your Call Manager.

Large Enterprise (over 1,000 employees, annual revenue over $1B) – You’re doing over 100 MAC-D’s per day/week, with a dedicated team of 10/20+ provisioners, and a solution that can cut your time spent provisioning by over 90% just makes sense.

If your company is looking into deploying a Cisco UC solution, or already has, there are many facets of TCO to evaluate. Rather than simply considering the initial price tag, think about how a third-party solution such as Akkadian Provisioning Manager can help cut costs by streamlining processes and giving back valuable time to your network engineers.

Simplify. Save Time. Save Money.

The benefits of using a provisioning tool to simplify MAC-D orders include quicker ticket turnaround times, consistency, less training requirements, virtual elimination of human error – all of which have a direct impact a company’s bottom line. If you closely analyze the operational costs your company will incur over the solution’s intended lifespan, it seems that the ROI argument shifts from “Why should we buy?” to “Why shouldn’t we buy?”

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Integrate the Akkadian Provisioning Manager™ API with your ITSM or workflow system to easily provision: end user, extension, voicemail, device profile, Jabber desktop, Jabber mobile, and single number reach.

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