20 April 2017
Manchester Central Convention Complex
Europe/London timezone
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Manchester Central Convention Complex - Charter 1, 2 & 3
Main Session

SDN, CMDB, NMS… CRM?! How we're putting the customer at the centre of our network.


Following on from some of the ideas presented in Brian Nisbet's talk "Your 60 seconds starts now", my talk would be to explain how we put our Customer Relationship Management system right in the middle of our network infrastructure. The primary audience of the presentation is smaller ISPs/NSPs/etc, who might not yet have the ITIL-style business processes in place, or are just thinking about Configuration Management Databases; but it might give some ideas to some larger providers as well.

Estimate: ~20-30 minutes.

Format: some talking around bullet points, some "lolcat GIFs" for levity, but also some screenshots of system in use, and examples how we're scripting and using APIs to build our SDN/CRM/CMDB/NMS alphabetty-spaghetti-monster.

Intro and Motivation:

Faelix is a small "boutique" provider, small number of staff, emphasis for our customers is quick access to "technical support with clue". That kind of support is expensive to the business (no first-line helpdesk). And like anyone else in the room, we have to respond quickly: to potential customers, to billing enquiries, to service problems, etc. We're doing many of the usual network automations already, taking inspiration from e.g. Facebook's talk at UKNOF32 (of course, we're not that scale!). How can we make the less-technical parts of our business processes more automated so we scale better, more like a "tech startup", i.e. so we don't need 10x staff to get 10x customers?


We've put CRM in the middle of everything. Some slides explaining how e.g.

  • customer VM doesn't get spun up unless a customer exists in the CRM, the VM exists, and it has availability/capacity/etc monitoring profiles applied
  • the customer/VM/etc record configures the network (routers, switches, VMs, etc)
  • which means the customer is being billed (hurray!)
  • and we have a record of what they're being billed for (don't accidentally switch off live things)
  • and their payments are coming in (cashflow is king)
  • reducing accidental (or on purpose) freebies (anecdotal problem for small hosting providers; and means we have quantitative figures for the "hosting donations" we make)
  • we know what $customer_vm is connected to, interacts with... i.e. everything to rebuild their service (CMDB!)
  • makes maintenance notifications easy, because we can grab all customers on a particular device and email newsletter them; and potentially see they've read it
  • and makes marketing new services to customers easy too (as long as CRM does good email newsletters)
  • and start to ask customers for feedback for our own improvement

Further Ideas:

We're starting (and probably by UKNOF37 will have finished) getting our Network Monitoring System interfaced with our CRM so that monitoring events in Icinga2 are reflected on customer records in CRM. This will mean we could automatically apply service level credits to customers' accounts (assuming we have such an outage!), but also means we have one place to look for any customer-affecting issues: their record in our CRM has everything. i.e. full customer life-cycle within the CRM.


Some examples/anecdotes about how this is helping us, basically "all the info we need for customer service management, visible in one place".

Link back to beginning: if something is taking longer than Brian's 60 seconds, and the customer calls us up, we don't have to go scrabbling around for information in different silos of systems (and we don't have to keep multiple systems up to date with the same data).