Communications Software Consultants, Inc.
96 Thompson Hill Road · Rensselaer, NY 12144
THE LAST DROP
Look inside to see more pictures and read stories from our 2013 Users’ Group Conference!
24th Annual Users’ Group Conference
By Mike Donnelly, COO/CFO
We completed our 24th CommSoft Users’
Group in Minneapolis this past October with
one of our biggest crowds ever. The city of
Minneapolis couldn’t have been more welcoming.
The weather for October was warm enough to
walk throughout downtown Minneapolis without
much more than a light jacket. And there was
so much to see along with great restaurants
and terrific service from the hotel. The hotel
lounge was our unofficial networking spot where
you could find our customers and CommSoft
employees gathered at most times of the day (and
some nights well into the evening). We received
nice compliments on the hotel and location – “a
perfect fit” commented one attendee.
This year we welcomed some new customers who
worked themselves seamlessly into the talented
group of attendees we see each year. Customers
came from all over the US, including Alaska and
the Virgin Islands.
One of the highlights this year was casino night
in the old train station waiting room; the marble
floors and 40-foot ceilings were a great backdrop
for a fun evening of cards, dice, and horse
racing. And the photo booth was a big hit. Ok,
a really big hit. Those disguises made for some
interesting photos (look inside to see some of
This year we gave out awards to some customers
who have made a difference.
• Community Leader Award – GVTC
• Power User of the Year – Cindy Watkins,
• Project Game Changer – Monica Craft,
• Customer of the Year – Shentel
IN THIS ISSUE
See what’s going on with
We also awarded our first Enterprise Certification
to Hotwire Communications. Congratulations to
all our award winners.
The customer panels were a great addition
to this year’s class offerings; the feedback we
received showed that having customers share
their experiences really added value to the classes.
The User Forum continues to provide valuable
feedback to us regarding what customers want
to see in our products. We take your feedback
seriously, and this year we came away with a
long list of suggestions (find more on this on
As always the CommSoft Users’ Group committee
pulled together a great event. We appreciate our
sponsors’ continued support of our conference
each year, along with their participation as
valuable partners. Also this year we had a lot
of help from many customers who assisted us
in so many ways: serving on a panel, suggesting
class ideas, arranging a tour of the Carrier Hotel,
and volunteering to lead class sessions. We very
much appreciate your help – a big ‘thank you’ to
See you next year for our 25th CommSoft Users’
Find more fun photos
from the Users’ Group
this edition of the
Get an update on the
User Forum Recap
Larry Davis and Roger
Larry Davis and Cindy
Larry Davis and Monica
Larry Davis and Rich
Return of the Storefront
By Charlie Weintraub, Sales Director, and
Joe Keegan, Account Manager
If you think moving to a storefront is old
news, you’re going against the latest
trend. People like familiarity – they
like doing business with people they
know and trust.
The Internet changed commerce
in a way that few, if any, other
influences have. The convenience
of ordering something from the
comfort of your living room
anytime, day or night, replaced
the hassles of fighting traffic, parking,
and business hours not conducive to the
working stiff. It became much easier to
find a product cheaper, and if you weren’t
the one with the lowest price, you lost.
The pendulum is swinging back and we
are seeing a return to bricks and mortar
– a return of the storefront. Many rural
communications providers are opening up
stores throughout their coverage area and
are no longer selling the products they’ve
been carrying in limited supply for
years (e.g., Princess phones, giant
flip phones with collapsible
antennas, and a handful
of other gadgets now
found in museums).
Instead they are carrying
new technical devices from smart home
devices, to computers, to television
equipment, and they are offering a lot of
advice. New gadgets such as a Roku Box,
a Slingbox, or a WiFi-enabled thermostat
where you can set the temperature in
your home from your smartphone are all
stirring up curiosity, and people are visiting
their local telecom stores to find out more.
Additionally, these rural telecom stores are
adding iPads to their inventory, because
for a lot of residents in these rural areas,
the nearest electronics store could be a
The Water Cooler
Rural Telecoms are also staffing their storefronts with personnel to offer
“geek squad” services such as network installation and troubleshooting.
These stores are becoming the “go-to technology experts” in their
communities – places that customers will frequent because of reputation
and the personal touch. You can’t always get that online.
Don’t get caught up being the same old telephone
company—instead become your community’s
technology expert and leader, while making money
on simple plug-and-play technologies with modern
Even if customers are only walking into the store to
have their laptop repaired and they don’t sign up for
cable, Internet, or another service that is offered, they are still being offered
a service that is available because of the storefront’s existence. They will
talk about their satisfaction, the word will travel, and your reputation will
grow. And so will your revenue.
Twins in the Twin City
By Joe Keegan, Account Manager
Our Users Group this year
has a twins’ story perfect
for a visit to the Twin Cities.
As a group of us headed
to an evening activity, a
small pack of five seemed
to be finishing each other’s
sentences. A random occurrence? Maybe. Or was it because they all
had a twin connection? Upon further
investigation, three of the five are twins
and the other two are parents of two
sets of twins. Pictured from left: Tom
and Nicole Reininger (standing in back)
are parents of two sets of twins. Next,
Lane McConnell, Mary Spencer, and
Roger Lewis – you guessed it, each is
a twin. All fraternal twins, too (both
sets of Tom and Nicole’s twins are also
fraternal). What are the odds? Tom
and Nicole are also grandparents of
identical twin granddaughters. Next
Watercooler: meet their twins.
Commsmart neighborhood news
By Jim Myers and Paula Rudowski, Training Consultants
It’s hard to believe that we are once again in the throes of winter. Seems like just yesterday we were
compiling our notes for the articles in June! Here at CommSoft’s headquarters, we’re all bundled up
in our snow boots and parkas and huddled around our space heaters as we celebrate the holidays and
prepare ourselves for the year ahead. That’s right, folks…the CommSoft Trainers are always planning
ahead – setting our sights on upcoming projects and customer requests so that we can manage our time
and resources appropriately. However, we also know it’s important to take the time to reflect on our
accomplishments and the activities we were a part of since last we wrote to you. Read on!
Though the annual Users’ Group
Conference stole most of the thunder in
the second half of 2013,
the newest member
of the CommSoft
deserves equal time in the
spotlight for their impact
in the first half of the year.
Fidelity’s Fidelity South
(the first phase of a twophase implementation)
Paula at our 2013 Users’
began in earnest in January
and culminated with cutover
on June 24. While we’ve previously written
about the excellent teamwork of the Fidelity
project team (comprised of folks from
Fidelity, CommSoft, OSG, and Mapcom),
it’s definitely worth providing an update on
how they’re making out now that they have
six months of experience under their belts.
We’re happy to report that the Fidelity team
has completely immersed themselves as a
very active and valuable member of the
CommSoft user community. They were
in attendance at this year’s Users’ Group
Conference and have been on the leading
edge of recent advancement with our
workforce integration web services and
utilization of CommBI. We’re truly pleased
to welcome Fidelity as our newest customer
and looking forward to working with them
on Phase 2 in the year ahead!
Illinois Valley Cellular and their upgrade
from Classic to iCommV is another big
story from 2013. IV Cellular was originally
scheduled to cutover in June, 2013, right
around the time Fidelity went live. But
then, the rains came. Situated right along
the Illinois River, their headquarters
was flooded when torrential rains led
to a runaway barge breaching the levy.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the
damage to the offices was significant.
Now, months later, the resilient folks of IV
Cellular are moved back into their freshly
painted and carpeted offices and once again
preparing to go live on iCommVergence.
IV Cellular will be making use of VTC,
CommBI, and the releaseable version of
CommSoft Financials and Inventory. Stay
tuned for the celebratory announcement
of their cutover in the next WaterCooler!
EATEL in Gonzales, LA, and their
multi-faceted project has also kept us,
EATEL, and several of our partners
(OSG, Curbstone, Mapcom, Hudson
River Computing (HRC)) incredibly busy
this year. The main focus in the first half
of the year was configuration, refinement
of requirements, integration development,
conversion, and environment set up. In
the second half of the year, we waded
into the User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
waters. Given that this project involves
the implementation of four significant
enterprise systems (B/OSS, Financials,
WFM, and Mapping/Plant) you can
imagine the amount of testing involved.
Layer into that the integration points
between all of these systems and you’ve got
a real whopper of a pile of test cases that
need to be conducted to ensure a successful
go-live experience. The team at EATEL
has proven themselves to be up for this
challenge. Here are the highlights of what
they’ve been analyzing, configuring, and
testing in the last half of 2013:
• All aspects of iCommV from Inquiry
to Service Order from Trouble
Tickets to Bad Debt and everything
• VTC (+/- 25 interfaces between
EATEL and Vision Communications
(Phase II of the this two-phase
• M4 Workforce, Assignment, Mobile
Tech, and Process Manager
• CommNextion EBPP
Woo-eee! And that’s not all. We’d be
remiss if we didn’t make special mention
of call plans. The EATEL Usage team
and CommSoft’s Sherrie Folger spent
the better part of 2013 sequestered away
configuring 90 or so call plans. Other
than bathroom breaks, we don’t think
this elite task force has seen daylight since
they started! That kind of focus has
been particularly necessary to make sure
we nail the very unique Local Optional
Service (LOS) plans which are integral to
EATEL’s competitive rating requirements.
The various hair-pulling nuances of LOS
earned them the nickname Lots of Scary
Stuff during Halloween week and the name
has stuck ever since.
Balancing fun and camaraderie with hard
work and team effort has really been the
story at EATEL in 2013. The team is
engaged and focused and ready to make
the final push to live use in the year ahead.
Along the way, we take the time to celebrate
the incremental milestones that will add
up to a successful project. Earlier in the
year, when we were kicking off UAT, the
(cont. on page 4)
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Enterprise Certification Update
By Missy Frenyea, Professional Services Manager
The CommSoft Enterprise Certification
program is in full swing! Joe Keegan
has had so many requests for the initial
assessment audit that he can hardly keep
up with them. A grand total of seven
of our iCommVergence customers have
now been through the rigors of the
assessment process (it’s painless, really) and several others are
lining up ready for their first swat at it. What’s involved? Did
anyone make the grade and earn Certification? These questions
and more are answered below.
Six simple steps for achieving Enterprise Certification
So you’re chomping at the bit to get started on the Enterprise
Certification road. How do you get there? Simply follow these
1. Visit the CommSoft Community Forum and download
the Enterprise Certification Handbook and read through
the certification criteria (login with valid credentials is
required). Here’s the path: http://www.commsoft.net/
2. Gather up a few co-workers and create an Enterprise
Certification team. To kick things off, hold a self-evaluation
“party” to see how you measure up. Have you been
configuring according to Best Practices? Do you have
designated resources responsible for essential Operational
tasks? How are your backup policies? If there are major
areas that you know you’d like to address prior to assessment
with CommSoft, make a plan and get ‘er done! If you think
you’re looking good or you want some guidance to act on
what you found, move on to the next step.
3. Schedule your assessment. Contact Joe Keegan (joe.
[email protected]) or Bob Kolar ([email protected]
commsoft.net) and set up an assessment appointment.
4. Get the gang together and get assessed. Assessments
can be done remotely via conference call or onsite during
a regularly scheduled Account Management visit. Prior to
the assessment, the assessment team will review your system
configuration settings looking for compliance with Best
Practices. Then, during the assessment call, the team will
walk through each of the areas outlined in the handbook
and ask a series of questions. Your team will answer the
questions. We compile the results. Easy peasy.
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5. Following the assessment call, the CommSoft Enterprise
Certification authorities will evaluate the results and work
with the assessment team to make a determination whether
(1) Enterprise Certification should be awarded at that time
or (2) there are areas that need to be addressed and then
reevaluated prior to awarding Enterprise Certification.
6. Your CommSoft Assessment team will get back to you
with a copy of your assessment audit. We’ll discuss areas
to be addressed (if any) and highlight areas in which you’re
excelling. You’ll address them, we’ll re-evaluate. Rinse and
repeat until all areas have been addressed.
7. Once Enterprise Certification is awarded, get your team
together and celebrate! Eat cake! You deserve it.
Congratulations are in order
At this year’s Users’ Group Conference in Minneapolis, we
were very pleased to announce Hotwire Communications
(Bala Cynwyd, PA) as the first customer to earn Enterprise
Certification. While they were first, they are no longer the only
customers to earn this recognition.
It is our sincere belief that every one of our iCommV
customers can achieve Enterprise Certification. We’re here to
help every step of the way. Who will be next? Get the ball
rolling by following the steps above and it could be you!
(cont. from page 3)
team celebrated with a crawfish
boil. Then in October, to kick
off some integration testing,
the folks at EATEL offered
up some delightful Halloween
vittles. In the spirit of the day,
there were costumes and masks
and everyone had a great time
enjoying the festivities. And
then everyone hunkered down
Halloween high jinx
and got back to it. Best of luck L to R: Gerry Macias, Tara Credeur, Paula
Rudowski, Christine Marmillo, Jan Templet
to everyone involved in the
EATEL project. Here’s to continued good times together and
a successful cutover in 2014!
Share Your SparE
We at CommSoft think we have some pretty amazing customers for many reasons. Here is an example of a selfless act of one of our customers, Leticia
Tressler, a CSR at Ellijay Telephone Company. She has been friends with Virgie since 3rd grade.
By Gwendolyn McArthur, Ellijay Telephone Company
Since the days of our youth, we’ve all been taught to share
From crayons to French fries, to the clothes that we wear
Leticia was brave and determined, and with no hesitation
Signed herself up for tests, with the National Kidney Foundation
Now there are things we shouldn’t share, like our husband or our wife
But would you be willing to share, if it would save someone’s life
“If you get Virgie a kidney, and get her out of danger
I’ll do the great kidney swap, and give my kidney to a stranger”
Virgie got sick and needed help, the doctors searched far and wide
Looking for a donor, with a kidney to provide
So after many weeks, blood tests, and medical stuff that was not fun
In October, Leticia will fly to Texas, with two kidneys, come back with one
Leticia said “take mine”, but her kidney did not fit
Was that the end of the story, No, Leticia did not quit
So Virgie will feel better, lead a healthy life again
Because Leticia was willing to share her spare, with her friend
You Have Spoken! (and We Listened)
By Laura Knussman, Product Manager
At this year’s CommSoft Users’ Conference in Minneapolis, the always popular User Forum was held. As usual, we could have devoted even more
time to this session! The User Forum is always a great opportunity for you to interact with each other and to share your product experiences. This year
we asked the session participants to break up into module/product groups and come up with the top five product enhancements that would increase
productivity and save money. Of course each group brainstormed more than five, but we wanted to be sure to understand what the highest priorities
were. As promised, you will find the results of this process below. We have added all of the brainstormed ideas into our discretionary development
selection process so they may be included in upcoming releases. Thank you to all who participated in the forum; we really appreciate (and need) your
input. So here is what you came up with:
iCommV – Service Order Inquiry and Payments
• Ability to add customer contacts in service order
• Ability to propagate Name Change or Change Phone Number throughout a statement
• Automatic bumping on certain orders
• Undo statement change in service order
• Past due balances inquiry to better incorporate sliding credits
iCommV – Billing, Rating, and Bad Debt
• Enhance Charge Code Maintenance
• Enhance the Rate Change Process
• Automate the billing process up to Phase 3
• Update mass charge code batch to allow over 999 in the quantity field
• Consistency on length of charge code/internet plan/call plan/wireless plans
iCommV – Trouble Tickets and Line Equipment
• Network Tickets tie to LEQ: Selected plant items should trigger the Network Ticket the way Street, COID,
Community, County, and City do currently
• Parent tickets that propagate to child tickets at close for comments
• Show all iCommV equipment for all services on a ticket with ability to select items to print
• Ability to change all iCommV equipment from a ticket ( i.e., add/remove PPM or DVD equipment from within
• Ability to add/remove service account contact from within the ticket
(cont. on page 7)
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Chris Collins has joined CommSoft in the Development
Department as a Programmer Analyst III.
Jim Reynolds has joined CommSoft in the Development
Department as Lead Programmer Analyst.
A list of some of the shows we’ll be at in 2014:
January 27-29, CCTA Annual Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Feb. 2-5, Rural Telecom Industry Mtg. & Expo, San Antonio, TX
February 26-28, LTA Annual Convention, New Orleans, LA
March 24-26, MTA Annual Convn. & Trade Show, Minneapolis, MN
March 25-28, CCA Global Expo, San Antonio, TX
April 1-3, ACA Annual Washington Summit, Washington, DC
April 8-10, Telecom & Technology Symposium Northeast,
South Portland, ME
April 15-17, IP Possibilities Conference & Expo, Kansas City, MO
May 19-21, ATA Annual Meeting, Girdwood, AK
Melissa Graziadei joined CommSoft in 2007.
Charlie Weintraub joined CommSoft in 2006.
Pat Kennedy joined CommSoft in 2002.
Tim Whimple joined CommSoft in 1994.
Rich Carroll joined CommSoft in 1997.
Al Krumm joined CommSoft in 2001.
Steve McKenna joined CommSoft in 1998.
Christine Marmillo joined CommSoft in 2007.
Joe Korkin joined CommSoft in 2010.
Rick Bartlett joined CommSoft in 2007.
Mike Donnelly joined CommSoft in 1999.
Lourae Fitzgerald joined CommSoft in 2009.
Denise Carroll joined CommSoft in 1998.
Bob Newberry joined CommSoft in 1997.
Joe Capparelli joined CommSoft in 1999.
Dave Knussman joined CommSoft in 2001.
Laura Knussman rejoined CommSoft in 2010.
CommSoft employees have been
teaming up for years as part of its
annual campaign to help spread
James Myers joined CommSoft in 1999.
holiday cheer by gathering toys Jodie Buchanan joined CommSoft in 2008.
to be donated to less fortunate
Bill Hillmann joined CommSoft in 1999.
children in Rensselaer County,
NY. This year, CommSoft saw
one of the best turnouts of donated toys, and therefore, many children will receive toys
this holiday season. Thank you to Melissa Graziadei for organizing this campaign and to
all those who donated!
2013 USERS’ GROUP SPONSORS
Thank you again to our 2013 Users’ Group Sponsors. Your support is greatly appreciated!
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You Have Spoken! (and We Listened)
(cont. from page 5)
• Track promotions and bundles
• Alert Me functionality – notify user via email or text message when a target is not met
• New non-Flash user interface that works on all devices
• Ad hoc calculations
• Display discrete events on trending charts
• iCommv Webservice Multi-threaded Request Collection
• VTCWP specification
• Network Monitoring Integration
• iCommV inquiry and Cable Maintenance Request Integration
• Automatic Redundancy and Failover
• Focus on Special Circuits
• Interface from iCommV service order and line equipment to CABS for Billing
• ETS Circuits
• Discounting Enhancements and Reporting
• Copy Options to streamline ASR entry
• Ability to re-run to correct administrative errors after cycle close
• Automatic Schedule Clean-up
• Real-time update of comments to billing system filtering out VTC comments
• Ability to see previous orders/troubles for a service address along with services available
• Enhanced Tech/Dispatch view to better manage backlog
• Enhanced Reporting
Financials and Inventory
• GL Accounts Drill Down
• Payroll Spreadsheet for Supervisors
• Payroll Analysis Extract
• Vendor Purchase Order Drill Down
• ACH processing (similar to payroll) for accounts payable check process
• Improved Workflow with iCommV (Workflow Validation and Rules with automatic notification)
• Single Trouble Ticketing Platform
• Ability to Export All Reports to Excel
• Intelligent Ordering System with scripted order processing
• Unified, Automatic Communications for Outages
• Improved modern look and feel – less confusing UI with more modern fonts
• Ability to interface with different credit cards such as Authorize.net, etc.; better integration with PayPal
• Clearer error handling, validations, and warnings
• For new releases…clearer upgrade path and branding without the need for support intervention
• Ensure the system is supported within any browser; use a more modern web server as Tomcat 5.5 is end-oflife
That’s a lot of great feedback!
The Water Cooler