I have long been fascinated by the transportation system in
the United States and how it evolved through time. As Americans moved from a
hunting-gathering society to an agrarian one and then to manufacturing, so,
too, did our transportation change. First, there were foot trails, the
migratory paths of animals and rivers, which served the needs of the
population for around 10,000 years. Then came the Europeans, who built roads
for their wagons (and the Yankee institution, the toll road) up and down the
East Coast. Then people like Daniel Boone blazed trails west, through the
Appalachians on to the Great Plains and, later, on to the West Coast the
Conestoga wagons rolled. Upon reaching the West Coast, people began looking
for a faster way for delivering people and goods (and the mail), and the
transcontinental railroads were built to fulfill that need. In the last
century, airplanes, trucks and automobiles (aided by the great Interstate
Highway System introduced by President Eisenhower) enhanced the capabilities
of trains, boats and wagons to deliver commerce at ever-increasing speeds,
and have grown so effective that you can now have practically anything
delivered anywhere overnight (just take a moment to reflect on how many UPS
or FedEx trucks you see every day).
Application Delivery Through Web Services
We are currently in the midst of a transformation into an information
and services society, and our methods of transporting knowledge, the basis
of service, have evolved as well (briefly: word-of-mouth, letter, telegraph,
telephone, fax, e-mail, instant messaging, PDAs). Delivering applications by
the Internet or a corporate Intranet is the idea behind Web services, and
Intel (www.intel.com) has announced it
will begin delivering its LANDesk Management Suite through Web services.
According to Robert Naegele, director, market development, Intel Software
Products and Services Division, Intel has undergone a sea change in what
they are doing. Naegele said, Were dedicating our development to Web
services as users are looking for easier integration and a way to update and
manage the product, which is more easily done through Web services. Web
services are about deriving value from a specific product.
The first module of the Intel LANDesk Management Suite 6.5
to be delivered through Web services is LANDesk Asset Service, which
provides comprehensive hardware and software inventory and asset auditing.
It enables companies to collect inventory data via the Internet and run XML
and HTML reports via a standard Web browser.
IP Delivery Tools
Internet Protocol (IP) has made possible the delivery of voice and data
in a unified manner to the desktop, enhancing communications immeasurably.
In the contact center, this means agents can not only speak with (or have a
Web chat session with) customers and have the necessary customer data at
hand, but also that agent desktops are a node on the network, and thus can
be located anywhere and have greater access to decentralized data. Other
benefits IP networks provide include more seamless interoperability with
legacy systems, greater scalability, increased flexibility for better
collaboration and the fact that converged networks are lowering the price
barrier for sophisticated communications systems, so that advanced contact
center functions are attainable for smaller companies.
One of the leaders in the IP space, Cisco Systems (www.cisco.com), recently delivered several
new IP software enhancements: Cisco Unity Bridge 2.0, an option available
with Cisco Unity 3.1 that is designed to provide interoperability with
leading traditional voice mail systems; Cisco Customer Response Solutions
(CRS) 3.0 platform delivering integrated contact distribution (ICD),
interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities, and the IP Queue Manager;
Cisco SoftPhone 1.3; and the Cisco CallManager Attendant Console.
Cisco recently made several hardware announcements as well:
the Cisco Media Convergence Server (MCS) 7815-1000, an entry-level platform
for IP communications solutions that run on enterprise networks. Faster
processing speed enhancements have also been made to two existing Cisco MCS
platforms, the Cisco MCS 7825-1133 and the high-availability Cisco MCS
7835-1266. Cisco also announced two packaged voice solutions, based on the
Integrated Communications System (ICS) 7750, which are targeted at smaller
locations. The ICS 7750-AV (for analog PSTN trunking) and the ICS 7750-DV
(for digital PSTN trunking) can replace legacy voice equipment today, and
can be upgraded to accommodate future growth. The packages include Cisco
CallManager, Cisco Unity voice mail, Cisco Auto Attendant for automated call
answering and forwarding services, as well as analog station interfaces for
fax, modems and analog phones.
Improving The Delivery Of Support
Superior service delivery is always a must for any tech support desk,
and for many people a key ingredient of solving tricky technical problems is
the ability to show someone how to solve a problem while telling them as
well. Addressing this need, Expertcity (www.expertcity.com)
has developed a new, thin-client technology, DesktopStreaming Phone Mode,
for its DesktopStreaming collaboration application.
According to Brian Donahoo, senior vice president of
products at Expertcity, Expertcity created Phone Mode because the demand was
there from tech support contact centers for a screen sharing application to
go along with traditional phone support, as they felt having voice and
screen sharing capabilities together would improve handle time and customer
satisfaction. Expertcity responded by coming up with a new connection engine
and scaled down the customer download, which allows a connection to be
established in less than 15 seconds. Basically, when an agent receives a
call and decides the customers problem can be solved most effectively by
having screen sharing and control of the customers keyboard and mouse,
the agent directs the customer to a Web site where the Phone Mode client can
be downloaded. Before the download, the agent provides the customer with a
unique connection code (the code numbers are randomly generated, are
specific to the portal, are only active for five minutes and are for a
one-time use only).
Once the connection is established, the agent has screen
sharing and control of the customers mouse and keyboard. Using the Draw
Mode, the agent is able to draw and highlight on the customers screen for
demonstrations and training. Because this is a thin-client download, some
components of Expertcitys DesktopStreaming application (such as file
transfer, two-way screen sharing and chat) have been eliminated to reduce
download time and errors. Donahoo said another benefit to the Phone Mode is
that agent training time is around 30 minutes.
Delivering IP Capabilities To Service Providers
CosmoCom (www.cosmocom.com) has
been busy this year working on its all-IP contact center platform, CosmoCall
Universe. Steve Dellutri, CosmoComs co-founder and CTO, said that while
CosmoCall Universe 4.3 can be used for many applications, CosmoCom
specializes in working with service providers so they can deliver
multitenant, hosted call center services to their clients. Since it is an IP
platform, tenants can control their call flow through a browser and even
enable multimedia applications on a legacy circuit.
Version 4.3 provides multimedia, multi-channel options,
including telephone, voice and video over IP, keyboard chat, IVR
(interactive voice response), e-mail, voice mail and fax. Other features
include voice enhancements such as the newly improved CosmoCorder multimedia
recording feature, optimized agent interaction with the PC sound system and
a new graphical user interface for the agent softphone.
Version 4.3 also integrates CosmoCall Universes IP-based
ACD (automatic call distributor) with a new CosmoDialer application.
Dellutri said CosmoCom worked with U.K.-based Sytel (www.sytelco.com) on developing the
predictive dialer application. Since the dialer is network-based, it can
link to many data sources, which is a benefit to using it in a distributed
environment, and provides flexibility to outsourced teleservices agencies.
Dellutri said even messages can be distributed using routing
rules as one would for live voice as, for example, Sonera Juxto integrated
SMS (short message service) into its hosted contact center offering. This
ability to integrate disparate applications underlines something that
Dellutri pointed out, which was that businesses are migrating to IP
solutions for the flexibility of applications more than the cost.
With advances like these going on today, I look forward to
seeing what the future will bring to transportation and the contact center
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