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March 12, 2008

BlueNote Networks SOA Solutions Enable Real-World Uses for Communications-Enabled Business Processes

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor


Often, the one and only benefit touted about Voice Over IP (VoIP) is that it typically costs less for the subscriber. This is, of course, an important benefit of digitizing voice and sending it over IP networks rather than the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN). But VoIP is part of a larger technological movement usually referred to as IP communications. In the broader IP communications arena, the software-based nature of VoIP can, especially for businesses, provide benefits far beyond mere cost savings.
 
One company that has jumped into IP communications with both feet is BlueNote Networks (News - Alert), a provider of business software that helps enterprises better serve their customers by coupling voice communications with business processes.
 
During a recent conversation, BlueNote Networks’ vice president of marketing and product management, Sally Bament, explained to TMCnet that the company’s software (based on the concepts of service oriented architecture, or SOA) makes possible something called Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBPs), a term coined by Gartner (News - Alert).
 
“The whole idea of communications-enabling business processes means incorporating the ability to initiate a phone call into a business process,” Bament said.
 
She went on to explain that a business process is any task fitting into a person’s everyday business routine. It might be an internal process, such as handling an insurance claims order. It might also be an external, customer-facing process, like enabling a bank customer to initiate a phone call to the help desk using a click-to-call button on a Web page.
 
The concept of CEBPs really boils down to making it more efficient—for both employees and customers—to initiate contact through a voice call. This is achieved by providing easy-to-use tools (like a click-to-call button on a Web page) that reduce the number and complexity of steps necessary for making contact.
 
BlueNote’s flagship software product, SessionSuite SOA Edition, provides a platform for making CEBPs possible. Web Service interfaces built into the software allow companies to embed voice communications into existing systems and tools used by employees to do their jobs every day. This might include the company’s Web site, the company’s corporate directory, and desktop software like Microsoft (News - Alert) Office.
 
Enhancing the core SessionSuite SOA platform are two other CEBP-related products: SessionSuite WebCaller (a Web-based client that enables click-to-call from a Web site) and SessionSuite Desktop (lets the ability to make a phone call be embedded into popular desktop applications).
 
Bament provided a variety of examples showing how CEBPs, made possible by SessionSuite solutions, are already helping enterprises operate more efficiently.
 
“We provide solutions that allow companies to communications-enable business processes today,” Bament stressed. “These examples are solutions we have deployed or are working on.”
 
Bament divided her real-world examples of CEBPs into two categories: internal productivity enhancements and customer reach.
 
Internal Productivity Enhancements
 
One solution that BlueNote developed, applicable to enterprises in many industries, involved a corporate directory at a large corporation. In this instance, SessionSuite enhanced the value employees gained from the directory. Previously, employees would look someone up in the directory, manually dial that person’s phone number, and if he or she wasn’t around, leave a voicemail message before, perhaps, looking up other names in an attempt to get a question answered.
 
With SessionSuite, this same employee can initiate a phone call from within the corporate directory application simply by clicking on the person’s phone number.
 
“Not only that, the caller can see—based on presence information—whether the person being called is at his or her desk, on the phone, or in a meeting,” Bament said. “Plus, if the person is not available, the caller can see who the backup person is.”
 
A second example of CEBP benefits involved BlueNote’s recently-announced outbound notification framework. A large financial services organization was looking for a way to make its information technology (IT) group more effective at solving issues quickly when they arose. Because the IT group is very large and its members are geographically dispersed, the most effective way to get everyone involved was via conference calls.
 
But, establishing and conducting a conference call with dozens or hundreds of participants was unwieldy. This inefficiency was eliminated by using BlueNote’s outbound notification framework. Now, if an issue arises (such as a security breach), all members of the IT group are automatically joined into a conference call, and management can easily monitor who is on the call and who isn’t.
 
“If a security issue occurs, an alarm generates an outbound call to hundreds of people and joins them onto a conference bridge,” Bament explained. “This is all automated. The application also allows management to see who is joining the conference call, who may be on another call, and what are the alternative ways of reaching those people.”
 
BlueNote’s SessionSuite products also can be useful in industries, like healthcare and financial services, where regulatory compliance requires specialized processes for handling communications tasks.
 
“In the financial services industry, financial analysts aren’t allowed to talk to brokers,” Bament noted. “CEBPs provides the ability to enforce this. If an analyst tries to call a broker, the call is automatically circumvented—record it, terminate it, forward it on to a compliance officer, or push it to voicemail.”
 
Customer Reach
 
Bament said that customer reach examples for CEBPs may be more meaningful to enterprises because the return on investment (ROI) is more obvious.
 
“The customer-facing applications tend to have more ROI associated with them because they involve customer transactions,” she said.
 
One example Bament provided of a customer reach use for CEBPs involved a financial services firm that wanted to offer its VIP clients with automated phone alerts when particular stocks reached a certain price. BlueNote’s software enabled the firm to do just that. Now, when stocks reach a certain price (based on specifications set up ahead of time), the client’s phone rings and recorded message is played about the price change.
 
“The client can then determine if he or she wants to do something with the stock based on the information,” Bament explained. An IVR system lets the client easily initiate a call directly to the firm’s call center to discuss the price change and take appropriate action.
 
As mentioned earlier, BlueNote’s software enables companies to embed click-to-call buttons into their Web sites, giving clients an easy way to reach customer service. The benefits go beyond merely initiating a call, though. For example, say a person is paying his or her bills on the weekend, using a bank’s Web site to perform certain transactions. In the process, the customer discovers that he or she need assistance with one of the online banking tools. A click-to-call button is available to contact the bank for assistance.
 
When that call is initiated, information about the transaction the customer is having challenges with is transferred to the call center.
 
“When the agent gets the call, it comes with a screen pop that shows what Web page the customer is on, what transaction is being attempted, and account information,” Bament explained. “This makes the communication a lot more efficient.”
 
In another financial services example, BlueNote’s software helped create a mobile payment service. Customers who sign up can get notifications on their cell phones (via an automated outbound call from the financial services firm) when transactions they performed (such a payment or transfer of funds) are complete. This frees customers from their PCs.
 
The Future for CEBPs
 
Bament acknowledged that the market for CEBPs is still in its infancy, with solutions like the ones described here typically being adopted by forward-looking enterprises in the financial services and hospitality industries.
 
But, there is much potential for CEBPs and she predicted this type of enhanced communications solution will become more and more popular. BlueNote is getting in early on the trend. In doing so the company developed software that lets enterprises add new functionality to their existing communications systems—no rip-and-replace needed.
 
“BlueNote enables enterprises to modernize what they have and tie it into business processes,” Bament explained.
 
She added: “This is the new way of delivering voice services within an enterprise.”
 
To learn more about CEBPs, please visit the SOA/Web Services on TMCnet, brought to you by BlueNote Networks.
 
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Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users. Today’s featured white paper is Convergence in Telecommunication, brought to you by Comarch (News - Alert).

 
Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.



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