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February 2005


IP Contact Center Technology: What You Need To Know (Part I)

Multisite Contact Center Technology Centralization: Eliminating The Risks

Introducing The IP Contact Center
The core value of voice-over-IP (“VoIP”) technology lies in its inherent ability to convert voice communications into data packets and transmit those packets on the same data networks that carry multimedia Web communications and customer-related data. As a result, IP contact center technology enables communications to be routed from anywhere to anywhere — to agents who can work from any location on a global network.

Why You Should Care
These attributes, in combination with traditional ACD discipline, offer multisite organizations the ability to unify all their locations with a new “geographically agnostic” approach to skills-based routing; one that delivers compelling transaction-processing efficiency benefits. Companies can fully leverage a global pool of agents and connect each customer with the particular agent best qualified to manage his or her specific transaction in the shortest amount of time, regardless of where that agent is physically located. This provides dramatic productivity gains and increases the quality of customer service delivery (and therefore customer satisfaction).

IP contact center technology also enables companies to fully integrate all communications channels on a single global network. This allows companies to deploy “multimedia” agents at diverse locations. It also empowers universal queuing, allowing companies to provide consistent customer treatment across the phone, fax and Internet.

Dramatic Cost Reductions
The benefits are even more compelling from a cost-reduction perspective. As any contact center IT manager (or CFO) can tell you, there are tremendous inefficiencies associated with the “traditional” approach of deploying and maintaining diverse contact center systems at every location. These inefficiencies include duplication of systems and licenses at each site, shortages of software licenses at some locations while the needed resources sit idle at other locations, and the duplication of local staff required to maintain each set of systems at every location. IP contact center technology eliminates these inefficiencies by empowering companies to centralize technology resources and leverage them across a global network, thereby dramatically reducing technology costs across all locations. It can also effectively reduce transport costs.

So What’s The Catch?
Given such dramatic benefits, it would be natural to wonder why market adoption, though already strong and accelerating, has not been universal across all multisite organizations. Risk is one big reason. Consider that mainstream business publications, analysts and academic research consistently report that 60 percent to 70 percent of IP contact center deployments never achieve their stated objectives, albeit for entirely predictable technology reasons.

So what do those who have successfully realized the promise and potential of IP-based technology know that so many business consumers don’t? Those are the kinds of issues that we’ll be focusing on every month in this column. This month, we’ll be focusing on three of the most obvious “showstoppers” that would prevent most multisite IP contact center initiatives from getting off the ground.

The First Showstopper: Scalability
The first obvious showstopper for larger organizations: whether or not a proposed centralized infrastructure solution can scale to service all corporate sites. Achieving maximum economies of scale requires a solution that enables all sites to share common hardware, software licenses and phone lines. The problem: traditional enterprise solutions can’t scale sufficiently to support large-scale multisite operations. Newer network-based technologies, however, can easily scale to meet this critical objective.
A word of warning: while many vendors claim to be network-based, what they generally mean is that their technology is distributed across multiple servers that perform specific tasks. True network-based software architectures eliminate traditional scalability limitations by actually spawning task-specific system processes that can be spread across an unlimited number of servers — redefining scalability as a flexible barrier limited only by the physical back-end processing resources of the network. In that sense, the network really becomes the computer — because system processes actually communicate with each other over the network to form the application. Need to scale? Plug in another server. No limits.

The Second Showstopper: Reliability
Companies are understandably reluctant to put all their eggs in one basket. So if a company is going to centralize technology, it must be very sure that the centralized system can’t “go down” or it will bring global operations to a grinding halt.

The answer, again, lies in newer designed-for-purpose, network-based system architectures, wherein all system processes can run in parallel on multiple servers at the same time. This means that communications will always stay alive even if individual servers fail. In fact, because the method of parallel processing is network-based, it can even take place across multiple data centers to provide carrier-grade, real-time disaster recovery.

The Third Showstopper: Loss Of Local Autonomy
Centralizing technology to gain economies of scale requires all locations to share common hardware, software licenses and phone lines. As a result, proposals focusing on technology centralization from a data-segmentation perspective always tend to alarm local managers, who will naturally be afraid that local concerns will not be effectively addressed on a shared platform. This objection generally gives rise to the core “political” obstacle because most local managers won’t want to give up control of their mission-critical systems to an external IT department. The good news is that they won’t have to.

Newer “multitenant” technology approaches recognize the need for segmented, decentralized control over shared centralized resources. In plain English, with some (but not all) multitenant IP contact center approaches, local managers can have more control over their “virtual” infrastructure than they had with their old premise-based systems.

This approach to “sharing” technology is what enables service providers such as Siebel (“Contact OnDemand”), MCI and TELUS to offer hosted contact center services to companies and government agencies of all sizes (at price points that were unimaginable only a few years ago), while entirely eliminating the traditional barrier of capital investment.
Now multitenant IP contact center technology can also empower companies to become in-house service providers for their own sites and divisions.

Stay Tuned
Next month, we’ll explore exactly how local autonomy can be maintained and enhanced on shared, centralized infrastructure — and we’ll also explore how local “on-demand” technology modification can dramatically increase productivity and per-seat revenue.
In the meantime, feel free to e-mail us for more information on multisite technology centralization, at [email protected] or (in Canada) at [email protected].

Eli Borodow is the CEO of [email protected], the leading provider of adaptive, multitenant IP contact center technology for service providers and contact centers. Kevin Hayden is the Director of Integrated Contact Centre Solutions at TELUS Communications Inc., a tier-1 telecommunications carrier in Canada and a Canadian provider of hosted contact center services.

[ Return To February 2005 Table Of Contents ]


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