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February 2009 | Volume 27 / Number 9
Ask the Experts

Migrating To An All-In-One Solution… How Do We Get There?

By Tim Passios,
Director of Product Management, Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert)

Q The all-in-one contact center solution is definitely the way to go for the future of my contact center. But I’ve got a problem that’s stopping me in my tracks. How do we move from a traditional multi-point communications system to an all-in-one solution and still protect our IT investment?

A This question comes courtesy of a CIO who approached me a year ago at the Gartner IT Symposium, and also from a contact center manager I spoke with at TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) West in Los Angeles this past September.

In the CIO’s case, he literally showed me a diagram of his organization’s contact center architecture and couldn’t stress enough the number of systems it consisted of. IVRs, ACDs, call recorders, a WFM system — you name it, there was a box for it, and the gentleman was more than willing to explain why each system was necessary and what specific business process it supported.

“It looks as if you have everything you need,” I told him.

“Yes, we do,” he said. “But this system is extremely complex, and the administration and energy costs alone are more prohibitive than I care to admit. In my mind, we need to simplify the whole thing, but I’m honestly not sure what our options are because we’re so limited right now by expenses and budgets.”

It was the same story from the contact center manager I met, who oversaw 1,500 agents along with tons of legacy equipment. She attended a presentation I gave in which one of the principal points was that all-in-one communications platforms and application suites will replace a majority of multi-point solutions within the next few years.

“I totally applaud the all-in-one movement,” she let me know. “The thing is, we have so many systems from different vendors that are so tightly integrated… I can’t get approval from upper management to make the move because they think it would be disruptive and too expensive. And even if I did get the OK, I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Trust me. I’ve heard from a lot of CIOs and contact center managers who feel trapped by the mixed bag of technology they have to work with — and who are frustrated by it. I also usually hear a common refrain of dichotomy among such decision-makers: “Ripping and replacing an entire IT infrastructure of multiple systems isn’t feasible, yet the only way to get to an all-in-one solution is a matter of all-or-nothing.”

This simply isn’t true.

The biggest benefit of things like open software architectures, IP networks and SIP is that they’ve led to a broader path of integration for business communications. And totally unlike the heydays of legacy systems and vendor lock-ins, an open approach gives organizations more flexibility than they sometimes realize.

Organizations can integrate with more back-end systems and business applications. They can close the gap between a contact center and the rest of their enterprise. They can even migrate an installed multi-point hardware system to an all-in-one all-software platform piece by piece, as needed, to shelter the investment they’ve made in each system.

(Yes, this is a shameless plug. Our all-in-one Interaction Center Platform technology was developed using an open software approach in 1994 and architected for SIP in 2002. All along, our platform has allowed Interactive Intelligence customers to integrate with existing IT frameworks, email platforms, databases, applications, CRM packages, speech engines, web servers and other business communications systems, most recently Microsoft (News - Alert)’s Office Communications Server 2007.)

“Okay, show me how to do that without ripping and replacing our current systems.” Two keys here:

Planning. Start with a detailed assessment of your existing technology — much like the CIO who approached me with his contact center’s architecture diagram. Determine each system’s status, the function(s) it serves, and what you wish to accomplish by moving it and other systems to an all-in-one solution. Less equipment and complexity? Lower energy costs? Central administration? Planning also includes doing your homework to find a solution that will deliver on your overall objectives now and for the future.

Take incremental steps to the total move. Ease migration by replacing only one multi-point component at a time, or perhaps a few at a time. By design, all-in-one application suites allow a contact center to “turn on” only those applications it needs, when needed, such as ACD, IVR, voice mail, etc.

Consider this scenario for planning and making incremental moves:

• Pinpoint an event that triggers the need for a new system, say an IVR reaching end-of-life status. • Identify an all-in-one platform that allows you to replace your IVR with like or better functionality. Make sure the platform (and vendor) will support subsequent growth with standards-based integration to handle all the applications your contact center requires.

• As other triggers occur — needs for advanced ACD features, outbound dialing, a new voice mail system, etc. — look to the all-in-one platform you invested in for your IVR. As mentioned, a key benefit

of software-based all-in-one platforms is that features are available and easily activated via a simple licensing process. • In time, move the rest of your multi-point system functions and applications to the all-in-one platform in a “natural” progression.

Migration complete, investments protected, less complexity, central admin…and upper management applauds you for the lower costs.

Tim Passios (News - Alert) is Director of Solutions Marketing for Interactive Intelligence, Inc. For more information, contact Interactive Intelligence at [email protected] or (317) 872-3000.

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