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Technology Highlights
August 2001

Relief For The Dog Days

2001 Editors' Choice Awards

AltiCenter: Standalone IP Call Center For The Midmarket
www.altigen.com/888-ALTIGEN, ext. 300
Cost and system integration are two significant hurdles to clear when implementing technology solutions. No business, particularly a contact center, is going to jump at the prospect of dumping legacy systems for the glitter and burdensome expense of the "New, Improved" all-in-one platform/system, especially if the return on investment hides in some nebulous future time frame. Similarly, no business will invest in a compromise solution that either does not integrate with systems on hand or requires a lot of IT support to effect integration. Building on its market position and expertise in the IP-PBX and server-based telecommunications system market, AltiGen Communications developed AltiCenter, a standalone IP call center for the small and mid-size business market.

AltiGen's chief marketing officer, Richard De Soto, commented that "...small call centers have had no good alternative than to implement systems for $50,000-$100,000 and seat licenses of up to $5,000 per seat. What these businesses need is an affordable and comprehensive call center solution that works with their existing PBX or an AltiServ PBX."

AltiCenter provides the ability to integrate voice and data communications such as phones, voice mail, e-mail, Web interactions, and local and remote IP calling. The IP call center is designed to work with legacy PBXs as well as AltiGen's AltiServ IP-PBX for greater flexibility and compatibility. AltiCenter enables a company's internal IT staff to reduce the number of systems needed to deliver converged services by performing communications functions typically relegated to separate systems, such as automatic call distributors (ACD), voice mail systems and computer-telephony middleware. It also provides additional enhanced capabilities, including e-mail management, Web chats and Web push for improved productivity, e-commerce capabilities and better customer service.

AltiCenter, designed for ease of use and management, provides IP and analog phone capabilities. With the majority of its qualities coming directly from AltiGen's AltiServ 4.0 Advanced IP-PBX server platform, AltiCenter offers the ability to create call waiting and overflow queues, route calls to IP phones via the Internet or to traditional analog phones and enables complete supervisory break-in and queue management capabilities. Owing to its modular design, AltiGen systems are able to grow as a business requires, starting from support for as few as four agents.

AltiCenter is a "complete call center in a box" that includes: IP and/or analog calling; voice mail with voice response, one-number "find me" and direct callback while in voice mail; automatic call distribution; local and remote IP agents supported as agents in local and multiple workgroups; an integrated e-mail server, CTI screen pops using Goldmine, ACT! or Outlook software; legacy PBX support and support for IP or analog phones (including "softphones") from multiple phone vendors. AltiCenter also features call monitoring, the AltiAgent desktop client interface, Web interaction features (Web callback, chat and push) and application programming interfaces to integrate third-party applications, such as IVR, voice call recording and CRM. A free demonstration CD is available from the company.

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2001 Editors' Choice Awards

CRM In A Hurry For SMEs
The premise behind Multiactive Software, Inc.'s Maximizer Enterprise 6.0 solution is delivery of effective customer relationship management tools that can be implemented rapidly, right "out-of-the-box," and can be easily customized and integrated with other systems, such as accounting, ERP or inventory management systems. The software helps small to mid-sized companies build lasting and profitable relationships with their customers, and the solution's built-in e-commerce functionality provides easy-to-use to tools that allow any business to find and qualify leads online and sell through their own Web store. Multiactive states that a typical installation of 20-30 seats can be up and running in one week, which certainly makes the solution worth a closer look.

Maximizer's Contact Manager permits tracking every customer interaction and sharing this information throughout the organization. Along each step of the sales cycle, managers and sales team members can track the progress made on each sales opportunity. A Strategy Library component provides a structure for defining and recording a sales strategy. Applying users' criteria, the solution can assess ideas provided by the sales force and evaluate the probability of success for a sales campaign strategy. With Maximizer's Remote Synchronization feature, the system's single, distributed database can be updated remotely in real-time, and sales people can interact with customers and their peers from any location. Combined with a company's e-mail system or file transfer protocol (FTP), remote team members can receive accurate and timely information on all opportunities. At each remote site, a copy of part or all of the database is kept. Remote Synchronization automatically merges Maximizer Enterprise database changes to a central database and receives updated data back from the central database files over a LAN, WAN or the Internet. Additionally, Multiactive offers Enterprise Link 6.0 synchronization software for the Palm PC platform and all of the 3Com Palm Connected Organizers' built-in functions. The Palm To-Do List, Date Book, Address Book and Memos link to the Hotlist, Calendar, Address Book and Notes Maximizer Enterprise and automatically synchronize with the touch of a button.

Maximizer Enterprise features a wealth of software drivers, instructions and code examples to assist IT staff and software developers in tailoring the solution to a company's needs. The software supports many Windows industry standards (ODBC, OLE, ActiveX and COM, for example), facilitating database creation/ linkage, form creation for data entry, interface customization, etc., without the need to muck about in the applications' source code. When information is updated in one database, the ODBC driver passes the information to other linked databases. For reporting and analysis, ODBC ensures that information is always current and eliminates the need to enter the same information into more than one system. A free trial CD is available from the company.

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2001 Editors' Choice Awards

FrontOffice Optimization
TechExcel Inc.'s FrontOffice is an integrated suite of five products intended for managing all aspects of the customer lifecycle. FrontOffice combines ServiceWise, the company's customer support solution, with four new applications: SalesWise, a sales force automation package; MarketingWise, a complete online marketing tool; AssetWise for advanced asset management and FormWise for online forms automation.

The two components that struck our fancy, MarketingWise and SalesWise, are geared to offer dynamic support for closing the loop in the customer lifecycle. MarketingWise manages comprehensive online marketing programs, from high-level marketing campaigns to sophisticated online marketing initiatives and data analysis. It focuses on the target customer and manages the complete marketing lifecycle from first impression to qualified prospect, tracking each prospect's qualification status throughout. MarketingWise also escalates qualified prospects automatically into SalesWise, initiating the sales process.

Among MarketingWise's features is detailed task management with easily assigned owners, due dates and progress status tracking. There is a document management component for marketing-related files (such as artwork and logo images, white papers, marketing collateral and banner ads) with complete revision history tracked for each file. Activities can be organized by major program, individual project and specific task, each with a different owner. The application allows for implementing sophisticated online marketing programs, and customized fields can be created for program tracking. Response rates to e-mail "blasts" can be tracked and individual responses can be monitored using sales points defined for each marketing program. Sales point values can be defined and assigned to all online programs, used to identify those prospects that accumulate the most points and escalate qualified prospects directly into SalesWise when defined thresholds are reached. Since MarketingWise and SalesWise share the same database, the transition from marketing prospect to sales lead is seamless.

SalesWise manages all aspects of the sales process, from initial contact through quote management and order processing. It creates an extended sales team that incorporates marketing, sales, support and field service into the sales process. SalesWise integrates seamlessly with ServiceWise to provide efficient customer support before and after the sale. The product allows for creating fully customized sales workflow, detailed task lists and logging of sales activities. It can create sales groups and automatically assign sales leads to the appropriate person based on any criteria defined by the user. Sales staff can easily monitor the support issues for all customers and prospects, and be automatically notified by e-mail, pager or cell phone when high priority customer support incidents are entered. Customized sales workflows can be created, and all sales leads and associated contacts are managed in the central SalesWise database. The module also provides for multiple quote generation and management, analysis of competitors' Web sites, offers a wide range of reporting and analysis tools and provides a Web interface to facilitate collaboration with the extended sales team throughout the sales process.

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2001 Editors' Choice Awards

Champagne Networking And Software Solutions On A Beer Budget
Zero Effort Networking, Inc. adds a clever twist to the ASP model with its introduction of "instant" virtual private networks and monthly software rentals. The company provides the network infrastructure, instant access to popular software applications and the ability to collaborate and share information using any computer connected to the Internet. These services are designed to allow small to medium-sized businesses to create complete IT networks in minutes. The intent is to provide an IT solution for network managers who can, in short order, create information-sharing workgroups with just the necessary software, eliminating upfront investments in hardware and software, and costs associated with in-house network management. Subscribers select the software they want to rent and the software icon instantly appears on the screen in a familiar Windows 2000 virtual desktop. The software rental applications are installed on Zero Effort Networking's servers and ready for immediate use.

A virtual "home" drive provides secure storage for a user's personal files, which can also be stored on the user's local machine. Corporations are provided with a shared 30 MB virtual drive that allows users to exchange information and files based on permissions set by the company's IT manager. The IT manager can also add/remove users, change passwords, add/remove applications, edit system resources and view billing information. Zero Effort Networking manages the network and provides regular backups of the data. Software upgrades are in-stalled immediately to ensure that users have access to the latest versions of all programs.

"Small companies and individual users can benefit from the same kind of technology and applications used by Fortune 100 companies," explained Michael Day, CEO of Zero Effort. "Applications are assigned on a per-employee basis, so the company only pays for software that each employee requires. This is the perfect solution for companies that have limited financial resources or lack the technical resources to build infrastructure and manage the IT functions in-house."

Zero Effort Networking also offers OEM, reseller and affiliate programs to distribution partners, software developers and broadband suppliers who offer ASP and broadband connectivity. Resellers can private-label and resell software rental services that are hosted and supported by Zero Effort Networking.

[ Return To August 2001 Table Of Contents ]

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