A Natural Merger: CaaS and Enterprise Apps

This blog entry was posted by Ed Margulies, Senior Director, Product Management CRM Service Products at Oracle. Margulies is a telecommunications architect, usability expert, inventor, and the author of 17 books on telecommunications, contact centers and service automation. The views expressed in this blog are Margulies’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

The Not So Obvious Merger

People often ponder the viability of merging hosted communications services with enterprise-based solutions. “Is it really the best of two worlds or something else altogether?” I advocate periodic review of your enterprise software deployments and possible interface points with CaaS. You’ll discover a variety of CaaS-based offerings that merge well with enterprise applications. I’ll cite some popular examples here.

Turning on a CaaS Dime

One of the advantages in merging CaaS and traditional enterprise applications is the speed at which network-based add-ons can be deployed. Let’s say you have five traditional enterprise-based contact centers deployed in as many locations. You know you can achieve an economy of scale by virtually combining all of the agents into one orchestrated pool. But the traditional approach requires special gateway boxes, individual software upgrades, and network planning. Traditional enterprise approaches often require upwards of six months to a year to deploy.

Enter CaaS-based overlay networking. Many telephone companies and ASPs can offer a hosted network routing service that virtualizes the intelligent switching in the network. Instead of five disparate, uncoordinated “brains” in as many locations, the CaaS-based overlay uses existing switches as a path to agent phones. You can still have on-premises, traditional telephone operations and associated software. The difference here is the routing intelligence – which has been pushed into the network itself to virtualize the separate sites into one.

The Kaizen of CaaS

In addition to being fast, CaaS enables incremental improvements as opposed to one big blast of features every few years. One of the chief benefits of CaaS is the ability to deploy read-made service bundles minimizing the “big bang” impact of major enterprise software releases. Since most CaaS services are based on a shared-use multi-tenant model, the software is pre-configured and ready to use. But in most cases on the enterprise side, incremental feature improvements require expensive and time-consuming upgrades. This makes the marriage between CaaS and enterprise software attractive when the next major enterprise release is a year or more away.

Incremental improvements can also mean incremental headaches. But with a good CaaS-based offering, the service provider can buffer you from the rapid changes in technology by testing and staging new technologies first. CaaS platforms offer a viable means for “early adopters” to try new technologies and capabilities without a forklift upgrade and without a big commitment. This means the folks who want to be on the leading edge of new offerings will help the service provider identify defects before the new offer is generally available. For those who are not early adopters, this offers a great deal of comfort by making incremental improvements with minimal risk.

Capital Utilization Relief

Another reason to contemplate a mix of CaaS and traditional enterprise software deals with budgeting and approvals. Sometimes it’s not a matter of choice but rather what your CFO allows you to buy. Let’s say your hardware acquisition budget is capped for the year but you still need to add capabilities you have an urgent need for.

For example, a new product launch is creating an extraordinary call volume into your support department. And you want technicians to handle multiple inquiries simultaneously. You know there are chat products that let your employees handle more than one technical support transaction at the same time. But your CFO says you are not allowed to buy any more traditional premises-based servers. Fortunately there may be funds in the operational expense budget that permit the use of a CaaS-based chat solution on top of your enterprise service application. You can choose from a number of CaaS-based chat offerings in the marketplace. To name a few: Oracle’s Call Center On Demand, Verizon Business’ Web Center and Telstra’s Web CC offering.

Social Apps Tie-In

The internet is ripe with CaaS-based social applications. And many of them find “sockets” to both personal productivity and enterprise applications. Consider popular Voice over IP (VoIP) services, for example. Some clients load in such a way that hyperlinks appear on phone numbers inside of other applications. This means some enterprise applications can link to SaaS-based services with a mouse click on any phone number.

Now consider the multi-party chat rooms and threaded discussion forums on so many social sites. These are all facilitated as a shared service on the internet. But there are extensions of these communications that cascade into enterprise applications. Now, there are many service organizations that offer links between customers and service center technicians or sales associates. These communications often originate in the context of a self-service navigation on a vendor web site. They can help to kick-off chat, email or even phone call transactions.

Web Call-Backs meet the Enterprise

Perhaps a web customer has used the self-service capabilities your web site successfully but still needs a direct communication with a technician or service agent. In this example, the customer clicks a button labeled: “talk with a service agent.” These are often called Web Call-Back or “Click-to-Talk” links. This is a web-based request that automatically triggers an outbound phone call from the agent to the customer’s phone. This technology is just over a decade old and gaining more traction all the time.

Quite often, what links the web site and the phones together is a hosted, CaaS service, not an enterprise application. When the phone call is presented to the agent, a coordinated screen pop with the customer’s profile appears automatically. That screen pop and CRM integration can be on an on-premises enterprise CRM system. Here, the media handling can be hosted in the network, but customer premises-based enterprise software is rendering the customer contact records and associated data.

In summary, there are many examples of how CaaS-based offerings are a natural extension to enterprise applications. By using hosted communications services, you can take advantage of incremental technology improvements, enhance customer care initiatives with operational expense budgets, and avoid the complexities of a traditional on-premises upgrade. You can tie social apps, enterprise apps, and hosted communications apps together. Popular media types such as VoIP, Chat, SMS and emails can be hosted and layered on top of traditional enterprise applications. We are no longer in a world of “either / or” because the best CaaS services play nice with enterprise applications.

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The Communications as a Service (CaaS) blog covers industry trends, strategies, best practices and innovations in subscription-based enhanced communications services. CaaS takes in everything from hosted virtual contact centers, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), multi-channel enabled self service, Voice 2.0, and communications-centric social apps.

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