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IR - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

Page: 1 | 2

IR Live - Microsoft WPC

Skip Chilcott live from Microsoft WPC in Toronto where IR has just been named as Skype Operations Framework Network Readiness and Assessment Partner

If you want to learn more about network pre-assessment, or see Prognosis in action, drop by and see Skip and the IR team at booth #437 at WPC in Toronto. Alternatively click below to read more and register for the preview program.

Register for Preview Program

 

Skip Chilcott

As global head of product marketing, Skip Chilcott leads worldwide product marketing at IR. He is a 20-plus year veteran of the communications and collaboration industry, dating to the early 1990s with his time at Placeware Web Conferencing. Before joining IR, Skip spent 12 years at Microsoft, involved early on in real-time collaboration, unified communications, and cloud productivity products and services. Most recently there, he focused on the Lync/Skype for Business and Office 365 go-to-market strategy and execution.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/ir-live-microsoft-wpc

Publish Date: July 13, 2016 5:00 AM


Is your network ready for Skype for Business? (And how to find out)

In my last blog post, I wrote about the importance of a network pre-assessment to ensure success for UC deployments. Well, exciting news to just come out of Microsoft's WPC, where IR was announced as one of the IT Pro Tool partners to support Skype for Business Online Network Readiness in the new Microsoft Skype Operations Framework (SOF).

The SOF addresses the Plan, Deliver and Operate phases of Skype for Business. A Network Readiness Assessment is a crucial part of the Plan phase, to ensure the network is prepared for Skype for Business. Microsoft has defined two levels of assessment to deliver this; Essentials and Advanced. After working closely with the Microsoft Skype for Business IT Pro Tools partner team, we have ensured Prognosis meets all the requirements for both the Essentials Level, which is focused on readiness and identifying issues, and Advanced Level which offers root-cause analysis and remediation.

The recently announced IR Prognosis Pre-Assessment capabilities will provide valuable insights to test the internal network, as well as connectivity to Skype for Business Online in the Office 365 cloud. Automatically detecting likely issues in performance of voice, video, and desktop sharing facilitating their resolution before migrating to a cloud or hybrid environment. This is delivered via our unique, probe-less design, which means a fast deployment, reducing the time needed to conduct the assessment.

If you want to learn more about network pre-assessment, or see Prognosis in action, drop by and see me and the team at booth #437 while we are here at WPC in Toronto. Alternatively click below to read more and register for the preview program.

Register for Preview Program

 

Skip Chilcott

As global head of product marketing, Skip Chilcott leads worldwide product marketing at IR. He is a 20-plus year veteran of the communications and collaboration industry, dating to the early 1990s with his time at Placeware Web Conferencing. Before joining IR, Skip spent 12 years at Microsoft, involved early on in real-time collaboration, unified communications, and cloud productivity products and services. Most recently there, he focused on the Lync/Skype for Business and Office 365 go-to-market strategy and execution.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/is-your-network-ready-for-skype-for-business-and-how-to-find-out

Publish Date: July 13, 2016 5:00 AM


Why a network pre-assessment is critical for UC

In a recent podcast I discussed the importance of running regular tests to ensure unified communications eco-systems are performing as intended. This is just as important prior to any deployment, as it is to ongoing health.

Last week we announced new deployment and migration pre-assessment capabilities to IR Prognosis for UC. With these new capabilities, IT teams can test the internal network, as well as connectivity to the Office 365 cloud, and automatically assess the infrastructure to detect likely issues in performance of voice, video, and desktop sharing and resolve them before migrating to a cloud or hybrid environment. Join our webinar next month to learn more - click below.

One of the most critical elements in a successful UC deployment in the cloud or in a hybrid environment is ensuring the IT infrastructure is optimized to cope with the demands of real-time communications. However, organizations often fail to pre-assess their network and UC environment and later find out - during deployment - the network is unable to handle the demands, causing a poor user experience.

Prognosis for UC has a unique software-based design that does not require network probes for UC traffic analysis across the network. Therefore, it can be deployed much quicker than other probe based solutions and provides full visibility across the entire UC environment, including SBCs, routers, and Wi-Fi access points. Furthermore, it will not only identify potential issues, but also troubleshoot the root cause and provide prescriptive remedial guidance, reducing the time to prepare for a successful deployment or a migration to the cloud.

UC infrastructure is complex with potential problem areas that can be hard to see. Utilizing the Prognosis for UC to perform a pre-assessment, IT operations can identify what could go wrong ahead of deployment - delivering a better user experience, while assisting with a migration to the cloud.

Want to know more about network pre-assessment? You can inquire here, alternatively I'm in Toronto with the IR team at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) all this week, July 11-14. Drop in and say hi at booth #437

 

Skip Chilcott

As global head of product marketing, Skip Chilcott leads worldwide product marketing at IR. He is a 20-plus year veteran of the communications and collaboration industry, dating to the early 1990s with his time at Placeware Web Conferencing. Before joining IR, Skip spent 12 years at Microsoft, involved early on in real-time collaboration, unified communications, and cloud productivity products and services. Most recently there, he focused on the Lync/Skype for Business and Office 365 go-to-market strategy and execution.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/why-a-network-pre-assessment-is-critical-for-uc

Publish Date: July 11, 2016 5:00 AM


Cloud Comms Question No Longer 'If' But 'How'

As enterprises turn to the cloud, they must address issues around ROI, management, and deployment model.

Every enterprise IT professional I've spoken with over the last few months has said moving to the cloud is a certainty -- no longer a question of if, but how and when. With cloud adoption accelerating, vendors that haven't yet pivoted from the premises or refined their cloud strategies are scrambling to do so.

Some companies were early to the game, and cloud-based PBX providers that started out rather small have come up in a big way over the past few years. This includes niche players like 8x8 andRingCentral, which have been rounding out their cloud services portfolios, extending their reach overseas, and moving upmarket.

Big, global companies like Microsoft and Cisco are rapidly expanding their cloud services for voice, video, and collaboration, too. If one of the big vendors focuses their efforts somewhere, you know they're going all out. It speaks volumes they're so heavily invested in the cloud.

As a result of all this market activity, even those enterprises once reluctant to move to the cloud are beginning to test the waters by putting small groups of users into the cloud. If they see a good return on investment (ROI) and a positive user experience, it won't be long until we see thousands or even millions of users moving to cloud services. It's primarily a matter of whether or not it's a good investment and does not degrade the user experience. Ultimately, everyone is trying to figure out good strategies that work for their situations.

Management

A key question that companies are asking themselves is how exactly they're going to manage the transition to the cloud. They've already invested a great deal in premises communications equipment and solutions. As users transition from premises to the cloud, they need to ensure that the user experience remains strong.

When you think about what's involved, organizations are basically switching their entire strategies of how to provide communications to their employees. Managing all of that is a huge deal -- it puts a large burden on IT departments to make this kind of change. Mission-critical communications simply can't go down. Managing the user experience is king, regardless of whether infrastructure lies on premises or in the cloud. If it's not acceptable or interferes with their productivity, they will find an alternative solution or simply stay on the old system, delaying the ROI, driving up costs, and negatively impacts IT operations.

How does IT manage the transition while keeping the user experience intact? What metrics can it use to monitor everything? If their experience isn't as good as it was before, users will abandon the solution provided by their companies and go somewhere else. (In fact, that's a pretty common occurrence.)

Multivendor and Hybrid Solutions

Multivendor and hybrid solutions aren't just buzzwords of the moment; they're cloud deployment models vendors are promoting and many enterprises are testing.

A hybrid solution model employs a mixture of cloud and on-premises infrastructure to satisfy an organization's needs. It might be ideal for some users to move to the cloud right away. Others (like contact centers, for instance) need to stay on premises. Other companies have long-term contracts with telecom providers for PSTN connectivity. Hybrid solutions take advantage of on-premises infrastructure and successfully marry it with cloud services.

Everybody likes to say they're on a single platform, but at the end of the day, most communications rely on multiple vendors. Single-vendor solutions simply aren't very common. For example, there are different manufacturers for network infrastructure (like routers, switches, session border controllers, PBX software, and accompanying hardware). Several different companies are involved with the components of a given solution. For that reason, multivendor solutions are here to stay, even when moving to the cloud.

Ultimately users vote with their usage and adoption of the solution. Therefore, managing and optimizing the user experience should be priority one. For successful UC deployments and cloud transition strategies, enterprises should ensure they:

  1. Assess and test their environments before, during, and after deployment or migration to ensure readiness and quality
  2. Proactively monitor quality and performance or conferences and calls, troubleshoot issues and find the root cause quickly before users are affected 
  3. Create a long-term performance management strategy and solution that supports a broad set of vendors and will support them for their journeys to the cloud, regardless of when and how they choose to proceed

This post originally appeared on NoJitter.com as: Cloud Comms Question No Longer 'If' But 'How'

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/cloud-comms-question-no-longer-if-but-how

Publish Date: June 8, 2016 5:00 AM


3 Steps to Bulletproof your Contact Center

To optimize their operations, contact centers typically aim to achieve predictable performance, relying on complex forecasting systems to assess peak loads and plan accordingly. But -- and this is a very important but -- what happens when the best-made plans lay in tatters? For example, if storm season hits unexpectedly early, as is forecast for this year, or your business changes in a way that triggers peak loading outside the plan, will your organization, and contact center, be able to cope?

Get our eBook: 4 keys to eContact Center Success

Step 1: Load Testing

A good example is the impact a powerful storm can have on a utility company. With advance warning of a storm's arrival, the organization will know to expect a surge in calls. But how many? And when?

Load testing provides the ability to determine if the contact center will be ready to handle the onslaught. But the contact center needs to test the scenario in advance... well in advance. Even if an organization has experienced large surges in call traffic previously, unforeseen issues might pop up when least expected. Has the contact center implemented any technology changes since the last peak? Have any contact center managers come on board since then? Have the IVR trees changed? Unless you put the predicted load -- or even greater call volume, just to be safe -- through the system, you can never really know just how it will handle the stress.

The same thing applies from a unified communications perspective, especially as you move more users onto the system. What happens if an event occurs that generates an influx of phone calls? Maybe a negative news article comes out, say on a security breach. All of a sudden everybody is calling each other. As employees scramble to fix software problems and respond to the press, will the UC solution be able to keep pace?

Maybe the company will receive complaints about how nobody is answering the phone. But maybe the problem is really that the calls aren't going through to the right people, at the right time. Load testing will uncover these kinds of issues.

Step 2: Customer Experience Testing

Customer Experience, or CX, is not just a buzzword, it is critical to the success of an organization. Deliver a bad customer experience and you not only lose current business, you lose potential business and, worse, your brand could take a beating on social media and other platforms. Yet you can run tests to prevent against bad customer experience.

Is the IVR system operating to give customers the experience they want? Are customers getting their problems solved to their satisfaction? Are customers walking away frustrated? If they try to interact with your company via the website, is everything working correctly? When it comes to customer service, do calls go through the IVR trees correctly so they're routed where they need to go?

If you know how to test for them, you can answer all those questions.

Step 3: Ongoing Testing

You've done load testing and everything worked as expected, but that was back then. You've also made sure you're delivering outstanding customer experience. You're all done, right? Not necessarily. While your organization is certainly in a better place, testing is something that needs to happen on an ongoing basis.

Of course, you'll also find that some one-time events call for special testing. For retailers, special testing might occur during advance preparation for the holidays. A tax company might run a special load test when prepping for tax return season. Or, if your company is planning a big ad campaign, you might want to run some load tests to see that your contact center can handle increased calling.

Other regular occurrences call for ongoing availability and regression testing. Are the phones going to be available and ready for use at the start of every business day? Are the conference bridge numbers available? Are the bridges ready for employees to hold online meetings? With monitoring software, you should be able to catch any technological issues that might lead to problems. Automated testing, conducted on a regularly scheduled basis, can help ensure systems are operating properly.

Bulletproofing your contact center is really about proactively identifying problems before you have to react to them. The costs of downtime are far more severe than whatever it would take to find a problem ahead of time. Scheduled, automated testing can minimize downtime and unexpected outages. You might even prevent a catastrophe from occurring. Behind the scenes, you're able to switch to a backup or take the necessary action to keep everything running without interruption.

Automation is key to all this because it controls variance and offsets the human-induced uncertainty as to what has been done and what has happened. People do a great job of assessing what has happened -- judgement -- but repetition, consistency, volume, and details are challenges without automation. Do-overs are costly. Doing it right and with precision is efficient.

Much wiser men than I have said that prevention is better than cure, and prevention in today's contact centers all starts with automated testing.

Get our eBook: 4 keys to eContact Center Success

This post originally appeared on NoJitter as: 3 Steps to Bulletproof your Contact Center

 

Darc Rasmussen

Darc was appointed CEO and Managing Director of IR in October 2013. Darc is a seasoned 25-year IT and enterprise software professional with extensive international experience in building and growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/3-steps-to-bulletproof-your-contact-center

Publish Date: May 30, 2016 5:00 AM


How to manage Skype for Business in a multi-vendor environment [podcast]

Skype for Business continues to change the unified communications landscape. In the majority of instances Skype for Business needs to work effectively with legacy equipment. In his first session on the IR-Podcast, CEO Darc Rasmussen discusses tips on how to effectively manage Skype for Business in a multi-vendor environment.

Want to know more about Skype for Business and how it might fit in with your organization? Download our helpful eBook now.

Transcript

Scott: Unified communications is a multi-vendor world. Where do tools like Skype for Business fit in? Today we visit with Darc Rasmussen, the CEO of IR to discuss Skype in the multi-vendor world.

Darc: Skype for Business is really changing the game in the marketplace today and it is bringing together and creating a single solution that incorporates so many different rich interaction options for users. Voice, video, an instant message interaction that can seamlessly upgrade to a document sharing interaction that can seamlessly upgrade to an audio and video interaction is, you know, could be mistaken for a single vendor solution. I don’t need lots of different unified communications systems. I can do it all with Skype for Business. So when we think about how we manage Skype for Business, there’s a real danger and we see it often unfortunately both that vendors and the customers using the system says well we only need to monitor to manage and performance optimize Skype for Business to make it work properly. And you know, that is unfortunately a real misconception because the reality is that Skype for Business is a system while it provides this wonderful, you know, single source unified communications capability sits on top of a multi-vendor technology stack. 

And for Skype fro Business to run today, you know, requires the underlying hardware. It requires the underlying network. It requires, you know, I guess in more technical senses it requires a full layer 3 level visibility. To be able to use Skype in an enterprise voice environment you have to have session border controllers. Today these are third party systems. They are not Microsoft solutions. We rely on network hardware, routers at layer 2 which are third party systems. It could be Cisco, it could be Juniper. We rely on media gateways, gateways to the PSTN. We even rely on whether cables are properly connected. Whether it be to a desktop or to a router and otherwise. And so, there is an inherent requirement to have a multi-vendor multi-layer visibility and a solution—a performance management solution that only looks at Skype and measures, monitors, optimizes Skype itself is really going to completely miss the mark in being able to deliver an optimized Skype ecosystem management.

Scott: Given the landscape that you describe, how then do you troubleshoot?

Darc: Absolutely. You know, where is the problem? When something is not working as it should, which field should I be looking in? Which haystack is it in? You know, where is that needle. And it could be at layer 2, it could be at layer 3, it could be within Skype itself. It could be a misconfiguration within Skype itself or a setting or it could be the user’s desktop device. It could be the wireless connection to my mobile device. How do you even start understanding where in an ecosystem like that the problems exist and it really can only be delivered by a solution that is looking holistically at Skype and its ecosystem. It can really see everything. It can correlate all of the individual pieces of technology to say, well this interaction depended on, you know, all of these different components and layers of technology and then that troubleshooting system should be able to then identify where in that interdependent chain something is abnormal. Are we seeing, you know, low quality at the wifi end where, you know, where the user is operating or are we seeing a cable fault on a individual router or you know, is there too much traffic going through the gateway to the PSTN? It’s that holistic view that can help identify the haystack in the field and the needle in the haystack so that multi-vendor holistic view of the entire Skype ecosystem, not just the Skype solution itself.

Scott: This multi-vendor world that you describe, it’s going to be around for a while, right? I mean, it’s not something that’s going away anytime soon.

Darc: No, certainly the inherent architectural design of Skype means that it is inherently a multi-vendor. But when you look at migrations, you know, moving from an existing Skype, sorry, from an existing telephony environment, a legacy telephony environment into the Skype world, you know, for any organization of any size, that is going to be a migration and that, you know, even a short migration might be 12, 24, 36 months. Most organizations are going to have existing assets and investments that they’re going to want to depreciate. To fully depreciate your existing assets and investments to be able to conduct a migration effectively over a structured period of time, you’re going to need to have a multi-vendor capable performance management monitoring and optimization system. 

But Scott, there’s also another part to this and that is that if you take the view that, you know, it’s going to be a pure environment, we will only use a single kind of technology. We’ll only use a performance management system that has a view of only one layer of that, let’s say the Microsoft layer, you’re really closing yourself out from growth strategies because what it means is that as an organization you’re really not able to deliver a rapid competitive response to any situation where you may need alternative ways of communicating. You’re locking yourself out from effectively being able to acquire others who may be using other technologies and you’re also at a level of restricting yourself in a situation where you may want to innovate or merge with another organization that inherently may not have the same kind of technology as yourself.

Scott: You were talking about all the different—when you have all this multi-vendor environment and all the potential things that need to monitoring, do you find that some people are just overwhelmed or they’re not prepared to do what it takes and so they don’t take the steps necessary?

Darc: Yes.

Scott: As you say the sort of lock themselves into a corner there and don’t do what’s necessary to remain competitive?

Darc: Yes! Look, absolutely. I think that so many organizations today are struggling with the fact that they’ve got so many different systems in their environment that they’re using so many different tools to try to manage that environment. You know, each of those tools has its own complexity associated with it and none of them gives them that full overview of all of the different systems, all of the multivendor environment and the layers of technology that they’re trying to deal with and they’re very operationally inefficient. They’re reactive and really the only way to become proactive, to optimize your system and to become more agile in responding to business change is to be able to take that step back and put something over the top of this complexity, give you an overview of the elements, allow you to optimize as a full ecosystem rather than a collection of different systems.

Scott: For more podcasts on unified communication environments, visit the industry leaders at IR.com.

 

Darc Rasmussen

Darc was appointed CEO and Managing Director of IR in October 2013. Darc is a seasoned 25-year IT and enterprise software professional with extensive international experience in building and growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/how-to-manage-skype-for-business-in-a-multi-vendor-environment-podcast

Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM


Enterprise Connect 2016 Wrap [podcast]

Enterprise Connect 2016 took place end of March in Orlando. IR was there in the thick of the action for what proved to be an excellent event. In this podcast, Skip Chilcott - Head of Product Marketing - shares his thoughts on the highlights from the floor, what was hot and what to keep an eye out for. Enjoy.

Click to listen on iTunes

Transcript

Scott: If you weren’t able to attend this year’s Enterprise Connect Conference, we’ve got you covered. Skip Chilcott, Head of Product Marketing with IR attended the conference and joins us here today. Skip, what were some of your key takeaways?

Skip: Really this year was all about the cloud. Everybody is thinking about what is communications from the cloud going to look like and when are our customers going to adopt it and, you know, how are they feeling about it and then all the vendors have cloud options, cloud offerings, and if they don’t have it yet, they’re certainly trying to, you know, pivot their strategies and their messaging around that while they figure out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to provide a service from the cloud.

Scott: Was there any kind of consensus to, you know, the transition that we’re going to see? I mean, the scale, that sort of thing in terms of going all cloud, all the time?

Skip: Yeah, you know, basically, every customer I spoke to—and even over the last, you know, six to twelve months, you know, it’s accelerating and every single customer I spoke to basically has said we are going to move to the cloud. It’s not really a question of if they’re going to do it. It’s a matter of how they’re going to do it, when they’re going to do it, and what’s it going to take to make it happen and so from a vendor perspective, some people, some companies are already there. You know, you’ve got cloud based PBX phone system providers already that came out of—came up in a big way. They were rather much smaller in the years past. This year they’re much bigger and then you’ve got the big, you know, the big dogs like, you know, Microsoft who’s going, you know, their offerings are starting to accelerate and those are, you know, the Microsofts of the world and Cisco with something called Cisco Spark. You know, these companies are global in nature. When they go with something, the go really big. But then you’ve got the niche players that are like, you know, 8x8 or RingCentral where they’re like cloud based phone services. They’re available today but they’re really oriented to smaller companies. But at the end of the day, enterprises are already starting to put small groups in the cloud and they’re trying to kind of test it out and see what it’s going to take because if it pays off in the right ROI, they’re going to move everybody up there and we’re talking by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of users. It’s just a matter of how is it going to pan out for them and is it worth that investment or is it better for them to stay on premise for a while but at the end of the day they’re all trying to figure it out.

Scott: What were some other key highlights of the conference?

Skip: Yeah, so another big one is that, you know, while this transition is happening, this kind of new cloud based communications model is coming out, the other one is hey, we’re already invested in all of our premise communications equipment and solutions. We’re going to the cloud. How do we manage all of this? And so management is a big one. You know, user—and making sure that users experience is good because if you move from premise to cloud, you’re basically switching your entire strategy of how you’re providing communications for your employees and so managing all of that is a big deal because it puts a huge burden on IT departments to make this change and so it’s not something that is a normal thing for them so this movement to the cloud requires a lot of work and so how do they manage it, how do they keep the quality, the uptime, you know, that’s mission critical stuff and it cannot go down. You can’t lose your communications and so the management of that is super—was another big one. One of the other things is the user experience. User experience is the king and it doesn’t matter whether it’s premises or cloud. It really doesn’t matter. The user experience has to be as good or better than you have today and so one of the big questions that came up is how do you know if user experience is going to be better with the cloud or if it’s going to be worse? You know, how do you manage that? How do you measure that and so, you know, if the user experience is not as good as what they have today, it doesn’t matter what solution you go to. Users will go find their own solution and they’ll abandon what the companies provide and that’s a pretty common thing to have happen.

Scott: What did you hear regarding multivendor hybrid solution models?

Skip: So, multivendor and hybrid were another—those are two big kind of buzz areas but they’re really important because hybrid solution model is important for everybody to understand, which is, you know, it’s a mixture of cloud and premise together to satisfy an organization’s needs. You know, some users might be great to move to the cloud. A lot of users might not be, for instance, contact centers. Those kind of need to stay on premise. You know, maybe you have these long term contracts with telecom providers for connectivity that you can’t get out of and that has to stay on premise because you still have to pay for it. So how do you take advantage of those things with an on premise world and marry it with some cloud services as well for other users and you create a hybrid model of cloud and premise. That’s a big one. The other one is that, you know, single vendor solutions really aren’t that common. Everybody likes to say they’re on a single platform but at the end of the day, most communications is on multivendor so different manufacturers for network infrastructure, you know, routers, switches, session border controllers, PBX software, hardware they run on. You know, there’s a lot of different companies involved that make the components of that solution and so multivendor—another common thing is that multivendor is here to stay.

Scott: For more about IR and their suite of performance management solutions, be sure to visit IR.com.

 

Team IR

Every second, millions of critical systems keep phones and cash registers ringing and keep the world ticking. But the threat of a problem is never far away. That’s where we come in. Where others see disaster, we see solutions. Customers in over 60 countries rely on IR Prognosis to optimize systems and help them run at their best.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/enterprise-connect-2016-wrap-podcast

Publish Date: May 19, 2016 5:00 AM


Why WebRTC will change the way you communicate [podcast]

In this latest podcast we discuss the impact WebRTC will have on the way we communicate and the capability it provides organizations to deliver an improved customer experience through the contact center.

Click to subscribe to our UC Podcast on iTunes

Transcript

Scott: How is WebRTC going to change the way we communicate? Here to discuss that is Mike Burke with IR. Mike, let’s first start with defining WebRTC for people who may not be familiar with it yet.

Mike: Well, WebRTC, the RTC part stands for real time communications. WebRTC is a capability that’s built into browsers that are on everybody’s desktop if you’ve got Firefox or Chrome or Opera or the new Windows Edge browser installed you’ve got access to this fantastic capability that can easily let you as a consumer set up a voice, data, and video interaction with a company just at the click of a button from a smartphone application or from your computer desktop.

Scott: So what is its role in the enterprise world?

Mike: The role in the enterprise world is to provide a warmer type of an interaction between a company and the consumer or the customer. The idea is that a video interconnection between a consumer and a brand is a friendlier kind of an interaction. It’s also the way it’s going to be implemented or could be implemented by a financial services institution or an airline or any large enterprise that has a consumer facing contact center. It should significantly reduce customer effort which is a key measure in the contact center industry. It should significantly reduce the customer effort required to make a connection and speak to somebody, you know, at the financial services institution or the airline or wherever it is because of the ease of implementation and the way it’s been integrated into those browsers.

Scott: So give us an example of an optimal implementation.

Mike: Well, an optimal implementation might be, you know, you get your credit card statement or you get the email that says your statement’s available online and so you log in at your computer and you’re going through your transactions for the last month and you see the one for the, you know, for the Thai restaurant down on the corner and you see the one for your grocery trip to the, you know, the neighborhood co-op and then you come across a transaction that says 150 pounds of squirrel food and you think to yourself, you know, I didn’t really do that. I need to talk to somebody about that because that sounds like fraud and you look on your screen and you see a button right there that says talk to an agent and so instead of having to go find the number to call that’s on the back of your credit card, and you know, and go through that process of keying in information in the IVR and repeating the whole, you know, your whole story just to get back into the system, you actually can just click on a button and be connected with an agent who has access to the information on your desktop and who can speak to you through the microphone and speaker on your computer and if you’ve enable it, you can even have a two-way video chat. The default use case is probably to present you with video of the agent and you can decide if you want the agent to see you or not but the beauty of it all is that your situation is communicated to the agent as a part of the interface and so you don’t have to go through all of those stages of accessing a contact center by calling somebody up and then going through those three phases of interaction which is, you know, identification, authentication, and then getting irritated by all the different enter this for that and did you say this? Press one and all those other things that have to happen. By simply clicking a button on the browser page, you’re connected to an agent and the agent can see the context. You can explain it to the agent and say, I didn’t buy $150 worth of squirrel food. I don’t know how that may have happened and the agent can then do whatever is appropriate based on whatever level of authority or customer service insight that they want to bring to the situation so it’s a very high tech way of simplifying that connection between the customer and the institution.

Scott: So this is a technology that’s been around for a couple of years. What hurdles are there in place that sort of prohibit wider implementation or asked another way, what will spur broader implementation in the coming years?

Mike: Well, the functionality is out there for point to point communications between two individuals and the bandwidth required to do that is not too bad. You know, for example, you and I could, you know, initiate a, you know, a voice data video call pretty easily. But if you’re a large multinational bank and you want to put the ability to serve say 10,000 simultaneous customers using this in place, there’s a lot that has to happen to be able to mediate the connectivity that’s required as well as to assure the voice and video streams if your clients choose to use them are really being transmitted smoothly and provide a smooth connection and so the building of that infrastructure within those institutions to in some cases be there in parallel or to replace some of the existing infrastructure for human interaction in the institution, that’s one of the barriers and so figuring out how to do this right so that when it’s implemented, the interactions are high quality and effective to everybody is really important, not just that it’s an efficient interaction but that it’s also a high quality interaction and so building that infrastructure and making sure that it works reliably every time is what’s really important.

Scott: Join us next time when we discuss the omnichannel experience and ways to do it well. For more podcasts, visit IR.com.

 

Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell, GTE, PNC Associates, Verizon, IQ Services, and now, IR Testing Solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/why-webrtc-will-change-the-way-you-communicate

Publish Date: May 11, 2016 5:00 AM


Are you prepared for a cloud outage? [podcast]

A series of recent cloud service outages has impacted people across the globe. In this latest podcast we talk about the underlying causes, why there seems to be a greater number of outages, despite reassurance the cloud is sage, and what your organization can do to mitigate the risk.

Click to subscribe to our UC Podcast on iTunes

Transcript

Scott: A series of recent cloud service outages has impacted people across the globe. What’s the cause of it? Here to talk about it is Mike Burke with IR. Mike, are we seeing more outages than normal or does it just seem that way?

Mike: Well, I don’t think we’re seeing more outages than normal. It’s the sort of thing that because there’s more emphasis and migration to the cloud for day to day computing and application functionality that when it happens it affects more people and things that people have come to rely on as a daily part of their both work life, but also their personal life these days. And so when an outage occurs, it’s more widely felt within the community at large and so there’s both business and personal impact. You know, when something like say Netflix is interrupted. When an Amazon—when AWS goes down for a brief period of time - it’s not just about a business outage. It’s a personal outage as well.

Scott: What would you say to those companies who rely on those services? What should they do knowing that they’re, you know, this is going to happen from time to time. What are some things that they can do to prepare for it?

Mike: Well, get ahead of the game and companies, such as Netflix,  they have a very active fault injection routine that they go through to continuously inject faults into their network and then see what happens and use that proactively. Use that information proactively to continuously improve the network so that should that fault happen in the real world in an uncontrolled situation, they’ve got a workaround in place already and the idea of having self-healing networks, if you will, or multiple levels of redundancy is very helpful. Thinking ahead, these are the failure scenarios that we’ve tried and this is what we know we can do to mitigate those. The other thing is put your services on more than one cloud. There’s multiple ones out there. You know, Google, Azure from Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, AWS. There’s multiple cloud environments available for hosting platforms, infrastructure, and applications.

Scott: For some of the outages that we have seen recently, what are some causes? I mean, it’s just the normal course of business. It’s gonna happen. Nothing you can do about it, or is that just where we are right now with the technology?

Mike: Well, the technology is pretty sophisticated. It’s higher than expected usage and perhaps a memory leak within an application that causes resources to be constricted at some point in time and then things just start to spin down. If you think about computing maybe like a superhighway. You know, when you look at it at 2 o’clock in the morning and you see fifteen lanes that are empty you can’t imagine that it would ever spin down but all that has to happen is, one car blows a tire or something like that and all of a sudden everything can grind to a halt in both directions both from the incident and from the gawkers. Well data processing can—it’s a intriguing analogy, but data processing can be a lot like that. Something goes wrong and all of a sudden services that are used to running along at a hundred miles an hour have to stop and take care of something else, fix it as you go, and then things start to back up and back up and sooner or later the system runs out of resources and it just has to spin down to be able to recover itself.

Scott: Some of the steps that you suggested that businesses can take to sort of prepare for this and you mentioned some examples like Netflix, that sort of thing. What if I’m a small business owner and I find myself just at the mercy of these outages and when it happens, there’s nothing I can do about it? I mean, are some of these same steps that you mentioned they’re applicable for even the little guy?

Mike: I think for a little guy that would be a pretty expensive thought process, but the idea of making sure that when you choose to go the cloud, you’re working with a cloud services supplier that has multiple regions and so the supplier itself has taken it upon itself to compartmentalize the delivery that it has available so that if a failure in one spot happens to pop up unexpectedly, they can transfer the data processing and the communications infrastructure or the communications connectivity over to another region that hasn’t been affected. So make sure you’re working with a cloud services provider that has got ample capacity and is itself interested in multiple levels of redundancy so that you’re not dependent upon just one computer like we all might be at home. You know, do your homework and make sure you find a provider that’s got the proper level of risk mitigation in place and can—it’s a cost tradeoff analysis. You can’t always spend enough money to go to the moon on all these things but what you can do is take a look at risk mitigation that’s in place with the various cloud services providers and pick one that’s got the right level of redundancy and risk mitigation in place that fits your budget.

Scott: Join us next time when we discuss the steps needed to be sure your system is ready for the demand of Thanksgiving weekend. For more podcasts, visit IR.com.

 

Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell, GTE, PNC Associates, Verizon, IQ Services, and now, IR Testing Solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/are-you-prepared-for-a-cloud-outage-podcast

Publish Date: May 4, 2016 5:00 AM


What is Automated Feature Function Testing? (And why you need to know)

It takes extensive testing to ensure that your automated features are working properly. Automated Feature Function Testing (AFFT) is a way to make sure that every single possible combination of inputs and data results in an application are tested to verify that it’s adhering to specification.

To perform AFFT, it’s necessary to try every possible input at every step of the menu tree. Even if the menu only gives you two options (like press 1 for a live agent and 2 for an automated system), AFFT will try all other digits along with pound and star. Those are options that people might try select and you need to know what the system does whenever something unexpected occurs.

Human Testers

When a company implements a self-service IVR application (or makes a change to an existing application), they often hire real people to make test calls. They dedicate staff to test every possible combination at every level of the menu tree. Even a fairly simple application can involve a large number of telephone calls. A human has to sit down with a checklist and make hundreds or even thousands of calls to investigate all the unvoiced menu options and the various negative cases.

This can potentially cause a significant delay in the release of the IVR application, which has probably been retooled to be more efficient and provide a better customer service experience. Of course, any delays will undoubtedly have an impact on the enterprise’s ROI.

Precision, Focus, and Efficiency

With automated feature function testing, we create test case scripts that people can execute either one at a time or in bulk. All the twists and turns at every combination and menu level can be navigated with automated precision. You can be confident that the numbers dialed, the inputs offered, and the timing of those inputs have been placed accurately and consistently.

The calls are also recorded, allowing for discrepancy documentation to be collected by the system. The documentation is made available to developers, designers, or anyone else who needs to investigate why a test call didn’t proceed according to specification. Additionally, word-by-word transcripts are made to show exactly what the test call hears.

Your staff can stay focused on their core competencies instead of having to drop everything for days at a time, depending on how many test cases there are and how many people are on the task. An automated process is capable of going through phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also crank up multiple simultaneous test calling automated instances if you so choose. In addition to saving staff resource time, you’ll also save valuable calendar days and move the applications to production much more quickly.

IR offers automated feature function testing as a managed service. We take possession of your specifications and design documentation to create test case scripts. We also manage the execution and deliver the results for you to analyze. Alternatively to paying for a managed service, we make AFFT available as a licensed product. We’ll provide training so that you and your staff can learn how to create the test cases, execute the test cases, and gather the relevant documentation. You’ll be able to use the tool as often as you want to create a great library of test case scripts, which can be beneficial for regression testing.

 

Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell, GTE, PNC Associates, Verizon, IQ Services, and now, IR Testing Solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/what-is-automated-feature-function-testing-and-why-you-need-to-know

Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM


Don't stress out (why stress testing your contact center could save your reputation)

Contact centers are often made from best-in-class components. Many contact center implementations have elements that come from as many as 18 to 20 different vendors. Each one of those discrete elements—whether it’s the CTI routing and hunting package, the speech recognition technology, or the interactive voice system—is built to perform at peak levels by its vendor. In a sense, the process of building a contact center is similar to building your own car, piece by piece.

Different software application developers also have areas of specialty. They bring their expertise into building a full contact center, which is more than just voice in today’s world. The modern contact center transcends the voice channel to provide a true omni-channel experience. That means there are elements in the contact center tied to web and social media interaction. Of course, faxing and email are also still important elements of interaction in a lot of industries.

Anatomy of a Stress Test

Stress testing is about making sure all those different components have been properly integrated within the contact center technology environment to deliver the omni-channel experience today’s customers have come to expect. It’s a reliable method to make sure the whole system will hold together when it’s running at its designed capacity, both in terms of velocity of interactions across all the different channels, and/or number of concurrent interactions handled by each component (e.g., the self-service IVR, speech recognition system, or the connections to agent desktop).

Prior to the stress test, all of your various system inputs should be gathered and funneled into the contact center ensuring all components in the system are effectively tested and utilized. When it comes time to perform a stress test, you have to send loads of traffic into the system to represent real customer interactions. It shouldn’t just be synthetic transactions created inside the system by a bit pump—it needs to be actual outside-in traffic that accesses and exercises all the elements in the public telephone network or internet, in addition to what goes through the internal network. Whether they’re voice, web, or WebRTC interactions, they should be an accurate representation of real-world usage, so you can have confidence your system will operate as intended in a real-world high load situation.

How We Can Help

We’re able to create outside-in traffic across multiple channels to act just like real customers trying to interact with the system. We create test case scripts that follow step-by-step instructions —after every input the testing system stops and waits for the target system to give a response. That way, we can measure the performance at all stages of interaction.

With outside-in interaction, we’re sampling and reporting upon the experience that’s delivered by all that contact center technology sitting between your brand and the customer. We’re effectively making sure that the system can perform the way it’s supposed to when it’s running at full speed.

Deploying Prognosis Internally

Our Prognosis toolkit can be deployed internally as an overlay on a multivendor contact center environment to collect data from the various vendor APIs. It gathers all relevant data and puts it on a single pane. Prognosis provides a bird’s-eye perspective of the technology’s reaction to the velocity of customer interactions.

What’s really cool about the integration between the inside-out Prognosis toolkit and the outside-in Testing perspective is that it gives you the ability to couple a view of the customer service experience with the internal metrics and analytics that Prognosis collects. Everybody knows how important the customer experience is in today’s world. When you combine that with information from all the different components and network elements within the contact center complex itself, it’s the equivalent to carefully tuning your car.

Customer issues will be effectively identified by the data collected by Prognosis. By comparing the tags on phone calls or browser interactions, we can significantly accelerate root cause analysis. We’re not just waving a red flag saying the something went wrong—we’re also providing deep-dive information that shows exactly what components were involved when the issue developed.

For more information about contact center stress testing, check out our recent webinar Identify Contact Center Showstoppers or contact us to learn more.

 

Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell, GTE, PNC Associates, Verizon, IQ Services, and now, IR Testing Solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/dont-stress-out-why-stress-testing-contact-center

Publish Date: April 14, 2016 5:00 AM


Don't Allow a Disaster to Derail your Contact Center

Depending on what industry you’re in, there are a few critical dates each year when your UC or Contact Center system will be put to the test. Critical events that impact your system may include the economy, weather events, peak retail season, open enrollment for insurance, marketing promotions, tax season, or a multitude of others. Here in North America, we know the devastation that hurricane season can bring, broadly impacting public safety, utilities, and insurance companies.

It’s extremely important to be confident your business will be able to withstand a disaster. Sudden outages or spikes in customer traffic will bring your business continuation plan or disaster recovery plan into play. For example, let’s say you’ve architected and built a High Availability system you expect to carry the full load even if one of your sites is compromised by a hurricane or some other catastrophe. The only way to be sure your systems will still deliver the intended level of service is to test them in their failover configurations ahead of time. Utilities and insurance companies need to be ready for a possible onslaught of calls should a storm cause wide-spread damage in one of their business regions.

The Importance of Repeat Testing

During the months of normal operations, changes can happen within your network environment that are not immediately obvious. Those changes potentially impact your ability to get 100% of peak load for which the contact center applications are designed. For example, perhaps there have been network upgrades or configuration changes required to keep the systems working. Even if these changes are part of the network environment, and not directly tied to your communications complex, they have the potential to cause the system to gradually wander out of spec. If someone looks at a configuration setting without really knowing what it’s supposed to do, for example, it could be tweaked in a way that’s not appropriate for a high-traffic environment. Under normal operations this may cause no impact, as the system normally runs at 20% to 30% of capacity. However, the periodic high volume events you’ve planned for might push traffic levels in your system 5 to 10 times greater than where they’re running during the rest of the year. Will your system actually function as intended when traffic levels increase to near maximum capacity?

Generate Traffic

Because it is critical to deliver an excellent customer experience at all times (including to internal customers), many of our clients choose to get us involved a month or two before peak season to generate a large amount of traffic into their solutions in order to verify their systems scale effectively to handle the increased load. Conducting a stress test like this provides time to address any changes or issues identified so they can have confidence their system is ready for peak traffic and works as intended.

For companies that have hot standby systems in place, it’s really important to make sure they are actually capable of handling the traffic load. Running a load test into a hot standby solution as part of peak season prep is a great way to make sure that the system hasn’t been compromised over the last year. Any patches or application upgrades that have been applied to the production environment could have affected its ability to handle high levels of traffic.

Another key element of maintaining hot standby systems is knowing that they can be accessed from the outside-in. Hot standbys are meant to kick into place without any user intervention. Whether it’s part of your web environment or voice environment, IR can offer HeartBeat™ availability and experience testing against those systems. We’ll periodically access them by dialing their secret phone numbers or unpublished URLs or IP addresses. Then we’ll make sure that they’re actually connected to the backend data processing systems to perform as expected. Should an emergency situation arise, anybody that’s redirected to the standby system will have the information that’s needed.

If you’ve made disaster recovery plans that include rolling a cold standby, contact center in a semi-trailer truck into place, don’t overlook validating that system’s ability to actually take calls at peak rates. Your disaster recovery plans probably include running comprehensive drills to ensure everyone on your staff knows what to do, but making sure your backup technology knows what to do is just as important!

Storm Season in the US has started exceptionally early, and whether you are preparing for that or for a different anticipated high load event, you’ll want to be certain that your system is ready for the increased traffic. For more strategies on testing and preparing for your peak season, join our webinar on April 21st

.

 

Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell, GTE, PNC Associates, Verizon, IQ Services, and now, IR Testing Solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/dont-allow-a-disaster-to-derail-your-contact-center

Publish Date: March 29, 2016 5:00 AM


Collaboration and the Art of Meeting Productively

We can connect and collaborate like never before, but it takes careful planning and management of the entire ecosystem to reduce time lost in unproductive meetings.

Ding. Another meeting invite. Another critical meeting invite. It was my eighth for the morning, which is not unusual, but this one got me thinking. It arrived just after a meeting with an organization that had called us in to help with a challenge related to its collaboration tools:

Despite all the advances in technology allowing us to collaborate more effectively,
the productivity of the everyday meeting hasn't actually improved.

Collaboration tools like Skype for Business, WebEx, and GoTo Meeting have made "face to face" meetings much easier. However, in many cases, networks have not been able to keep up with the bandwidth demand or changing requirements of modern applications, often resulting in substandard experiences for meeting participants.

Over the past couple of months, ever since my moment of enlightenment, I have become keenly aware of how infrequently meetings start on time. What I have found -- albeit from a sample of one -- is the average online meeting usually starts between 5 to 10 minutes late, and that the delayed start can easily grow to 15 to 20 minutes. For actual time lost multiply the number of minutes late by the number of participants -- it adds up quickly.

Even when everyone is present and accounted for on time, participants still have other challenges with which to contend; I'm sure everyone has heard the litany: Can you hear me now? Is anyone there? I can see Pete is on the call; Pete can you hear us? I'm sharing my screen; can you see what I'm presenting? And so on.

Now, the time lost is one thing -- according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, wasted time in meetings costs the U.S. economy more than $37 billion annually -- but it also opens up a whole other can of worms. As people battle with the technology provided by their organizations, they begin to introduce alternate solutions they find work better for them. This not only has cost impacts, as the number of conferencing solutions grows, but also can lead to security issues as the introduction of non-IT supplied and supported resources increases.

The collaboration benefits UC has delivered to organizations are many, but without a good plan for user adoption; internal customer satisfaction feedback loops; performance monitoring and optimization; effective real-time troubleshooting; and root cause repairs, costs are bound to go up and user satisfaction down.

Here are five suggestions for maximizing the successful use of collaboration tools in delivering more productive meetings (minimizing the hidden security and cost escalations):

  1. Organizations and IT teams need to be proactive about driving satisfaction beyond the deployment and training on new systems and technology
  2. Knowing about problems in the network, devices, meeting rooms, PCs, etc. in advance of them becoming widespread issues reduces far-reaching negative impact
  3. Spend time planning in advance and looking for potential blind spots in a successful deployment. Time spent well in testing the network capability and planning saves issues down the track
  4. Allocate time to review system performance and read customer/user feedback
  5. Take action to identify root causes of technical problems, outside of the meeting tools, that can lead to lower satisfaction and higher IT operational costs

Most issues are caused not by the collaboration tools themselves but on the interdependency between them and the underlying technology stacks on which they run. Find performance management solutions that give you the ability to manage your ecosystem holistically and in real time.

UC technologies have enabled us to connect and collaborate like never before, but it takes careful planning and management of the entire ecosystem to reduce time lost in unproductive meetings.

This post originally appeared on NoJitter as: Collaboration and the Art if Meeting Productively

 

Darc Rasmussen

Darc was appointed CEO and Managing Director of IR in October 2013. Darc is a seasoned 25-year IT and enterprise software professional with extensive international experience in building and growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based solutions.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/collaboration-and-the-art-of-meeting-productively

Publish Date: March 17, 2016 5:00 AM


Enterprise Connect 2016 - Journey to the Cloud [vlog]

Enterprise Connect - Journey to the Cloud

Enterprise Connect is taking place this week, in Orlando, Florida. All the big names are in town, including IR. In this short video, Skip Chilcott - Global Head of Product Marketing - talks about The Journey to the Cloud .

 

Team IR

Every second, millions of critical systems keep phones and cash registers ringing and keep the world ticking. But the threat of a problem is never far away. That’s where we come in. Where others see disaster, we see solutions. Customers in over 60 countries rely on IR Prognosis to optimize systems and help them run at their best.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/enterprise-connect-2016-journey-to-the-cloud

Publish Date: March 10, 2016 5:00 AM


Enterprise Connect 2016 - Mean Time to Ownership [vlog]

Enterprise Connect - Mean Time to Ownership

Enterprise Connect is taking place this week, in Orlando, Florida. All the big names are in town, including IR. In this video, John Dunne - Chief Solutions Officer - discusses just what went down on day 2. Talking specifically about Mean Time to Ownership.

 

John Dunne

Chief Solutions Officer, IR. My mission is to explore innovative solution ideas with our customers and partners, showing how we can help them solve complex and challenging problems.

 

Source: http://www.ir.com/blog-uc/enterprise-connect-mean-time-ownership

Publish Date: March 9, 2016 5:00 AM

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