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Jacada was one of the first vendors to provide a unified desktop for contact centers. It simplified the agent’s desktop by replacing several application views with a single view that better followed customer conversations. It also interfaced between those applications so agents didn’t have to worry about which fields to update, where to find data or how many applications they had to use. The unified desktop also enabled agents to address customer issues more efficiently.  

Being early in the market, Jacada enjoyed considerable business success. However, the last couple of years have not gone so smoothly, as there have been several changes at the top of the company and it has been challenged by new entrants and removing its analytics offering. Many of these provide most of the same features as Jacada and others as well that help agents make better decisions and provide more detailed information, such as the answer to a specific request, or a prompt that helps make a sale. Recently company founder Giddy Hollander has once again taken an active role as chairman and is working alongside CEO Tom Clear in an effort to turn the company’s fortunes around.  

Recently Giddy told me that on his return to an active role, he noticed that customers had done more exciting things with the company’s product than Jacada had, taking the basic features and building new features to address specific business problems. His first step therefore was to work with these customers and update the product by building some of these features into the core product. This has been done with two intents – to make the product functionality richer and to make it easier to deploy. The new release, called Jacada Workspace Agent Desktop, is built around the concept of “widgets.” 

In the Jacada world, a widget is a prebuilt piece of code that addresses a specific business issue. For example, an instant message widget allows agents to chat with a supervisor; a customer search widget helps the agent search for customer information based on a defined key; and a “help on hand” widget pops information, based on the current conversation, onto the agent desktop to help resolve the issue being discussed. One important overall feature is that data collected by one agent in a widget can be passed to another agent if the call has to be transferred, enabling the receiving agent to carry on from the same point and not repeat what has already been covered (a source of customer irritation). Widgets can be embedded into a desktop to meet individual agents’ requirements, effectively giving all agents their own desktop. This concept allows users to quickly select and build in functionality they require. As well, the user interface now is easier to use and the environment is dynamic in helping users respond to changes. Jacada aims to build more widgets and also invites its customers or third parties to build their own. 

The other major move has been to upgrade the Jacada Interaction Manger and rename it Jacada Agent Scripting (JAS). Despite the name, this is not just a tool to develop scripts so agents can provide fixed answers to customer queries. Instead it allows users to model call flows. It works in a way similar to some process automation products, allowing users to drag and drop activities (greet the customer, ask what the issue is and so on) and decision points (what is the value of this customer?) into a process map thereby defining how conversations should flow for different call types. The maps can be annotated with text that relates to each activity in the map such as what to say when greeting a customer. Alternatively the maps can be used to specify which widgets appear and when on a particular agent’s desktop, thereby controlling the flow of conversations and the tasks that agent does during each interaction. JAS includes a reporting and analysis tool that includes the ability to analyze the most common routes different types of conversations take. The enables companies to optimize the flow for different call types and train agents to follow the best practice route through calls. 

The agent desktop is a key technology to help agents improve the way they handle customer interactions. The market has become more competitive since Jacada launched its first product, and the technology has matured from being a unified desktop to what I term a smart desktop. These advanced tools help agents be not only more efficient but also more effective by guiding them through the best way to handle interactions. These developments elevate Jacada into the smart desktop category and should help get its fortunes back on track. Follow its fortunes by collaborating with me on… 

Regards 

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

While the contact center business is not the most dynamic market, it is undergoing more changes than I have ever seen. One of the biggest changes is coming about because of cloud computing. This trend was led by salesforce.com, and the impact is now being felt in the contact center market as more vendors start to provide a “contact center in the cloud.” I recently wrote about inContact , one of the first vendors to provide a full contact center in the cloud. Recently inContact announced an important partnership – and it’s not an obvious match. 

While call center software vendors are making dynamic changes, the traditional on-premises communication vendors, such as Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Nortel and the many PBX vendors, have entered or are rushing into the software market’ with many replacing proprietary on-premises systems with software-based packages. And of course some of them have moved to the cloud. The latest announcement from inContact shows that one of the sleeping giants, Siemens, has jumped on the bandwagon by offering communications in the cloud through its Enterprise Communications subsidiary and by teaming with inContact has joined the competition for the contact center in the cloud. 

There are some unusual aspects to the partnership, one being that Siemens Enterprise Communications has taken a large equity stake in inContact. With that it gets a seat on the smaller company’s executive board and an exclusive deal to sell and support the inContact contact center in the cloud outside America; the companies will sell jointly in America.  

What does this mean for customers and potential new clients? It is good news for inContact clients, as the cash injection makes the company financially more stable and gives it funds to invest in products, marketing and support. It is good news for Siemens customers, who now have access to contact center services in the cloud. And it is good for companies looking to enhance or replace their contact center systems, because it provides another option that includes both communications management and contact center core applications. It’s also good from a support perspective, since Siemens Enterprise Communications has a far larger professional services and support staff. 

On a recent briefing call, representatives of both companies assured analysts that there is great synergy between them and they are working hard to thrash out go-to-market strategies, further integration of the products, and how best to support customers in different regions of the world. I am often skeptical about how partnerships between traditional hardware and software companies will work out, but the contact center in the cloud is now a reality and it offers companies an affordable way to innovate in the ways they manage customer interactions and enhance customer service. It is too early to say how this partnership will work out in the long term, but stay tuned; you can keep abreast and understand the value of it for your contact center by collaborating with me. 

 

Regards 

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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