Learning how to make the future do what you want

The best way to predict the future is to be a participant in the creation of what comes next. Nevertheless, we can learn a lot from the past, and how the “old guard” sometimes manages the new. If you were around in the Dotcom days, we simply did not have a reference model to look at for technical tools. In fact, everything was totally new and un-expected in the business world and change came fast, hard and “all of a sudden” it was just “like that”.

Today Unified Communications is quickly coming to the Contact Center. Yes, for the statisticians in all of us, we still cling to the phone as the “reference model”. But, we should not forget how quickly change comes. Have you talked to anyone recently from say 13 to 19 years old? Ask them what they think about using a phone to talk to somebody, or what an email address is used for other than setting up some account or giving to the cashier at the store when they press you for it. Putting the Contact Center into the hands of the consumer on the most prolific entity currently known makes not only good business sense, but is perhaps yesterdays news.

While it is true that the Contact Center does have telephonic media channels that are still considered “king of the hill” we can learn a lot about the behaviors of the market by looking at communications trends. When we were in Silicon Valley in the late 90’s, for us email and portable phones were our standard. Yet, anyone will tell you that in those days we did not have “40+ year old” executives that had this in their blood because they simply never grew up around technology as we did.

If you took funding off Sansome street in Palo Alto, the first thing they would do is send you a pack of suits (advisors) to join the management team. Well, these guys (and some girls) would show up with pencils and big thick note pads (looking like a bounded book) and scribble all day and look at us in scorn….. and even in some cases ban email usage in the meeting rooms! For the “suits” the method of working entailed meetings, discussions of SAP, and “processes” that were mind boggling. But, our work, over email and sometimes from home or in the car was scandalous.

FACT: today the amount of phone traffic has plummeted in contrast to the traffic over chat or images shared as a “message”. When the phone rings in my house and I look at my kids to pick it up; they say “it cannot be for me as my friends would never use the phone”. As bizarre as it was for the “suits”, because my parents could not keep us off the phone. So, if they will be taking over the old guard (us) in short order, does it not mean as they communicate to the support, billing or purchasing department their methods and demands will require change?

 

 

Working with our partners in the network operator segment we have developed Unified Communications for Contact Centers. Our unique focus on mobile loyalty application and WebRTC  that works for todays media choices of voice and email, yet also has chat, video and Biometrics that makes authentication “a touch” not “a snap” of the finger easy! Partner with us today to build a Cloud based Contact Center for your region and be a part of the future not the history.

2017 – the year the Cloud becomes a National asset

This last year (2016) we saw a global surge and race to move business applications to the Cloud with new development models like dockers, containers and all sorts of new languages and frameworks. Plus, we also began to see businesses starting to realize, and take advantage of the movement to WebRTC capable systems; such as Contact Center products! However, in the last year we had no peace when it came to hacks, attacks, and large scale “outages” that wrecked havoc and made us soberly realize growing pains will trip us up here and there.

Security risks and governance of the Cloud model has been a controversial area for the FinTech and healthcare market segments by the very nature of their preceding regulatory nature. However “the move” to the Cloud has extended the “call for control”, regulation and of course protection of IPR and trade secrets for all of us; even the local pizza delivery shop does not want their website hacked and pizzas delivered to wrong places by the hands of pranksters.

One of the fastest growing demands for technology platforms  like CommuniGate Pro which supports the Cloud or SaaS provider market segment models is a drive towards a “National Cloud” model.  For many of the countries in the EU, Africa and the Middle East regions there is a “slam on the brakes” sense of urgency to control the move to the Cloud. This “reaction” is somewhat based on “justifiable” response to the control of content and/or property rights dealing with the “physical” location and extension of laws governing everything from metadata to “just being in the wrong place at the wrong time”.  I had a client whom had their systems taken offline simply because their “portion” of the “shared” architecture happened to reside on servers and systems that were under investigation for illicit behaviors by a totally un-related customer “sharing” such systems on the providers data center in the USA whilst this particular company was based in Belgium. Once the systems were “seized” there was no “recourse” for this “collateral victim” that fell into a hole of darkness (website offline) simply because they were “situated” next to a “bad neighbor”.

Our view is that we rationally expect most countries in 2017 will begin to see that it must own, control, and often times regulate the private versions of a Cloud within their country to mitigate risks. This will start with industries that are regulated, such as previously mentioned banks or healthcare systems, but that move will quickly encompass any business that wants to be under the umbrella of National laws and not the hosting providers country of origin laws. Of course, on the positive side we see and believe that the exploitation of these regulations are morphing to the values of having a National Cloud as an asset.

 

Building stuff is fun, but modifying to suit the need is smarter

There is clearly value in building applications that are “built to suit”. The purpose and manner of your operations is what makes you who you are as a company and normally that drives your values and competitiveness. Also, customer needs are intrinsically understanding these matched with the relationship they have with you over-ride trying to bend your organization around the way some application or system works.

We recently visited the BMW Werk in Munich and one of the things we were “pressing” our guide about was the technology in use with all those cool robotic systems. We learned that the logic and the software was custom made and tuned initially by the Swiss vendor many years ago, but then BMW formed internal competence to write their own algorithms based on their specific requirements. Contact Centers in large deployments, say like a mobile network operator, can have 100’s of centers doing all sorts of tasks: from provisioning, billing, and support to sales activities, logistics for maintenance crews, and even internal HR and travel divisions. These systems were grown into the company requirements. But that has always been costly, yet necessary in that the needs of the operation are not generic enough to have out of the box delight.

I remember my days in corporate IT and indeed one of the downsides to turn-key applications like a CRM or ERP was you had to mold the staff to that vendors methods of “workflow”. Obviously there was a need to get closer to building vs. “assimilating” and the entire spectrum of software evolution ran for years now around all sorts of buzz word compliancy themes like “mash ups” & “plug-ins” or “widgets” & “integrations”.  Today we are still left deciding how much to get our hands “sticky” with when it comes to the next great API and preference panel du jour.

Today we have an amazing set of technologies available that no longer require a massive truckload of IT junk to get started. The advent of the Cloud model for delivery of applications by vendors removes a lot of the back end hassles that made adoption or migrations nightmarish. However, we believe that applications must “suit” the need and that means there should be available at all times some skin in the game from the consumption side to mold either the applications themselves or participate in the roadmap decision tree for us as the software app creator of the platform to get involved.

CommuniGate Pro was designed to be a hosting platform at the core and from day 1 with the right “mentality” for Cloud services no matter if you are the platform hosting company to the end consumption client. The technology is multi-tenant and has a full development SDK and set of APIs that allow the best of the best geeks to have fun, but also provide revenue stream possibilities for customization services that make Cloud providers more than resellers, but rather have intrinsic value thru professional service delivery.

Everyone has their “secret sauce” and style as a product company. Since our inception we have always been focused on the architecture of the product that would deliver the best performance reliably. After 25 years of developing software we have not budged one inch on that philosophy for better or worse. Many times we have had major internal debates to acquiesce a bit on that stance in order to develop some new capability or feature. Time and time again that has fell not on silent ears but firm adherence to our value.

CommuniGate Pro is developed in C++ and is a signal multi-threded package standing as not only the single model in such a design in the market place perl group, but we also have the un-contested performance spec awards to support our decisions on design. Unified Communications really is all about having a single backend that can extend protocols to support multi-medial communications that are understood on the core platform without submission to separate systems or servers. Our design also is all about “Dynamic Clustering” that has “all active” members breaking the mentality of failover or “passive” designs.

This unique capability and design has brought me to hear from 100’s of data center teams over the years the same message: “it is the only system on the core network that has never been down”. In the markets we serve, having a system with up times running over 8+ years is not only cool, but sensibly just for operations that are supposed to be 24×7 non-stop. Leveraging processor affinity we have been able to eclipse all known products in similar spectrums on todays multi-core server hardware up or down to the level of RaspberryPI.

With the move to less infrastructure and more ease of use the CommuniGate Pro platform is uniquely ideal for the Cloud hosting provider to developers that want to bring IPR to the market for Contact Center deployments or proved web and mobile Unified Communications to business processes without boatloads of bloatware. Join our ecosystem today as a certified solutions provider by coming to one of our training and certification courses in 2017.

Alumni Autumn 2016 CommuniGate Academy – Munich

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Our team helped get our partners accredited this week in Munich at our Autumn 2016 academy training sessions. The class was a great mix of people from Universities, integrators, ISPs and Cloud service providers. We had a good time learning about how the platform is used in each particular setting; and what types of external systems are integrated with CommuniGate Pro. For example, on the hosting companies premises we discussed how provisioning and billing systems are working for their needs and with the partners from the Universities we shared security and policy concepts for a diverse campus topology.

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Many of our partners have been using CommuniGate Pro for more than a decade, and some thought starting from the first level of the curriculum would be too easy.  Nevertheless, we found that everyone went away believing that the administrator level I was a challenge with rewards and not a cake walk in the park.  We will hold our next Academy in the Spring 2017. The following structure will be offered throughout the year:

  • Administrator Level I – for all those that use the platform in production as an administrator
  • Engineer Level II – for those wanting a little more on the API’s,  CG/PL development language and customizations
  • Business Applications – Advanced CG/PL applications – Contact Center 2.0 + IVR applications

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All of our events begin with some fun and “geekness” activities. For Munich what better than to have a look at some German engineering and manufacturing? We spent the first day over at the BMW Werk; which means the “production factory” where many of the cars are actually produced with cool robots; simply awesome! You can take the tour yourself, check out the details here “BMW Werk”

Later in the day we had a “BMW Genius” give us a  briefing about Electric Vehicles and the roadmap of their iSeries cars. We got to mess around with the i3 and yeah that really slick i8 supercar was there too.

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We were not allowed to take any photos or video of the Werk tour. ☹️☹️☹️ But this video below over at youtube is actually really good and will give you the idea. Highly recommended if you get to visit Munich!

The view of the city of Munich was beautiful even when wrapped in the clouds. Those buildings are really colorful just like back in Nice. Join us for our next event and until then follow us on Twitter @communigate

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Secure messaging opportunity for Cloud Hosting providers

Messaging systems are the core of the business no matter which size you look at or shake it. Most people would still prefer to have the lights off for a day, versus their email being offline in the business hours. Candles and flashlights might actually be fun, but not being able to get email from clients or partners, or in the support department is not cool at all. As email and realtime messaging have grown in pervasiveness so has its challenges for security become far more augmented with the inception of the Cloud deployment model that many businesses look towards today.

Many of us grew up on freemium Webmail services in our personal lives and the so called “corporate messaging” systems in the office that were primarily desktop application based. Somewhere along time the lines of distinction in these technologies became blurred. Current day “messaging systems”are nearly all “capable” of being Web accessible, or they are built this way entirely. Yes, you can still find IMAP and SMTP settings on most Cloud services, but try to explain that stuff to a user  coming in workplace these days and you could paint a Halloween mask with the blank starry eye looks.

The movement to the Cloud is not only great for consumption in a mobile workforce, but it also helps contain the data and access points which are fundamental to security. However, the challenge for a Cloud service is the barrier to acceptance of having data in the “hands” of a provider and the perception of “unscrupulous” access to this information. Hosting companies can look to these areas of “customer concern” as centers of opportunity in their offers with encryption, escrow systems, and secure archival-retention solutions as regulations are more often demanding on financial services and medical organizations to store and have available years of data involving the messaging systems.

Expertise and service level agreements are key subscription based values.  As an simple example, having expertise and certifications for messaging systems is perhaps something that you would not find in a Architect’s office, even one with 50+ staff. You might also use this measure to think about medical practices, or logistics companies of global size, all of which need secure messaging as a core infrastructure for business communications.

Cloud providers that have core competence in messaging systems have a card to play over a company mainly focused on racks, connectivity and grid power metrics. Fact is more and more businesses are not with in -house competencies for backend messaging expertise, and this drives the need to seek out offers that are reliable, secure, and available in a SLA format. Freemium services have their place, and we would not recommend a fencing war with those guys as the scale of the battle is massive and everyone is looking at a nickel profit like its a manhole cover.

Follow the money and provide clear value on the hot topics the market requirements demonstrates. Today the largest concern of Cloud services revolves around security and providing a reliable system that just does not go down is key. Hosting companies already have a core competence around infrastructure and redundancy; so play that card and translate this into the service as a whole. As companies push their roles up higher in the stack to “managing users” and control panels in the system, the provider must also absorb the pieces of the application stack that is being thrust upon them and see it as a good thing. That means getting in bed with SMTP and breathing deeply all the joys of messaging for the good, bad and ugly.

Key advantages of the CGatePro Messaging system for Cloud managed services companies:

  • Multi-tenant platform allowing 100’s of thousands of domains
  • Zero downtime change management Dynamic Cluster
  • Ability to white label and brand the Web experience by domain
  • Secure message storage with Escrow features
  • S/MIME system for encryption of email
  • Policy control with SMTP
  • WebRTC based interface Pronto! enables Unified Communications
  • Works with cPanel environments with adapter integration kit
  • Chat server built-in with clients for iOS and Android, plus Web widgets for support or sales desks

Partner with us today and get your team in our training academy to build the next generation of messaging in your cloud.

 

Tis the season to be jolly

As Autumn arrives upon us and leaves fall off the tress painting the ground with bright colors, so does change come to IT decisions for the end of year planning. With the almost majestic calm closing out the summer season a rolling drum beat begins and grows as preparations commence for IT managers around the globe.  The imminent arrival of the holiday season means that Contact Centers are ramping up to prepare for the rush that is sure to deliver spikes on systems for telephony and messaging.

One of the major hurdles for IT decision makers during the seasonal spikes is that there is never an easy way to predict what the loads will be; even with historical data. This of course means more often than not, over capacity planning or provisioning “more” to be safe. Historically ramping up IT systems for spikes and human resources is a costly endeavor for large operations that have to deal with changes that occur on a daily basis.

Thankfully with WebRTC and leveraging a Cloud deployment our Contact Center technology can be ramped up or down with ease. With the entire stack available in the Cloud the cost factor for a Web based Contact Center is low impact and predictable. Furthermore, our technology seamlessly integrates with existing Contact Center technologies allowing deployments to co-exist as a team, specific sales queues, or overflow capacities. This means better control without upheaval of legacy systems that are in place.

The CommuniGate Pro platform Contact Center is ideally built to scale up or down and adapt to pre-existing work-flows with ease. Fully customizable Web Agents can be provisioned on any computer running a WebRTC capable browser making virtual teams a snap to handle sales or support loads. Best of all you can get started today by partnering with us if you are a Cloud services provider before the holiday season kicks off!

 

 

CGatePro Academy Nice Côte d’Azur

It is always a warm moment  as a teacher you get the chance to help people become knowledgable about something you understand. It is not just self gratification, but there is something really special to “bask in the glow” of the smiles that emanate from those you have helped. The best teacher is the one that strives to prepare students on a path to become even better than you are at the skill you just shared.

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This week the CommuniGate Academy sent more students home with accreditations that will help them perform better in their responsibilities but also be better prepared and more responsive for the challenges that come with operating large scale systems.

 

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peekaboo – I see what you do!

Most of us have lifestyles that are merged; meaning we use communications tools that float between the stuff that we do for work and our personal contacts. Unfortunately, that often times means that other people have access or “could” gain access to our devices that usually contain sensitive information. Sometimes intrusions are malicious in their intent, but other times it is just kids having fun. Either way, our business communication apps today usually reside on a multitude of devices making the challenges of access control multi-fold.

Recently we have added more controls in our Pronto! mobile applications that are Biometric and provide an additional layer of security to your secure business communications. Many times, whether we like to admit this or not, we provide loved ones with our device PIN code allowing full access to the devices we use as we move from personal to business activities. While I am not going to get into the debate around that right now, I think it would be safe to say this is really not a good thing, especially when you think that most documents, presentations and other materials that contain IPR and company information are rarely locked themselves with security. We have become a Cloud enabled society and what floats around can rain down on your head when you do not have some protection.

Pronto! Biometric lockAs with all security measures there is a fine balance between the human methods of operation or behaviors in the workplace matched up with good technology. Each must contribute, or they become the weak link in the chain. Remember the scotch tape and little pieces of paper under the desk with passwords in the old days? It is no different than letting our kids play with the photos on our phones using the PIN code that potentially un-locks much more than should ever be responsibly revealed. We help organizations improve security with mobile loyalty apps that enable contact center environments to have better user experiences that are not burdensome yet provide higher accountability.

Telephony just got a whole lot better

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We have a new wave of technology upon us that will make phone calls very powerful for contact centers. This major change is the convergence of the Internet and how technology like WebRTC and Biometrics will shore up some of the pitfalls of telephonic transactions, both from the business side needs and demands, but also delivery of a better experience for the consumer. First, let us take a look at the major “problem” of telephony; knowing who you are talking to is just plain difficult if not impossible. Just like the implosion of password security across the Internet, telephony has also suffered, in terms of ease of use and prevention of fraud, ironically phone calls to call centers suffer from similar methods of prevention techniques that the Internet has imposed upon us. Without Biometrics or some form of multi-factor based authentication system in place, you really never know who you are speaking to. Great example I love to give, is that my girlfriend often makes calls “in my name” to contact centers, because she speaks much better French than me. Hum, that means anyone can impersonate another; with the right information at hand. Kind of like having the password cracker for a web app, no?

So what does a contact center do to make things more safe and reduce fraud? Add layers and layers of questions to the identity session, that really in the end are doing little on the security side, as I point out in my example that with access to the “personal information” one can override all these efforts. But what is more damaging to the brand is the resulting frustration from these mitigation techniques and time “on the call” is ballooning. One major bank in the USA told me recently that shaving 30 seconds from a call can save millions. Hum, and if they are adding “minutes” to the call to ask what cake and ice cream I eat on my birthday, what does that cost? Add to this pain, whenever there is a transaction (purchase or payment) we are often reading off a multitude of digits and codes and billing address information that amplifies all the QoS metrics further.

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Is there some silver bullet we can glean from the Internet lessons we have suffered over the past decade? Perhaps not just silver, but I dare say there is some gold to be dug. Many of us have experienced the ability to gain access to our phone or a website or pay for something using Biometrics. But what if that same concept was moved over to telephony? Now when I call into my bank, I can identify myself, or approve a transaction. That same technique not only provides a smooth and nearly “fun” experience to the customer, it also puts a nail into the basis of fraud, and collusion. Our Biometric system for telephony is built into our contact center and can be extended to yours or to nearly any application that leverages telephony. Meaning IVR systems, self care websites and cognitive alert systems banks use to prevent fraud.

Lets now look at the other part of the wave of Internet technology that we need to jump upon to stay afloat and ahead of the sharks, as it pertains to the world of telephony; that being WebRTC. There has been tons of activity in this emergent “gem of goodies”, that is more of an API specification than any sort of application or protocol. For contact center systems, we perhaps stand to gain one of the most significant benefits of the specification collectively because we base our core functions around the telephonic media. Why? simply put WebRTC will allow us and the caller to be anyplace there is an Internet connection and web browser. That means agents can be placed or pooled virtually, but consumers can also use the website to change from clicking to talking in a split second. Mix that with biometric identify capabilities, and you have some tangible change that will benefit all sides of the equation like never before.

WebRTC not only provides “virtualization” capabilities to the contact center agents, but also the ability to provision agents within seconds. No longer will dedicated equipment and software packages be rolled out, but rather permissions and accounts on a Cloud system that scales to the needs of the organization with fluidity. Telephony will remain in our view the core  medium of communications for some time to come in the contact center environment. Yes, this will be enhanced, and complimented with chat, file or desktop sharing and video sessions. But the telephonic agent call will not go away soon; with WebRTC and Biometric identity new life has not just been breathed into voice, but these technologies have re-positioned a telephone call into a trusted business tool with confidence and reliability.

Customer Experience – exasperation amplified because of fraud mitigation at the Contact Center

CCO of the Contact Center operations asks……. “How are we supposed to know who is “really” on phone with a degree of certainty, while not making them pissed answering 99 questions?

Juxtaposition – friendly but  secure Contact Center identity management in the year 2016

 

Angry business woman screaming in rage when she being on the phone. Business concept in communication.
How many times to I have to say what type of ice cream I ate at my first birthday party??!!! Did you never hear about rocky road??? We are sliding down that now madam, I want to speak to your supervisor!!!!!! Now!!!

 

When banks are implementing new layers of security into the call center identity process these days, they are discovering the rates of dissatisfaction from the customer side are spiking in correlation to the very measure intended to “help protect” the client. Alas, across all sectors of the market, the phenomenon appears. Nevertheless, in the financial technology marketplace it is very much a epidemic  because of the very nature of dealing with money….simply put. Additionally, there are commonly added pain to the injuries; augmented by compliance and confidentiality regulations, not just the self imposed internal security decisions. The sheer amount of “hops around Contact Center authentication” we are faced with would make anyones head spin today.

The root of the issue with identity of a person on a telephonic call session is that most of the information provided verbally can be spoofed or impersonated. Instead of just saying our account number or social security number, we are asked about our first car or favorite dessert. Why is it not simple? Financial institutions and many other industries are inundated with all sorts of fraud, especially via hijacked personal information or collusion. The answer then is you must have a Biometric multi-factor identity challenge session that is very simple or non-intrusive to the client.

Fortunately most large banks we have spoken to agree that the best place for this is in the mobile loyalty applications, and 2nd to that is the ability to integrate into the self service web applications for things like transactions or conformation of fraud alerts that are either IVR or push message based.

 

Businessman unlocked phone fingerprint

 

One of the holy grail metrics to achieve for any large contact center is to reduce time on the phone. Since most all banks and financial institutions have mobile loyalty applications, the platform is there to be extended to the Contact Center. This has made the task of accurately identifying the caller on the phone super simple, while also providing new capabilities such as cognitive processing without live CCTR agents thanks to technology like IBM’s Watson.

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