A slew of product enhancements, new services, and rebranding initiatives were announced at the VoiceCon Spring 2006 conference, March 6-9 in Orlando. The underlying theme is the contact center industry's continuing shift to IP-enabled technology, according to Joe Outlaw, principal analyst for contact center solutions at Current Analysis.
Regarding contact center vendors, Outlaw says, "Everybody is moving their customers and products along the migration path to IP. Most of the vendors' products have support for SIP, and all of the companies have realized that the move to IP is imminent."
Cisco Systems announced Unified Communications, Cisco's new suite of voice, data, and video products to help companies integrate their communications systems with their IT infrastructure. Based on the Cisco Service-Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) announced in December 2005, Unified Communications is a platform that enables real-time communications based on presence and mobility. By using an IT data network as the service delivery platform, the system helps workers reach the right resource by delivering presence and preference information to an organization's employees. "The Cisco Unified Communications system is the first true second-generation IP communications system, providing not just telephone services, but rather a communications environment that integrates voice, video, and data collaboration into one system," says Charles Giancarlo, chief development officer at Cisco.
This is a technology Cisco has been offering for some time, and it continues to improve, Outlaw says. "While this isn't new for Cisco because they already offer multitenant versions of their software, they've made some incremental improvements."
Avaya joined in, with two major announcements. The first is a new version of its IP telephony, messaging, and contact center software, MultiVantage Communications Application. Enhancements include what Avaya terms advanced survivability, to support large business locations of up to 2,400 people. Updates include hot-desking support, which enables employees to move phone capabilities anywhere inside the company, and expanded SIP support for Avaya's IP telephony and messaging applications, such as expanded multivendor interoperability. The second announcement focused on making it easier for small businesses or small branches of enterprises to migrate to IP telephony with Avaya one-X Quick Edition, a SIP-based peer-to-peer solution. Quick Edition will enable customers to plug their IP phones into a LAN, where the phones will automatically discover each other, start up their features, and provide back up for each another. "With these announcements we're clearly introducing intelligent communications solutions for the smallest company to the largest distributed enterprise," says Lawrence Byrd, director of IP telephony and mobility for Avaya.
Nuasis also made a splash by releasing version 3 of NuContact Center, the company's IP contact center solution. The new release supports agents located anywhere, higher system scalability, and advanced conditional routing based on customer intelligence and business analytics. "One of the things we've done with our solutions is try and change the model from the telephony-centric hardware world of ACD to being more of a software-only model," says Kevin McPartlan, Nuasis vice president of product direction.
Boosting system scalability to 1,000 agents was the big improvement for Nuasis, Outlaw says. "This will enable Nuasis to offer larger companies with many smaller call centers the ability to move all their agents onto one system, thus allowing the distributed agents to work as one."
Taken as a whole, Outlaw says the announcements at VoiceCon Spring 2006 provide the industry with some insight into the future. "I think the end of this year and into next year will really be the big turning point in the market toward IP."
Addtional reporting by Coreen Bailor.
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