An Introduction to the Avaya Engagement Development Platform

Fletch: Hey, it’s Fletch with the Avaya Podcast Network, and we’re here again live at Avaya Engages Silicon Valley. We’re sitting down with Gary Barnett, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Engagement Solutions. Welcome to the podcast once again, Gary. Good to have you, as always.

Gary: Good morning. Glad to be back.

Fletch: This is a fantastic event that Avaya’s put on here. It’s a little bit different than what we normally do, right?

Gary: It is, it is. It’s just the combination of talking about products. It’s talking about our direction. It’s talking about what’s happening in the industry, so quite different, quite exciting.

Fletch: It’s all about thought leadership, and I think this is a great example of the thought leadership that we provide. You wrote a blog recently about the enterprise and being ready for open standards. What about that? What do you see as far as that trend goes, and what’s Avaya doing about it?

Gary: We’re in an industry that’s always talked about open standards, but it’s been more about the devices that get connected. For the first time, these environments are now really opening up for true application development, not just connect new devices, but what if I want to write a one-off highly customized application specific to my enterprise?
Virtually impossible in the past.

Probably the best attempt in the ‘90s were good old fashioned CTI. It’s really changed dramatically since then. It’s all about having a robust platform that’s very open–based on standards, tools–that virtually every developer in the world knows how to use. Those developers, now, are getting excited because they get to use those tools they’re familiar with, but they get to communication-enable virtually every application. We’re just finding, one, a lot of excitement, and secondly, a lot of unique use cases.

Fletch: With CTI, it was a pretty standard command language. Pick up the phone, answer the phone, dial a number. Now you’ve got multimedia. You’ve got instant messaging, you’ve got email, you’ve voice technology, you’ve got even video. You can’t possibly know all of those individual technologies.

Gary: That’s exactly it. What’s interesting is we’ve really seen the Engagement Development Platform as not only being open- and standards-based, but a collection of capabilities that can be put together in very unique ways. The way I always like to describe it–and something that developers certainly can easily understand–is that it’s like having software LEGO blocks. Our job is to give them the coolest LEGO blocks in the world, and they get to snap them together in very, very unique ways, where they can add value.

Fletch: That’s a great example, LEGO blocks. I like that. I’m going steal that one from you.

Gary: No problem. It’s something that everybody’s familiar with. You can just see the light bulbs come on when someone says, “Now I get it. I can take something like attribute-based routing, or I can take context, I can take speech analytics, I can take voice video, SMS, and I can snap those together in unique ways that will solve my particular business problem.” There’s just been nothing like this available in the industry up until Avaya.

Fletch: We do use cases, right? That’s what we’re doing here. We’re showing individual use cases. Who better to provide use cases than our enabled customers?

Gary: That’s exactly it. No shortage at all.

Fletch: Can you give us some examples of some apps that have been written by customers or the independent developers that have kind of enabled this on the Avaya Engagement Development Platform?

Gary: Sure. There’s a couple that come to mind. One that we’ve actually seen in multiple cases, although used differently, is what we call Dynamic Teaming. Imagine any type of an event happens in a company, and that company wants to very quickly pull the right people together to be able to engage and solve that problem.

These folks could be separated globally, they could be from different departments. In the past it was a very manual process, first, just to find out who to pull together, and secondly is the old process of, ‘Well, let me create a meeting.’ Let me send out invites, and we’ll be lucky if we can get anybody together in the next couple of hours.

With Dynamic Teaming, it’s a matter of literally seconds to be able to figure out who has the right attributes, create something like video conferencing on the fly, and automatically bring those folks in, because you know who have the right attributes, and you know that they’re available.

Fletch: Yeah, and you can reach them as well. If I know I need Fletch on a conference call right now, and I know where Fletch is, why do I have to make Fletch dial a number and put in PIN access codes? Why can’t I just go out and grab him and say, “Get in here”?

Gary: That’s exactly it. That’s what Dynamic Teaming is all about. We’ve seen that across communications companies, we’ve seen that in education, we’ve seen that in healthcare, we’ve seen that in city governments. The ways in which we have seen Dynamic Teaming being used is just much more than we ever imagined.

There was another interesting one where we had a university that had to start to abide by some new state laws. In this particular case … they had hundreds of elevators across their campuses, and they had to guarantee that within a certain period of time anyone that had a problem in an elevator could get someone live on the end of that elevator phone in a specific matter of time–I think it was like, within one minute or so.

They were almost in panic mode because they’re like, ‘How do we do that?’

With the Engagement Development Platform and its ability to robustly route calls, determine who’s present, figure out how to get those communications in place, they took a big problem that they didn’t think there was a way to solve, and they literally solved it in a matter of days.

Fletch: On top of that, I’m sure now they’ve got historical tracking of all of those events. They probably had no idea how often this was even happening.

Gary: That’s right. They went from zero analytics to now essentially knowing what’s happening in every single one of those instances. They were kind of flying blind before. There was this nice forcing function that says, look, we have to adhere to these new rules, but we’ve learned a lot about what actually happens, and now we can improve the engagement with our faculty and students and workers. It was just a great outcome.

Fletch: The data’s got to go both ways, upstream and downstream, so I’m sure there’s a maintenance guy out there going, ‘Oh, that’s elevator #43 again. That thing’s been acting up for five months,’ but management never even saw that.

Gary: Exactly. What’s interesting is now they want to take it from just being something like elevators, and they want to do it across all of their smart buildings, so you can imagine that this could play into how HVAC systems work. This could be how communications systems work. This could be when doors are locked or unlocked. There’s just an endless number of use cases.

Again, what happened was this one use case triggered in their mind lots of ways to be able to use this, and improve overall engagement with their constituents. You could just see the light bulbs come on.

Fletch: My normal day job is public safety, so when I look at this stuff I’m like, I’ve got use cases coming out of my ears for public safety, dynamic team forming in disasters, when communications is critical and often disrupted. I look at Avaya and I’m like, wow, this is right in our wheelhouse. This is where we really shine in technology.

Gary: Interesting that you would mention public safety, because we’re also seeing things like when there is, let’s just say, some type of an accident within a city, you may want to pull together teams from clinics or hospitals, you may want to pull together first responders, you may want to pull together any number of constituents that typically don’t even work together.

Now imagine being able to engage them immediately, and folks that never had an opportunity to communicate before are now brought in at the perfect time under those circumstances. Again, that engagement cannot only enhance the robustness, but in some cases, literally lifesaving.

Fletch: Yeah, and this is where all of our normal technology, the BYOD stuff, HTML5, WebRTC, any device, multimedia, with a client-less environment, this is where we … we’ve been doing this for decades, right?

Gary: That’s right.

Fletch: It’s an interesting situation.

Gary: Mobility changes everything. That’s really one of the drivers of why we put the Engagement Development Platform together, and that strategy was it’s really driven by the fact that the number of devices that are going to be available for communication literally is exploding.

The mobility has enabled that, but it’s brought on now very demanding new use cases. I think we’ve really viewed it as being at the right place at the right time. This all came about by listening to our customers and partners, becoming much more use case driven, and then delivering exactly what they needed.

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A totally new way to approach customers—and a million reasons to do so

Last month, Laurent Philonenko wrote about some of the exciting work being done with the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, noting that many of our 2016 DevConnect Excellence Award winners were making the creation of Avaya Snap-ins a center point of their strategies.

There is perhaps no better proof point for this than the efforts of Engelbart Software GmbH, our 2016 DevConnect Partner of the Year.

DevConnect business development manager Bill Petty recently sat down with Dirk Engelbart, founder and owner of Engelbart Software, as part of our new DevConnect 8-and-Out podcast series, and talked about their experiences with Avaya Breeze. Avaya Breeze represents “a totally new way to approach customers,” according to Dirk.

In the interview, Dirk speaks directly to the opportunities his company is able to pursue through Avaya Breeze, with “millions of use cases” solvable at his fingertips through Avaya Breeze. His examples, including a manufacturing-related solution to enable warehouse workers to reach suppliers by mapping part numbers via SAP integration, clearly demonstrate the power of this platform.

But most impressive is his story of delivering a deal-winning proof-of-concept implementation in less than two days. This isn’t just a mockup, or some fancy slideware that shows what could be done, but rather a demonstrable, tangible example of how it is actually implemented.

We’ve been hearing this speed-to-market feedback from Avaya customers and partners alike, as we’ve been running bootcamps and training programs on Avaya Breeze and related tools like Avaya Engagement Designer. Avaya Breeze simply makes it easy and quick to create solutions that, using more traditional CTI methods, would have taken weeks to months to complete.

So grab a cup of coffee/soda/tea, and have a listen to what Dirk has to say about Avaya Breeze and why Engelbart has shifted all of their development focus towards leveraging Avaya Breeze.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to Deliver Uber-Like Service

I have a confession to make: I’ve never used Uber. Personally, I like to order my taxis the old fashioned way – by calling the local service on my smartphone and paying via credit card. I know, so 2009.

But while seemingly all my friends are now Uber converts, I’ve yet to download the app, because I know it would be used once, or never, and then just sit on my phone. While there are now literally millions of apps available to us, not many of them actually get used. According to data from Nielsen, the average U.S. smartphone user accesses less than 30 apps per month, with 70 percent of total app usage coming from the top 200 apps.

So, which app would get my vote? A recent unfortunate event has made up my mind for me. The event was my son breaking his arm, and the dream app for me would be one that simplified my healthcare journey.

That dream healthcare smartphone app is yet to be created. After we rushed my son to the emergency room, we had to present his insurance card, answer questions about his previous medical history, any allergies to medication, list his emergency contacts and so on, all before he could be admitted to see a physician. By the time he did actually see a doctor, he was in so much pain his screams echoed through the hospital, and I was in tears.

Even worse, when we got to the operating room, the doctor went through the same list of questions. Fast forward another few hours and my son has now been transferred to a hospital room for two days of observation. With each doctor and nurse on duty, most of the questions asked before are asked again.

Now, if I had my dream app available, we would have clicked a single button to instantly talk to emergency responders, who could access my son’s up-to-date medical and healthcare profile. My phone could be geolocated and an ambulance dispatched, with skilled medical staff available who could relay information about my son’s condition to physicians while en route to the hospital. That information might prompt the hospital to make an emergency room available and prep the surgical team for an immediate operation–with the entire procedure being completed in a few hours, and questions restricted to immediate medical issues.

Admittedly, this is expecting a lot from one app: Uber doesn’t especially care about what happens to you once you reach your destination, after all. Is it too much to expect our healthcare providers to focus on providing a seamless experience for their users? The ordeal I suffered with my son recently was made worse because the hospital hadn’t done enough to ensure that I wasn’t frustrated as I progressed through the system, and to link its various points of contact… it lacked an omnichannel customer experience.

This seamless experience in healthcare is what each one of us should expect and healthcare providers should aspire to deliver. We take for granted that when we use Uber, we are going to get a reliable and safe journey that will get us to where we want to be. In the future, healthcare providers that don’t deliver the best possible experience to their customers are going to find themselves left behind by those providers who do.

How Enterprise Virtualization Will Save Your Business in the Era of IoT

Having a backyard full of trees is quite therapeutic during a marathon day of conference calls, but it also comes with a fair share of maintenance: picking up the fallen limbs from the elms, keeping the invasive cedars from choking out other species, and trimming up the oaks to keep them healthy and the fireplace burning through the winter. On those maintenance days, it’s easy to get obsessed with a tree or set of trees that are causing a problem … say, dropping large limbs dangerously close to your daughters’ trampoline. When you’re fixing up your backyard, one problem – one tree – at a time, the solution to the problem at hand often fails to take into account the needs of the larger ecosystem. Unfortunately, for many networking professionals, every day feels like a maintenance day.

We see problems with mobility and service chaining in and across data centers. We see problems with cost and reliability in the WAN. We see problems with scalability and security in the campus. In a nutshell, we see problems. Fortunately, for every problem, there’s a good ol’ fashioned snake oil salesman. We’re inundated with the latest and greatest technologies to solve our woes … even some we didn’t know we had.

The problem is that we’re putting Band-Aids on bullet holes. The bleeding stops, but the real problem is still lurking beneath the surface. It’s not that these fixes are bad. The problem is that they’re being positioned as a cure-all instead of simply tools to address localized side effects of the problem.

The problem is broader. The data center exists to host applications. Those applications exist to enable users. The WAN exists to connect the data center to the campus, which exists for the users. And, of course, the users exist to run the business.

Since the business is the thing we’re looking to keep alive and thriving, those users need to be productive. That means that they need fast, efficient access to the applications that enable their jobs. So, those problems we rattled off earlier are really just symptoms that have emerged as we tried to create enterprise services across silos of control.

If we want to remove the bullet and save the patient, we must recognize the need for end-to-end services and look holistically at Enterprise Virtualization methods that will securely extend services from user to application at scale with on-demand mobility and business continuity. Otherwise, the problem is only going to get worse.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming an ever-increasing reality in the enterprise, the need for services from device to application is going to multiply exponentially. Without Enterprise Virtualization, the burden on IT to deal with every little problem across the islands of campus, WAN and data center will be overwhelming. They simply won’t be able to keep pace, and, as a result, neither will the business. The users will be limited and become frustrated, and productivity will suffer in turn. It’s a bleak picture, but it doesn’t have to be.

Enterprise Virtualization provides a number of advantages that have long been unattainable to the general enterprise. While we’ve managed to achieve “micro-segmentation” down to the virtual machine layer for applications, the very same data is set free at the data center doors and left vulnerable in the less secure world beyond.

Enterprise Virtualization enables you to extend the segmentation in the data center to the very edges of the network, where the data is consumed by users. Not only can you extend isolation, you can also view it as one contiguous service from server node to user node.

All of the tools available for measuring quality and performance have a clear view from end-to-end, rather than requiring additional tools to aggregate and correlate metrics across the three different islands of technology. Not to mention, Enterprise Virtualization allows you to significantly reduce the number of touch points while provisioning and troubleshooting, thus minimizing the likelihood of down time due to human error.

Just like that limb-dropping elm can avoid the chainsaw, your enterprise can avoid being cut down in its prime. You see, it was a problem in the ecosystem that would have eventually killed all the trees through their intertwined root systems. It was lurking beneath the surface, but the arborist took a step back to see the whole forest, and then recognized and treated the real issue. Likewise, you need to make sure that someone is looking at your forest of IT challenges … not just banging their head on a single tree.