How to Give Your Business Apps Better People Skills

cereal siloes.jpg

Silos. Every businessperson claims to hate them, yet most businesses continue to operate in them, even in this communications-rich age.

One of the biggest reasons? The applications that we use for work haven’t caught up to the collaboration technology available all around us.

“You can’t have an agile business without agile IT, and you can’t have agile IT until your communications infrastructure is agile,” said Zeus Kerravala, the well-known ex-Yankee Group analyst during an webinar last week.

The experts on the Avaya-sponsored panel, who besides Kerravala included TMCnet publisher and editor-in-chief Rich Tehrani, Singapore business software developer Eutech’s CEO Dr. Hari Gunasingham and Avaya senior vice-president for collaboration, Gary E. Barnett, agreed that most businesspeople understand how non-communication-enabled legacy apps create and exacerbate silos. 

(Listen to a replay of the webinar or download the entire slide deck below.)

Indeed, better collaboration capabilities is their second highest priority, behind analytics, and ahead of crowd-pleasers such as mobile and cloud, according to Ventana Research:

Slide6 ce.JPG

Indeed, they’re already dreaming about the collaboration capabilities they’d embed in their next-generation of apps:

Slide7.JPGThe struggle is that for most developers, communications remains a complex specialty field that they don’t know very well. To bring these features into their apps would require a huge investment in time and/or money.

“You can’t expect most developers to understand all of the nuances around telephony and communications,” said Kerravala.

Barnett compares the situation to the late 1990s, when Web developers used to building lightweight sites using HTML initially struggled to build rich retail and B2B sites that tapped databases and other back-end data sources. The arrival of Web application middleware such as Weblogic and Websphere greatly simplified things for Web developers.

Similarly, what’s needed today is a comprehensive middleware platform – not a set of individual APIs – that makes it easy for non-communications experts to embed communications features into their apps.

Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment, which was launched officially last week, is our attempt to fill this gap during a time of great demand. (Read InformationWeek’s take here).

Avaya already has a bunch of leading ISVs, including Esna Technologies, UserEvents Inc. and now Eutech using Collaboration Environment to accelerate their dev time.

Eutech recently built a mobile app for Middle East luxury retailer, Paris Galleries, embedded with voice and video conferencing features. Eutech’s team was able to do this despite, according to Gunasingham, “having zero knowledge of collaboration from a Unified Communications (UC) point of view.”

Eutech was able to build the app in slightly more than a week, compared to the months Gunasingham figures his team would have needed without Collaboration Environment.

That benefits the final end user, Paris Galleries, and its salespeople. Armed with mobile devices, they can now quickly call upon remote cosmetics and other experts when customers ask for them.

“Customers want to be pampered,” said Gunasingham. “If you want your customers to spend a few thousand dollars on impulse, it’s very important that their experience be excellent.”

Collaboration Environment is compatible with the Eclipse programming environment. “We very purposely chose Eclipse because we knew every app developer knows it,” said Barnett. 

Slide20.JPG

CE also comes with a Collaboratory – a cloud-based area where they can quickly build and test apps. “Developers don’t need to build their on-site lab; with Collaboratory, they can be up and running within a day,” Barnett said.

Collaboratory “de-risks things for developers,” agrees Kerravala, who says some Avaya developer partners he has interviewed credit CE with cutting their development time from half a year to a few days.

Eutech’s Gunasingham concurs. CE “had a real benefit for us,” he said. “Without CE, we couldn’t have gotten into this field at all.”