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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How to Deliver the Digital Healthcare Patient Experience

Technology and the Internet of Things hold great promise to improve our health and well-being. Internet-connected infusion pumps, imaging machines, blood-glucose sensors, and myriad more devices, can automatically share valuable data to a person’s electronic health record. We can expect to see network-connected healthcare aides playing an ever-greater role in delivering healthcare. Smart beds that automatically detect if they’re occupied—or if a patient has gone walkabout—and can track the quality of the patient’s sleep. Wearables and implants that measure a patient’s vital statistics, continuously log data and report, in real-time, any abnormalities to the appropriate clinical staff.

We’re not talking some far distant future here—a report last year from IDC indicated that enterprise mobility will have penetrated over 80% of MEA healthcare organizations by 2017, with over a third of organizations having already deployed corporate smart devices. Hospitals in the region are already increasingly looking to technology solutions to proactively advance patient care and improve outcomes.

Countries in the region, especially in the GCC, are making transformation of healthcare services a key priority as they look to improve the well-being of their citizens. We are seeing major initiatives to leverage technology to improve healthcare delivery in the region, such as in the United Arab Emirates, which has included providing a world-class healthcare system in its UAE Vision 2021 strategy. Likewise, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made improving healthcare delivery a key plank of its Vision 2030.

Healthcare organizations here in my region also understand that technology is a tool for driving efficiency and streamlining operations as well as improving patient outcomes. Dr. Sulaiman Habib Medical Group (HMG), one of the largest providers of comprehensive healthcare services in the MENA region, recently unveiled its Al Suwaidi Hospital in Saudi Arabia, a digital medical facility that is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

A cloud-based technology infrastructure enables the hospital to be a fully-paperless operation, and multimedia connectivity between diverse departments ensures that the time taken for reporting and maintaining records is greatly reduced. This enables physicians to focus on more patients and seamlessly transfer cases to other departments, laboratories, or the billing section. It also allows the hospital to maintain digital records, which are useful in generating patient medical histories, as well as meet regulatory requirements. Together with Avaya, HMG is delivering a fully digital patient experience, with real-time collaboration for physicians, laboratories, and other components of the healthcare delivery process.

While HMG can rightly claim to be a global leader in healthcare technology, we are seeing other healthcare providers increasingly adopting technology solutions here. Networked devices are prevalent in hospitals already, with a growing number of nurses and doctors having transitioned away from clipboards and paper to Wi-Fi-enabled communications devices and tablet computers.

Technology in healthcare does bring unique challenges. The highest standards must be met for patient security and safety at all times, with patients needing to have absolute confidence that their data is safe. Therefore, creating applications that can enhance the patient experience and improve the healthcare operator’s efficiency can be more challenging than in other industries.

Adding to those challenges: healthcare operators’ patients are also other companies’ customers and employees—and have correspondingly high expectations of the experience they are looking to receive. People today are well aware of what good technology experiences look like and feel like—so why wouldn’t they expect to receive those good experiences from their healthcare provider.

Many of us will be all too familiar with this scenario: you have to attend a hospital’s emergency room for a medical crisis. In a high-stress time you will likely have to answer questions about medical history, insurance details, and so on before you can be seen by an attending care practitioner. That practitioner will then refer you to a physician or other medical staff member—at which point you will likely have to give your details again!

While forward-thinking organizations like HMG are addressing these challenges, other healthcare organizations need to enter the digital era. Companies today don’t want to risk losing customers as a result of a bad experience—and healthcare providers can’t afford to think differently.

The reality is that traditional business communications have failed to keep pace with consumer-focused technological devices. The simplicity, built-in intelligence, and sophistication of today’s devices have taught consumers that it’s not difficult to have satisfying, tailored experiences—every time. If healthcare providers want to improve our well-being, they need to give us the experiences we want.

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Winning the CX with Apps, Integrated Data Views, Custom Agent Desktops

An estimated $6 trillion in global revenue is up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers, seeking a better customer experience—CX. From finance to retail to hospitality, it seems virtually every industry is grappling with above-average customer churn. Why? Technology has evolved to a point where there is now an inconceivable number of ways for customers to engage with brands, creating a communications environment that many companies simply aren’t set up to handle.

Think about it: if customers aren’t connecting with a brand using one of their three personal mobile devices, they’re leveraging a myriad of other channels and connected platforms to research, communicate and engage. Consider that 150 million emails and 2.4 million Google search queries were sent last year per minute. In that same 60 seconds, almost one million customers were logging into Facebook, and almost 350,000 new tweets were being posted. Over 50,000 apps were being downloaded per minute through the Apple App Store, and over 20 million messages were being sent via communication apps like WhatsApp.

If these statistics show us anything, it’s that experience is everything. The average consumer today uses a combination of the above channels to engage with his or her favorite brands. In fact, in 2014, over 40 % of customers were already using up to seven different service channels including live chat, email, social media, SMS and traditional phone.

The Entire Organization Contributes to the CX

In this next-generation communications environment, a series of unique interaction touch points are created to form a dynamic, inimitable customer journey, as Avaya’s Bernard Gutnick discusses in his blog “Customer Journey Maps Help Strengthen Relationships.” This journey extends across an entire organization, regardless of business line or function. It transcends the limitations of time and space. Conversations continue where they last left off and are routed to whoever is best fit to help, regardless of where that expert resides within the organization. As mentioned, however, many companies aren’t set up to handle this kind of environment from an architectural standpoint. Just consider companies in industries like government, where 71% of federal IT decision makers still use old operating systems to run important applications

Communications-Enabled Applications

To create this revolutionary environment, businesses must operate on open, agile infrastructure that enables them to build any communications-enabled application organization-wide. In today’s smart, digital world, companies need the speed and flexibility to design, build and run unique applications to meet constantly changing customer needs and business requirements. This open environment supports businesses with a contextual, 360-degree view of the customer journey—a view that seamlessly extends across all teams, processes and customer touch points to deliver unparalleled brand experiences.

These apps need to be easy for IT to create, deploy and manage, and they must be agile enough to serve multiple departments to improve ROI and TCO. Driven by the right tools and strategies, every employee must be empowered to do his or her job at maximum potential each day. As we’ve mentioned time and again, gaining a 360-degree view of the customer means serving both contact center and non-contact center environments within a company. This is exactly why best-in-class companies are 30% more likely to align their entire organization around the customer to ensure consistency and contextualization.

Integrated Data Views and Custom Agent Desktops

Here’s how this next-generation communications environment specifically works:

  • A full library of customer engagement capabilities for contact centers—plus team engagement APIs to build business apps for almost any computer environment (i.e., Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Javascript)—enables businesses to continually reinvent the communications experience, thus reimagining CX possibilities and business outcomes. This is how any expert can be made available for any customer inquiry or issue regardless of their location within the organization.
  • Companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize the agent desktop for any unique customer configuration. This ability to instantly innovate customer communications enables organizations to anticipate and respond to the speed of the consumer. Keep in mind that virtually anyone should be able to oversee these customizations, be it the company’s development team, system integrators, or the provider’s professional services team.
  • To know where your customers want to go, you must first know where they’ve been. With CRM information directly integrated within its interface, a web-based application empowers agents with a single, integrated browser view. This enables employees to view all data—both historical and real-time—across every fathomable interaction channel. This means an agent seeing that a customer communicated with a chatbot twice over the last two days about a billing error, for example. Agents will never have to wonder what steps were taken prior to their interaction with a customer, and consumers will never have to repeat the same information or be transferred across multiple different agents. Also keep in mind that this move to a web-based application offers contact center operators more flexibility to leverage general purpose browsers on a range of computers such as Macs, PCs and Chromebooks. This not only eliminates the need to upgrade client apps, but allows companies to customize the layout of each contact center so that information matches the requirements of each individual operation.

As technology continually evolves, businesses will have no choice but to press forward if they wish to perform at the speed of the consumer. Experience is everything, and organizations need a new way to design, deliver and manage customer engagements. With customers now using more digital channels than ever to engage with the brands they love, it’s clear that customer-based business applications have won the war.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your environment? We can help enable you to compete and win the hearts and minds of your employees and customers. Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

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.