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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Citrix and UC Application Integrations

Copyright © 2006 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

October 28, 2006

Executive Interview: Citrix Jumps Into UC With It’s Large Installed Base of “Virtualized” Application Users

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Now that “unified communications” (UC) is upstaging “VoIP” as the “nom de jour” for business communications, a lot of new players are coming into the picture. Some are focused on handheld wireless mobility and multimodal user interfaces, and some on communication enabled business applications. As I pointed out in a recent column, the latter involves two different aspects of user interactions with business applications. One capability enables automated business process applications to proactively make a real-time contact with and deliver time sensitive information to an end user or customer, e.g., automated notifications and alerts. The other capability simplifies person-to-person contact with people within the context of online information (“click-to contact”).

The latter is something that Microsoft has been particularly promoting in its big push towards UC, since it has control over a lot of the desktop business tools and applications that can exploit UC capabilities. However another strong player has joined the fray, because it too has a large footprint in the enterprise desktop business applications market. That company is Citrix, who’s Presentation Server is used to “”virtualize” business applications to the desktops of 97% of the Fortune 1000.

Such application “virtualization” helps centralize and simplify the maintenance of application software across large groups of distributed enterprise users, but also helps maintain the security of applications by eliminating the need to have the applications and data physically resident on individual PCs.

Now Citrix is looking to exploit it’s strategic role in desktop business applications software to facilitate the integration of applications and communications, and we talked to Citrix’s Murli Thirumale, former CEO of Net6 and now Group VP and General Manager of the Citrix Advanced Solutions Group.

AR: What is Citrix’s approach to “Unified Communications?”

MT: Unified Communications means many things to many people. Since Citrix is an applications company, what it really means to us is communications-enabling business applications so enterprise end users get enhanced productivity immediately. “Click-to-call” is a classic example of embedding telephony inside an application. Citrix’s web-distributed, auto-updating agent on the desktop, or on Citrix Presentation Server, turns every phone number in any application into a clickable field. When I click on a number, the agent contacts the communications infrastructure and has that corporate communications infrastructure place a call from the extension associated with the user to the telephone number that was clicked.

But that’s just the start. We will eventually enable our customers to click to collaborate, click to chat, or click to launch a voice or video conference, simply and easily, all within the context of an online desktop business application. Once you embed communications in your applications, it simplifies and speeds up the process of initiating communications.

AR: What are the biggest drivers for this vision?

MT: Applications are a way to capture a business process in software. Many business processes require communications with others as part of the process. A great example of this is the inside sales process which requires a lot of calling. Most of the time we see people awkwardly switching from running their application to making a call. By embedding click-to-contact inside the application users can initiate communications right from the application, an interface that they already know.

With the integration of applications there is a large leap in productivity when people involved in a business process can jump seamlessly into communicating with other people without leaving the application. The Blackberry integration of Click-to-call embedded in email is a great example of this. Once you use it, you’ll never go back!

AR: How does your company’s technology fit into enterprise UC migrations and why is it different or better than your competitors?

MT: Citrix adapts the technology to the user instead of having users adapt themselves to the technology. ”Click-to” is a great example of this. Embedding “click-to-call” seamlessly into the application creates a compelling user experience and ensures it will always be used —and this, in turn, ensures that businesses will actually profit from their investment.

Contrast this to other approaches to the same basic functionality, where the user is required to install and learn a new PC client or softphone interface to “click-to-call,” and in many cases go out of the application to make the call. Because we have such a large installed base of end users who use all kinds of business applications, we make it easy to connect them all with UC capabilities consistently across all their applications. Microsoft is targeting their applications for the same kind of integration with IP telephony. We interoperate with their infrastructure products, such as Live Communication Server and eventually Office Communications Server, as well as with the thousands of non-Microsoft business applications that are already in use.

AR: What have been the biggest market barriers and issues for your vision of telephony-enabling business applications? Communication silos, proprietary TDM telephony and integrations, voice only telephones (TUIs)?

MT: This is an area of huge buzz, but a lot of failed attempts. Telephony vendors have attempted to put new clients on desktops like softphones. Application companies have tried but failed to integrate with the various back end PBXs. Citrix’s approach of actually embedding the communications enablement inside the application is unique and creates a compelling user experience. We see the Citrix “middleware” approach as overcoming the problems that neither the application vendors nor communications vendors alone could solve unilaterally.

AR: How are you exploiting presence technologies in initiating application-based contacts?

MT: We see integrating presence with “Click-to-Contact” as essential. Seeing the availability and willingness to accept the call of the person you are calling is not just good etiquette but eliminates wasted time calling unavailable people. We have started to consolidate different sources of presence and integrate them into “Click-to-Contact.”

AR: What is your value proposition (ROI) for enterprise organizations?

MT: There are two sources of operational ROI to the enterprise:

First, enabling things that were not possible before. An example of this is with a legal client billing application that we recently rolled out. Most law firms require that their attorneys dial a client a matter code before getting an outside line. This enables the law firm to track the time and the expense of the call. The issue is that there is no simple way of confirming the correct codes when the attorney is dialing and it is impossibly tedious to enter the number so it frequently is not done. This causes lost revenue. .

We developed a “Click-to-Call” solution where it accesses information from the law firm’s legal application, provides a simple directory for the attorney to look up the client by name, and then automatically dials the number of the client and automatically enters the correct client and matter code. This saves time for the attorney, but more importantly ensures that the correct client and matter code always gets to the billing backend, eliminating manual errors, and increasing faster revenue generation (What you have described as “macro-productivity.).

The second is the individual time-saving every time a user initiates a communications contact from the application (what you have labeled “micro-productivity”). When you multiply these time savings per communications initiation by the number of times per day, by number of days per year, and by the number of employees in the organization that use this job-related , the return on investment can be both rapid and significant.

AR: What market segments are you targeting and how are you marketing to them?

MT: Our initial goal will be focusing on migrating our 180,000 Citrix customers. They have been very interested in doing more with their investment in Citrix Presentation Server. Now we have the capability of communications-enabling not only any application on Citrix Presentation Server, but also even any application that is deployed on a standalone basis.

AR: UM/UC capability has been of particular importance to mobile users who have to dynamically exploit both visual and voice interfaces depending on their immediate circumstances. What will Citrix be doing to support handheld mobile devices vs. the desktop?

MT: Our initial direction in the handheld mobile device area will most likely be supporting that handheld as the initiator of the call in a “Click-to-Call” situation. As an example, a user would be able to select which phone is their primary phone at that time. When a number in an application is clicked, the user’s selected phone (whether it is a mobile phone or desk phone) will be connected to the phone number that was “clicked.”

Mobility in how it relates to enterprise telephony is still its very early stages, not only from the perspective of many different device form factors and mobile network operators, but also because of different mobile operating systems that these devices will be using. From a mobile client perspective we are in a bit of a wait and see mode to understand what added value we will deliver to our mobile customers.

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our new blog. (

Read our articles on UC for Customer Contact applications

The Math of Customer UC: blog. (

Customer Voice Contacts: Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Consumer UC and Multimodal Customer Assistance

Copyright © 2006 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

September 30, 2006

Planning for the Future –

Consumer UC and Multimodal Customer Assistance

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Now that the telecommunications industry has moved beyond “VoIP” network infrastructure and IP telephony to “unified communications” (multimodal business process applications), enterprise organizations have to prepare for “Consumer UC” and the multimodal customer that will be supported by carrier services. With the flexibility of UC, live customer assistance will be able to dynamically accommodate the needs of a customer, regardless of the initial mode of contact initiation.

Such flexibility will also mean that the concept of a “blended” agent, who must be able to handle all forms of interaction with the customer, from voice to text messaging to “escorted” browsing, will become key to both staffing efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Let’s not confuse the new communication alternatives for customers who need help as being “collaboration;” its still good old customer assistance, even if internal staff may “collaborate” amongst themselves in assisting a customer!

Device-independent Live Assistance

Customer assistance contacts don’t go directly to a particular individual in the enterprise, they go through an automated business process first that can identify their needs and find available resources. That’s what legacy call centers did with telephone callers and what the new generation of “virtual,” IP-based contact center technology will continue to emulate for multimodal customer contacts. However, with the expanded capabilities of web-based, online self-service applications, coupled with text messaging communications (email, instant messaging), customer contacts will access live assistance in new ways. The limitations of the telephone interface for application self-services will shift the role for live assistance accordingly.

“Consumer UC” will enable customers to initiate access to the enterprise automated business processes (self-services) from a variety of communication devices via any of the following communication modes:

· Voice calls from wired desktop, kiosk telephones (TDM, IP “hardphones”)

· Voice calls from desktop IP screenphones

· Voice calls from “softphones” on desktop PCs and laptops

· Voice calls from handheld mobile phones (Cellular, Wi-Fi)

· Voice calls from mobile “smart\phones”

· Email messages from PCs and handheld devices, wired and wireless

· Instant messaging contacts from PCs and handheld devices

· Video contacts from desktop and handheld devices

I have specifically identified the various devices that a consumer might use in the future to initiate a traditional voice call, because, depending on the type of device capabilities, the call handling options for providing live assistance can vary. Multimodal devices will not only give customers more initial choices in contact initiation with the enterprise for 24x7 information access and self-service applications, but will also provide flexibility for accessing live assistance.

It has long been recognized that traditional “skills-based routing” routing (SBR) can be more efficiently qualified by information acquired from automated self-service applications (IVR), rather than simple caller identification and CRM customer history. As I have stated in past articles, all self-service applications are really also intelligent gateways to live assistance. However, because text messaging is already displacing many voice calls and driving the rapid consumer adoption of mobile, personalized, multimodal communication devices, screen output will be exploited by self-service applications to provide more information faster than speech output from self-service IVR applications.

The Mobile Caller and Live Assistance

As consumers continue to adopt personalized, multimodal mobile devices for both voice calls and all forms of messaging (voice, email, IM, SMS), enterprise customer contact activities will shift to support such flexibility. Calls requiring live assistance that are initiated from personalized mobile devices will need to be treated differently than traditional wired phones or desktop PCs in the following ways:

· Waiting in queue for assistance may be difficult for a roaming caller, both from a cost perspective as well as a connection coverage perspective. Higher priority might have to be accorded such a caller.

· On the other hand, an immediate callback based upon the estimated queue position wait time, may be an option offered to the caller, since the callback number is going to be personalized contact device, not a shared number as with a residence phone. Because it is wireless, it will be “always on,” making the customer accessible wherever they may be, not dependent on their location at the time of placing the call.

· The initial live response to the incoming call may not necessarily be a voice conversation. A quick text “chat” option may be more immediately available than a voice connection to a mobile user equipped with a smart phone.

· On the other hand, callers with handheld devices can’t be expected to benefit from escorted web browsing, “pushed” documentation or visual information, or extended text chats as online users sitting down at PCs or laptops with large screens and keyboards.

The Online Caller and Live Assistance

I have previously discussed the live assistance needs of the online customer as being as important, if not more so, than the traditional telephone caller. In particular, I pointed out, for example, that online shoppers who have a question, are only “a click away” from a competitor’s web site. As I headlined in my last article, the online customer who needs live assistance will the new “son-in-law” that your telephone caller “daughter” brings home.

However, the online shopper is not like a traditional telephone caller and doesn’t always need a voice connection for live assistance. Depending on the urgency of their needs, email responsiveness, text chat, and callbacks can all be exploited. With UC technologies, online customers can quickly shift to real-time live assistance, creating a dynamic source of demand traffic contact center support staff. With the more complex mix of skill and responsiveness requirements, the CRM priorities of the traditional call center get to be more complex. Not only will “apples and oranges” have to be evaluated in terms of queue priorities and skills-based routing assignments, but the subtleties of switching modalities will also have to be considered as part of the planning for next generation customer support strategies and associated technologies.

The “Blended” Agent Meets the Multimodal Customer

Jumping to the other side of the customer assistance communication space, we have to look at UC from the perspective of customer-facing staff. With consumer UC, customers will initiate contacts for assistance in a variety of ways. The challenge will be for customer-facing staff to respond to any mode of request that is required at the moment.

In the early days of telephone call centers, call center staffs were divided into two types, those who could handle incoming calls (customer service) and those who were proficient at outbound calls (solicitations, collections). Because outbound calls, unlike inbound call traffic, could be controlled, the concept of “blending” agent activities to let outbound call agents also take higher priority incoming calls whenever necessary. This “blending” approach was taken for handling other lower priority activities ranging from internal desktop tasks to customer email processing and provided an efficient source of “overflow” call handling.

Now that UC technology will enable agents to dynamically handle all forms of customer contact and interaction, efficient staffing will be maximized when every agent can deal with all modalities of customer interaction. There may be other forms of business process expertise that not all customer-facing personnel will possess, but that has always been a traditional call center organizational challenge that won’t disappear.

The challenges for contact center managers in a UC world will include:

· Training agents for handling multimodal contacts

· Determining if there is a loss of efficiency when switching between different modalities of customer contact, and applying routing logic to offset such problems

· Reevaluating queuing priorities and callback strategies for both online and mobile customers

· Revaluating outbound dialing applications in light of “Consumer UC,” federated presence, and staffing skill requirements

· Monitoring the impact of multimodal traffic on force scheduling and customer satisfaction

· Exploiting multimodal interfaces for self-service applications

· Exploiting presence and IM for collaborative customer support between enterprise personnel

· Consolidating and evaluating agent performance statistics across multimodal contact activities

· Developing consistent self-service business applications across multiple modalities of customer contact

· Evaluating migration alternatives for the “unified” contact center capabilities between traditional CPE, managed on-site technology, or hosted, off-site services.

· Reevaluating your legacy call/contact center tools and technologies to see where they will fit into your UC migration plans

The Bottom Line

Customer contact activities for any size enterprise will be affected by SIP-based “Consumer” UC devices and services that will be replacing legacy telephones. Moving to VoIP and IP telephony in the enterprise is only a lateral step in being able to support the new opportunities for efficiently handling customer contacts that are not going to be all telephone-initiated voice calls. Therefore planning for a graceful migration to the future must consider the changes that “Consumer” UC will bring to traditional call center procedures and strategies.

New Objective Resource For UC Migration Planning – UC Strategies Web site

Since technology and service providers are still defining and developing the various components of ”UC,” it is difficult for enterprise organizations to keep up with the reality of today vs. tomorrow’s needs. I have joined with a group of knowledgeable and objective industry experts, who have helped pioneer many of the new concepts of “unified communications” technology.

To learn what is happening with new UC products and services, the impact on business processes including customer contact applications, and how your organization can more efficiently migrate to the UC future, visit our web site at:

My articles on customer contact technology are also now being published at CMP Media’s Call Center Magazine web site:

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our new blog. (

Some other exclusive customer contact insights may be found here:

Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP