Busy Week in UC and Contact Center
My head is spinning – so many unified communications and contact center-related announcements in the past couple weeks. Here’s a very quick rundown:
Avaya Video for IP Office
Avaya announced the Avaya Video Collaboration Solution for IP Office, a video collaboration solution designed specifically for the small and midsize enterprise segment. Several months ago, Avaya made changes to its IP Office product, increasing its scalability and making it more attractive to both SMBs customers and reseller partners. The new announcement adds video capabilities to IP Office based on Avaya’s Scopia, combining desktop, mobile and HD room-system video collaboration capabilities. Up to eight people can participate in a conference from any standards-based room system, desktop or mobile device, with click-to-join capabilities.
Avaya took the core technology from its room-based video system, and combined it with mobility capabilities, enabling users to click-to-join from any device. The system acts like a virtual room for up to eight participants. The new solution includes all of the components of the full Scopia solution, including HD room system interoperability and rich data collaboration, but at a more affordable price point for SMBs. It will be sold globally by Avaya’s 3720 IP Office SME authorized partners.
Some of the capabilities include:
- An integrated dial plan with Avaya IP Office Version 8.1.
- Desktop and mobile video clients for PCs, Macs, and iOS and Android devices. These clients are provided at no cost to users.
- Low-bandwidth, HD multi-party video conferencing and data collaboration via native SIP/H.323.
- Automatic firewall traversal to enable users to collaborate and interact with people outside their network.
There are a few things that are different in the Avaya IP Office version, such as the use of 720p, rather than 1080p, and the use of an internal bridge, which means that it’s a single conference per server.
IMHO: Avaya made the right move by putting more focus on Avaya IP Office, rather than Avaya Aura. The new video solution for IP Office shows that Avaya wants to help midmarket companies be on par with large enterprises as far as features and functionality, without having to sacrifice capabilities. However, I expect that many (or most) small companies, and even mid-sized companies, will opt for Skype rather than paying for a video solution. For Avaya IP Office customers that require consistent quality and need integration with other systems, Avaya Video Collaboration Solution for IP Office offers a compelling option. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Mitel Rebranding and New Products
Mitel rebranded its products, and also introduced two new offerings. We knew the rebranding was coming when Mitel introduced its cloud offering, MiCloud. Mitel found that its previous three-letter acronyms for product names were getting confusing to people, and they wanted to simplify their product branding.
The three new product names are:
MiVoice: The name for Mitel’s voice platforms and phones including MCD, 5000 CP, Mitel 5300 IP Phones and 8500 Digital Phones.
MiCollab: The new name for the Mitel Application Suite (MAS), and includes Mitel’s Unified Communications and Collaboration offering, including the UCA, MCA and NuPoint messaging.
MiContactCenter: Thiscomprises Mitel’s three contact center technologies. There are still three offerings, but now they are called MiContactCenter Small Business (for workgroups), MiContactCenter Business Edition (50 Users), and MiContactCenter Enterprise Edition.
In addition, Mitel introduced two new products:
MiVoice for Lync – for Microsoft Lync users to easily add Mitel's voice capabilities without requiring third-party devices, gateways or other components. A client-side plug-in to the Lync client provides access to Mitel’s full voice capability. Users can do click-to-call from their Lync directory, control the desk phone from the Lync client, etc. MiVoice for Lync can be deployed in public, private and hybrid cloud environments as well as on-premise. Mitel notes that while Microsoft Lync has had great success for IM and presence, going to voice in a Lync environment is very complex, requires a lot of integrations, and involves a higher cost for maintaining the system. MiVoice for Lync lets Lync users have the Lync IM and presence capabilities with Mitel’s voice solution, providing a lower TCO than Lync Voice. Mitel notes that MiVoice for Lync is a better option where voice is mission critical. To deploy this, Lync customers need the MiVoice for Lync Server ($995), plus Mitel MiVoice Business (formerly Mitel Communications Director) if they don’t already have it.
The latest version of MiCollab 5.0 (formerly Mitel Application Suite or MAS) adds integration with the Google Cloud Platform and Google Apps, including Google calendar, email, IM, presence and contact management features. In addition, MiCollab can be packaged with voice as a single virtual appliance, which will reduce resource utilization. Mitel is now offering a client application (at no cost) that provides corporate directory access, contact management and click-to-call capabilities, and gives visibility to the user’s corporate directory, and allows them to control their desk phone from their PC.
IMHO: I like the rebranding – anything that gets rid of all those acronyms can’t be a bad thing! And the “Mi” part is a cute play on words. Integration with Google Apps and the Google Cloud is getting to be a no brainer – especially when targeting SMBs, universities, and others that rely on Google Apps. I’m a bit less enthused about MiVoice for Lync. While it’s important to be able to easily integrate Lync with enterprise-grade voice systems, and it’s great that Mitel is providing an easy way to do this, most companies still have silos and haven’t bothered integrating Lync with their voice solutions. I’m not convinced that MiVoice for Lync will change this. I commend Mitel for trying to make it easier to add voice to a Lync environment by using a plug-in. However, most customers just aren’t integrating these environments. It would be nice if MiVoice for Lync will change this, but call me skeptical.
Genesys launched the Genesys Cloud portfolio of cloud solutions for contact centers and customer engagement. There are two offers of Genesys Cloud:
Platform on Demand: a cloud solution utilizing core Genesys solutions, including the Genesys 8 suite, and offering the full capabilities of the Genesys platform; aimed at 100-5,000 seats. There are three deployment models:
Zero Footprint: a pure cloud deployment providing Genesys 8 functionality. Agents use their browser and softphone on their desktop (or a SIP phone if preferred). This deployment model is best suited for customers that have a more standard contact center with 100-250 seats and don’t require multiple channels initially.
Local Connect: the telephony is on premise and the contact center features are served from the Genesys cloud. This model lets customers keep their existing telephony system on premise and uses a media server on the customer premise. The media is on site but recording and heavier applications are in the cloud. Under the covers, Genesys uses the AudioCodes Mediant Gateway, which embeds a virtual machine. When calls or sessions come in, the prompting, identification of the customer, and determination of how to handle the session can be done from the cloud. The session is then extended from the gateway to an agent over SIP. Essentially, Genesys will be able to do the heavy lifting in the cloud, and customers won’t require a PBX for the contact center agents.
Hybrid Deployment: this option uses the Genesys Intelligent Customer Front Door as the answering point, and then connects to third-party routing systems. Prompting, self service, call queuing, etc. are all done in the network before the call gets to the customer site. Genesys notes that most customers won’t get rid of their premise ACDs and need a hybrid solution that lets them keep routing on premise, and move groups of agents to the cloud as desired over time. This model makes the most sense for contact centers with over 500 seats and more complex deployments.
Solutions on Demand: providing contact center and IVR solutions based on Genesys’ recent acquisitions of Angle and Soundbite. It supports up to 150 agents and is “designed for rapid deployment with easy-to-use point and click configuration,” as well as advanced business intelligence and analytics.
Genesys customers can now deploy customer engagement and contact center solutions on site, in Genesys’ secure cloud, or in a hybrid cloud model, based on their specific needs.
IMHO: With this new offering, Genesys offers a great deal of flexibility to customers, providing various options for cloud services. Not only does it offer premise-based and cloud solutions, but it offers a variety of cloud options for customers, enabling customers to migrate to the cloud in a variety of ways, making the transition less disruptive. Genesys has reorganized itself around its traditional offerings and its cloud offerings, starting with its Genesys Connect service, and has quickly been adding cloud customers based on its recent acquisitions. While the company already had cloud expertise, it has multiplied this recently with the addition of Angel and Soundbite. These offerings also help Genesys expand to the mid-market, an area that the company has tried to penetrate in the past, but with less-than-desired success. As always, much of the success will be based on the go-to-market efforts. Genesys has a direct sales strategy for its cloud services in the U.S., but will also work with partners and is actively working with partners to white label some of these services.
Genesys is in a period of transition, with new acquisitions and new service offerings. It has a lot of work to do to make everything come together and work seamlessly. A few (not many) competitors were quicker to market with cloud offerings, and Genesys has some catching up to do. Genesys notes that it is moving from a “fast follower” to a market leader. Fortunately it can gain momentum based on the Angel and Soundbite customer base and the expertise it acquired. The game is afoot.
Too many announcements, too little time. Stay tuned for more.