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Enhancing business processes with intelligent virtual assistants

In this roundup of UC blogs, analysts discuss the rise of intelligent virtual assistants, Zoom's foray into WebRTC technology and the pitfalls of using vendor-provided RFPs.

Virtual assistants continue to make their way out of consumer homes and into the enterprise to automate tasks and improve employee collaboration and productivity. Opus Research analyst Derek Top wrote in a blog how Oracle is boosting its virtual assistant, Digital Assistant, by adding AI-driven voice commands.

Oracle launched Digital Assistant last year as a platform to interface with its portfolio of software apps for verticals like sales, marketing and HR. The addition of voice commands brings a conversational intelligent virtual assistant for business processes and workforce apps, he wrote.

The intelligent virtual assistant uses machine learning and natural language processing to understand user input and automate processes such as expense approvals and collaboration.

Oracle also announced plans to integrate its intelligent virtual assistant with Microsoft Teams. The integration will enable Teams users to access Oracle apps through voice commands.

Top said these announcements show the promise of intelligent assistants to redefine CRM and sales strategies, improve collaboration and digitize worker productivity.

"Enterprise customers can achieve long-term value and business efficiencies from conversational AI technologies with a commitment to balancing digital self-service opportunities with human intervention as needed," he said.

Read how Top said the intelligent virtual assistant will improve business processes and more on the technology driving Oracle's Digital Assistant.

Zoom's baby steps toward WebRTC adoption

Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) is still an important technology to support voice and video communications in web browsers. BlogGeek.me analyst Tsahi Levent-Levi detailed how Zoom is the latest video communications provider to adopt WebRTC to improve efficiency.

Zoom's WebRTC deployment isn't a full adoption of the technology; rather the vendor switched its web client from WebSocket to WebRTC data channels. Levent-Levi speculated that the WebSocket protocol wasn't as efficient as WebRTC as it delivers media over TCP, which is susceptible to quality issues, like packet loss. WebRTC is an alternative to WebSocket to deliver better quality media.

Levent-Levi said he expects Zoom will eventually fully embrace WebRTC as media codecs advance. Zoom currently uses the WebRTC-supported H.264 codec. But newer codecs, like VP9 and AV1, offer better quality than H.264 at the same bit rate, he said.

If Zoom decides to adopt one of these new codecs, it will need WebRTC to support browsers without forcing guest users to install an app or plugin to access the service, he said.

Read more about how Levent-Levi believes Zoom's adoption of WebRTC reflects a growing trend of vendors moving away from proprietary communications standards and codecs.

Vendor-provided RFPs require business scrutiny

Organizations looking to replace their phone systems may issue a request for proposal (RFP) to potential vendors to evaluate their offerings. But creating an RFP that accurately portrays an organization's requirements can be difficult.

Some vendors may offer their own RFP document as a starting point. But using a vendor-provided RFP document can have its own pitfalls, communications technology consultant Melissa Swartz of Swartz Consulting LLC wrote. Organizations should consider a few factors before using vendor-provided documents.

A vendor response to an RFP takes time and money, and vendors will evaluate the risk and reward of responding to an organization's RFP. A vendor-provided RFP is designed to make that vendor look better than its competition.

For example, a vendor-provided document can appear biased toward that vendor if it references proprietary technology. As such, vendors won't respond to the RFP because they lack the proprietary technology and don't think they can win a contract with the organization.

Swartz cited a client who, in the early days of VoIP, included in an RFP a requirement to use Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP). The client didn't realize SCCP was a proprietary standard for Cisco VoIP systems, effectively eliminating all other VoIP providers from the evaluation process.

Check out Swartz's tips on reviewing RFPs to recognize the red flags that signal a vendor-biased document.

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