Siemens has announced a new contact center application that is fully integrated with its software-based, SIP-flavored unified communications (UC) platform, OpenScape Unified Communications.
OpenScape Contact Center, which will be available in June, leverages Siemens' new UC technology and aggregates presence across the enterprise, according to Al Baker, the company's vice president of global CRM sales.
"Which means you, as someone in product management or marketing or PR, you've got your presence functionality," Baker said. "You can see into the contact center. Not only can the contact center see you and get help from you, but you can say, 'I need someone over there to help me with this customer scenario we're trying to build for PR. Let me talk to the account executive on our inside sales team.' "
The application features converged contact center and enterprise-wide presence and collaboration capabilities. It scales from as few as 10 contact center agents up to 7,500, and it features a voice portal based on open standards for speech-enabled self service.
OpenScape Contact Center is software-based, like the rest of the OpenScape portfolio. Michael Barbagallo, senior analyst of contact center solutions at Current Analysis, said Siemens' move to make its contact center solution software-based is nothing revolutionary. Much of the market is moving in that direction these days.
"Almost any contact center manufacturer is going in that direction," Barbagallo said.
The software-based approach to UC allows Siemens applications to run on nearly any hardware, he said. It is also easier to configure and maintain.
He added that the level of integration that OpenScape Contact Center has with the rest of Siemens' OpenScape UC platform is more noteworthy.
"It streamlines communications," he said. "The biggest thing for contact center agents is getting the information they're looking for. If I'm an agent and I need additional information, I need to find an expert. This allows me to look at a list of experts and say OK, John Smith is available. Let me send him an email or IM saying I've got a customer on the line that has this question. Can you talk to [him] or tell me what the answer is?"
Barbagallo said that in other contact center applications that aren't as integrated into a company's UC platform, agents have to jump through hoops to get information that isn't in their knowledge base.
He said only two other companies -- Mitel and Interactive Intelligence -- are offering contact center applications that are as integrated into their UC platforms as Siemens' is.
"The rest of them are working towards that," Barbagallo said. "Avaya will say they can do it, but it requires another server. Cisco has a presence server, and they've announced that they're going to put it in, but they haven't yet.
Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst with McGee-Smith Analytics, said Siemens has had separate presence capabilities within the contact center and its enterprise PBX products for a few years, but OpenScape Contact Center integrates the two for the first time.
Siemens is moving ahead of Cisco and Avaya, McGee-Smith said. Avaya does not yet have a single, open, SIP-based platform that does voice and UC and contact center cleanly. Cisco has a multitude of server-based applications that it tries to tie together.
"Siemens really is pretty dramatically different," she said. "It's closer to Microsoft's play in terms of the use of a software platform. If you look at Cisco, Avaya, Nortel – they're still working with a bunch of boxes and trying to pull it all together. And Siemens historically has had the same. They've made a leap here with their SIP-based applications that I think some of their competitors are trying to catch up with."
This tight integration Siemens is offering reflects a broader trend that experts are seeing in the contact center industry.
"What's happening with contact centers, the way they are evolving right now – they used to be a separate entity like a dinghy off a cruise liner or something like that," Barbagallo said. "They were separate and they would stay separate. However, they're coming closer and closer into the [enterprise] environment as more and more companies realize the value of contact centers. They're becoming more a part of business process. Companies are realizing that this is where they can grab customers and hold customers. That's the way contact centers are going."
Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor