DSC Tech Library
Computer Telephony Integration
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CTI Computer Telephony Integration software and products.
Computer Telephony Integration CTI software is a rich set of phone software library routines that enable application programs to control your phone system.
This comprehensive CTI software lets you increase employee productivity, enhance customer service and reduce costs by combining the capabilities of our PACER phone system with the custom functionality of your Windows, Unix or Web applications.
Data collected by your phone ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems can be passed to your existing PC, Unix or Web applications through our phone software.
The PACER predictive dialer can automatically call your customers and pass only connected calls to your agents. With our computer telephony software, your telephone and computer work together to provide cost-saving benefits.
The Rebirth of IP telephony
CMP Asia team, 1-Sep-2004
Enterprise IP telephony—love it or loathe it, it’s hard to ignore it. Much has been written about IP telephony, which involves the seamless integration of data and voice into a single communications environment to deliver advanced applications to end users—wherever they may be. This convergence enables businesses to reduce costs, consolidate and simplify networks, and deliver more informative customer service. In fact, the technology is fast maturing and many adopters are enjoying the benefits that it brings, beyond just saving money on international business call charges.
Telcos are also having a better feel for the needs of their customers and are beefing up their IP infrastructures to better deliver applications over the public Internet.
It is against this backdrop that Network Computing Asia and teledotcom commissioned a survey on the state of Enterprise IP telephony projects across Asia-Pacific. The survey was sent to MIS managers/CIOs/CTOs in enterprises and, as a separate group, senior business and technology managers in telecommunications service providers, thus offering the added advantage of cross-referencing the perspectives of enterprises and telcos. However, not all charts are reproduced here.
There were 810 respondents to the survey, which unearthed some thought-provoking results and confirmed what some have predicted—enterprise IP telephony is experiencing a renaissance.
- Nearly one in five technology professionals polled have been involved in or directly implemented enterprise IP telephony projects. Of the remainder, another 42% are testing or planning to deploy while 40% are inexperienced.
- Organisations, whether experienced in IP telephony or not, expect to see a return on investment (ROI) within four years with a majority expecting ROI in two and three years.
- Organisations that have experience with IP telephony are more likely to conduct the implementation with in-house expertise, while those with no experience believe they would be better served by systems integrators (SIs).
- Organisations that are inexperienced with IP telephony are more
concerned with cost than those who have a project running.
- Telcos underrate the importance that enterprises place on stable
technology, especially experienced organisations or upgraders who rely on technology reliability to drive decisions on future IP telephony projects.
- Telcos feel that enterprises should address bandwidth issues before upgrading routers and switches. They believe that network
administration/management software is important and that enterprises seem to be following the wrong upgrade sequence.
- Telcos believe that when specifying telco-grade IP network hardware for their public network infrastructure upgrades, the ability to handle traffic volume and high compression capabilities are more important than the choice of platform, open or otherwise. They do not see the need to support all codecs.
- Although telcos understand the importance of the session initiation
protocol (SIP) standard, they do not communicate this to enterprises. Most telcos are just starting to adopt SIP.
Expecting Quick Returns
Companies planning to take the plunge can expect to reap rewards soon. More than two-thirds of IP telephony experienced organisations expect to see ROI within four years, with 15% aiming to achieve returns within the first year and a majority in the second and third.
This confidence finds its roots from results elsewhere in the survey, which points to the renewed vigour by which enterprises are adopting such standards and insisting on stable technology roadmaps, signs that the technology is indeed fast maturing.
On the other hand, organisations in the planning phase are more pessimistic, with 45% uncertain of ROI compared to just 32% of those that are planning and testing.
Entering IP telephony may still be considered a high-risk project. The stakes are high and disappointments may be amplified if the benefits are not realised. However, some early adopters of IP telephony are already enjoying the benefits and ROI.
Take the example of Korea’s Kyodo Life Insurance. By integrating intranet, Internet and voice channels, and enhancing service speed through IP mapping, it expects its new IP contact centre to generate considerable revenues.
“We are estimating more than US$40 million to be generated over the next five years with the new IP contact centre. However, this figure only covers income resulting from inbound calls. The amount would be higher if we considered the potential income from outbound calls as well,” said Soon-Ho Choi, Senior Manager, IT System 1 team, Kyobo Life Insurance.
In Hong Kong, Langley Place Hotel has invested in an IP communications network that comprises both wired and wireless phones to deliver guest services more efficiently and effectively.
Jorgen Christensen, the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, said it was difficult to put a monetary value to some of the intangible benefits. “But definitely all these investments would pay off in raising efficiency throughout the hotel’s operations and improving the quality of our services,” he said.
When US-based call centre operator vCustomer launched its offshore centre in India, it implemented an IP network because it needed the network to be highly scalable and robust in terms of carrying both voice and data traffic. By using a packetised voice infrastructure, vCustomer has been able to centralise its voice network, which makes it easier to address the support and scalability issues at a single location.
Perhaps the greatest benefit from an IP telephony network is the centralised management of voice and data networks as these are carried over the same wire. Managing two different networks always means higher costs and longer time periods for resolving business and technical issues.
The benefits of simplified maintenance and the clear cost benefits in terms of bandwidth savings make packetised voice a viable choice to reduce costs while maintaining or improving quality of service (QoS).
Customer chose a VoIP network for its ease of integrating business applications. As the transport is IP and since all applications today are based on IP, it becomes easy to offer customised solutions for clients in the contact centre industry.
DIY for the Ready
Organisations that are experienced are three times (12%) more likely to install their own solutions than those who do not have such plans (4%). They would have done all the legwork and preparation and be in a better position to implement the system themselves.
According to Puan Wan Maseri, Head of ICT Centre, University College of Engineering and Technology Malaysia (Kuktem), doing it in-house allowed the university to have more control and flexibility.
“The outcome of the deployment was excellent and we are now experiencing limitless wireless and 10GE technology. If we were to start all over again, I doubt we would change many things, as we are very satisfied with the way everything worked out,” he said.
On the whole, most organisations would still prefer the tried and trusted route and rely on vendors, resellers or SIs. This preference spells great opportunities for the IT/technical services industry. However, there are some who opt for a combination of doing it in-house and using a vendor. Kyodo Life Insurance in Korea is one such case.
“Our processor interface was deployed through in-house IT resource while the IP contact centre applications, infrastructure deployment and agent application development was done through outsourcing.
“In the case of the processor interface, our in-house staff had the technical know-how and skills whereas introducing the IP contact centre was too new a technology for us to deploy,” said Choi.
On the other hand, experienced organisations want issues such as performance and QoS to be addressed. Main concerns of inexperienced organisations are whether the technology works well enough and whether it is worth the cost and effort.
Overall, organisations have clearly little problem getting technical support and are not concerned with doing more and building new applications: all they want is for the technology to work.
Performance and QoS are also the top concerns of more than 60% of enterprises planning IP telephony implementation. The reason may be because they are yet to be convinced about the performance of IP telephony and the technology to maintain QoS.
Furthermore, more than half of the organisations planning an IP telephony implementation are concerned with the bread and butter issues of cost of ownership and infrastructure requirements.
In this tough economic climate—despite recent signs of an economic upswing—many enterprises are not thinking of issues far beyond the basics or costs/benefits. And worse still, the IT budget is being split many ways. IT departments need to justify their investments, especially with regards to improving operational effectiveness and lowering overall business cost.
On expectations, survey respondents indicated that there is a higher expectation for IP telephony networks compared to traditional communications networks. This perception could have resulted from overselling by IP telephony vendors exalting the advantages of their solutions. Vendors and telcos would do well to discuss real world issues and manage expectations than push their solutions to the enterprises.
One organisation that has leveraged IP telephony and saved on communication costs is Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, a leading pharmaceutical company based in Hyderabad. The company saved more than US$1 million within a year of implementing the IP phones.
These savings were realised from exploiting bandwidth on an international private leased circuit (IPLC) for video, voice and data.
Apart from cutting down its rising communication costs, Dr Reddy’s has seen benefits such as enhanced efficiency and more accurate billing. Communications costs are now incurred on a call duration basis and not on the number of calls. Previously, such costs were charged on a block rate based on the number and duration of calls.
Having established a core communication set up, Sachdev Ramakrishna, Chief information officer of Dr Reddy’s Labs, is confident of scaling up the network as required. He is also planning to have a display that can provide alerts from its enterprise resource planning solution on its IP phones.
“Another initiative we are planning is to integrate the phones in staff homes and offices so that our executives can be easily reached. We have already done this in the US, but Indian regulations don’t allow us to replicate it here yet,” he added.
When the regulatory environment in India becomes conducive, Dr Reddy’s would need another 300 IP phones to integrate homes and offices within the country.
Enterprises Want Everything
When asked to rate from one to 10 their preference for enterprise IP telephony applications (with one being non-essential and 10 being important), every application scored 6.4 and above.
The applications include multimedia conferencing, enhanced voice, messaging and presence, hosted PBX, security, voice/multimedia VPN, contact centres, financial and customer care, and media content/distribution.
One reason why enterprises may seem to want everything is because IP telephony applications can integrate with existing business applications and processes to create a virtual enterprise which adds value along the value chain. This would enable staff and business partners to be connected wherever they are. With improved coordination and collaboration, enterprises will enjoy increased productivity and efficiency.
While most of the applications are rated quite closely, multimedia conferencing, security, and voice/multimedia VPN stood out from the rest. This suggests that secured and closed network applications will increase in demand as enterprises seek to improve communications internally.
It is also telling that security is in greater demand by organisations that are not ready to adopt IP telephony and are therefore more cautious.
Key Decision Drivers
The number one decision driver is stable technology. All surveyed organisations want technology that is proven and dependable. For inexperienced organisations, reliability is the next main factor driving decisions on IP telephony implementation. Having been so used to the reliability of conventional telephone systems, they demand the same high level of reliability from IP telephony systems.
Also, this group rates cost of ownership as the next factor, followed by standards. Even experienced organisations are not very far behind in that view. Perhaps cost of ownership calculations still elude some enterprises despite IP telephony pilot projects.
A point to note is that experienced organisations seem to view the SIP standard as less of a necessity, even in upgrades. SIP is a signalling protocol used for establishing sessions in an IP network. A session could be a two-way call or a collaborative multimedia conference session. The ability to establish these sessions makes it possible to provide a host of innovative services such as voice-enriched e-commerce, Web page click-to-dial, Instant Messaging with buddy lists, and IP Centrex services.
The IP telephony community has adopted SIP as its protocol of choice for signalling, and it is a technology specification which is still evolving.
This trend may leave little room for vendors delivering proprietary solutions. To win a bigger slice of the pie, vendors would do well to offer standards-based solutions.
With more standards-based products, early adopters as well as those planning implementations can benefit from greater choice and assurance of interoperability.
Perceptions of Decision Drivers
From the telcos’ point of view, they believe that stable technology, availability of technology and cost of ownership are the three key decision drivers before enterprises consider any IP telephony solutions.
While these are quite similar to what surveyed enterprises think, there is a gap between the importance of stable technology for enterprises and telcos.
Enterprises rate the importance of stable technology much higher than telcos.
While standards are important and run the risk of being underestimated in helping organisations decide, they also need clarity of benefits. About 16% of experienced enterprises and 15% of the inexperienced rate unclear benefits as a key decision driver. From the telcos’ perspective, 18% of surveyed service providers feel that unclear benefits are a key deterrent to IP telephony implementation.
Overall, the differences in perceptions are heightened by the fact that enterprises consistently expect IP telephony to be superior to PSTN services in many aspects including cost, as was shown in an earlier chart.
Many enterprises are like Kyodo Life Insurance, opted for IP telephony to improve service levels and lower operational cost.
The insurance firm had two major problems with its former call centres—one was the infrastructure, which lacked scalability and flexibility to apply new technologies, and the other was applications that caused inefficiency and a lower level of customer service.
“Through the IP contact centre deployment, our goal was to provide quality services to customers, enhance contact centre operational efficiency and productivity, and secure lower total cost of ownership and higher ROI,” said Choi.
Underestimating Enterprises’ Needs
There are some startling differences between the telcos understanding of enterprises’ needs and the latter’s real requirements. While multimedia conferencing is among the most important applications to enterprises, telcos are relatively overweight on spending in this area. And telcos are investing least on contact centres, hosted PBX/Centrex and IP applications, which are garnering demand from enterprises.
Security is the top concern of enterprises, particularly inexperienced organisations. However, telcos seem to be underestimating this need, placing fewer dollars on network/application security than other areas such as voice/multimedia VPN and multimedia conferencing, the one area where telcos have rightly understood enterprises’ requirements, being the most important application to enterprises.
A recent Frost & Sullivan survey backs this finding, especially telcos’ interest in building out voice/multimedia VPN services. It states that while video conferencing over ISDN still leads the way, the region is seeing a fast transition towards IP networks. In 2003, several markets, including China, have seen strong penetration of video over IP networks. The availability of broadband at competitive prices is another enabler for this adoption.
Building Next-Generation Networks
The growth of Internet, data services and IP telephony in recent years has proven beyond doubt that internetworking technologies will define the public telecom network of the 21st century.
Telcos need to evolve their telecom networks to next-generation networks (NGNs), with IP maturing sufficiently to carry voice, video and data traffic over converged networks.
From the survey, bandwidth compression ability in relation to cost is the most pressing concern of telcos considering an upgrade to IP. More than 70% of telcos feel that the returns on technology must justify the cost when building next generation networks (NGNs).
The next most important factor is understandably traffic volume as it impacts operating expenses and profitability.
The type of platform and billing integration are also important—more so than packaged or value-added solutions.
NGNs are slowly gathering momentum in the region. South Korea is now pushing to be a pioneer in the development and deployment of NGNs through KT, South Korea’s leading telecoms carrier.
Considering the trend towards IP and IP telephony, KT has decided to take advantage of the situation to upgrade its network architecture and capabilities by developing and deploying NGN systems. The company also believes the move will shift the revenue base of the company from voice to multimedia, and cut network installation and maintenance costs.
The South Korean government has also turned its attention on the potential macro-economic benefits of NGNs. Through its business convergence networks project, the government plans to boost the economy, especially through the IT industry, exports, and employment.
Clear Signs of a Bright Future
The signs are clear. Though their IP telephony infrastructures are not fully in place yet, telcos are well on their way to deciding which part of their infrastructure can go on IP. Enterprises planning or upgrading their infrastructures are demanding for more information on technology roadmaps and upgrade paths.
However, the message that enterprises using IP telephony are beginning to reap the benefits of their investments should spread across the marketplace and create a sense of excitement and expectation.
This may even influence those who are waiting at the threshold. Enterprise IP telephony is set to rise and become a potent communication tool for enterprises in the years ahead.
Project editor: Edward Lim, editorial director, CIZA Concepts.
Charting and analysis: Lim Soo Ching, Managing partner, Spottiswoode and Connolly.