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Oracle's hosted call center gets an update

Barney Beal

Oracle Corp. today released an updated version of its Contact Center Anywhere application, the spoils of its Telephony@Work

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acquisition.

The hosted contact center now runs entirely on the Oracle technology stack and provides prepackaged integration with Siebel CRM.

"When Oracle first bought it, my thought was there's got to be a gap in their product line," said Michael DeSalles, strategic analyst at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. "But it's a very strong product. More than anything else, for service providers it provides real multi-tenancy."

Advances in computer telephony integration (CTI) and hosting multiple instances of an application on one server (multi-tenancy) are helping to transform call center operations. Where once an organization would build a large, centrally located call center, it can now let agents work at home or in smaller, distributed locations, creating virtual call centers. @38695

Oracle and its rival in the application business, SAP, have both targeted the emerging market with acquisitions. SAP last month acquired Wicom Communications, a hosted call center vendor that integrates with its Interaction Center.

Oracle's new application runs on Oracle Database 10g and Oracle Fusion Middleware. It features new management tools and new functionality for higher agent productivity, and it provides more operational flexibility to contact center outsourcing organizations, according to Oracle.

According to Mike Betzer, Oracle's vice president of CRM strategy, Telephony@Work essentially sold different versions of its product to meet the individual needs of its major customers. Oracle has created a superset of those customized features and combined them with best practices and methodologies in Contact Center Anywhere 8.1. For example, one major outsourcing customer that uses work-at-home agents needed to be able to partition reports. An agent may work for a couple of hours for one client, switch over to another for an hour, and then work for a third for the rest of the day. The outsourcer needs to measure all of that.

While virtual contact centers are quickly evolving as viable options for outsourcers and some start-up businesses, companies with existing call center infrastructures are not rushing to rip out their existing switching hardware, though Betzer said he has seen a few examples of that.

"More than that, they're saying, 'Why don't I take this division or product or company or vector and move them forward on a new platform?' " he said. "Within the next 10 years, this is the way people will buy solutions for their call center that used to be hardware based. The place where we think there is opportunity is the shift that's happening [as companies move] away from big monolithic call centers."

Companies once built their call centers as big as could be supported by their switches, but that era is over, according to Betzer, and organizations are moving to a distributed environment.

DeSalles agreed that over the long term companies will move departments to hosted call centers, but it's a bit early to sound the death knell of the 500-seat contact center. It's a start, however.

"This is a great greenfield opportunity," he said. "Some companies are starting to use remote and work-at-home agents. As there's more confidence around that model, hosted and remote is a perfect match. In the longer term, this is the way we're going to do work in the contact center."


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