What is new in ShoreTel Contact Center Version 7?

ShoreTel Recently announced the availability of Version 7 of the Enterprise Contact Center.  It is not secret that I am a big fan of this product, so I was anxious to see what the new version had to offer.    The product has a number of new features and capabilities that are both feature specific and impact the infrastructure of the product.    Anyone who has worked with the ShoreTel iPBX for any period of time will become instantly comfortable with the new ECC system administration interface.  It is now a browser based portal, very similar to the interface used for the iPBX administration.  In fact I would be willing to bet that the new ECC portal will become the standard for the ShoreTel product line and the iPBX  Shoreware Director will take on some of the characteristics of the new ECC 7  administration portal.

Another area in which the ECC has adopted the exiting iPBX  paradigm is in the area of licensing.   Early versions of the ECC required the installation of a hardware dongle on the server and each desktop that ran the Supervisor software.   Dongles are a pain for everyone and beginning with Version 6, ShoreTel began to migrate away from this requirement by eliminating the dongle requirement for Supervisors.  Previous versions of ECC required the installation of the USB Hasp on the server before installing the ECC application.  No dongle, not ECC!   With ECC 7, not only are the dongles not needed, you get the familiar 45 day grace period to run the ECC application and try all the features before you have to provide the license keys.   The server key locks to the MAC of the server, in a fashion similar to the iPBX key.   The ECC application also reads the BIOS serial number of the server for added software protection.

Other infrastructure changes include the support for Windows 2008 R2 64 Bit Servers.   The ECC will support Citrix and WTS clusters and most importantly, roaming profiles are now supported.     The system will now allow for 100 concurrent Supervisors and 1000 concurrent Agents, though you may define 2000 agents in the database configuration.   The application support 400 DNIS reports and historical data can now be kept for 24 months allowing for year over year trend analysis.

An exciting new feature is the addition of Personal Queues.   I am sure we have all had the experience of working with an “agent” on a particular customer service issue, maybe given a “home work “ assignment only to call back and have to start over with a new agent.   The concept of a “Personal Queue” makes it possible for inbound callers to reach specific agents, if you desire that option.  In this way, after completing the “home work” assignment, you can call back in and queue for the agent that originally handled your call in the first place.    Agents can move high priority calls to their personal queue with a simple mouse click.   Historically, if you wanted this option you had to configure a group and service for each agent that required a personal queue.  With Version 7, this process has been streamlined with the creation go a new entity that defines how the caller should be handled while in the personal queue.  A very powerful option and very useful in direct selling environments.

The familiar graphical scripting tools has not changed and scripts are generated using the established procedure.  The Diagnostic console has been upgraded and is more usable for trouble shooting at the System Administrator level.    I am particularly excited about the creation of a Lab SKU, something I would like to see ShoreTel do with the entire product line.  The Lab SKU makes it possible for you to purchase and run a small scale Contact Center along side your production environment.  In this way you can create new scripts,  strategies, call flows and of course, test new upgrades before putting them into your production environment!

ShoreTel Collaboration Server a new Version 12 Appliance!

Version 12 of ShoreTel is all about Web Collaboration and enhanced Unified Communications functionality! For Example, ShoreTel has had an IM capability since Version 8, but historically you required a Microsoft OCS server to enjoy this feature. Not that Microsoft OCS is a bad solution, but it is really over kill for a functionality as simple as Internet Messaging! The ShoreTel Professional Communicator enabled the IM function as an integrated, single desktop client and many users wanted that functionality without having to grow the expense of a Microsoft OCS server. Enter the concept of a new ShoreTel Collaboration Server with all the bells and whistles disguised as an “appliance”! The New ShoreTel Collaboration Server, available with Version 12, provides a rich set of features that include Audio Conferencing, Internet Messaging, Desktop Sharing, Web Collaboration and Microsoft Outlook integration.

Not only is the functionality of this product astonishing and easy for users to manage, but the ease with which it installs is near magical. As an “appliance” the ShoreTel conference server installs as simply as installing any ShoreGear Switch!  Open Version 12 of Shoreware Director, it looks very familiar and is just as you would expect it to be from your earlier version experiences. You have to look very carefully to see the subtle but very powerful change that has been made. Prior to Version 12, you would find an administration navigation link to Switches and you would use this link to configure and deploy ShoreGear switches. This familiar link is gone and you will now find a new link entitled “Platform Hardware”.  Selecting this link enables you to “add a new switch” and the usual list of ShoreGear switches appears in the drop down menu!  Look a bit closer at the drop down list and you will see a new device or appliance: the ShoreTel Collaboration Server! The server installs, is managed, configured and upgraded like any Shoregear Switch.

Ever wonder how business was conducted before email and cell phones? Desktop sharing, IM and web collaboration are rapidly becoming the minimum daily adult requirement for Unified Communications and is now a “must have”  for business development in the Internet age.   There is a steady stream of dollars migrating out of the Transportation segment and into Communication segment of  your P&L  as businesses look to cut cost, increase productivity and shorten sales cycles.  Having these tools is no longer an option!  I suspect that the best and the brightest young talent coming into the work force will not only expect these tools, but will evaluate the potential for a company’s success based on the availability of these capabilities. The ShoreTel Collaboration server It is a fully featured solution for anyone that is looking for a cost effective alternative to GoToMeeting and other WebEx like products. Check it out the DrVoIP “tech tip” video clip for a sneak peak at all of this!

Fixed Wireless Convergence and Mobility Options for VoIP

ShoreTel Mobility Options

We have been steadily moving through a range of mobility options on our way to achieving true fixed mobile convergence.  We want to take our Office Extension away on our Cell phones and have the same functionality away from the office as we do in the office!  Originally, people forwarded their office extensions to their Cell phones.   Not the best solution, but clearly the easiest to set up.  The problem however, is that the caller to your office extension might end up anywhere including your cell phone voice mail.  So much for a maintaining a business presence!

ShoreTel addressed that issue, but adding a couple of useful features. For example, you can use External Assignment.  Someone calls your desk phone and you can have it re-assigned to your home phone or cell phone.  The benefit over call forwarding alone, is that the call profiles you set up for each of your call handling modes are followed as if the caller were going to your desk phone.

Find Me Follow Me with the auto option was also very useful for that reason.  When your desk phone was called, it could be routed to your cell phone.  You had to explicitly accept the call or the system would take the call back and put it in your personal Voice Mail box.  This is clearly superior to just forwarding the call off to your cell phone, risking the possibility of having the caller end up in a personal cell phone voice mailbox.

Twining (see other blog video) is also a favorite strategy for extending your office phone to your cell.   Why not ring both devices when your desk phone is called?   In this way you could answer on either device and you could also seamlessly move the call between the devices.  For example if I am on my desk phone and need to jump into my car and race off to the next appointment, but do not want to terminate my current call, I can simply hit the move button and the call now appears on my cell.  Likewise, if I took the call on my cell phone, I can now *23 and send it to my desk phone enabling me to move seamlessly from my car to my desk.

The Mobile Call Manager is another exciting option for extending your desk phone to your cell.  Using the ShoreTel Mobile Call Manager, we get a GUI on our phone that allows us to setup our call handling,  review voice messages and otherwise experience most of what we see in the desktop Communicator.  I can externally assign my desk phone to my Mobile Call Manager and setup phone calls that originate at the office.

All of these are useful tools, but none come close to true fixed mobile convergence.  I want my cell phone to be smart enough to enable me to take and make office phone calls regardless of where I am on the planet.   I also want the phone to work on any available WiFi connection and to seamlessly move between G3 and WiFi without dumping the call in progress.   You walk into Starbucks and your cell phone is smart enough to jump on the WiFi and establish a secure connection back to the office and register with the office mobility server.  Any call coming into your office desk phone will now ring your cell phone as a SIP extension!

With a true mobility router, a call to my desk phone will ring both my office extension and my mobile extension.  I can answer the call on either extension and have full feature access.  While out on the WiFi I can still access my office directory, history, voice mail and manipulate active calls to allow conference and transfer functionality.  If my WiFi drops my G3 connection can pick up and continue as my office SIP extension.

Calls to my Cell phone are personal business and calls to my office desk are for business. I want each of these callers to receive appropriate call handling.  If I make a call to a personal contact, I want my CID to be different then my CID to a business contact.  The phone should be smart enough to route business calls to the company VM and personal calls to my personal VM.   All of this is possible with a true Mobility router.  All that is required is a PBX that supports both SIP trunks and SIP extensions.   Most if not all of the IP based PBX solutions in the market support this capability and the ShoreTel Mobility Router and ShoreTel Roam Anywhere Client make true fixed mobile convergence a reality!

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