Zeacom Launches Communications Center Version 5.0

Combined call center/unified communications application extends presence, mobility, conferencing.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Mar 14, 2008
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Zeacom Limited,—which has offices in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the U.K—may be the most successful vendor of contact center and unified communications software that you've never heard of.

The company got its start with a call center application built to work on top of NEC's line of IP PBXs. Ten years ago, according the Zeacom vice president Brady Cox, "we realized since we have such deep control over the PBX, we could start to do other things outside of the contact center. So, using the same platform, we developed an operator console, voicemail, and desktop telephony."

Over time, that function set has evolved into Zeacom Communications Center (ZCC), a single complete, integrated system that provides a full range of contact center, voice, messaging, presence, and mobility functionality that works with not only NEC's PBXs, but with those from Cisco and Avaya as well. Although Zeacom has a small number of direct customers, the product line is sold primarily through a combination of OEM agreements and a worldwide reseller network.

Today, Zeacom announced the release of version 5.0 of the ZCC. The new version pushes the envelope in several functionality areas—primarily presence, mobility, and audio conferencing.

Zeacom has used its expertise in computer/telephony integration (CTI) to create a system that automatically tracks certain aspects of availability status, based on keyboard and/or mouse activity.

"If someone in our Melbourne office has walked away from their desk," Cox told VoIPplanet.com, "after two minutes, it will change their presence icon to reflect that. When they come back, it will notify us." That's what Zeacom calls 'rich presence' monitoring.

Another piece of presence functionality unique to Zeacom's ZCC offering is called 'activity presence.' "Our voicemail piece isn't just traditional voicemail," Cox explained. "We allow you to record up to 99 prerecorded greetings that explain you're in a meeting, at lunch, traveling, whatever it may be. Then you simply click a button to forward your phone to one of those greetings.

"When you do that, your presence status changes on our presence buttons around the world to reflect that you're on a plane until 5:00 o'clock, or whatever it is."

The ZCC application offers a spectrum of mobility features, according to Cox.

On one end of the spectrum, "There are some nice, simple features that tie in the desktop phone to your cellular device," he said. "For example, if I have walked away from my desk, that phone will ring for two seconds, then automatically flick off to my cell phone, because it knows I'm not at my desk. Then when I get back to my desk, I can grab it back off my cellphone with one button click."

On the sophisticated end of that spectrum, is a software client for BlackBerries and PDAs that carries on full communication with the corporate network and directories. "It's tied in to the same ZCC server that's plugged in and talking to the PBX," Cox explained. "So I can track the presence status of my management team—wherever they happen to be—and see what they're doing right now."

An adjunct to this is a Web portal where users can access presence status information and corporate directories, IM other staff members, and make phone calls.

New to the ZCC offering is a fully managed 64-port audio conferencing system. The GUI client piece integrates with Outlook, hence with e-mail and calendaring. Users can send out an invitation/appointment with link to the call.

"The beauty of it," Cox said, "is that you can drive who attends from the GUI, and you can control the environment. You can mute everybody, mute individuals, disconnect individuals. You can move individuals into a separate conference room—split one conference into multiple conferences. And you can bring them all back again.

"The ability to schedule a conference in Outlook and e-mail it out means that you can involve third parties into your conference call," Cox concluded.

Toward the end of our briefing with Zeacom, Cox disclosed another unique feature of ZCC version 5.0: "We think we're going to be the first to do 'presence profile reporting,' he said. "We're going report on What percentage of the day did Brady have his phone forwarded to voicemail? What percentage did it say he was at lunch? Etc."

According to Cox, this feature has significance both as a management tool and as a measure of return on investment.

"The whole premise of unified communications is to make yourself more available, easier to talk to, communicate with, more efficient, and more productive," he said. "What we do is save little bits of time very, very frequently. We're saving seconds everywhere we go. This begins to measure that, and talk about availability time spent communicating—make that tangible."

Zeacom targets its product line a small to medium size businesses—5 to 500 contact center agents, 5 to 2,500 enterprise users.

"We've got a very linear pricing model," Cox told VoIPplanet. "We do a per-user license for everything that has a client, then we do site licenses for the back-end stuff. You buy it once and apply it to your whole environment."

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