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Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
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Sheila McGee-Smith | October 16, 2012 |

 
   

Exchange and OCS R2 Pave the Way for Lync in the Contact Center

Exchange and OCS R2 Pave the Way for Lync in the Contact Center A Minnesota company's need to upgrade and interwork with Salesforce leads it to Microsoft voice.

A Minnesota company's need to upgrade and interwork with Salesforce leads it to Microsoft voice.

This summer, Microsoft posted a case study describing Minnesota-based Red Wing Shoes' path to Lync Voice with a Lync-compliant contact center solution from Altigen. The Lync Voice choice was partially driven by a decision to upgrade the contact center technology. I recently spoke to Mike Cleary, Red Wing's Director of IT Architecture and Operations, to further explore the contact center elements of the deployment.

It started with the 2009 decision to install Microsoft OCS R2 for presence, instant messaging and web conferencing. Given that Red Wing Shoes was already using Microsoft Exchange for messaging, it was a natural extension of that deployment, using the same value-added reseller, Avtex. SharePoint 2007 was part of the upgrade and Red Wing was "amazed" with how quickly employees adopted the technology.

Two years later, as part of a "Customer Wow" initiative, Red Wing deployed Salesforce.com for CRM and looked into integrating the application with the existing PBX-integrated ACD to deliver screen pops. The PBX was a 10-year old Avaya S8500. Cleary was not around when the system was installed, but from his description it appears the Communication Manager may have been configured with an earlier version of Call Center Elite, i.e., Deluxe, without the relatively expensive reporting system extra, CMS. Cleary describes that there were only very limited reports available to supervisors and call center management, and these had to be pulled by the "telecom people."

Cleary said that while it would have been possible to upgrade the Avaya to a level that would allow Salesforce.com integration, the cost was deemed to be prohibitive. Given that the Microsoft investment was already in place, Avtex recommended the Altigen MaxACD solution, using Lync Voice. The system was installed for a total of about 200 agents in multiple small contact centers throughout the business. Today it supports voice interactions only, but Red Wing has plans to add email and web chat over time.

I asked Cleary whether concern was raised over the fact that there would be two vendors involved in the contact center deployment: Microsoft for the voice and collaboration and Altigen for the contact center application. Cleary replied, "Our one throat to choke is our relationship with Avtex."

Given the success of the contact center Lync Voice deployment, Red Wing plans to completely retire the Avaya PBX across the company's 2,000 employees.

Red Wing is a 170-year-old company, with employees with tenures of 20, 30, even 40 years--many of whom are beginning to retire. Cleary sees Microsoft Lync's collaboration tools, specifically the Expert Finder capability, as a way to help new employees connect with knowledgeable veterans who can help them get things done--a way to facilitate sharing of Red Wing "tribal knowledge."





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