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 | December 08, 2015 |


Altocloud Taps Into Cisco Spark Developer Service

Altocloud Taps Into Cisco Spark Developer Service By integrating its customer engagement platform with Spark, company can feed website visitors into Spark rooms for context-rich one-on-one chats.

By integrating its customer engagement platform with Spark, company can feed website visitors into Spark rooms for context-rich one-on-one chats.

One of the expectations coming into Cisco Collaboration Summit 2015, taking place this week in San Francisco, was that the company would provide an update on how the acquired Tropo assets fit into ongoing Spark efforts. Based on pre-briefings from Cisco and an early Spark developer, Altocloud, it appears the biggest contribution has been in how to create and support a Spark developer community.

With this release, "developers are first-class citizens," Ross Daniels, Cisco senior director, collaboration marketing leader, told industry analysts. "We have invested greatly in a developer platform and some integration capabilities for Cisco Spark. The experience of the Tropo team coming into Cisco has been really important in our ability to execute well here" (for a related post, read "Adopting an API Attitude at Cisco").

That said, Daniels made clear that Spark and Tropo have different sets of APIs, managed separately. "For adding voice or SMS to an existing workflow, Tropo is the right platform." What Tropo brings to the Spark Developer program is its support model of developers supporting developers.

Barry O'Sullivan, CEO of Altocloud, one of the first developers to build an integration using the new Spark APIs, spoke to that model's success in a conversation last week. "The developer team is doing support for Tropo and the Spark APIs, and they are a dream to work with."

Altocloud, a Silicon Valley start-up launched at Enterprise Connect 2014, offers a digital customer engagement platform that it says combines predictive analytics with voice, video, and messaging interactions to deliver a seamless customer experience and better business outcomes. Since the Altocloud platform became generally available in March 2015, the company has signed on 60 companies, O'Sullivan said.

It is not just the support team but the architecture of Spark itself that made the integration easy to do, O'Sullivan said. Cisco and Altocloud have each built their platforms using a microservices architecture, which allows the creation of complex applications comprising small, independent processes communicating with each other using language-agnostic APIs. For example, Cisco has an "open room" Spark microservice. Working with Spark is like working with another piece, or rather microservice, of Altocloud, O'Sullivan said.

One of the applications of the Altocloud/Spark integration allows companies to engage with customers on their websites. Here's how it works:

  • Altocloud identifies visitors of interest on a company's website, and alerts team members in a designated Spark room. Whichever team member is available to respond greets the customer.
  • The Altocloud platform then instantly sets up a one-to-one private Spark room for the available team member and the customer.
  • The team member can access context such as customer persona and journey history from the room.

As seen in the graphic below, with a click, the Spark user can see the entire customer context within the native Altocloud user interface.

Altocloud has existing integrations to Cisco's contact center agent desktop, Finesse, and its cloud-based contact center Context Service. Spark does not have a contact center application, but enterprise organizations could use the Altocloud integration to create a secure messaging platform for context-rich chats between prospects or customers and sales or support people.

Which brings us to the issue of whether Cisco will offer a Spark Customer Care application. Anticipating the question from the contact center analysts during the pre-briefing, Daniels compared Spark with Cisco Hosted Collaboration Service (HCS). HCS was available a few years before its contact center corollary (HCS-CC). "It's a pretty decent bet that we will do something like that around customer care with Spark as well."

For more contact center insight, join me at Enterprise Connect 2016, coming March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla., where I'll be chairing the Contact Centers track. Register now using the code NJPOST and receive $200 off the current conference price.

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