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Avaya Unveils AI-Focused Developer Program

The concept of leveraging developers for product innovation is certainly not a new one, particularly for Avaya, which launched its DevConnect program in 2004. In so doing, it brought one of the first, if not the first, formal UC developer program. This week Avaya is at it again, taking its expertise in developer programs and applying it to the area of artificial intelligence (AI) with the launch of A.I.Connect, a DevConnect sister program.

With DevConnect, Avaya formalized the idea of a developer program that others, until then, had been approaching on more of an ad hoc basis (such as Cisco with its Cisco Technology Developer Program). Watching the DevConnect program grow over the years has been great. I remember the first-ever DevConnect event, held in 2005, where I believe I was the first speaker! That first DevConnect event was small, with maybe 50 companies. It's now grown to more than 100,000 participants, including not just ISVs and hardware vendors but also corporate developers, systems integrators, and service providers.

A.I.Connect is the first major news from Avaya since announcing its restructuring earlier this month (see related No Jitter post, "Avaya 2.0: View from Inside"). Eric Rossman, VP of developer relations and alliances at Avaya and the man behind the creation and success of DevConnect, will run the new program.

AI In & Outside the Contact Center

The use of AI can help contact center agents know what to say, when to say it, and how best to meet customer needs, often before the customers themselves know what they want -- and so the thought process behind A.I.Connect should be obvious. AI and machine learning technologies are having significant impact on almost every industry vertical. Our industry, it seems, has gone from pontificating on AI to having some real-world examples overnight. The low-hanging fruit for AI in the collaboration industry has been the call center, with solutions to improve smart routing, self-service tools, agent automation, workforce optimization (WFO) as well as to provide insight into customer interactions.

AI is on a collision course with UC, as well. Modern UC systems generate massive amounts of data and that data needs to be analyzed so companies can pull out insights and take action. Manual -- i.e., people -- processes are far too slow for this.

For example, an AI engine that "listens" to a conference call and captures all the data from it could generate a meeting summary highlighting key points and automating follow-up actions. This means if I were to do a conference call with fellow analysts and No Jitter bloggers Dave Michels and Kevin Kieller, the AI engine could strip out all the gibberish from them and prioritize only the smart things that I say. It could then look through our calendars and send out an invitation complete with calling information for the next meeting. If our call was about how to generate more Twitter followers, it could look through our extensive set of data on that topic and invite social media guru, Evan Kirstel, to join us.

Avaya isn't trying to make A.I.Connect all things to all people. Instead it will focus on the following areas:

  • Effortless self-service through conversational interfaces and bot-based interactions. This will help businesses lower labor costs and improve customer service.
  • Smart routing based on big data and interaction history for intelligently matching customers and agents. The value here is in increasing sales and improving customer service.
  • Agent augmentation to improve the effectiveness of agents by suggesting answers in chat, email, and messaging. This also includes sentiment analytics and real-time alerts and indicators in voice and video conversations. This can lead to improved contact resolution, better agent productivity, greater upsell opportunities, and increased retention.
  • Interaction insights from intent spotting and trends through advanced speech and pattern recognition. This will improve business processes and elevate offerings.
  • Enhanced WFO by automating and improving quality assurance with the use of an AI. Workers and agents can learn from best practices developed by the AI tool in monitoring top performers. The value here is to improve workforce and agent efficiency and quality.

Like it did with DevConnect, Avaya is starting off with a manageable number of A.I.Connect partners -- seven to be exact. They are:

  • Afiniti, a smart routing vendor that improves interactions between people in large enterprises by pairing customers with employees based on predicted interpersonal behavior
  • Arrow Systems Integration, a subsidiary of Arrow Electronics that analyzes Internet of Things and other data for hand-off to Avaya systems
  • Cogito, which makes an agent augmentation application that uses behavioral sciences to improve the emotional intelligence of phone professionals
  • EXP360, which offers scalable, immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences for distributed sales organizations using off-the-shelf VR hardware
  • Nuance,with its virtual voice assistant (this is fast becoming the preferred method of interacting and querying an AI tool)
  • ScoreData, offering predictive customer engagement analytics, such as agent ranking, caller-agent mapping, and cross-selling, for integration into applications
  •, a machine learning tool used in natural language processing and graphing algorithms to automate customer service and sales

The initial set of A.I.Connect partners provides a nice mix of AI tools and enhanced applications. For example, Afiniti can pair customers and agents based on behavioral characteristics, ArrowSI can link IoT into workflows, Cogito can provide agent assistance, can automate repetitive tasks, EXP360 can provide VR, ScoreData uses predictive analytics to drive outcome, and Nuance has a deep portfolio of AI-enhanced solutions. This is certainly a broad set of capabilities and a manageable number of partners at launch, but Avaya has about 20 other companies under consideration for inclusion in the program, Rossman told me in a pre-briefing. So I would expect to see the list of partners grow quickly.

The AI era has arrived, and I expect to see more focus in this area from all the vendors. Given Avaya's success with DevConnect, the route it's taking with A.I.Connect seems to be a logical one. I'm looking forward to looking back a year from now and seeing what these seeds have sprouted.

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