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Building Apps With Avaya Proves a Breeze

As part of last week's International Avaya Users Group (IAUG) event, Avaya held a hackathon competition during which members could spend some time building Breeze-based applications after receiving a quick tutorial on the development platform. I caught up with the winners -- judges declared a tie since they couldn't decide between the top two -- and decided to take the opportunity here to share with everyone what they built and the experience they had with Breeze.

Before I get into the winners, I'd like to explain a bit more about the hackathon. Prior to the event, none of the 10 participants had been exposed to Avaya's Breeze developer environment. Part of what Avaya was trying to demonstrate was how easy Breeze is to learn and use. With just a little bit of setup and training, anyone could sit down and write some code. In fact, I started playing with Breeze while at the event and within minutes I had created widgets that I could use to text message my kids and then play voice messages.

Each winner received an HP Chromebook, a Plantronics Bluetooth headset, and an Amazon gift card. Additionally, one of the winners got a free class and the other a year's access to the Avaya-hosted Collaboratory execution and test environment for building applications. It's worth noting that while Avaya hosted the hackathon, the IAUG, an independent user group, runs the annual summit on its own.

IAUG Executive Director Victor Bohnert and IAUG board member Brenda Emerson, president of Landmark Bank, judged the hackathon.

And now for the winners: Jonathan Hanson, principal software engineer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), and John Miller, software engineer III, Standard Insurance.

Pictured, from left: Brenda Emerson, IAUG board member and hackathon judge, with winners John Miller of Standard Insurance and Jonathan Hanson of Carson Wagonlit Travel

CWT: Mobile App Update
During the Breeze hackathon, Jonathan built an upgraded version of a mobile app that links to Avaya systems. His goal was to bring omni-channel capabilities to the app.

Today when a CWT customer needs help with travel services he or she places a call and waits in a queue for an available service representative. That wait can sometimes be frustratingly long. But with this app, when a customer needs help, instead of dialing a number and waiting on hold he or she would be able to push a button in the application that states, "I have an issue with travel," and a travel agent would call the customer back when available. If the wait time is going to be significant, CWT would send a text message or email alerting the customer about how long the wait might be.

The callback feature would give travelers the chance to move on to other tasks, like informing people about late arrivals, for example. With a geo-location capability, agents would be aware of the traveler's location and could look for alternative flights at nearby airports.

When working with Breeze, Jonathan said he most liked the simplicity of Avaya's Engagement Designer. With this drag-and-drop app designer, all you need to do is drag icons from a menu and connect them to create call or messaging flows.

In addition, Jonathan said he likes that Engagement Designer is a fully encapsulated solution that includes all Avaya products. This means a developer only needs to work within this one visual interface. Juxtapose this approach with a more traditional programming methodology like using an orchestration designer and a separate IVR designer for writing, compiling, porting, and recompiling code. If things aren't working right with Breeze, you simply change the flow as opposed to having to modify code in multiple systems.

Jonathan is a developer, but said he felt Breeze would be easy for non-programmers to use as Avaya has designed the platform to mask the complexity of writing code. Also, Breeze calls can be made from external applications so it should have appeal to a wide variety of developers.

As for what Jonathan didn't like about Breeze? Only cosmetic things, he said. As one example, he said when he was zooming in and out of a flow chart not all things would scale down and he would need to reload the page.

Overall, considering it was the first time he saw the product, Jonathan said his experience with Breeze was more positive than negative.

Standard Insurance: Reducing Complexity
John's motivation for using Breeze was a little different. He was looking to use the platform to consolidate infrastructure and applications. Infrastructure consolidation has an obvious cost benefit as it lowers costs associated with hardware, power and cooling, and reduces operational expenses. It also allows Standard to tie together information from multiple applications to streamline processes.

For example, Standard call center agents get dozens of harassing calls on a daily basis. Currently, Standard has a manual process for checking incoming calls against a restricted phone number list of known offenders. The process, which involves looking up phone numbers, call history and other information, has required Standard to use five different systems and five different applications. Breeze gives Standard a single place for this process.

Using Breeze, John created a way to have the application check incoming calls against the restricted phone number list, automatically dropping calls if it finds a match and passing calls on to the IVR when it doesn't.

In the latter cases, callers would use a self-service menu request to speak with an agent. The system would request the caller provide an email address or a mobile phone for authorization via a confirmation code. When the caller enters the confirmation code, the system would do another lookup to determine if it has received a call from that person within the past 24 hours. If so, the system would ask the caller to confirm continuation of the previous call. A "yes" would route the caller to the agent with whom he or she had previously spoken, if available. If the agent is unavailable, the caller would have the option of leaving a voice mail or connecting to a different agent.

In addition, Breeze would give the company a fully integrated cradle-to-grave system for reporting instead of requiring it to pull information out of different systems. Right now, Standard needs to pull reports from one system, gather data from others, and then go back to the original system to input data and get a report, John said.

As for John's likes and dislikes... on the positive side is the ease of integration between Breeze and other products, in that it would enable him to get rid of extra systems and provide greater functionality to the company. He said he found the user interface very easy to use and straightforward, as well.

Although John couldn't think of any areas of improvement immediately, he did say he wasn't sure how easily Breeze might integrate into other external systems like IVRs and off-premises databases.

Overall the Breeze experience proved to be simple and easy to use while providing rich functionality for organizations to build smarter omni-channel applications. Avaya has been working on this platform and, from what I saw for myself and others, it looks like it's now ready for prime time.

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