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The growing support for and the endorsement and adoption of VoiceXML is indicative of the fundamental shift in investment philosophy across organizations today. Companies fear getting stuck with managing monolithic, expensive solutions to which other elements in the network must conform, be coded, and be designed around. As a result, businesses are graduating beyond siloed technologies and are looking to build on application paradigms to move toward a common, standardized Web architecture that provides interoperability across disparate systems. This is the driving force behind the services-oriented architecture (SOA) movement in the enterprise. SOA provides companies with the means to treat certain business processes and the underlying IT infrastructure as standardized, secure, reusable components to address changing organizational needs. In the enterprise, this shift is illustrated in the accompanying sidebar on the changing contact center.

As converged networks emerge around Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Web services, applications will no longer be limited by infrastructure constraints. Boundaries will be determined by business processes (as seen in the sidebar at left). At this point, business applications and business processes are expected to merge and enable a tighter fit between application and organizational needs. 

The changing contact center and evolving IVR platform
This shift from a closed, proprietary contact center and interactive voice response (IVR) environment built on top of a traditional circuit-switched time-division multiplex (TDM) network to an IP-centric infrastructure with VoiceXML platforms will happen in three major stages: 

  • Traditional environment – In this environment, organizations own a proprietary (traditional) IVR used primarily for dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) applications. The voice user interface (VUI), application logic, media processing, and telephony interfaces are bundled into a single system on top of a TDM network. Because all of these elements were bundled into one proprietary hardware system, organizations were locked into the vendor and solution performance was limited to the hardware constraints of the box. Any significant changes would require expensive professional services, often provided by the vendor or third-party firm. The majority of enterprises today operate in the traditional environment, but are moving to the next stage.
  • Today’s environment – A prime directive for contact centers has been optimizing usage and squeezing as much use out of legacy TDM systems as possible before graduating to IP. Due to the large amount of pre-existing circuit-switched infrastructure and conservative technology investment climate, many businesses today are in a transition/migration stage, moving from a TDM to an IP network based on H.323 or SIP. On the IVR front, these businesses are increasingly investing in VoiceXML platforms as traditional IVR systems come to end-of-product life and new investment philosophies around open, Web-centric IVR platforms take form. Moreover, today’s businesses are realizing the benefits of disaggregating the IVR solution stack, a fundamental benefit enabled through VoiceXML. This introduces new deployment models and performance boosts since hardware resources are no longer confined to that of one box, but multiple servers. The VUI, application logic, media processing, and telephony interface that are bundled into a single system in the traditional environment now exist across different server systems. Open and integrated tooling environments decrease vendor and third-party dependency and also help improve logging, monitoring, and reporting features. 
  • The future environment – In the future, the majority of contact center operations will have a converged IP network based on SIP and built within an SOA and Web services framework. Standard integration points will be a key characteristic of the future environment. The heavy costs for CTI and data integration disappear as standard SIP integration points enable interoperability. The VoiceXML-based IVR will provide new features and functions, becoming a multimedia and multimodal platform for DTMF, speech, video, and outbound applications. Centralized monitoring and analytics across all channels will become more prevalent and take the form of greater business intelligence.

Datamonitor provides more detailed and comprehensive studies of the speech recognition market. For more information on Datamonitor’s research, please go to www.datamonitor.com or e-mail the author at dhong@datamonitor.com.

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