RightNow and Taxes, SAP and Eclipse, Small Biz Trends, AT&T for Small Biz, MTS Allstream

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

RightNow and Taxes, SAP and Eclipse, Small Biz Trends, AT&T for Small Biz, MTS Allstream

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is one of the more unjustly overlooked albums of recent years, former J. Geils Band front man Peter Wolf's Sleepless:

RightNow Technologies officials say their CRM on-demand product is "assisting" 200+ service representatives for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, a tax prep company, give better customer support experiences. 

Specifically, RightNow officials say, the tool lets reps view "contextual and timely" information for each customer call, see a single, unified view of all customer and franchisee interactions and access the same self-learning knowledge base used on the company's Web site for more consistent and accurate answers. 

Jackson Hewitt piloted the RightNow product this past tax season at the peak of its seasonal activity -- throwing it to the wolves right out of the gate "to ensure it was robust enough to handle its high volume of interactions with franchisees, while simultaneously improving their support experiences," according to RightNow officials. Indeed, if it can handle that mad rush it's probably the right tool for the company. 

"The successful trial of the RightNow on demand solution during our busy season proved that it could help us deliver a better customer experience and could scale to meet our needs during the most demanding time of year," says Danamichele Brennen, Chief Technology Officer, Jackson Hewitt. She added that using the tool, "call volumes dropped, questions were answered and we received positive responses from our franchise system."

Describing it as "part of its ongoing commitment to Java technology... as well as industry-wide technology standards and open source," SAP says it's taking "a more active leadership role" in the Eclipse Foundation by increasing its membership level from Strategic Consumer to Strategic Developer. 
SAP is a founding member of the foundation and has been using Eclipse technology since 2002. Company officials say the firm has been "involved in the Eclipse ecosystem" since 2004.
This means SAP will provide at least eight full-time development resources to various projects and lead open source projects, company officials say, "ensuring direct input into the development and architecture of Eclipse." As a Strategic Developer, SAP "will be more active within the Eclipse community, including the new Eclipse Git Team Provider, the Eclipse Modeling Project and the Eclipse Equinox Project."
SAP officials say the use of standard technologies developed within the Eclipse community "provides customers and partners with a familiar development environment," lowering the learning curve for resources. 

Its expanded involvement means SAP will collaborate with other members on building an open development platform comprised of extensible frameworks, tools and run times for building, deploying and managing software across the life cycle. The Eclipse Git Team Provider project was co-initiated by SAP for a distributed version control system to get easier Eclipse integration and better performance at reduced total cost of ownership. 
SAP officials say they hope their participation in the Eclipse Modeling Project will "drive the evolution and promotion of model-based development technologies," and that "the Eclipse Equinox Project will provide a service-oriented OSGi-based modular platform for application development and operations."
SAP has proposed a new project, codename Pave, within WTP, with initial code donation from SAP that will provide a template-based application framework to simplify development of complex applications.
According to a new survey on small business technology trends from Avaya, 59 percent of the small businesses in North America claim to be "investing in communications technology right now," or plan to do so within the year. 
Avaya officials say the survey shows that telecommuting and mobile technologies are of interest to small organizations, with 69 percent saying they would let employees work from home "if it could be done on a trial basis first." The most popular reasons mentioned for allowing small business employees to work from home were "to increase productivity (39 percent)," "to retain employees (35 percent)" and "they don't shower frequently." 

However, the survey also found that most small businesses are not yet equipped to let employees work from home or mobile locations -- 66 percent of respondents say that less than a quarter of their employees, and in some cases no employees, are currently equipped to work away from the office. 
Avaya's spinning the results as showing "a small business environment still interested in investing in communications technology, even during these tough economic times." Of course that can also be read as a small business community still interested in survival during tough times. The vendor says that according to their findings, fully 75 percent say that communications technology is "critical" to their business. Only 75 percent? First Coffee wonders what sort of business finds communication "not all that important, really."
Reasons for the high interest given were that when it comes to keeping employees as productive as possible, "communications tools are the top response (46 percent)," followed by "compensation" and "flexible work schedules." 

Small businesses are different from big businesses, in that a) they're smaller, and b) "they can have a more flexible, entrepreneurial mind-set that can help them thrive, even in current conditions," according to Anthony Bartolo, general manager of Avaya's Integrated Office Communications business unit.
"More small businesses are recognizing the productivity and motivational benefits of letting employees work from home or on the road," added Bartolo, "but many are not yet equipped to do so." 

Calling it a "demonstration of its ongoing commitment to providing affordable products for small businesses in a tough economy," AT&T has announced a bundled offer targeted at small businesses that includes wireless, wired and high speed Internet services, starting at less than $100 a month.

The "All for Less" bundle is now available to qualifying small business customers (one to four lines in a single location) across AT&T's 22-state footprint. 
The services, which come on one consolidated bill, include wireless from AT&T where customers will be able to conduct business wirelessly with 450 minutes each month per wireless device on a 3G network, available in nearly 350 U.S. metropolitan areas.

It also offers AT&T High Speed Internet Business Edition in "a variety of speeds," with U.S.-based business-class technical support, all-in-one protection suite for selected tiers, up to 11 e-mail accounts and AT&T Wi-Fi connectivity at more than 20,000 hot spots nationwide and more than 90,000 hotspots worldwide.

There's also unlimited local calling voice package, including Call Forwarding and Caller ID and unlimited domestic long distance calling. To qualify, customers must already have wireless service or purchase new wireless service from AT&T in addition to new or existing local voice, long distance voice and broadband services.

According to industry research firm In-Stat, small businesses with one to four employees spent nearly $17 billion last year on telecom services and associated equipment in such areas as wireless, broadband, and local and long distance voice.
Bear in mind that AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

MTS Allstream is announcing the launch of Virtual Workplace Solutions, described as a suite of end-to-end products for "business customers of all sizes." 
It's being marketed more specifically to those concerned about "the challenges of globalization and ever growing mobility with a virtual work environment," and they're being sold under the Allstream brand to business customers across Canada.

"Business today can see the value in a remote workplace strategy, but the challenges can be daunting," says Dean Prevost, President Enterprise Solutions, MTS Allstream. His company, Prevost says, can "create a virtual workplace strategy for a multi-site organization with hundreds or thousands of employees, in different time zones, with many variables. We can cut out the clutter, and help ensure the different platforms required to support Virtual Workplace work together. We've done it for our own business."

Remote workplace strategies "are not just about the technology," he says, explaining that "it's a shift in culture, in human resources policies and the adoption of collaboration tools within an enterprise."  

MTS Allstream is a wholly owned subsidiary of Manitoba Telecom Services. Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.'s common shares are listed on The Toronto Stock Exchange. 

Featured Events