Friday, August 10, 2012

Screen Scraping is DEAD - Long live Desktop Automation

I often refer to screen scraping as "click and pray" since the results from it, are at best, Highly Brittle!

But the growing demand for obtaining better performance out of your workers through user optimization technologies is driving the need for better clarity on what works and what doesn't!

So, what makes Desktop Automation better than screen scrapers?

First, Desktop Automation (what OpenSpan pioneered as "Surface Integration") lives inside each running application it's going to automate - like a plug-in. It takes robust control over the UI objects so that you can automate against any object that the user would normally have to interact with. What I mean by living "inside" is that you then have the same control over the object as if we were the developers of the application. You can tell if someone clicks a specific button or changes a piece of text in a field or selects a menu. We don't "hope" we detect that click, we ALWAYS get that click. Likewise we can tell the application to change the text value of a field, or click a button or navigate to a page on behalf of the user. Again, we don't hope the application receives the click and we don't tell the user not to minimize the application or take the application out of focus - since we are living inside the application.

Second, screen scraping is often only used for small batch like operations or simple tasks. Desktop Automation from OpenSpan is running on close to 300,000 real active desktops, in mission critical and hectic environments. On call center agent desktops, on branch tellers pc's in banks, in insurance and healthcare claims environments, airlines, travel and much more. If you tried to extend screen scraping to these environments then the brittle click and pray approach just won't last long at all.

Third, screen scraping technology vendors try to mask the fact they are screen scraping. They hook onto the MSAA band-wagon. MSAA is Microsoft's way to explain how well written desktop applications (to MSAA spec), can talk to each other. Good luck with that considering probably only 20% of the applications even come close to supporting it properly and even then, it's very limited it what you can use it for.

Fourth, Desktop Automation doesn't have to rely on pauses and sleeps (the pray part) to detect when automation can occur. Since we see exactly when an object is ready to be automated against (by the fact it we see when it's created on the screen or page it's on), we know exactly when to automate against it. This event driven model means again, the resilient and robust automations are going to work, each and every time without the delays and "prays" associated with screen scraping.

It is wrong to put screen scraping and desktop automation in the same bucket but since they both claim to automate the UI, it's probably too late to create a new bucket. You MUST however look at the success stories for Desktop Automation. It's running in organizations with instances of over 25,000 desktops, all running powerful Desktop Automation solutions to drive out significant productivity gains from their call center agents and user bases. In some cases, customers are in their seventh year of running projects of Desktop Automation and they continue to expand it's use. With screen scraping, the approach is destined to small click and pray projects with short (weeks/months) at best. Now Desktop Automation is here and has firm presence at some of the largest enterprise customers in the world, and now on close to 300,000 seats, I think, it's fair to say, screen scraping is DEAD and Desktop Automation is very much ALIVE!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How to cut AHT overnight

Sound too good to be true? That's because most people think "boil the ocean". I'm going to blog 6 ways over the coming weeks on how you can take simple, easy to implement steps to eliminate "chunks" of AHT in short order.

The first one is reducing the time (by around 80%) it takes an agent to do call wrap-up. AND for those that say their agents don't spend time doing call wrap-up, I think you are denying reality. I've seen call wrap-up actually take place during the current call and even during the next call ("please hold whilst I look up that information for you"). Call wrap involves making notes during the call so your agents remember what they did - which is incredibly ironic since your agents are using a computer - and your computer is pretty good at remembering things for itself!

And this is where the first trick comes in. Simply use OpenSpan's desktop automation to teach the computer to remember, during the call what the agent is doing - EXACTLY, down to the last click / field change / credit / debit etc., across all the apps they use and feed that info into the right notes field instantly. 100% accurate and it won't forget!

I told you. It really is that simple. Our customers swear by it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How OpenSpan changes the game for a BPO!

It is well understood, that some of the best outsourcers in the world, not only just take on their call center customers work (plus front and back office) but they take it on so they can do a better job than the customer themselves. Sometimes this is simply through economies of scale (doing it cheaper / onshore or offshore). Sometimes it's because the BPO has the depth/breadth of experience of that customers sector, across their entire peers. Lets be honest, if you are the outsourcer of a telecoms company, it's likely you could add significant value (best practices) to another telecoms companies outsourced call center too.

In order to learn, scale up and deploy, the BPO has to make a huge commitment to their new customers (infrastructure, hiring, training). After all, they need to be great out of the gate. For an outsourcer, it doesn't make sense to take on new customers without at least a 2-3 year commitment and probably more in many cases. However, in return, the BPO is often guaranteed to be paid, say, a price per minute for taking call center calls or doing back office work.

This has worked for years and the BPO's have more often than not, delivered great value to their customers. However, once the BPO model has been established for a customer, when contracts become due, the competitive market for BPO's is hot. At that point. smart customers have been covering their bets and signing up more BPO's to outsource their call center seats to (spread risk). This is good in many ways for the customer since they can quickly add/remove seats from the best/worst performing BPO's (Customer service, SLA's etc.,). There are many other relevant angles for the BPO to gain more seats and the customers and BPO's are often trying outsmart each other to ensure they get the very best service at the very best price.

And that's the key - doesn't that last sentence "best service at best price" sound like a conflict to you? Of course it is.

What OpenSpan has seen over the last 4 years as a vendor to many of the worlds largest BPO's is that this game is changing.  The customers are coming to the BPO's and are now asking them to improve productivity which in turn would mean less business to the BPO. Again the conflict. Why would a BPO be incentivised to reduce the number of minutes it takes to deal with a call in a call center if the BPO is paid by the minute? Now the BPO's are fighting back with OpenSpan. OpenSpan is a global leader in Desktop Automation and Desktop Analytics which enables Call Center agents and Back Office workers to perform significantly faster and much more accurately.
The BPO's are now leading with OpenSpan to offer their customers choices. If the outsourcer works uses OpenSpan to improve the process, the outsourcer wants to share in the productivity gains. Customers love it. It's a win/win. Outsourcers using OpenSpan are able to compete with a productivity improvement story against those outsourcers not using OpenSpan. Since OpenSpan is already used by over 250,000 call center agents across some of the worlds largest banks and telecomms call centers, it is THE proven and accepted technology to drive up productivity. OpenSpan Desktop Automation is used by more BPO's in the world, than any other desktop productivity tool, and as more and more of the "pay-per-minute" contracts come up for grabs across the very competitive BPO market, OpenSpan's BPO's are not only keeping the customers they already have, but using OpenSpan to win more customers and more seats than their peers.

Check it out,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is cutting call center AHT a good thing?

A few years ago, I was telling a prospect about how OpenSpan's Desktop Automation technology can cut AHT in their call center. However, their response made me take a step back; They said, "we don't want to reduce AHT, we want to focus on customer experience and cutting AHT doesn't necessarily do that".

Hard to argue with that but this was a big part of my sales pitch. Sure we don't just cut AHT but what's the best angle to take going forward with my pitch. It got me thinking. Our customer service agents spend all day on the phone, at their desktop, they use the computer to help them during the call but the truth is, they spend the time typing into the computer what they need to get done. They spend hours doing this during the day, many minutes during each call is spent navigating the multiple screens, searching, duplicating the same things over and over using rules they learnt in training and hoping they don't make mistakes. Why are they doing this stuff? The desktop computer is a powerful beast and yet the agents do things it should be doing. They waste time doing lookups, searches, rekeying etc., and slow the call down and extend AHT. This often leads to poor customer service - especially if the caller is in a hurry!

Then it came to me. Just because we don't want to cut AHT, does not mean our agents should be wasting time on the call, doing things the computer should be doing. The average time they waste on each call is huge. If you could cut out the waste, your call center can choose to use the time saved towards cutting AHT or use the time to have a better customer experience. This is when I came up with a new acronym for the Call Center - AWT (Average Wasted Time). AWT should be reduced or eliminated on every call because it's pure waste. You are paying people to do things they simply should not be doing - and people are your biggest cost, right?

So now, when I talk to prospects about how Desktop Automation can save millions of dollars a year, I don't focus on AHT unless that's what they want - I focus on AWT - because EVERYONE wants that.

Check out our quick 3 min videos on What is OpenSpan - and Does this remind you of you

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why we LOVE Automation

You have to love Automation

When people and technology meet there's one thing we humans all have in common; we hate wasting time doing stuff that our computers should be doing for us.

It struck me yesterday, when I got my new Samsung Galaxy S III phone (way cool btw), just how far we have come. After I activated the phone, I logged into my Google account and within 15 minutes it had automatically;

  • Downloaded all the apps I had download over the prior 2 years onto my old Droid X
  • Downloaded and configured ALL wifi and internet settings for home and office
  • Download and configured all GMAIL, Exchange mail, contacts, calendars and tasks
  • Restored all my bookmarks and phone favorites
  • and was ready to go as my replacement phone

We can all remember when something like this would takes hours, sometimes days, just to resync a phone to be like our old one.

We take it for Granted, that someone at, in my case Google, wrote some automation tools that would save whatever we do on one Google device, to a central place so it would make moving to the next device a breeze. Some might not call this automation! I guess it could be called backup/restore or synching but the truth is, it automated what I used to do so I don't have to do it any more.

Remember when you would get an email on your smart phone with a phone number in it and you had to write down that number just so as you could retype it in the phone app and press send (sometimes still faster than copy and paste)? Nowadays you just click the phone number in the smart phone email and the inbuilt automation detects it's a number and sends it over to the phone app and dials it for you (doesn't work for international numbers but heh, you can't have it all).

Now turn for just a moment to the most costly part of any enterprise; PEOPLE. What do our people spend their time doing all day? For many companies, call centers, back office, task workers etc., our people sit at a desktop computer; This is WHERE PEOPLE AND TECHNOLOGY meet. Why do our people spend their time, day in, day out, doing things on their computer that the computer could and should be doing for them. Some examples;

  • Updating 3 different systems with an address change (15 copy/pastes)
  • Taking an order and updating the delivery system with a date and then sending an email confirmation to the customer to confirm
  • Typing in notes at the end of a call or task (ironically telling the computer what they just did)
  • Traversing through spreadsheets, looking up the internet for each customer id and typing results back into the spreadsheet
  • Looking up some value(s) on the system, applying a rule (they've been trained on) and determine what to say to the customer
  • Searching 4 systems looking for some notes from the previous call/chat/email/tweet
  • Forgetting to check "account on hold" before booking an engineer site visit

How awesome would it be if you could automate all this work? That's where Desktop Automation from OpenSpan comes in. You can quite literally automate any of these steps (where people and technology meet) so all you leave your costly employees to do is to focus on the customer or key parts of the task. Automation is key to our lives. It saves us not just fractions of a percent in time and money but 10's and sometimes (as in my Phone migration), 100's of percent. Check it out. Where people and technology meet

Monday, February 13, 2012

OpenSpan Global Presence

Well, I racked up more air miles last year than I care to think and I've now just returned from another 2 week tour of the Middle East and Asia. Phew, what time zone and I am now?

I am very lucky though. I get to see our customers, prospects and partners first hand and nothing pleases me more than the close interactions we have them all. When a customer tells you, "this is how you've helped us" or "this is how much we saved using OpenSpan", it's priceless. When a partner takes you on a tour of some of the largest and advanced call centers in the world, you are enlightened. I've always loved presenting and demonstrating OpenSpan. Why? Well, it's because it's so visual and so obvious in the first 5 minutes what we can do to help, we quickly move from demonstration to POC in a matter of weeks. I love it. And then those prospects become the next set of successful customers for my next trip so we can share even more insights together.

I know this all sounds like 101 in the life cycle of a software vendor and I suppose it is. BUT, as we announced our 2011 achievements last month, the number of wins and customer successes is growing exponentially, it is no wonder then, I enjoy what I do, circumnavigating the globe virtually every other month, seeing this success, first hand. Love it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

OpenSpan Record Revenue

Call Centers, Banks, Insurance, front office and back office, it's all the same to OpenSpan. It's what drove our record growth in 2011. It's what drives the $1.6bn (and growing) savings for our world-wide customers. Where there's a "bum" on a chair, staring at a screen and using a keyboard/mouse, there's manual work ripe for automation and huge cost savings to boot!

A computer? Manual work? How's that you ask? Think about it. How many times a day, does a contact center agent at the end of a call, go to a notes field and type in what they just did. Huh? It's a computer, surely the computers knows what it just did! Why should I pay for the time (15-60 seconds) it takes an agent - sometimes 1000's of agents - to type in what they just did. Think of the cost! 60 seconds a call, across a thousand agents, that's wasted "manual" effort of what, $9m in manual costs that you shouldn't have to bear? Money down the drain! And that's for just ONE manual task of the 1000's or even 10's of thousands of manual tasks your call center agents and back offices workers undertake, hour by hour, day by day every single year!

That's what's driving these organizations to Desktop Automation from OpenSpan. We are the world-leader with our robust in the extreme automation technology. We can automate processes and tasks quickly and not only cut the time it takes to do them, but eliminate the errors along the way as well.

So, just when you were thinking perhaps there was no way to speed up the time it takes your workers to complete their tasks or calls, think again. Desktop Automation is the way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Contact Centers lead Desktop Automation drive

OpenSpan is the worlds leading provider of Desktop Automation software. Primarily and originally built for innovative contact centers who seek to improve agent performance, OpenSpan today is now leading the charge in back office desktop automation as well.

There are a few other players in this space and we think they just play at automation anyway. In fact, I look forward to the day when we could all be on a panel and pitch our technologies against one and other.  Head to head. Now there's a challenge I'm laying down! For now, I'll take the 100's of OpenSpan wins as a credit to those real head to head situations :)

You see, where other companies claim to do desktop automation, OpenSpan really does do it. Our technology runs inside the applications that actually run on the desktop and can automate virtually anything a user can do with the application. OpenSpan can monitor (Desktop Analytics) and control (Desktop Automation) applications without source code and no change to any business logic. And, it can all be done from a single visual desktop designer! The competitors will have you believe this is what they do as well. However, what they actually do, is sit on top of the applications, and only the simple ones at that, and try to determine whats going on. Not by getting inside them as OpenSpan does but by effectively screen scraping. This limits what they can do, to simple field to field copy with little to no full blown robust automation.

In fact, the OpenSpan technology is so powerful in the way it interacts with your live applications, it can, in real-time, control that application's user interface (UI) in the same way the originally programmer of that application could! Securely and robustly. In effect, not only can OpenSpan determine what tasks a user is doing, we can automate the entire process as well.

So, when you have decided that the huge reduction in call times and task times is something your company needs, take a look at the competitors first. It won't take long and we'll show you why, when we do go head to head with these companies, OpenSpan's technology is superior and more advanced for many many reasons.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Google Analytics v Desktop Analytics

Google Analytics is not new to most people but desktop analytics probably is. So what's the difference? If I were to try and use the least words (hard for me) to summarize the difference it would go like this;

"Google Analytics monitors visitor activity of enterprise web sites across the internet" whereas "Desktop Analytics monitors enterprise users activty of any application (web, windows, java, mainframe etc.,) on any enterprise desktop anywhere in the network"

Google defines it as;

Google Analytics shows you how people found your site, how they explored it, and how you can enhance their visitor experience. With this information, you can improve your website return on investment, increase conversions, and make more money on the web. 

OpenSpan defines it as;

OpenSpan Desktop Analytics™ captures user activity at the desktop to reveal how users interact with their desktop applications, and provides you with tools for measuring and reporting on user processes. OpenSpan Desktop Analytics gives you an unprecedented level of visibility and insight about how users work and how processes can be improved for greater productivity.

Both products run a piece of their technology on the desktop to capture the user activity. Google requires you to insert Google Tracking Javascript code that gets loaded when a page loads. The visitor activity is then tracked and sent to the Google database servers to allow you run reports on it. There are even 3rd party analytics applications that you can use to report the data in different ways. OpenSpan Desktop Analytics™  runs a small program on your enterprise desktop that captures end user desktop application activity and sends the data to an enterprise database. Out of the box reports, or any 3rd party reporting tool can be applied to this data to provide businesses with a 360 degree view of user desktop activity

Whilst we all recognize how important products like Google analytics are to our business to track what our visitors are doing on our external web sites,  it has been virtually impossible to analyze what our own users are doing on their individual desktops. Yet people are often the biggest cost to the enterprise! You might at this point be thinking - "big brother"! On the contrary, you might already know your 1000 seat contact center agents are handling calls on average in 6 minutes. You might know your  insurance back office is able to process 1000 claims an hour, or financial center can approve 875 mortgages a day. However, do you know why some of your users are faster than others? Are all users following the right procedures (compliance)? Are your agents using the right applications at the right time? Why is one branch generating more after work than another? Are you users running applications they shouldn't? Sitting idle too long? Need more training?

Very few of these questions could be answered before desktop analytics. Visibility to what your core task workers and call center agents are doing has been limited in the past to manual time and motion studies. 

If you haven't seen it before, check out OpenSpan Desktop Analytics and start figuring out, at last, exactly what goes on in your department or business.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is it 2012 already?

After clocking up close to 150,000 flying miles in 2011, circumnavigating the globe many times over, I am excited to report that I intend to make much more of an effort to blog this year. OK, I know, I've said it before, but, there truly are so many awesome things happening at OpenSpan right now, I feel compelled to make a concerted effort to post.

First, if you didn't get to see these two great video's and animations we did in 2011, sit back and enjoy. We really did have a lot of fun making them ;

What does OpenSpan do is a great to-the-point artistic animation and after that, meet "Bob and Dave" with a feature commercial worthy of a 30 second slot at the Super Bowl :)

2012 is the year of Desktop Automation and Desktop Analytics. And what you are going to hear from me early on is why OpenSpan is the global leader, by a long stretch in this space. Not just from a positioning and customer size/base perspective but also from a technology perspective.

I will start to clearly explain, why OpenSpan is the best at what it does. We have some of the best technology minds here at OpenSpan working hard on delivering powerful technologies in some of the largest enterprises in the world, across all major industries. We are not just a global leader, we are THE global leader.... I'll be back shortly.. watch this space.