“The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
In technology, some ideas take a long time to catch on. Consider Microsoft’s journey to Skype for Business. For better or worse, I was there from the beginning — from Microsoft’s first foray into telephony with TAPI to what is now a viable communications platform that delivers voice, video, instant message, screen sharing, and a host of other UC features. Along the way, Microsoft had varying degrees of success with NetMeeting, Live Communication Server (LCS), Office Communication Server (OCS), and Lync. While each product was better than the one that came before it, it was years before companies were ready to consider Microsoft a legitimate provider of enterprise grade communications.
Avaya went through a similar journey with Breeze. They began with something they called sequenced applications. While the idea of writing applications that lived in the middle of a call flow was exciting, sequenced applications were hard to write and even harder deploy. Consequently, they went nowhere fast and Avaya was forced to revamp the idea as Collaboration Environment (CE). CE was definitely an improvement over sequenced applications, but the platform still left a lot to be desired in terms of delivering on the idea of quick and easy communications applications. Eventually, CE was pushed aside for Engagement Designer Platform (EDP) which ultimately led to Avaya Breeze. With Breeze came the drag and drop tool, Engagement Designer. At that point, Avaya made real the promise of powerful communications applications developed by programmers and non-programmers alike.
As an early adopter of sequenced applications, I was there for this long and sometimes arduous journey. I began by writing solutions strictly in Java, but now spend most of my time dragging Engagement Designer tasks (graphical widgets) onto a canvas and connecting them together. After a few minutes of effort, I am showing off working applications to coworkers and customers.
That is not to say that I still don’t get my hands dirty with Java code. Because Avaya designed Breeze to be an open platform, programmers like me can develop and deploy our own Engagement Designer drag-and-drop tasks. In other words, I can extend Breeze to my heart’s content. So, when Breeze didn’t support artificial intelligence, I developed tasks to talk to IBM Watson and Amazon Lex. The same can be said for IT Service Management (ITSM) and the Internet of Things. Breeze comes without support for either one, but with a little effort from yours truly, Breeze users can now create workflows that utilize both technologies.
Beyond Telephone Calls
This brings me to what I really want to write about today. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Michigan chapter of the IAUG where my topic was “Digital Transformation – Avaya Breeze and Beyond.” I knew that at some level every one of the attendees had heard about Breeze, but I was pretty sure that their exposure was limited to “doing things” to telephone calls. While doing things to telephone calls is important, that only scratches the surface of what Breeze is capable of. I wanted them to walk away from my session wowed by the possibilities of applications far beyond dial-tone and simple IVR functionality. I wanted them to realize that most of today’s most existing technologies (like AI and IoT) are not separate from Breeze.
I began my presentation with a recap of what I expected they already knew, but quickly turned my attention to all the cool stuff I just wrote about. Specifically, I introduced them to the 20+ Engagement Designer tasks I created for IoT, ServiceNow, artificial intelligence, cloud database, and WebEx Teams. Visually, that part of my presentation looked like this:
From there, I opened their eyes to a world of possibilities. I began with a Breeze workflow (or Snap-In in Avaya speak) that combined IoT and WebEx Teams. This workflow demonstrated how an IoT sensor can launch a workflow after a particular condition has been encountered. In my example, a sensor was monitoring the light in the room looking for a value above 2000 lumens. When that condition is detected, a Breeze workflow creates a WebEx Teams Room, adds people to the room (e.g. an emergency response team), and then keeps everyone updated with a real-time telemetry feed from the sensor. This allows the team to be made aware of the problem, and then communicate with each other and the sensor itself to fix the problem.
Next, I took it even further and showed them how Breeze could be used to create AI bots for WebEx Teams. In this case, the bot provided access to a trouble ticket system. Members of the WebEx Teams Space could ask the bot questions about existing tickets, reassign tickets, change the priority of a ticket, etc. I can honestly say that this blew them away.
I ended my demonstrations with a workflow that could be used by hospitals to stop robocalls to their patients. This simple yet very powerful workflow was created in just a few minutes. Clearly, Breeze truly is a platform for rapid application development.
If I had given this presentation a year or so ago, I am pretty sure that it would have fallen on deaf ears. While people might have thought this was cool stuff, they would have said, “But this doesn’t apply to me and my job.”
I don’t hear that anymore. The folks in the telecom department have become aware that business units need more than reliable dial-tone and it has become part of their job to help deliver digital transformation to the enterprise. In only an hour and a half, I showed them how their Avaya system and Breeze can play a huge part in that. While Breeze on its own is a strong digital transformation platform, my AI, IoT, ITSM, etc. tasks have kicked it up about 100 notches.
I honestly can’t wait for the next time I get to show off my Breeze work. Seeing is turning Avaya users into true believers in digital transformation.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sensabaugh