Protect your application investments - reasons to switch to portable VXML applications

This article extends the switching model to include voice applications and switching to truly open, portable VXML (VoiceXML).  It will discuss what organisations should consider, why they should switch and how it can benefit their company.

What is a portable VXML (VoiceXML) application?

The majority of vendors in the speech application market will agree that the true industry standard for developing voice-driven applications is VXML.  

There are many benefits to using VXML over traditional IVR including the flexibility derived from the use of open standards.  It is the word ‘open’, however, that can cause confusion and is often loosely used to create the impression of non-proprietary technology.  

What does the word ‘open’ really signify? Customer organisations would be right to expect that an ‘open’ application is one that integrates seamlessly with any infrastructure and that the application is portable to other platforms.  That’s the theory, but in practice most suppliers develop applications for their customers in VXML and then lock in that application to work only on specific technology, either deliberately or inadvertently.  This nullifies the great advantage of having open, portable applications.  It’s important not to overlook this when deciding where to spend your application investment.  

What is threatening your investment in voice applications?
  • Aging hardware

It’s been years since many large organisations made their existing investments in IVR technology and most have sweated those assets for as long as possible, perhaps even beyond the official “End of Life”. Some organisations even have to maintain costly, bespoke support contracts for obsolete telephony platforms. It’s the nature of hardware – it gets superceded and it stops being supported.  Fortunately for organisations looking to replace hardware assets, costs are decreasing, while thanks to Moore’s law, performance is rocketing. 

However, when it comes to their applications, which run on that hardware, organisations may well find that their applications are no longer compatible with their new chosen platform.  Even if they were written in open standards VXML these applications, in most cases, include some proprietary coding and are tied to the incumbent platform provider.  The applications are not therefore truly portable.  Organisations’ hands are tied and you have to go back to the originating supplier, therefore losing the benefits of an open technology.

  • Economic changes

Few organisations are immune from the current economic recession and, as we have seen, the telecommunications industry is no exception.  Organisations looking to upgrade their IVR need to scrutinize their options and plan for continuity in their services to their customers.  Individual hardware providers may not be around in two years time but protecting the investment in the application by making it portable to other platforms is something that all organisations should be considering.  These applications could then move to any other platform whether on-premise or hosted.

  • Climate of Consolidation

In response to economic pressure, many organisations are consolidating in order to survive, especially through mergers and acquisitions. This raises the issue of converging assets from multiple organisations to avoid the cost and overhead of stove-piped IT and applications. Adopting portability as the new mantra for applications is essential for successful evolution in these circumstances – by protecting and re-invigorating existing application assets, and then harmonizing them to work across the new extended organisation.

How can you protect your investments moving forward?
  • Design new applications so that they are portable

When planning for new applications it is prudent to consider whether the current platform on which it will sit is going to be in place long term.  Will the application out-live its platform? Will the platform need expansion in future? Do you need to run multiple vendor platforms – for migration purposes, dual-source protection, or as a result of organisational consolidation? If so, consider portable applications written in VXML so that in the long run cost savings on conversion will be made.

  • Convert current applications so that they will be portable in the future

All applications need tuning and maintenance to stay fresh with current business processes and customer expectations. As you update applications it makes good sense to pre-empt platform upgrades, changes and extensions by setting out an application migration plan.  This will spread the application upgrade cost and enable speedier hardware migration.

Why switch to portable VXML applications?
  • Future proofing

-    Portable applications can run on an existing platform and, when the time is right, move onto a new platform with minimal integration and testing requirements.  In this way organisations can sweat their assets for as long as possible, safe in the knowledge they are not in a technology cul-de-sac.
-    It is possible to share the open, portable applications across platforms of different hardware enabling dual source strategy and virtualisation across multiple vendor platforms within the organisation..
-    With mergers and acquisitions becoming more and more commonplace it’s important to be able to integrate new brands into the over-the-phone service being offered.  Multi-branding is easy to do with an open, portable VXML application.
-    As there is no proprietary code the application is truly open and therefore easier for engineers to understand and modify when required, lowering costs and protecting continuity of service.

  • Reduced cost

-    Decreased cost of operation because easier to update an application.
-    Quicker and easier to develop, even for new developers.
-    Decreased cost to transfer an application when upgrading to new hardware.
-    Reduced cost of testing and integration.
-    Ability to run across mixed/disparate platforms – allowing virtualisation and greater utilisation efficiency.

How can Vicorp add further value?

Vicorp produces only open, portable applications with no proprietary coding to produce superior over-the-phone experiences both for the caller and the provider organisation.  With their Open Designer (xMP) and Open Dynamics (xMP) tools, editing and managing open, portable applications is even cheaper and easier.   Additional value added by working with Vicorp include:

  • Increased competitor advantage and brand value

-    Having the flexibility to easily modify enables organisations to stay ahead of the competition and rapidly add new functionality.

  • Flexibility and control

-    As there is no proprietary coding and the maintenance is easy, the organisation retains control over their application.
-    Where multiple languages are involved it is possible to mix the ASR platform without integration issues.
-    Multi-branding.
-    Dynamic real-time control of applications with powerful parameterisation and application routing rules.

  • Reduced cost

-    Reusable components can be used with the Vicorp tools to take full advantage of investments already made in applications.

Conclusion – protecting your corporate application “Intellectual Property” assets

By far the biggest expense in building speech services is at the application layer – hardware is being commoditised.  So, it’s necessary to make that investment as future-proof and flexible as possible.  Keeping the application portable without proprietary code is an important step in prolonging the life of an application.  As Daniel Hong of Datamonitor agrees, “Choosing a 3rd party service creation environment that supports multiple platforms provides risk mitigation and also helps future-proof application investments.”  By acting now and switching to open, portable VXML applications, organisations can protect their application investment long into the future.


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