Jacada is Back with a Smarter Agent Desktop

Jacada was one of the first vendors to provide a unified desktop for contact centers. It simplified the agent’s desktop by replacing several application views with a single view that better followed customer conversations. It also interfaced between those applications so agents didn’t have to worry about which fields to update, where to find data or how many applications they had to use. The unified desktop also enabled agents to address customer issues more efficiently.  

Being early in the market, Jacada enjoyed considerable business success. However, the last couple of years have not gone so smoothly, as there have been several changes at the top of the company and it has been challenged by new entrants and removing its analytics offering. Many of these provide most of the same features as Jacada and others as well that help agents make better decisions and provide more detailed information, such as the answer to a specific request, or a prompt that helps make a sale. Recently company founder Giddy Hollander has once again taken an active role as chairman and is working alongside CEO Tom Clear in an effort to turn the company’s fortunes around.  

Recently Giddy told me that on his return to an active role, he noticed that customers had done more exciting things with the company’s product than Jacada had, taking the basic features and building new features to address specific business problems. His first step therefore was to work with these customers and update the product by building some of these features into the core product. This has been done with two intents – to make the product functionality richer and to make it easier to deploy. The new release, called Jacada Workspace Agent Desktop, is built around the concept of “widgets.” 

In the Jacada world, a widget is a prebuilt piece of code that addresses a specific business issue. For example, an instant message widget allows agents to chat with a supervisor; a customer search widget helps the agent search for customer information based on a defined key; and a “help on hand” widget pops information, based on the current conversation, onto the agent desktop to help resolve the issue being discussed. One important overall feature is that data collected by one agent in a widget can be passed to another agent if the call has to be transferred, enabling the receiving agent to carry on from the same point and not repeat what has already been covered (a source of customer irritation). Widgets can be embedded into a desktop to meet individual agents’ requirements, effectively giving all agents their own desktop. This concept allows users to quickly select and build in functionality they require. As well, the user interface now is easier to use and the environment is dynamic in helping users respond to changes. Jacada aims to build more widgets and also invites its customers or third parties to build their own. 

The other major move has been to upgrade the Jacada Interaction Manger and rename it Jacada Agent Scripting (JAS). Despite the name, this is not just a tool to develop scripts so agents can provide fixed answers to customer queries. Instead it allows users to model call flows. It works in a way similar to some process automation products, allowing users to drag and drop activities (greet the customer, ask what the issue is and so on) and decision points (what is the value of this customer?) into a process map thereby defining how conversations should flow for different call types. The maps can be annotated with text that relates to each activity in the map such as what to say when greeting a customer. Alternatively the maps can be used to specify which widgets appear and when on a particular agent’s desktop, thereby controlling the flow of conversations and the tasks that agent does during each interaction. JAS includes a reporting and analysis tool that includes the ability to analyze the most common routes different types of conversations take. The enables companies to optimize the flow for different call types and train agents to follow the best practice route through calls. 

The agent desktop is a key technology to help agents improve the way they handle customer interactions. The market has become more competitive since Jacada launched its first product, and the technology has matured from being a unified desktop to what I term a smart desktop. These advanced tools help agents be not only more efficient but also more effective by guiding them through the best way to handle interactions. These developments elevate Jacada into the smart desktop category and should help get its fortunes back on track. Follow its fortunes by collaborating with me on… 


Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

Yahoo Spins Out Hadoop to Create Hortonworks

For months the speculation was rampant, and now the rumors have proven to be true. Yahoo has officially announced that it will become a player in the emerging Hadoop market. Hadoop provides distributed computing capabilities that enable organizations to process very large amounts of data quickly. Backed by Yahoo and Benchmark Capital, a new entity called Hortonworks has formed around a team from Yahoo that consists of more than 20 key architects of and contributors to the Apache Hadoop project. The company will start with some 25 employees and “will be hiring aggressively from our collective networks,” according to Rob Bearden, Hortonworks president and COO.

The strategy behind Hortonworks is relatively simple: focus on adoption and maturation of the open source Apache Hadoop project. The name plays off that of the toy elephant that symbolizes Hadoop and is a reference to the elephant in the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who. Hortonworks CEO Eric Baldeschwieler, formerly VP of software engineering for the Hadoop team at Yahoo, spoke recently at the IBM Big Data Symposium where IBM also indicated its support for the Apache distribution of Hadoop. Other vendors including Cloudera, EMC Greenplum and MapR have announced their own distributions of Apache Hadoop, rather than relying solely on the Apache distribution.

Our forthcoming research on Hadoop and information management shows that enterprises are interested in Hadoop. In a recent webinar we shared preliminary findings that more than 50% of the participating organizations are using Hadoop, planning to use it or evaluating it. The research also shows that nearly half the organizations using Hadoop are using more than one distribution, which suggests that existing distributions are immature and incomplete. So the fundamental premise of Hortonworks addresses a real market need. The main question will be whether Hortonworks can harden the Apache distribution quickly enough to attract market share sufficient to survive and thrive. Since it is committed to the open source model in which software is available for free, revenue will come only from training and support services. Initially, Yahoo will be Hortonworks’ primary customer, providing Tier 3 support, but the new entity will be competing with others such as Cloudera that offer training and support services for Hadoop.

A secondary question is whether Hortonworks’ entry into the market will disrupt other players. On one hand, nothing has changed – Apache Hadoop is the basis for the offerings from Cloudera, EMC and MapR. Where these vendors have found the Apache distribution lacking, they have made improvements and then either contributed the changes back to the Apache project or offered the improvements as proprietary extensions of or replacements to the Apache distribution. On the surface this model can continue uninterrupted. As the Apache distribution gains more features, others can continue to add value elsewhere. However, if the Apache distribution were to gain enough features rapidly enough, it might possibly take the market away from other vendors before they have built a sufficient customer base to fund their ongoing activities. I suspect the Hadoop market will continue to grow rapidly enough that several vendors can survive and that one vendor’s success will not, in the near term, cause the demise of another.

I’m somewhat surprised by Hortonworks’ choice of business model – choosing to go with a purely open source licensing scheme. I haven’t done empirical research, but I sense that most commercially successful open source companies also offer a premium (often called “enterprise” or “professional”) version of their product for which they charge a licensing fee. This combination of open source and premium product is referred to as an “open core” licensing model. I imagine Yahoo sought to maximize the value of its investment in Hortonworks, and obviously the owners could later change the business model, but given the prevalence of open core and the potential for higher margins associated with software license revenues, I expected that kind of business model.

Hortonworks has some things in its favor. Our research shows that the Apache distribution is most prevalent: 63% of organizations that use Hadoop have it as one of the distributions they use. However, Cloudera was a close second with 55%, which gives some credence to the open core approach. Hortonworks begins with some top engineering talent, but those experts will need support from experienced software executives to help manage the business. The company also potentially inherits Yahoo’s presence in the Hadoop market. Yahoo has been hosting the Hadoop Summit for years, contributing to the Apache distribution and sharing its knowledge of Hadoop from its internal usage by more than 1,000 users. We expect a close working relationship however it is structured.

As we discussed in the webinar last week, Hadoop technology is not yet mature. That organizations are drawing from multiple distributions suggests that no one has a lock on the market yet. Regardless of how big this market turns out to be, these are its early days and there is plenty of time for Hortonworks to grab its share.


Ventana Research