USD, CTI and intelli-CTi

As part of the Leo Spring 2014 release, Microsoft has focused on the area of customer service.  A new module called the Unified Service Desk (USD) has been made available aimed at the larger call centre, customer service operations.

This article is aimed at sharing our ongoing understanding and experience of USD at a high level and sharing how QGate supports USD with intelli-CTi.  This article will also  provide insight as to how our standard intelli-CTi product can meet the needs of some customers who like the concept behind USD but are not necessarily the enterprise user USD is aimed at.

Where did USD come from?

Unified Service Desk, is built using the User Interface Integration (UII) framework, designed as a series of adapters and modules that facilitate management of CRM UI elements (pages, dialogs), automatic loading of related records, agent scripting, a configurable toolbar, and so on.  Unified Service Desk can be configured and administered using Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook.

CRM version 4 delivered the Call Centre Accelerator (CCA) using the UII framework which was available via Codeplex.

CRM 2011 had a version of CCA available via the Dynamics Marketplace.

The CRM 2013 equivalent of CCA, known as USD, is available in the CRM SDK download under code samples – there is a link at the bottom of this article to the download.

USD is a supported platform, being developed and supported by Microsoft in the US and India.

Why would you need United Service Desk?

  • You have a  call centre operation, you need to provide your agents with one screen which gives them access to all the key information they need to manage the calls
  • They need to manage multiple calls (sessions)
  • Your primary system is CRM, but you need to surface various elements of CRM on the one screen
  • You may  need to provide access to data and information from other systems without requiring the agent to switch across to those other applications
  • You may also have the need to run some form of script to prompt or guide the agent through a call
USD Screen
The Unified Service Desktop

USD Screen

Broadly the above covers the possible business drivers to look at USD.  However, it is clear USD is aimed at larger enterprise implementations.  Firstly, USD is only available as part of the Enterprise Dynamics CRM CAL.  Secondly, although USD now offers a configuration rather than a development approach, there is a LOT of configuration options.  If you have the need to include access to external applications you are back to development.  In other words implementing USD is not a trivial exercise.

However, there is no CTI out of the box

One oddity on first glance is the lack of an inherent CTI functionality.   Microsoft are relying on 3rd party vendors such as QGate to provide connectivity between USD and your phone system.  Knowing as we do the hurdles and challenges of this integration we can understand why Microsoft have decided to rely  no 3rd parties to deliver this integration.   There is a CTI module/API within USD, which is designed be used by phone providers/integrators to develop an integration to allow the enablement of USD for CTI.

 intelli-CTi and USD

Having looked at the supplied module, we decided to ignore it and use our standard intelli-CTi capabilities and benefits around the call management, call statistics etc and integrate with the next layer in USD.  So we will in effect simply pass the CRM record id to USD having qualified the call etc.

Using intelli-CTi will mean an organisation will be able to use a single technology for the USD users as well as any CRM user that need a “standard” CTI capability.  Also if there are multiple locations involved with different phone systems there no need to look for or develop separate integrations due to the range of phone systems we support.

We currently have a working  proof of concept and expect a product release by end of the 3rd quarter 2014.

Update October 2014

 You like the idea of USD but are not an Enterprise user

As discussed above implementing USD is not a trivial task. We can see it will pay back dividends to those large call centre operations where the cost of setting up USD is easily paid off because of  the volume of calls managed.

So can  you get close to the USD concept as a smaller operation?  The answer is yes, using Breeze, a services bus technology we have developed.  Breeze is the technology that is the foundation of intelli-CTi.  It allows the development of services that run under and communicate with each other via the Breeze management service.  Intelli-CTi runs as a number of services under Breeze; a service to communicate to our CTI Server, that manages the data communication to the phone system.  Another service that communicates to CRM as well as providing the user interface.  Further services can be added.  An example we produced was a service that obtained the details of the CRM contact via the CRM service, then called out to LinkedIn and presented back to the user a summary of the LinkedIn profile of that Contact.

 intelli-CTi Call Assistant view

intelli-CTi Call Assistant view

Even within our standard CTI integration we are using Breeze to present CRM data, create CRM data etc.

So you can perhaps start to consider using Breeze to pull information from various areas of CRM and beyond to provide your users with a single interface.  Yes there is an amount of development required to achieve this, but Breeze has been designed to allow this in a way that protects the core function from being tampered with, thus reducing possible issues.

And you want scripting?

Obviously there is the dialogue feature within CRM.  If however you need data and logic driven scripting, the you should be looking at TK Dialogs.  I am aware the Team knowledge guys are working on integration with USD, so should you go the USD route, and the simple script facility is too simple there is a more enterprise solution available to you.

TK dialogs screens
Script designer and user interface of TK Dialogs

As our experience with USD grows we will add further information here and in specific technical articles with  our Help Center.  Please feel free to comment or contact us if you have any specific needs or question around this topic.

Useful related Links

An overview of Unified Service Desk

Getting Started with Unified Service Desk

TK Dialogs

intelli-CTi for Microsoft Dynamics CRM


Related Resources:

See the intelli-CTi Help Center User Guidelines for important considerations of use.