Merging Enterprise applications while optimizing user experience via web services

It’s been said — and I’ve been repeating it, whether it is true or not — that Enterprise applications are designed to serve many puposes (robustness, security, comprehensive feature set, etc.), but never usability. Then of course you have the fact that many corporate employees must use a variety of different computing systems to get their jobs done each day, leading to a lot of time spent logging in, manually moving or copying information between systems, and the like.

This reality creates a secondary market for applications that replace the standard Enterprise application user interface (“UI”) with a custom UI designed to maximize usability. Using web services, more than one back-end application can be combined in a single UI, “mashup”-style, rendering a huge value add by reducing effort, minimizing errors, and improving performance tracking.

Among other things, my company (iLink) offers custom (non-packaged) solutions of this sort. One company I examined recently with a packaged solution along these lines is Jacada. Jacada is basically a call center ISV whose secret sauce is creating the user experience of a unitary call center app without disturbing any of the call center’s pre-existing function-specific apps.

Their solution essentially has four parts: UI, workflow, KPI tracking, and web services

Their “Workspace” product is a call center UI that replaces the UIs of multiple call legacy apps (they show a screen with a dozen or so windows open) with one unified screen. So now call center representatives need only open, view, and use one app, instead of maybe a dozen. This reduces clutter for starters.

Their “Fusion” (WinFuse, HostFuse, and Interface Server) product provide web service enablement for existing call center apps so that these apps can be connected to the common UI.

Fusion also provides work flow features which enable cross-application functionality that contributes to ROI in a call center environment. In particular, Fusion enables

  • single sign-on — one login screen which when competed logs the user into all of the component applications
  • autopopulation of all of the necessary fields in all of the component applications when entered once in the common UI
  • tracking of call center KPIs — with a dozen unconnected applications it is harder to discover issues and trends in call center representative performance, when they are connected it’s feasible.

Last December (2007) Jacada sold their “modernization” product — which puts web services on top of legacy (e.g. AS400) apps — to SAG. Apparently this isn’t SOA, just services enablement (no middleware). e.g. http://www.networkcomputing.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=205200345

What’s not clear to me is whether WinFuse, Modernization, etc. provide some kind of universal web services enablement tools or are basically a finite set of adapters for known call center apps…?

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