Taking Command of Branch Offices

Vertical Networks' MultiSite Manager gives network administrators a way to manage and control voice and data applications at branch offices simultaneously from a central location.

To give network administrators a way to manage and control voice and data applications at branch offices simultaneously from a central location, Vertical Networks Inc. this week is unveiling a centralized communications management tool, called MultiSite Manager.

The product, which is aimed primarily at enterprises with a high volume of incoming calls, such as stores and financial institutions, was built to help companies gauge the behavior of both their own employees and callers. It not only allows simultaneous remote network reporting and application upgrades, but it provides more flexibility for marketing purposes. For example, a company can make near real-time changes to recorded messages based on caller response.

Household International Inc. will deploy MultiSite Manager at its 1,500 branch offices in the United States and Canada over the next two months, said John Armstrong, managing director of networked systems at Household in Bridgewater, N.J.

The lending institution, headquartered in Prospect Heights, Ill., wanted more network control and uniformity than it was able to get through the myriad voice and data plans it had in place, according to Armstrong. "Everybodys got a friend in telecommunications, and youd find branch managers trying to switch their local service and their long-distance service to anyone offering them a deal," he said.

About two years ago, Household started looking for ways to create a more efficient calling environment and to learn why the communications system seemed to operate more productively in some branches than in others. "We didnt know if it was because they were overloaded with incoming calls," Armstrong said. "We didnt get a lot of insight and didnt have a good idea of what was going on."

The company wanted central control and uniformity, but it also wanted to maintain a presence in small towns rather than convert to a central call center environment, so it installed Vertical Networks InstantOffice integrated communications platform about a year and a half ago. "The real value is the ability to really understand what our 10,000 employees are doing," Armstrong said, adding that hes seen a 15 percent improvement in employee productivity. "These people are compensated based on their profitability. In the end theyre being more efficient."

With MultiSite Manager, in addition to generating uniform agent productivity reports at a central site and coordinating the deployment of applications, Household can make better use of recorded messaging at all 1,500 branches. It can distribute at once the same recording to all offices, making it easy to change recordings.

"Without MultiSite Manager, its a manual effort for our tech resources to get changes out to each of the branches and pull back data. We would have to do a lot more legwork than wed want to," Armstrong said.

Vertical Networks developed MultiSite Manager because customers said they needed the ability to centralize management and reporting capabilities, and they needed detailed visibility into specific network functions, said Scott Pickett, chief technology officer and founder of Vertical Networks. With InstantOffice, they were able to manage all the branches remotely, but they had to do it one branch at a time.

"The operations folks actually want to find out what the caller behavior is: How many are calling at what time; how many times theyre transferred; whether or not they hang up," Pickett said. "They also want to start tracking employee behavior: How many are making outbound calls to their friends and family."

MultiSite Manager sends only the instructions for an application upgrade or a reporting change; the actual change is made at the branch site. "You have centralized control, but you have a distributed intelligent network," Pickett said. "We simplified the approach. Were not talking about having to bundle the information with the commands."