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Cloud Flexibility Freeing New Zealand Businesses From the Tyranny of Distance

Microservice architectures boosting reliability as NZ businesses tap into Australia-based cloud contact-centre services

A flood of Sydney-based data centre launches by public-cloud service providers may have helped quell Australian companies' early concerns about data sovereignty, but a relative lack of Auckland-based cloud services has had no such effect as forecasts continue to predict breakneck growth in the adoption of cloud services by New Zealand businesses.

That growth – which research firm IDC pegged at between 15 percent and 27 percent annually through 2019 – has been correlated with a surge in IT budgets, with 19 percent of companies suggesting they had increased ICT budgets in 2015. Cloud data-centre migration was a key investment focus through 2017, as were unified communication and collaboration, mobility and data analytics.

Research firm Frost & Sullivan saw particularly strong growth in the cloud-based contact centre market, which it believes will grow by 35 percent annually through 2021 as solutions mature and businesses push ahead with accelerating digital-transformation plans. This will outpace overall growth in the relatively mature contact centre market, which will grow at around 12 percent annually.

Growing hunger for these capabilities has created significant opportunities for Australia-based providers of cloud services, who are recognising New Zealand as an important growth market that can be accessed relatively easily using Australia-based infrastructure that offers healthy performance and price competitiveness compared with conventional service offerings.

Contact-centre technology provider Interactive Intelligence is one of many companies bulking up its cloud capabilities, having launched a fully cloud-based version of its well-established contact-centre tools in mid 2015.

That system, PureCloud, is delivered to New Zealand customers from the Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centre in Sydney and is rapidly giving users a new way of thinking about delivering customer care by modernising often ageing customer-care systems that were implemented years before the advent of modern customer channels like social media, live chats, and Web videoconferencing.

“With old systems many businesses have had different portals and clients that were inconsistent with each other,” says Stephen Irecki, Head of Solutions Engineering- J/ANZ with Interactive Intelligence.

“This meant that their agent experience was complex and confusing – and the management and maintenance of their system was the same. And because they had different databases for their IVR, recording system, PABX and other systems, it was very difficult to get a holistic view of the customer journey.”

By leveraging a cloud-based platform that has been architected from the ground up for modular expandability, however, the attainment of this single view is already paying dividends for the many companies that are using it to track, analyse and improve their critical customer handling capabilities.

Many of the benefits of the new platform have come from a cloud-based 'microservices' architecture that assembles complete applications such as PureCloud's contact-centre, collaboration and unified-communications tools out of an assemblage of small, independent services that each deliver a specific capability.

Microservices exchange operational and customer information using common application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow for tight interactions between loosely coupled application components.

Because they each act independently, their self-healing design can detect any problems as they arise, terminate the problematic process, and immediately relaunch another instance to ensure optimal service availability. The architecture can also quickly scale up to match demand during periods of peak activity.

“This is a huge advantage,” says Irecki. “The ability to have applications loosely coupled, the ability to horizontally scale and to also have continuous delivery of features, is massive in our world.”

“The microservices architecture has given us the ability to have continuous delivery of new features into the platform, and there's no downtime or maintenance windows. When we release a new feature, we push it out straight away and every single customer is on the latest version of our software.”

Just as the microarchitecture approach improves fault tolerance and enables extensive flexibility in the delivery and upgrading of services, its tightly integrated design also contributes to the overall security of the platform – another key capability that is helping improve the appeal of cloud services to organisations that face ever-stricter requirements around privacy, transparency, data protection and governance.

Recognising that these imperatives are crucial in driving customer behaviour, providers like Interactive Intelligence have worked carefully to ensure that their cloud services protect customer data at every step of the way.

“A lot of thought and technology has gone into making sure the security of the cloud is top-notch,” says Irecki. “A lot of the certifications are required by customers to handle credit card information and take customer data, have all been implemented in the cloud.”

“It's all very easy to do that because the actual cloud provider's [AWS's] platform is providing a lot of their underlying certifications and we leverage those going forward.”

Over time, freedom from the need to worry about the underlying architecture is helping businesses step back and transform their customer experiences.

“When the underlying platform, architecture and technology are all taken care of, customers can then just focus on the business at hand and how to manage and improve their own customer’s experience,” Irecki said.

“It's also all about flexibility, scalability, and the ability to be agile and turn on new features at a moment's notice without having to engage a vendor or having a whole maintenance window to upgrade a server.”

Freedom from the need to have on-premises systems is particularly valuable for New Zealand companies because they allow the integration of services that are being launched in the larger Australian market.

This effectively expands the scope of services that can be incorporated into local computing infrastructure, allowing New Zealand based customer-service leaders to quickly progress to next-generation contact-centre environments that are built on top of the reliability of world-leading public-cloud providers.

“By splitting the application from the voice side of things, customers in New Zealand can still benefit from cloud applications and everything they provide” in both technological and cost-benefit terms, Irecki says.

“They can pay for cloud services by the month and have all of their voice calls terminating locally, all of their voice recording locally, and all of the handsets locally. It's the best of both worlds.”

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