Monday, 25 May 2015 14:42

Combining the best of the old with the best of the new


The right APIs make the difference when you want to integrate in-house and off-the-shelf software.

Melbourne-based freight forwarder and customs broker APC Logistics prides itself on high levels of customer service, delivered in part through the considered application of IT.

Part of that service is a commitment to having people answer all incoming phone calls within three rings, so "voicemail doesn't work for us," IT manager Tony Raso told iTWire, adding that most unified communication (UC) systems work on the idea of trying to find the person being called, e.g., by ringing their desk phone, then trying their mobile, and eventually falling through to voicemail as a last resort.

To help provide good service, APC Logistics previously developed a status board application so that staff can indicate whether they are in the office or when they will return, for the benefit of anyone answering a call on their behalf. An important consideration was that an individual's status could be set by anyone, so if they rang to say they had been delayed, the colleague that took that call could change 'back at 11am' to 'back at 12.30pm'.

More recently, the company adopted ShoreTel's UC product. It was an improvement on the old phone system, but its presence feature allowed individuals to set only their own status, and made no provision for messages such as 'back at 3pm.'

APC Logistics wanted the best of both worlds, and discovered there was a ShoreTel API - designed for use in hotels - that provided control of a user's status setting.

So the company's status board application was modified to tell the ShoreTel system when a user's status changed. That way, employees could still use the familiar interface to set their own status messages and see their colleagues availability, and it flows automatically into UC presence.

As a bonus, the status board application now offers click-to-call.

APC's next project in this area will be an iPhone app allowing people to alter their own status messages while they are out and about, so they won't need to phone home when their plans change. Staff use a mix of personally and company-owned iPhones, so there is no real intention to create an Android version of the app unless the developer says it would be very easily done.

The privately-owned company has around 350 employees in Australia and New Zealand,

"We don't really use the ShoreTel app," said Raso. Although "it works very well," it drains the iPhone's battery too quickly for the company's liking.

"APC Logistics is using a combination of two APIs for its ShoreTel solution. One is a standard web services API and the other is an API that was originally developed for the hospitality industry to integrate with hotel property management systems," said ShoreTel's ANZ managing director Jamie Romanin.

"ShoreTel's professional services team adapted the hospitality API to provide the functionality required by APC Logistics.

"The advantage of ShoreTel's architecture is our support for open standards, including Open API, which gives our advanced applications team the opportunity to customise applications and create unique integration solutions for our customers.

"It also means that our Innovation Network partners can easily develop applications on the ShoreTel platform and integrate with their own solutions and technologies."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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