Walking the Walk: Build an Integrated Real-Time Communications Application

For the past 18 months, nearly every one of my public presentations about Real-Time Communications Applications has talked about the value of integrating the communications facilities with the business processes. In other words, the communications is simply a feature of the application, and not its main purpose. I gave some concrete examples that talked about embedding chat + voice + video into an incident response system, among others. Since we do it every day, I thought: why not write about it, a real-world example? Since we are just now kicking off a fairly large-scale implementation, this seemed like a good time and place to get started.

The Backstory

About 3 months ago, a client approached us with an idea. They already had developed a very comprehensive web application that facilitates their business process, which is home remodeling. This web application automates a large portion of their business: from setting appointments in the field, to scheduling the rep who will visit the home, to handling support and confirmation calls in the contact center, to delivering the service, and even warranty and quality assurance services after the fact. Because their web app already knows so much about the operation of the business, it makes sense that a real-time communications application should enable communicating in a way that includes the context of the people doing the work. Thus was born a new project to deliver that communication tool, internally codenamed “Chatter.”

Immediate Requirements

  • Facilitate real-time chat communication among a medium-sized enterprise (today: ~750 employees)
  • Make the chat contextual by automatically linking in business data from the web app
  • Log all chat histories and make them easily full-text searchable (keeping private chats private, of course)
  • Have a functional browser-based client AND a mobile client at launch

Long-term goals

  • Add WebRTC to enable upgrading conversations from text to voice or video
  • Link chat histories back into the web app (viewing a record that has a chat references includes a link to that chat history)
  • Dynamically create group chat rooms based on job function and role to facilitate the most common forms of internal conversation.

As you can see, this is an ambitious project. We’re excited at the opportunity to not only build this converged application, but also to talk about our experiences doing so, and the lessons we learned along the way. Stay tuned for more as we make progress!

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