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Volume 11, Number 34 -- October 18, 2011

Jacada Refreshes Web-Enablement Software for IBM i and z/OS

Published: October 18, 2011

by Alex Woodie

Call centers that require access to IBM i and z/OS systems may be interested in the latest release of Jacada Web-enablement software, Jacada Interface Server 9.0. The vendor, which today focuses exclusively on providing solutions that simplify the screens and workflows used by customer service representatives in call centers, says JIS 9.0 provides updated support for the latest host operating systems, Web application servers, and Web browsers.

Jacada has focused on providing call center solutions for the last eight years. The vendor, which was the first vendor to provide screen-scraping technology to AS/400 shops more than 15 years ago when it was known as Client-Server Technology, no longer sells or supports its Web-enablement software if it's not being used in a call center setting. The right to sell and support JIS for general purpose Web-enablement projects was sold to Software AG in 2008 for $26 million.

That call center focus is not changing with JIS 9.0, so if you're interested in JIS and you're not running a large or medium-size call center, then call Software AG. On the other hand, if you are running a call center with at least 1,000 customer service representatives, and those CSRs are wasting your customers' precious time by jumping between various Windows, Web, and green-screen sessions, then by all means give Jacada a call, because they can save you a bundle of money.

While the call center business may not seem like a huge industry, it's been estimated that between 2 and 3 percent of the U.S. workforce is a call center employee. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in this country every year to make sure there's a human on the other end of those toll-free phone numbers to listen to customers' questions and complaints. And while companies are spending fortunes trying to create Web-based self-service portals to replace those expensive human workers, for some things, you simply cannot deliver good customer service without a human. (Sorry, Watson.)

Today's young CSR workforce has its work cut out for them. Not only are the whiz kid Web developers gunning to replace their jobs with computers, but they must deal with the grandpas in the MIS department and those "legacy" green screens that are just, like, weird. That can be a real challenge for a 20-year-old who's more interested in sharpening their iPhone iOS finger-work than mastering a Power Systems' i OS application.


With Jacada's WorkSpace, a CSR is presented with a single unified desktop that gives her access to all of the different servers and applications she needs to do her job.

The truth is that those IBM i and IBM z servers aren't going anywhere anytime soon in Jacada's target market, which includes about 60 tier-one financial services firms and retailers, utilities, and government agencies. According to Jacada's founder, co-CEO, and chairman Giddeon Hollander, all of the banks and insurance companies, many of the utilities, about half of the telcos, and many of the government agencies that use Jacada's technology are running IBM i or z/OS green screens behind the scenes.

"Yesterday I spoke with a customer who's running AS/400. They said 'We don't see any reasons to replace it. It just works so why replace it, because it's AS/400?'" Hollander tells IT Jungle.

Jacada WorkSpace suite simplifies work for the CSRs by creating unified desktop applications with the necessary functionality, so CSRs no longer need to jump screens and waste customers' time. JIS provides a pure HTML client based off the DDS descriptions of 5250 and 3270 applications. When combined, Jacada's JIS, HostFuse, WinFuse, Agent Scripting, and WorkSpace desktop work to create an abstraction layer over the multitude of midrange, mainframe, Web, and Windows apps that CSRs need to do their job.

"Most of the customer service is not so good because of the systems," Hollander says. "There are so many things to remember when you're an agent. That's why when you're the customer and you call the call center, you get asked the same question again and again. They put you on hold, transfer you to someone else, and they start asking the questions from the beginning. It's all about systems. It's nothing about the people."

Customer service doesn't have to be this way. Jacada estimates that its Unified Desktop can improve the average handling time (AHT) by 20 percent, and the average training time by 20 to 30 percent. That equates to thousand of hours and many millions of dollars for Jacada customers. And when you consider that the churn rate among call center workers is between 25 to 50 percent, it makes sense to make the apps as easy to learn as possible.

The new feature list in JIS 9.0, the first new version of the product in many years, is not spectacular. Version 9 delivers support for the latest releases of the IBM i and z/OS operating systems, the latest releases of Web browsers, and enables IBM WebSphere and Oracle WebLogic to function as the presentation server, thereby eliminating the need to run a separate Jacada server.

There was a bit of a gap between JIS version 8 and version 9, but the latest release shows that Jacada is still in the game. "We haven't had a release in quite a while," Hollander says. "We have to remind people the solution still exists."

Jacada's call center solutions typically include a lot of custom development services, and start at about $1,000 per agent. For more information, see the vendor's website at www.jacada.com.


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