Most probably, the most dreaded and time consuming part of deployment of IVR system is the integration of CTI board with the telecom switch or EPABX. And if EPABX or switch is of lower end or from smaller EPABX manufacturer ( there are few in India), it may become really a nightmare for IVRS integrator or IVR Software provider.
While integrating IVR System with big Telecom operator, the blame of technical incompetence always fall on IVR software provider, specially in India. And if it is a government agency or PSU (Public Sector Undertaking), it is a real pain (anyone can guess where it is)! One needs real talent for handling those people. I have seen technical support engineer from CTI vendor spending months trying to integrate high end CTI board with certain Indian PSU! Once it took me almost 2 months of cajoling certain Indian PSU official to explain and make them understand them they are not sending DNI(Dialed Number Identification) due to which my Dialogic Board is not detecting any DNI.
Here is a list of problems IVR System integrators face with EPABX supplier or Switch People:-
1. Interfacing protocol
Most of the time, switch people or EPABX support people do not provide proper and complete information interfacing protocol to be used. Most commonly used interfacing protocols are SS7, ISDN PRI, R2MF or analog. One may say, analog interfacing is the easiest as it requires the least interaction with switch guys or EPABX supplier for integrating with CTI boards.
2. Lack of experimentation support
It is really pain to ask them for minor parameter change like CRC ON or OFF, which is a major problem in interfacing digital CTI boards with switch/EPABX. Many switch guys or EPABX people just do not want to change those parameter even for 5 minutes or so for testing purpose. Also worst part is, they do not inform accurately about the CRC status at their switch end. To be fair to switch guys, I think they do so because they can not afford to change those parameter as they may effect their existing working connections! But than there are various options, right ?
3. Lack of common jargon
EPABX or switch people seem to be using a lot jargon which is not easily understandable to CTI Board support team or IVR developers. With lack of proper communication, normally by the switch or EPABX manufacturer, things get worse. E1 lines are known as PCM lines by many Telecom engineers. In SS7 protocol, time slot number for signaling and voice differ from one Telecom operator to another and this is normally not communicated properly. In ISDN protocol, many EPABX manufacturer use Trunk Mode or User mode while CTI manufacturer use jargon like Terminal Mode and Network mode. It is not easy to relate those and poor IVR system developers suffer in between.
4. Lack of Communication between Switch team and CTI Technical Support
Generally during IVR system deployment, IVR software provider supplies the CTI board as well as the IVR software. In that scenario, most of the time, CTI technical support engineers do not interact with switch team or EPABX supplier and every communication go through the IVR software provider. This also add to the problems of IVR Software provider as he gets to hear complaints ( taunts) form both sides that the hardware from other side is not working properly. IVR software provider may experience really hard time providing logs from both sides to each other and explaining the significance to both sides.
Well, many IVR engineers, consultants must be facing these kind of problems or many more all the time and somehow managing to solve them. But this kind of avoidable problems really is painful to third party IVR developers.
One thing I keep asking myself is, EPABX manufacturer does not support IVR application developers while that is in their interest ? IVR developers or third party CTI developers can surely help EPABX manufacturer by helping developing many value added services for their switches PBXs.
My personal experience has been that CTI manufacturer provide very good support and assistance to IVR developers while EPABX manufacturers or switch guys do not provide much help to IVR software providers. I have been quite happy with supports from CTI manufacturer like Dialogic, Donjin, Synway. They have been helping me quite out of the way to integrate their boards with various switches/EPABX. Sadly, I can not say same thing with switch guys or EPABX manufacturers.
Most probably, the time has come to form an association of IVR suppliers in the world to demand and protect their rights by IVR professionals where they get legitimate and necessary support from switch/EPABX manufacturer for smooth deployment of IVR systems.