CTI applications for Panasonic PBX. Rander vs. Phone Assistant: what to choose?

Introduction

Two main tools of any business man in any organization today are computer and telephone. Computer-telephony integration (CTI) is a set of technologies allowing to link them into a single unified enterprise information-telecommunication system. As a rule of thumb, a company has its own private branch exchange (PBX). Therefore automation of phone communications on the basis of PBX is of most current importance.

Roughly one can define two ways of CTI:

Correspondingly the options are:

Telephony automation includes a number of specific tasks:

Currently in Russia and CIS the Panasonic PBX applications market is divided between the following products and brands:

These products appeared and developed in the absence of CTI applications by PBX manufacturer Panasonic. In 2008 official “Phone Assistant” CTI application by Panasonic sales started in Russia. Therefore it ,ay be interesting to take a closer look at Panasonic Phone Assistance’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison with Rander, the most widely-used CTI application in CIS market.
This article provides such an overview.

Phone Assistant vs. Rander


Rander consists of the following components: Phone Assistant consists of the following components: Rander and Phone Assistant will be compared by the following criteria:

Subscriber functions

Function Rander Phone Assistant
Dialing from address book + +
Customizable buttons console (DSS) + -
Missed calls information At Windows desktop Main application window
Conference call + +
Hotline + -
Redirection management + +
Call pick-up + -
Alerts + -
DECT-subscribers management - Additional DPT required
IP-phones management + +
Ringtone on incoming call - +

CRM functions

Function Rander Phone Assistant
Caller identification in a pop-up window + +
Comments on calls + +
Internal messages system - +

Call-center manager functions

Function Rander Phone Assistant
Calls log + +
PBX lines status control + +
Managing other phones (not the ones to which personal application is set) + -
Intruding in the conversation + + (from PA Status)
Call redirection + + (from PA Status)

Call-center functions (incoming calls distribution)

Function Rander Phone Assistant
CallerID-based routing In client or via RanCOM -
Distributing calls in a group via RanCOM -
Creation of IVR systems via RanCOM -

Integration with other systems

General description
Function Rander Phone Assistant
Integration type Connection to RanCom COM-server Developing 1st-party TAPI application
Integration with external database - -
Collecting SMDR data + -
Integration with MS Outlook + +
Integration with 1С + -
Integration with recording systems With Olkha("Sprut") boards and "SpRecord" With TVM systems

Integration functions

Function Rander Phone Assistant
Technology COM TAPI
Basic call management functions (dial, disconnect, answer) + +
Caller ID information + +
CO information + +
DDI information - +
Managing several lines + -
Forwarding, redirection, putting on/off hold + -
Setting ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) mode for a group + -
OGM messages playback + -
Monitoring numbers dialed in tonal mode + -
Defining a class of service (COS) for a subscriber + -
Setting an alarm + -
Setting a waiting message + -

Demo mode limitations

Function Phone Assistant Pro/Phone Assistant Pro Trial mode Phone Assistant Express mode Rander
Contacts 100 groups, 100 contacts per group 2 groups, 10 contacts per group Limited by 20. No groups, but there are comments.
Integration with MS Outlook Yes No 1 user
Calls log Unlimited Last 10 calls 20 calls only
IP Camera Monitor 4 1 Not supported
IP Softphone Yes Not supported Yes
Conference calls Can be established Only as a participant Can be established

Interface


Monitoring lines in Phone Assistant Supervisor

Monitoring lines in Phone Assistant Supervisor

In Phone Assistant Supervisor one can view selected lines status which is also displayed with colorful icons.

Monitoring lines in Rander

Monitoring lines in Rander

Rander allows to monitor PBX lines status in convenient tabular view. Lines status can also be tracked in customizable buttons panel (similar to DSS buttons).

Rander CTI client - Button console

Calls log in Phone Assistant

Panasonic Phone Assistant Status calls log

In Phone Assistant Supervisor it is possible to track calls from lines under supervision.

Calls log in Rander

Rander CTI client - Calls log and filters

In Rander all calls are logged. The log can be searched through by any call parameters.

Miscellaneous parameters

Function Rander Phone Assistant
Distribution kit size ~4Mb ~35Mb client, ~100Mb server
Limitations It is recommended to turn off services that use telephony service. Firebird 1.5 DB is used. Firebird tweaking is needed when DB is used by other applications. Server connects to PBX via CSTA protocol, no other CTI applications (e.g. TSP driver) can simultaneously connect to PBX
Client connections limits None 128 Phone Assistant, 5 Phone Assistant Status
Hotkeys 4 12
Minimize to tray + +
Theme selection for client Only for pop-up messages -

Cost

Rander vs. Phone Assistant cost comparison

Conclusion

Each of the products described has its own concept and can be positioned in its own way.

Lack of corporate contacts makes using Phone Assistant as a common system significantly harder. Phone Assistant has very limited third-party integration functions and therefore cannot be used to build call-centers with complex incoming calls distribution schemes and voice menus. However besides these disadvantages Phone Assistant is a component of combined communications system based on Panasonic equipment. It can be integrated with Panasonic KX-TVM voice mail, door intercommunication systems and cameras. It has conveniently implemented user functions. In summary, Panasonic Phone Assistant is ideal for automation of an individual user’s telecommunication infrastructure based exclusively on Panasonic equipment.

Rander, on the other hand, is less integrated with Panasonic equipment but provides a wider range of opportunities as a foundation of enterprise call-centers. Rander uses corporate address book and can provide statistics on all PBX lines. Therefore Rander can be used as a basic CRM system, and shared use of contacts leads to non-linear filling of enterprise contacts base. Due to its versatility it context of PBX lines management and monitoring Rander can be used as a light call-center.