Zang, an Avaya company that focuses on cloud communications, has launched seven new Zang Workflow updates for the Zang Cloud. They include an integration to Arrow Connect IoT, which is designed to stimulate Zang’s Internet of Things business. It’s not significant today, but Zang sees it as a strong area of growth. Zang also announced six other updates, which cumulatively make the tool easier to use, by more people.
“The idea behind Zang Workflow is that people can use it to build applications without writing a lot of code,” said Mo Nezarati, Zang’s General Manager. It is a graphical design tool that doesn’t require the writer to know any code at all, and is included as a sort-of-free feature of the Zang Cloud. The tool itself is free but costs like voice minutes, SMS and MMS that are consumed in its use are not.
“We offer Zang Workflow in two ways – to build applications, and to offer applications hosted on the service,” Nezerati said. “You have to have your own Web server to write your own code, and that means you have to manage a Web server. For a slight increase in the consumption charge, we will also host it. So in total, Zang Workflow removes a lot of the complexity and hides it, so that users don’t have to write code, host web servers or use load balancers.”
One of the seven updates is designed to capitalize on customer desire today to add more automation and connected technology into their operations, through integration with distributor Arrow’s Connect IoT platform. The integration with Zang Cloud lets users easily integrate sensors and smart devices into both new and existing Workflows.
“Arrow has developed this IoT message broker for connecting IoT sensors, and they are now using Zang to allow our system to be integrated into their Arrow Connect IoT and be part of the message broker,” Nezerati said.
Strategically, this is a big move for Zang.
“We are also integrated into Google’s IoT stack,” Nezerati said. “We are very deliberately going into the IoT space. It’s not a big part of our business today, but it is a place where we think there is a lot of room for us to grow.”
Another innovation is that Workflows can now be invoked from a REST client, to enable Workflow completion in a more mobile-friendly and agile environment.
“This is really significant because in the past, most Workflows were triggered by telephony, through a phone call or SMS,” Nezerati said. “You couldn’t do it directly before through a REST call, only in a roundabout way by invoking the Website that it was hosted on. Now, you can trigger a workflow by a call through a REST interface.”
Zang Workflow now also facilitates broader ability for the customer to make REST calls, by introducing authenticity tokens so that more than a single account can make calls.
“This change was highly requested, because people didn’t want REST calls to be limited to one account, but wanted to be able to use them more broadly,” Nezerati stated. “When we originally created Workflows, we needed to make sure that they can be launched only by people with proper access, to make sure the system doesn’t get called falsely through means that weren’t authenticated. Limiting it to a single account was one of the security measures we took to ensure this. Now we have changed that to bring in tokenized authentication, so that the user can launch a Workflow through an outside environment.”
The use of template-based workflows has also been expanded, to make starting development projects easier.
“We had templates from the very beginning, but in many cases we didn’t have enough examples,” Nezerati said. “So we worked on adding new examples around things like SMS and authentication sending, and we will continue to evolve them. Increasing the number of templates provides more examples for people to draw upon, so they get started faster.”
It is now also easier to add tasks to workloads, and five new smart tasks have been added – Add Participant, Send MMS, Record and Transcribe Calls, Play Recording, and Speech Recognition.
“These tasks are functions we have added into the Workflow,” Nezerati said. “As we expand the platform, the challenge is making each part in sync with the rest. Workflow updates typically occur after APIs are completed. These tasks allow us to catch up with functions available through APIs.”
Another new feature enables the addition of custom events through phone calls or SMS inside user Workflows
“With a custom event, a Workflow can trigger another Workflow,” Nazerati said. “You can now trigger a Workflow based in a specific action to send out SMSs, chain these things together and create your own event, and track it all in your own activity logs.
This chaining could have been done before, but wouldn’t have been as an event, and would have been logged separately.
“You could have gotten the functionality before, but not triggered through a custom event,” Nazerati noted.
Finally, a new tool makes it easier than ever for users to define the properties in their Workflow.
“Customers asked us for more properties within variables, so we have expanded the templates to include more properties, including chain ones, and made it easier to define them,” Nezerati said.
All this will be good news for the Zang channel, Nezerati said.
“Our channel isn’t made up of development shops,” he indicated. “As we make it easier for them to build applications, its easier for them to move up the value chain with their customer. Enhancing this tool gives partners increased ability to create apps and become part of the value stack without hiring a development team.
“It’s critical for us to make sure that our channel can transition into new areas as more products move into the cloud,” Nazerati continued. “They need to move up into the value stack and tools like Zang Workflow really help them do that.”