The NetLert Offline Message Server (NOMS) is a specialized Java servlet designed to provide remote access functionality to the NetLert messaging system, an existing software product developed and marketed by SoftBase Systems, Inc. The NetLert messaging system is a vertical-market product which provides instant desktop messaging to the help/support desk and telemarketing call center industries. Typical implementation environments for NetLert might be a 50-agent call center taking reservations for a rental car company, or perhaps a larger 400-seat telemarketing contractor providing services for a variety of clients. The NetLert system allows managers/supervisors in these networked call centers to send critical messages to specific desktops (agents) or to predefined groups of agents. A variety of message formatting, scheduling, and automation functions are provided to the message sender, through the NetLert Communicator application. Agent messages are displayed in an unobtrusive, scrolling desktop marquee, known as the NetLert Client (see Figure 1).
The NOMS provides remote access to the NetLert message database, maintained by the NetLert Communicator. The NetLert system requires a TCP/IP enabled network environment, a commonly supported protocol in business networks and the protocol which forms the foundation of the Internet. This allows NetLert users to be logged into the system anywhere an Internet connection is available a necessity for telecommuters or remote support staff. The NOMS exploits this capability by allowing users not currently logged-on the NetLert system to retrieve messages they missed while offline. Since messages have a specific "time to live", the user does not receive a backlog of old messages upon their next log-in to the NetLert system. Thus, NetLert users who are offline for extended periods, such as during vacation or leaves-of-absence, may "catch-up" on messages they missed while away. NOMS is accessed through an Internet browser (such as Opera, MS Internet Explorer®, or Netscape Communicator®), which provides a convenient channel for message retrieval, archival, and printing.
The NetLert message database is an MS Access® database maintained exclusively by the NetLert Communicator application. Although this database may be browsed using the Communicator application, no filtering or querying functionality is provided. Also, no remote access is possible the user must be using the machine on which the Communicator application is running in order to view the message database. Since NetLert Communicator is typically installed on the system administrator s computer or the local server, allowing users to browse the unrestricted message database would be impractical, risky, and, at best, inconvenient. NOMS addresses these needs by providing secure, convenient customized views to the NetLert Communicator database.
Figure 1. NetLert Communicator and Clients
The networked call center market imposes unique design restrictions on its software systems. The sheer variety of network configurations and desktop platforms encountered in call centers ie. MS WinNT, Novell, OS/2, Unix requires a robust, flexible product which minimizes platform specificity. Also, the technical skills/capabilities of users and administrators in this market vary widely. Thus, "ease-of-use" and "ease-of-maintenance" become a priority, without limiting the product's functionality. NOMS reflects these design considerations. The user interface for NOMS is intuitive and simple, and requires minimal user training (see Figure 2). Exception and error messages are phrased simply, and technical descriptors are kept to a minimum. The hardware requirements are minimal and do not exceed those imposed by the NetLert system. Machine and platform specific functions such as printing and file saving are relegated to the Internet browser a key advantage of browser-based applications.
Figure 2. NOMS Login and Output Table
Advisor: Dr. Dean Brock