Using CCF to integrate LOB applications
Posted by Fernando Felman on May 23, 2007
Here’s some news for the architects out there: check out CCF. CCF, which stands for Customer Care Framework, is an integration framework from Microsoft targeted for customer care environments (“call centers”). I was introduced to this framework on my last project in which I assisted in the architecture of an integration project for a customer care department.
The interesting thing about CCF is that the integration of LOB applications is done in the front-end layer, not in the middle tier. This is a great money saver for the business since it maintains the existing business logic and does not require re-development (as is the case in most SOA projects).
In a nutshell, CCF gives you the following:
- Non-disruptive integration layer: the integration of existing systems is done on the call agent’s desktop by hosting the applications. The hosted application is not modified (its source code shouldn’t be touched) so the business logic and the data validation of the application is honored. CCF can automate the UI of the hosted applications based on the customer’s context (the customer being handled by the call agent).
- Configurable business scenarios: CCF supports “workflows” to assist the call agents in using various integrated systems to perform a single business operation. For example, the scenario “create customer” might include updating the accounting systems and the product systems. Using CCF workflow the admin can deploy a “Create Customer” business scenario that redirects the call agent to the relevant systems (and if automation is implemented, CCF can further assist by automating the manipulation of fields in those relevant systems).
Note: the term “workflow” is not the best ever, a guided wizard would be more accurate (and that’s why I’ll never be a salesman).
- Customer-context driven development: one of the key aspects in CCF is the Context which contains the fields associated with a customer. CCF can then use the context in order to automate hosted systems (so the CRM will automatically perform a customer search when the context is loaded to the CCF) and it can also forward the context to other agents (so if you’re redirecting between call agents, your session is always maintained).
It is important to notice that CCF is not a solution, but rather it is a framework. You won’t be able to “install and go”, you’ll have to learn the tools and concepts and develop your solution accordingly. Once learned, CCF can really add value to customer care related integration projects.