4-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 7/21/2010
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etc DevCorp. IT Company Uses Flexible API to Build Solution That Automates Tracking and Billing

Maryland-based etc DevCorp. builds software solutions based on Microsoft Unified Communications technologies. In early 2009, the company was engaged by a law firm that sought automated client communication and billing processes. Using the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API 2.0, etc DevCorp. created etcTimeTracker for Office Communications Server. The application, which is based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2, tracks all forms of client communication, such as phone calls, emails, instant messages, and video conferences. Developers at etc DevCorp. were able to take advantage of the extensible API to build in customized tracking capabilities. With the solution, law firms can more accurately and easily complete client invoices, so they can improve efficiency and receive payment faster.

Business Challenge

A development firm based in Glen Arm, Maryland, etc DevCorp. builds add-on applications for Microsoft Unified Communications products. It is a subsidiary of Enabling Technologies, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that offers IT solutions and consulting services to companies around the world.

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* This solution automatically tracks incoming and outgoing calls, emails, IMs, and video communications in Office Communicator 2007 R2. Attorneys no longer have to worry about entering billing codes or client numbers.  *

Vaylor Trucks
Systems Engineer
etc DevCorp.

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The organization’s customers are always looking for ways to streamline critical business processes and cut costs. For example, in early 2009, etc DevCorp. was approached by a prominent California law firm that needed a software solution to help automate its client billing processes. “For law firms, time is money. Whether they’re doing research about a case or talking to clients on the phone, every second they can bill their clients means more money for the firm,” says Vaylor Trucks, Systems Engineer, etc DevCorp. “That’s why this particular firm wanted to speed up its billing processes. Lawyers have a tendency to spend too much time gathering billing information to submit to clients for invoicing.”

Increasing the efficiency and accuracy of key processes such as billing is also critical for law firms. This is especially true in today’s challenging economic times, when clients are asking for proof of each minute they are being billed for. “Law firms today need to have accurate and accountable ways of billing everything from phone calls to instant messaging sessions with clients,” says Trucks.

To improve its billing accuracy, the law firm that had contacted etc DevCorp. wanted the ability to automatically track inbound and outbound phone calls. “It also wanted to assign client numbers and billing codes to all forms of communication,” says Trucks.

In mid-2009, etc DevCorp. began building a solution that would help the California law firm and other similar firms optimize business processes and reduce costs. The solution would automate time tracking and simplify the process of assigning client numbers to communications.

CEBP Solution

Before it even began the development process, etc DevCorp. knew it would use Microsoft technologies to create the new application for the law firm. “Our solutions have always been 100 percent based on Microsoft products, and Microsoft has the best solutions for enterprise telephony and voice,” says Trucks.

The company used the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API (UCMA) 2.0 to create etcTimeTracker for Office Communications Server. The solution is based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. The application interoperates with the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 client to automatically track the time someone spends on it using any form of incoming or outgoing communication. Using etcTimeTracker, attorneys can track phone calls, emails, instant messages (IMs), voice over IP (VoIP) calls, or video calls.

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* Instead of estimating that an Office Communicator 2007 R2 call took 40 minutes, an attorney can say the call was exactly 47 minutes and 21 seconds long. That’s important, because for law firms every second counts when it comes to client billing.  *

Vaylor Trucks
Systems Engineer
etc DevCorp.

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The solution integrates all forms of communication with a law firm’s billing software to make the billing process simpler and more accurate. It automatically tracks call data and client information, using the presence capabilities in Office Communications Server 2007 R2. When a client calls the law firm, for example, the application captures the time spent on the call and all other relevant information for billing purposes.

The application also embeds a notification drop-down menu into the Office Communicator 2007 R2 toolbar, for easy access to new emails, IMs, or voice-mail messages. With one click, attorneys and other legal professionals can access a contact card that includes client contact information and data related to that client, such as documents and recent conversations. Additionally, users can quickly and easily assign client or case numbers to each email, IM, or VoIP call.

“Any time an attorney places an outbound call or uses another form of communication, whether through Office Communicator 2007 R2 or a phone, the communication is tracked and stored in a database,” says Trucks. “The menu in Office Communicator 2007 R2 displays the calls made, and the user can easily assign a client number to the call. It’s very simple.”

ROI

By using Microsoft software, etc DevCorp. created an application for law firms that greatly improves the user experience by automating the tracking of client communications. The solution also makes client billing much more efficient and accurate. To build in the customized tracking capabilities, the development team relied on the flexibility of the Microsoft UCMA 2.0.

Eases Time-Tracking Process for Attorneys

For law firms, etcTimeTracker simplifies the tracking of time spent communicating with clients. “This solution automatically tracks incoming and outgoing calls, emails, IMs, and video communications in Office Communicator 2007 R2,” says Trucks. “Attorneys no longer have to worry about entering billing codes or client numbers when they talk with clients.” The process is simple because users can communicate with clients and assign client numbers within Office Communicator 2007 R2. “For attorneys who are busy working on cases, this is very easy. They don’t have to navigate between multiple applications,” says Trucks.

The solution has another key benefit. By automating tracking and billing processes, attorneys can reduce the amount of time they spend preparing invoices. “Using etcTimeTracker, law firms can improve efficiencies and collect on their receivables faster, thereby improving their cash flow,” Trucks says.

Improves Efficiency, Billing Accuracy

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* In developing etcTimeTracker, I simply needed to create a generic web interface and then create the customized tabs for Office Communicator 2007 R2, using many of the same components. This really saved me a lot of time in building the application.  *

Vaylor Trucks
Systems Engineer
etc DevCorp.

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By automatically tracking all client communications, law firms can improve billing efficiency by providing precise billing information to their clients. “Billing accuracy is greatly improved with this solution, because law firms can definitively show how much time was spent on a client call or an IM session,” says Trucks. “Instead of estimating that an Office Communicator 2007 R2 call took 40 minutes, an attorney can say the call was exactly 47 minutes and 21 seconds long. That’s important, because for law firms every second counts when it comes to client billing.”

Offers Flexibility for Developers

Developers at etc Dev Corp. took advantage of the extensibility in the UCMA 2.0 to build a flexible solution that expands time-tracking functionality beyond just outbound phone calls. “The Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API 2.0 is much easier to work with than the previous version and provides more extensibility,” says Trucks. “With very minor tweaks, we were able to build in the tracking of IM conversations, video conference participation, and any other communication activity that’s trackable in Office Communications Server 2007 R2. We could easily roll out these client features without customers having to install new client software.”

With these capabilities, etc DevCorp. saved time on the development process. “In developing etcTimeTracker, I simply needed to create a generic web interface and then create the customized tabs for Office Communicator 2007 R2, using many of the same components,” says Trucks. “This really saved me a lot of time in building the application.”

Microsoft CEBP

Communications-enabled business processes (CEBP) based on the Microsoft Unified Communications platform offer businesses three ways to increase productivity:

  • Contextual collaboration. Helps users communicate efficiently by providing context about their communications.

  • Business Process Communications. Reduces human delay in business processes, so people can contact decision makers when they’re needed.

  • Anywhere-access capabilities. Users can interact with computers via natural speech, using the telephone or IM in a fully automated way.

For more information about the Microsoft Office system, go to:
www.microsoft.com/communicationsserver

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about etc DevCorp. products and services, call (800) 923-4310 or go to:
www.enablingtechcorp.com/DNN490/CEBPAddOnApplications/tabid/58/Default.aspx

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Partner Profile

Based in Glen Arm, Maryland, etc DevCorp. is a development firm and subsidiary of IT solutions provider Enabling Technologies. The company has 10 employees.


Business Situation

One of its customers, a large law firm, needed to automate client billing processes. The law firm sought a solution that would also help improve billing accuracy.


Solution

Developers at etc DevCorp. created etcTimeTracker for Office Communications Server. The application is based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2.


Benefits
  • Eases time-tracking process for attorneys
  • Improves efficiency, billing accuracy
  • Offers flexibility for developers

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2
  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2

Vertical Industries
Architecture, Engineering & Construction

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Business Productivity

Languages
English

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