Despite a difficult year economically, the contact center technology market continued to grow in 2008 -- though the extent of that growth remains a matter of dispute among different industry analyst firms. Boston-based market research and consulting organization Infonetics Research finds in its latest study that the Internet Protocol Contact Center (IPCC) market jumped 37 percent in the past year, while unified communications (UC) products did not necessarily share the same success.
Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst of enterprise voice and data at Infonetics, attributes the UC market's mixed results to strong growth in one sector and the lack thereof in the other. "There was more strength in the contact center market than expected, and not as much on the communicator front, which we thought would do better than it did," he says.
For the purposes of this study, Infonetics split UC into two parts:
- unified messaging platform sales and
- communicator software sales.
Machowinski recalls that the 2007 alliance between Microsoft and Nortel Networks kick-started the communicator market that year -- resulting in growth that could not be replicated in 2008. "The two companies made use of a lot of the installed base they have," he says. "So once that saturated, sales fell flat."
For the IPCC market, though, sales are still on the upswing thanks to an ongoing shift from contact centers running time-division multiplexing (TDM) to one built on IP telephony. That evolution, Machowinski says, is what will help push the market forward despite an economic recession. "The technology transition will weather these downturns better than legacy products can, and it can also enable companies to reduce cost to a certain degree," he says.
By modernizing infrastructure, Machowinski adds, contact centers can also reap some operational benefits, including:
- unified management,
- the ability to consolidate sites,
- the option to have home-based workers, and
- the ability to further automate customer service hubs.
"Self-service is certainly also a component of this," Machowinski says. "These are all ways [end-user companies] can still reduce operational costs."
None of that, however, will help create another 37 percent rise in 2009, he says, adding that we can expect growth to slow down to approximately 5 percent. "There's no doubt [that] budgets will be scrutinized," Machowinski says. "There's definitely bound to be an impact [on sales]."
The study also finds that Avaya continues to lead the IPCC space with market share of approximately 40 percent to 50 percent, but he company lost some ground to competitors including Cisco Systems and Alcatel-Lucent. Cisco, for example, has enjoyed a boost in share on the IP Private Branch Exchange front, Machowinski says, which has naturally led to inroads into Avaya's dominance of the IPCC market.
Don't expect Avaya to drop out of its leadership position in the immediate future, though. "The company has a long history and legacy in the contact center market and is one of the few that has been doing well in IP telephony," Machowinski says. "I expect Avaya to defend fiercely in IPCC. It's a very important segment for [Avaya], because [it's] not as diversified as Cisco or Alcatel-Lucent…so it has to deliver here."
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