Just as CRM magazine debuted the workforce optimization (WFO) suite category in its April 2008 Service Awards issue, the analyst community has likewise been paying more attention to the umbrella term, releasing several studies on this burgeoning space -- following in the recent footsteps of Gartner, New York–based research firm Datamonitor has now released its first Decision Matrix on the WFO space, which it terms as workforce optimization technologies (WOT).
The addition of WOT to Datamonitor's repertoire is a direct result of demand from the research firm's client base, according to Daniel Hong, a lead analyst at the firm. "We needed to take a look at what exactly the strengths are for these vendors," he says, explaining the report measures market impact, technology assessment, and customer sentiment.
Not surprisingly, the two leaders in the WOT space according to Datamonitor's matrix are Israel-based contact center solutions provider Nice Systems and Melville, N.Y.–based WFO company Verint Systems. "They are really the clear leaders and have the greatest depth in terms of products," Hong declares.
That said, the two vendors were not able to put much distance between themselves in the matrix. According to Hong, Verint's most-compelling attribute is that it has a strong, integrated solution set. Nice's products, he says, is designed more along the lines of a best-of-breed offering. "For Nice, if it went ahead and had better integrations with IEX and Performix" -- two vendors that Nice acquired in 2006 -- "it could make for a much stronger offering than they have now," he says. "I think [Nice] will rectify this; it's on the vendor's radar."
Other vendors included in the matrix include ones to consider, the primary challengers:
- Aspect Software; and
- Autonomy etalk.
The report also has a segment for vendors that prospective WFO users may want to "explore":
- Envision; and
- Voice Print International.
Hong says that Aspect or Autonomy etalk could alter the competitive landscape if either company suddenly gets more aggressive in its strategy. "[Autonomy] etalk already has good speech analytics, and intends to partner to fill the product gaps it does have," Hong says, adding that etalk's acquisition by the larger Autonomy means it now "has more resources to put behind marketing and execution."
On thye other hand, Hong says that Aspect could also be a "credible competitor" to the current market leaders if the company decides to invest more money into its WOT solution stack. "This company has extremely strong brand equity because it is essentially an all-in-one contact center provider," he explains. "It also has a pretty large installed base of customers to work with."
One trait all the players profiled in this report share is that they are primed to continue growing as the mature WFO technology begins to penetrate emerging countries. The report predicts a compound annual growth rate of 10.9 percent for the WOT space between 2008 and 2013 -- a figure, the report adds, that is "significantly higher than the growth rate in most of the other contact center technology markets over the same period."
The expectation of positive growth despite the current economic situation can be attributed to several trends, according to Hong. He notes that companies must continue to remain compliant, and consequently have to invest in quality monitoring and call-logging tools irrespective of any budgetary constraints. Additionally, in emerging countries there are contact centers in desperate need of workforce management tools and basic CRM operations -- providing ample opportunity for growth among the established WFO vendors.
Last, Hong says that there is a mantra of doing more with less in today's economy. According to his research, this means increased interest in optimization technologies -- and workforce optimization is near the top of the list. "Exploit what resources you do have," Hong says. "We did a survey earlier this year and asked what [the] top priorities were, and ranked number one was contact center optimization."
For companies looking to make further investments in WOT, Hong says that, while the Decision Matrix profiles the leaders in this space, ultimately each business has to decide whether its specific needs are best served by an entire suite or various point solutions -- essentially, the age-old battle pitting best-of-breed versus best-in-class. "For basics like call-logging, go with the larger vendors," he advises. "Where you get to more innovative [investments] like analytics or performance management, take a look at smaller vendors because they may have a unique offering that will better benefit your organization." The key concern, he warns, is making sure that these smaller vendors' offerings integrate into your other WFO technologies
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