In drafting its annual Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure report, industry research firm Gartner noted steady growth in the market despite the current economic climate. That growth, it said, has been driven throughout North America and western Europe by customer desire to replace existing systems, but also in other parts of the world by a high volume of first-time, new system purchases.
That's good news for the vendors who occupy the contact center infrastructure space, which Gartner defines as the equipment, software, and services, including telephony, routing, speech self-service, outbound dialing, presence tools, analytics, and computer-telephony integration products, needed to operate contact centers.
It's those same vendors that are the focus of the report, as the analyst firm positions contact center technology providers in the Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries, and Niche Players quadrants based on their ability to execute -- which includes product and service offerings, pricing, marketing, overall viability, and customer satisfaction-and their completeness of vision, including their market understanding, strategies, business models, and innovation.
Aspect Software, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Interactive Intelligence, and Nortel Networks all returned to this year's Leaders Quadrant, which comprises those companies that Gartner considers to have high viability, broad product portfolios, significant market share, broad geographic reach, a clear vision of how contact centers will evolve, and a proven track record for delivering high-quality contact center products. The only change is that Alcatel-Lucent, Genesys' European-based parent company, was added to this year's list.
In adding Alcatel-Lucent to the list, report authors Drew Kraus, Steve Blood, and Geoff Johnson noted the company's comprehensive range of solutions contained within its OmniTouch suite. At the same time, though, they warned that those solutions only work within the OmniTouch PCX environment. They also noted that Alcatel-Lucent has a limited customer base, especially in North America, and often competes with its own Genesys subsidiary.
They gave Genesys' very high marks for its Customer Interaction Management Platform and other product offerings, noting that they "support a broad suite of highly scalable and fully featured contact center applications." And while they knocked the company on price, they credited it with having strong professional services capabilities, "a strong vision for decoupling contact center applications from a telephony infrastructure," and for extending call center capabilities into unified communications environments and enterprise workflow beyond the call center.
The report also credited Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel with having a broad range of highly effective products, strong global brand awareness coupled with international customer bases, and extensive partner networks. Nortel, it said, also benefits from a good use of the Web and a solid professional services organization.
Aspect earned its place due to strong financial performance (in spite of the fact that it did not seek to aggressively grow its installed customer base), a viable partner network, and a host of unified IP products that provide a common set of application development, management, and reporting tools across a wide range of applications.
Interactive Intelligence also scored high on adopting unified IP architecture, while Cisco, Genesys, Avaya, and Nortel were said in the report to be slow to evolve their product sets to such an architecture.
There wasn't much movement in the other segments of Gartner's reviews. In this year's report, challengers include repeat performers NEC and Siemens. Vendors classified as niche players were Altitude Software, Mitel, Huawei, Astara Technologies, and Intervoice, which was acquired by Convergys in the middle of last year. The visionaries quadrant was filled by Oracle, SAP, and CosmoCom, while honorable mentions were given to ComputerTalk Technologies, Syntellect, and VocalCom.
The report also noted that many of these companies and others that compete in the contact center market have steadily been migrating their telephony infrastructure from traditional circuit-switched technologies to newer Internet-based systems and unified communications environments.
That's an observation shared by Jim Foy, Aspect's CEO. "With an evolving focus on bringing unified communications to the enterprise and the contact center, Aspect sees a lot of opportunities for organizations to maximize agent and information worker productivity, improve customer-company interactions, and fine-tune their business processes to be more efficient than ever before, which is so important, especially in our volatile economy," he said.
With that as a backdrop, "companies fitting the early adopter profile are examining innovations in the areas of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), service-oriented architecture (SOA), mobility, rich presence, and collaboration technologies," the report concluded. "Companies fitting the mainstream and late adopter technology adoption profiles are increasingly considering virtual (distributed) contact centers, centralized infrastructure models (supporting both companywide initiatives and operationally independent, multitenant deployments using shared infrastructure resources), Web- and speech-integrated voice portals, and hosted and managed deployment models in order to balance cost-reduction and improved-service initiatives.
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