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The Argument for Desktop Analytics
This new IT sector offers visibility, real-time guidance, and process automation.
For the rest of the March 2012 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Desktop analytics (DA) remains an emerging and not yet well-known application that is rapidly evolving from its tactical heritage into a strategic capability that addresses three important challenges. It captures, measures, and analyzes all agent desktop activities (referred to as activity tracking); it provides real-time guidance; and it enables process automation and workflow. Equally important, DA capabilities, which can be sold on a stand-alone basis, are also finding their way into third-party applications designed for CRM, quality assurance (QA), speech analytics (SA), contact center workforce optimization (WFO), and back-office WFO suites.

Vendors that offer DA capabilities are coming from many functional areas. Of course, there are the stand-alone vendors, or companies that started as stand-alone providers. These vendors figured out early on that DA could be used to identify system, operational, and staff-related issues within a department. Once performance issues are found, the challenge is to provide guidance for fixing the problems. This is where DA crosses from being an analytics solution to one that is dedicated to real-time guidance and process automation.

A growing group of third-party software vendors are realizing that DA can be used to greatly enhance their own solutions. Desktop analytics is being utilized in conjunction with speech analytics solutions to provide the conceptual framework and data needed to improve the validity of system findings. DA is being included in back-office WFO suites to identify system and process bottlenecks that prevent the staff from completing their tasks in an efficient manner. Desktop analytics capabilities are helpful for any third-party application that is involved in process and change management, as they can capture, identify, and track progress on the issues that need to be fixed.

Why Hasn't DA Caught On?

DA solutions have been used in a meaningful way in the contact center for only the past three or four years. (DA has been used for a longer period of time by IT organizations to measure system performance.) DMG looked at this emerging DA technology sector in 2009, when it was truly in its infancy. In our "Contact Center Analytics: Emerging Customer Experience and Desktop Analytics Solutions Report," we estimated that there were 350,000 seats of DA in production as of the end of 2009. This number was based on company guidance and was very likely overestimated, as there were only three companies at the time that were truly pushing this capability—e-Glue (which was acquired by NICE in July 2010), Iontas (acquired by Verint in February 2010), and Knoa. Other contact center–oriented application vendors, such as ClickFox, Enkata, Merced, NICE, Verint, and VPI, were also starting to embed DA capabilities within their products.

Best-of-breed providers Cicero and OpenSpan are now including DA on a stand-alone basis or as a component of a suite of process automation solutions. These capabilities are being offered to end users on a direct basis and through partners such as eG Solutions. Vendors like Enkata, NICE, Verint, and VPI have realized that DA has great potential, and are using it to enhance the performance and benefits of other capabilities and modules already in their suites. During the next three years, DMG expects to see a big push in the market in the area of real-time guidance and next best action. DA functionality is enabling these capabilities. We also expect to see increased investment in the area of process automation to enhance the performance of existing applications, a trend which is also being enabled by DA functionality. So it's not that DA is not catching on; its growth is more indicative of a change in how this functionality is being offered to the market.

Primary Challenges for the DA Market

DA solutions provide great value to those who use them, but also face a number of challenges. The first is that DA implementations generally require a great deal of professional services as well as internal resources to get these solutions properly into production. The vendors are aware of this and are working to address the issue by better productizing their offerings. The second major challenge is that there is little information in the market about DA. Most of the vendors are hoping that someone else will make the necessary investments to help build this IT sector. At the end of 2011, we finally started to see some marketing activities, but much more is needed. A third market challenge is that end users are overwhelmed by analytics offerings and are struggling to figure out which of these solutions they should purchase. The suite vendors are continuing to add to this confusion, hoping to use the uncertainty to sell more products. This approach has backfired in the past and is having the same effect in this sector, as the confusion is limiting the adoption of unfamiliar solutions.

Should You Invest in DA?

As surprising as it may sound given all of the challenges, DMG recommends that companies invest in desktop analytics capabilities, as long as they have a clear plan for applying the findings. The technology has some unique and very valuable characteristics. It is capable of providing transparency into what front- and back-office employees are doing at their desktops, valuable insights that were not available in the past. As a result, it can rapidly identify system, operational, and performance issues that are costly and prevent the staff from delivering a consistently outstanding customer experience. DA solutions can be programmed to identify and monitor compliance issues that could put an organization at risk. These issues can literally be either eliminated or controlled by using the real-time guidance features that show employees the steps required to properly handle inquiries or to accurately process their work. The more sophisticated DA solutions can also be used in conjunction with servicing applications, providing a processing framework and workflow capabilities that can enhance the underlying servicing solutions.

DA Market Outlook

The outlook for the adoption of DA capabilities is very good. The time is right for enterprises to make investments to improve their primary servicing applications, like their CRM suite or customer tracking application. While many companies will eventually need to completely replace their current (and increasingly outdated) customer service and contact center servicing applications, a growing number will start this effort by enhancing the capabilities of their existing servicing infrastructure. This lower-risk approach will drive adoption of DA in the next three to five years. However, over time, DMG expects DA to become less of a stand-alone application and more of a module within a variety of mission-critical enterprise solutions, such as WFO, enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management, and customer relationship management suites.

For more information about the desktop analytics market, see DMG Consulting's "2011–2012 Desktop Analytics Product and Market Report," released in December 2011.


Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.


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