The past few years have been tumultuous for the contact center infrastructure industry, as a number of market dynamics have altered the landscape, among them vendor consolidation; greater centralization among companies that have operated multiple contact centers; and higher demand for multichannel integration.
In light of these changes, incumbent vendors are looking to expand their capabilities in areas such as interactive voice response systems, outbound dialers, contact center workforce management, recording, e-learning, Web chat, email response management, live and prerecorded video, desktop collaboration, analytics, workflow, and mobility. Many more vendors are also bundling their offerings to simplify the purchase, configuration, and implementation of their products.
But even more dramatic has been the impact that cloud deployments have had on the entire industry. According to DMG Consulting, the total number of cloud-based contact center seats jumped 49.9 percent between August 2014 and August 2015. Worldwide adoption now stands at 11.1 percent, up sharply from 2.2 percent in 2008, DMG's data reveals. Flexibility, agility, scalability, and cost benefits of this implementation model are largely responsible for the growth, the firm maintains. New seats are coming from replacements of dated on-premises solutions and a growing number of first-time users, not only from among the small to midsize early adopters but a growing number of larger enterprises as well.
In the past year, Aspect Software acquired LinguaSys, an interactive text response and natural language user interface provider, and introduced Aspect Managed Services. Its cloud business this year also surpassed its on-premises business, but Paul Stockford, president and chief analyst at Saddletree Research, says the company's migration path to the cloud is sensible. "Aspect doesn't do anything haphazardly," he says, "and the stability they offer in their infrastructure, both cloud and on-premises, is proof." That's also reflected in its scores for depth of functionality (4.0) and company direction and customer satisfaction (both 3.8).
Depth of functionality has always been one of Genesys's strongest attributes, and this year was no different. The company's 4.0 in this area was a little lower than some of its competitors, but analysts point out that its portfolio remains among the industry's broadest and is backed by strong professional and business consulting services. "The company is executing well to help its customers transition to a digital interactions world," says Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and president of McGee-Smith Analytics.
Interactive Intelligence led its competitors in company direction (4.2) and also scored well in depth of functionality (4.0). The company made a big splash with its release of PureCloud Engage in the summer, and that has some analysts concerned. Interactive Intelligence is "throwing all in with the cloud, probably forgoing a large percentage of the market in the future," Stockford suggests.
Mitel's far-better-than-average scores in all of the judging criteria position it on the leaderboard for the first time. While its focus has traditionally been the unified communications market, it is expanding its reach in the contact center space, according to Aphrodite Brinsmead, principal analyst at Ovum. Add to that the appointment of a new contact center general manager and McGee-Smith predicts "great execution in 2016 against a solid strategic plan."
As it has for many years, Cisco Systems scored the best in depth of functionality in 2016 (4.1), and its company direction score (4.0) was just a hair off the lead. "Cisco is breaking down barriers and leading the industry into the future," Stockford says. "They continue to offer a solid product with a reputation for stability, reliability, strong customer relationships, and a clear vision of company strategy as it relates to the evolution of the customer care industry." And it doesn't stop there, according to McGee-Smith: "There is every expectation that a multitenant contact center offer will be added to the Spark platform in 2016." —Leonard Klie
ONE TO WATCH
Selling its agent services business to Alorica in January 2015 has freed West to concentrate more on its contact center technology business, and analysts have taken notice. Still, analysts this year approached the company with cautious optimism, demonstrated by its low score of 3.3 in company direction.
[Editor's note: The overall award rating is based on a composite score of analyst ratings for customer satisfaction, depth of functionality, company direction, and cost. For the cost score, analysts gave the highest marks to vendors with the lowest expected costs. Company revenues were also factored into the overall score, but these numbers are not included in the chart above.]