• July 26, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Aspect and Witness Up the WFM Ante

Rivals Aspect Software and Witness Systems are raising the stakes in their contact center game, both companies recently unveiling functionality enhancements. Aspect's release targets workforce management (WFM) and Witness's announcements focus on enhanced integration of its Impact 360 workforce optimization (WFO) suite, along with improvements to its WFM and IP recording offerings. Aspect's latest installment of eWorkforce Management was made generally available June 30 but announced today, while Witness's enhancements to its WFO solution are available in controlled release, slated for general availability in October. Aspect eWorkforce Management 7.0 features a redesigned user interface, bolstered support for outbound and blended contact center environments, and adds support for Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. At the core of Aspect's enhanced outbound support is an algorithm used to produce accurate staffing forecasts based on contact completion information, blending rules, and standard staff group parameters. The software can also track schedule performance to enable real-time tweaks. According to Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research, Aspect is making an important commitment to the growing Asian market, and to outbound scheduling, with the announcement. "A lot of people thought outbound was going to go away after the advent of the Do Not Call list. We're finding that it's not and it's still an important part of the industry." Meanwhile, Witness's Impact 360 WFM release delivers scheduling and management capabilities for companies that leverage outsourced services; partial shift swapping, reporting, planning, and administration advancements; and new business integrations. Witness is providing a capability that lets users export their forecast or workload requirement to the outsourcer, which the outsourcer uses to craft and send back the schedule, according to Rajeev Venkat, director of solutions marketing for workforce management platforms at Witness. "They have a global picture that's presented to them," he says. Another enhancement is in partial shift swapping. In previous releases agents could swap entire shifts, but with this upgrade, agents can exchange portions of shifts. For instance, if an agent wants to take off from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. she can post that request, and then either one agent can pick up that entire block, or one agent can pick up 1:00 to 2:00 and another can grab the remainder. On the recording side Witness's Impact 360 IP Recording enables TDM and IP recording under one management tool, can record SIP-based calls, and provides access to Impact 360 Recording configuration settings, allowing customers to centrally administer the recorders regardless of dispersed contact center locations. With its Impact 360 suite overall, Witness has focused on areas like deeper e-learning process integration, targeted learning from KPIs, one-touch drill down from scorecards to schedule adherence, and ad hoc reporting for performance management. The release also features a single sign-on across the WFO applications, and includes Cognos's reporting capabilities running across all of the apps, according to Kevin Strange, director of solutions marketing of recording platforms at Witness. Version 7.7 marks Witness's second Impact 360 release, which integrates its functionality with its acquired Blue Pumpkin capabilities, unifying quality monitoring, WFM, performance management, and e-learning. All of Witness's announced functionality is featured in the Impact 360 suite, but it announced expanded integrations to its Impact 360 solution in May, WFM enhancements June 13, and IP recording enhancements Monday. Witness, which is generally credited with spearheading consolidation toward building a complete WFO suite, has been applauded by several industry analysts for tying together the four pieces, while vendors like quality monitoring and e-learning player Envision developed its own workforce management solution. "The large contact center enterprise market may still be a best of breed world where a company would pick NICE for logging and might pick IEX or Aspect for WFM," says Joe Outlaw, principal analyst for contact center solutions at Current Analysis. But "Witness is in a good position to do well with companies interested in an integrated solution. There's a growing demand for the integrated, all-in-one, easy-to-use, single-vendor solution in the midsize and small call centers. There will come a time where there will be some real demand for a unified suite from a single vendor." Related articles: Wouldn't Better Scheduling Be NICE?
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