• October 2, 2007
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Cisco Buys Itself Another Piece of the Contact Center Puzzle

Networking giant Cisco Systems revealed last Thursday its intention to snatch up Latigent, a provider of Web-based contact center business intelligence and reporting applications. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. However, the transaction, which is subject to standard closing conditions, is expected to close during the first quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2008. Cisco certainly is no stranger to acquisition; this deal is the company's 123rd. A handful of its grabs this year alone include IP-based video surveillance software provider BroadWare Technologies; file storage management solutions provider NeoPath Networks; and collaboration applications provider WebEx. Latigent co-founders Chris Crosby, CEO, and Jason Kolb, CTO, will join Cisco after the deal has closed. Cisco said it plans to integrate Latigent's team and technologies into its Customer Contact Business Unit. "Reporting is really critical to [the] management of any contact center, and it's a cornerstone of what we're doing, so as we looked at our current offering and what was happening in the market...we wanted to own and grow that portion of the technology," says Ross Daniels, Cisco's director of solutions marketing. Latigent's functionality is equipped with "a lot of flexibility in terms of integration with multiple data sources and the ability to very easily mirror and migrate traditional reports from other [automatic call distributor] solutions that would help [companies] along their migration path to Cisco's IP solutions, specifically Unified Contact Center Enterprise," Daniels says. The Latigent software, he adds, "has adapters into the Cisco environment today and has for quite a while, so it makes the integration of the product into the Cisco portfolio, or at least pieces of the portfolio, really rather straightforward. We expect within six months to have an integrated product." It's important to note, however, that once the acquisition closes, Cisco intends to do a six-month control release with selected existing customers -- what Daniels calls "a limited rollout." "It will be orderable at that point for a limited basis," he says. The company also expects to continue the rollout more broadly, as well as expand the solution set to incorporate Cisco's Unified Contact Center Express and Unified Customer Voice Portal products. Chicago-based Latigent's product library features two core offerings: BlueVue, a business intelligence and analytics product, and Archiver, an engine for integrating data into a consolidated, normalized repository. Ian Jacobs, a senior analyst in Frost & Sullivan's contact center practice, views the Archiver product as a key component of the deal. "Cisco is trying to play in a heterogeneous world," he says. "If you think about a company like Interactive Intelligence, its pitch is, 'Instead of having all these boxes, you have workforce management, inbound contact routing, the IVR--you get everything from [Interactive Intelligence].' In an environment like that the reporting is fairly easy because all of the data sources are, in this case, Interactive Intelligence data sources. But when you play in a much more heterogeneous environment -- where you've got Avaya data, Periphonics and Nortel data, Nuance data, data from various sources -- it's significantly tougher." That, according to Jacobs, is Cisco's real strength. "It's saying, 'Yes, we know it's a heterogeneous world, and we're trying to make it easier for customers to actually do both real-time and historical reporting, and then also be able to tie it back to those third-party systems. So its not just pulling data from them, you can push it back.' " Other motivating factors behind the acquisition include Latigent's Web-based approach and Web 2.0 focus, according to Daniels. "Cisco is putting a lot of stock in Web 2.0 and collaboration-type technologies," he says. "So being able to incorporate RSS feeds and other elements of Web 2.0 programming environments was certainly something that was intriguing for us as well." Looking long term, Daniels adds, "There's a real potential for the Latigent solution to...expand well beyond the contact center." Latigent is "a niche player with a very specific product that Cisco needed, so it was a perfect kind of Cisco acquisition: pure technology play, small, easily acquired, and easily integrated," says Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics. While Daniels was tightlipped about the exact number of existing Latigent customers, he did note that there were fewer than 20, and that the number of joint Cisco-Latigent customers accounted for about half of Latigent's customer roster. Latigent's "profile was so low that a lot of companies aren't going to have any confidence in this built in," Jacobs says. "So Cisco gets a ramp up on the technology, but all of the sales and marketing is like it's from scratch." For McGee-Smith's part, though, she sees no downsides to the deal: "It's what everybody is looking for in reporting." Related articles: CCPM Market Is Poised For Progress
Market penetration has been slow, but the benefits of contact center performance management applications to the contact center and other enterprise departments are expected to help spur growth. Analytics Is the Answer What do contact center managers need to generate revenue? New tools and technologies. Fewer Vendors Sit Atop Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications Alcatel-Lucent, Microsoft, and Nortel retain their positions as leaders, but Cisco Systems and Siemens fall out of the top quadrant; Interactive Intelligence moves up a notch. Cisco and Salesforce.com Get Connected The communications infrastructure vendor and the on-demand CRM provider announce Unified CallConnector, strengthening the companies' partnership.
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