Aspect Takes AIM at Bolstering PerformanceEdge

The acquisition spree for Chelmsford, Mass.–based contact center player Aspect Software continues. In a move to further bolster its workforce optimization (WFO) offering, known as PerformanceEdge, the company recently acquired the technological assets of United Kingdom–based AIM Technology. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Bob Kelly, vice president of Aspect's PerformanceEdge Group, characterizes the move as critical to his company's goal of providing best-of-breed WFO features as well as a cohesive suite of WFO applications for users in the following five areas:

  • campaign management;
  • e-learning/coaching;
  • quality monitoring;
  • performance management (PM); and
  • workforce management;

"The idea of the suite is to be able to deliver more value...by synchronizing data across multiple applications," Kelly explains. "Also, we wanted to provide a unified user interface [and a] seamless administration of agents, and make the total cost of ownership less from the standpoint of dealing with one vendor. At the same time, we wanted to provide a better holistic view with all the tools necessary to deliver a continuous improvement process in the contact center."

At the beginning of 2008, Kelly says, Aspect recognized there were some flexibility limitations in terms of using external technology and delivering on synchronization capabilities. Consequently, Aspect went looking for PM vendors and came down to two finalists:

  • Merced Systems -- with which Aspect had an existing original equipment manufacturing (OEM) agreement; and
  • AIM Technologies.

Citing a need to ensure PerformanceEdge could extend through Aspect's unified communications (UC) infrastructure -- even to the back office -- the company decided to acquire AIM as opposed to striking a strategic partnership, in order to have more control over the technology. (The acquisition supersedes the Aspect/Merced OEM agreement.)

"AIM's technology is on Microsoft SQL Server, [which] makes it easy for us from a development perspective because that's the technology stack our [research and development] organization focuses on," Kelly says. "It's easy to reach into the UC infrastructure with [Microsoft] Office Communications Server for those functions. As we went through the process, it was obvious that AIM was the right fit for taking the next step forward."

AIM's software product will now be branded as PerformanceEdge Performance Management. AIM's global headquarters in the United Kingdom (as well as a subsidiary in San Francisco) will stay open with no layoffs planned, according to Kelly.

Kelly says that he does not foresee any integration problems with either company's existing customers, because the vast majority of AIM Technology's installed base already has some form of Aspect's offerings. "All but two of AIM's 25 customers are also Aspect [users] for other products," he reports, adding that customers who have purchased the earlier versions of Aspect Performance Management will be supported without change.

Paul Stockford, president and principal analyst at Scottsdale, Ariz.–based consultancy Saddletree Research, characterizes the acquisition as the right move for Aspect. Buying AIM, he says, sends the proper message during an economic downturn that might otherwise undermine customers' belief in Aspect's staying power. "Aspect has given notice to the industry that it has no intention of backing down," he says. "It will join the ranks of other successful companies that have faced down recession in the past and have emerged stronger at the other end."

Timing aside, Stockford also explains that the move is a reflection of the company's goal of building its WFO suite piece-by-piece. "Building upon the foundation of its Aspect eWorkforce Management software, [Aspect] has methodically built a performance optimization suite in a stepwise manner to the point that it now has a solution suite that meets or exceeds the capabilities of any WFO suite on the market," he says.

Competitively speaking, Kelly says that, in a WFO space commonly known for its consolidation moves -- Verint Systems acquiring Witness Systems in 2007; Nice Systems snapping up Performix and IEX the year before -- Aspect has had to do likewise in order to continue its progression. "We have all gone through processes of bringing in technology that have evolved to suites of capability in this area," he says. "This acquisition allows us to make sure we have most competitive best-of-breed capability for PM but also provide other value points that customers look for when comparing us to Nice and Verint."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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