• April 1, 2006
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Full Suite Versus Best of Breed

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Making the wrong choice between implementing a full-suite solution or a best-of-breed application can be a disastrous career move for any executive. However, a close look at our third annual Service Leader awards reveals that in some areas within the customer service technology industry, the age-old debate is being resolved. The argument for each side is pretty compelling: Best-of-breed applications tend to focus on depth of product functionality and yield a lot of product innovation. Full-suite solutions, however, focus on product breadth, or reach across an enterprise, making it easier to integrate. But, recent merger and acquisition activity among customer service technology providers might change your stance on the debate. There are, of course, M&As that simply attempt to squash the competition and take its customers. The stolen customers are then often forced to purchase the acquiring vendor's products--a pretty raw deal. However, when two best-of-breed companies merge to create a symbiotic relationship between product lines, customers win. That's what's happening with best-of-breed customer service application developers and it's significantly shaking up our leaderboard positioning. Over the past 12 months Witness Systems acquired Blue Pumpkin, Concerto Software merged with Aspect Software, Verint Systems bought Opus Group, and Kanisa merged with ServiceWare Technologies and changed its name to Knova Software. All of these deals represent a merger of complementary product lines. When so many symbiotic mergers and acquisitions happen in such a short time it forces us to take a hard look at how the industry is transforming. In response to these developments we've renamed two of our categories. Last year's Web Self-Service category became Web-Support Services, reflecting the need to include knowledge management applications. Plus, we renamed last year's Workforce Management and Optimization category to Workforce Optimization (WFO), reflecting workforce optimization's larger scope, which includes workforce management, quality monitoring, performance management, and e-learning applications. Very few vendors have all four of these components, but it makes perfect sense to offer them, as there is a correlation between proper staffing, quality assurance, agent performance, and training. As a result, we'll likely see more mergers and acquisitions in this category. So how are these M&As affecting the application debate? Essentially, when best-of-breed Web-Support Services and WFO vendors merge they are creating full-suite solutions, providing customers with innovative products that integrate well and have a clear migration path. As this happens, it obviates the need to choose between best-of-breed and full-suite solutions, because customers can have both. Congratulations to the 2006 Service Leader, Rising Star, Service Excellence, and Service Elite award winners. May their customer service efforts continue to evolve. David Myron Editor-in-Chief dmyron@destinationCRM.com
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