Workforce Management: Better but Not Good Enough
The workforce management (WFM) market is coming on strong. This is clear from the growing number of vendors in the market. A few years ago, the contact center WFM market consisted of three leaders—Aspect, NICE/IEX, and Verint—and a few lesser-known vendors, including Calabrio, Genesys, Holy-Dis, InVision (now injixo), Pipkins, Teleopti, and Bay Bridge (acquired by Interactive Intelligence). These vendors are still in business, but many new entrants have also come to market to address users' unmet needs. Newer entrants include CallCopy, eg solutions, Green WFM, Interactive Intelligence, Intradiem, L3 Prime, Noble, and WorkFlex. All of the new players claim to serve a new niche. In fact, the contact center WFM market is complicated and highly bifurcated. At a high level, there are two classes of solutions: overly complex applications that are feature-rich but difficult to use and simplified applications that are easy to use but functionally limited.
The Ideal WFM Solution
DMG has not yet found the ideal contact center WFM solution. But the new, robust competition brings hope that one will emerge that fits the bill. The ideal solution should include the following elements:
- Accurate and flexible multichannel forecasting and scheduling functionality that eliminates overstaffing and addresses immediate and deferred phone and nonphone tasks and inbound and outbound activities for multiskill and multisite environments.
- A flexible and actionable module that automates the intraday management challenge, including identifying periods of unplanned idle time and using this information to assign agents nonphone work.
- A flexible real-time adherence (RTA) module that optimizes staff performance while allowing for exceptions. RTA should be "treated" by the intraday management module.
- A flexible mobile-enabled, self-service environment that maximizes agent input and minimizes the administrative time and effort required to create and change agent schedules and manage agent time off.
- A long-term planning module that identifies agent requirements, shift mix, costs, and start times for three to five years into the future.
- An automated time tracker that ties into a payroll or human resource application.
- Flexible, widget-based dashboards that can be customized by individual or role, depending upon the needs of the organization.
- A reporting module that can import and export data and produce customizable, multidimensional reports.
These modules should be enabled with an easy-to-use framework with system logic, navigation, and intelligence built into user interfaces; Web-based functionality; rules engine and alerting; the ability to conduct "what if" scenarios for all tasks; the ability to analyze and manipulate data and seamlessly integrate it into the application; and the ability to easily integrate the WFM with other third-party applications.
"Nice-to-haves" include back-office and branch WFM functionality purpose-built to address work allocation, task management, deferred work, and backlog; a hiring module that helps qualify candidates' skills; and a workspace allocation tool that provides a visual diagram of the seating plan and reflects current or proposed agent schedules.
Although some vendors claim to offer many of these capabilities, no one has them all. In particular, none combine intraday and RTA. But it would be nice if managers could pick and choose the capabilities they need, instead of having to make trade-offs and compromises.
Small and Midsized Contact Centers Want WFM Functionality
For years, small businesses were essentially ignored by the leading WFM vendors, and this sector continues to have few good solution choices, as the more functionally rich WFM solutions come with a great deal of overhead. Yet there is relief in sight. A growing number of vendors are addressing the small end of the market with cloud-based offerings. This is a great way for many companies to get started with WFM, though some small companies will still be better off financially with a premises-based offering. DMG expects it to be many years before the small end of the contact center market is better served. When this happens, it will mean that some vendor has figured out how to deliver an accurate, flexible, and scalable multichannel/multisite/multiskill WFM solution that is easy to implement, use, and maintain.
Selecting a Contact Center WFM Solution
Having more choices has not made it easier for companies to select a contact center WFM solution. There are now approximately twice as many WFM solutions as there were 10 years ago, but many of the newer entrants are niche players. Most new solutions were designed for the needs of one or two contact centers, and the products have not been around long enough to have undergone a full rewrite to make them more generally useful. (This is a natural evolution for software companies.) Therefore, every new implementation requires a substantial customization. Contact centers with the time and patience for this approach should consider some of the newer vendors. However, prospects looking for an out-of-box solution should still concentrate on the traditional players in their region. This has become more necessary during the last few years, due to the increasing complexity of regional work rules.
The WFM Landscape
Below are brief descriptions of 11 leading WFM vendors. Each offers unique capabilities. (For a more detailed analysis and critique of each of these solutions, see DMG's 2013 Contact Center Workforce Management Market Report.)
Aspect remains a market leader. The company is increasingly investing in its contact center WFM solution, and has recently signed a deal to distribute eg solutions' back-office WFM solution on a worldwide basis.
Calabrio's WFM user interface is the best on the market. Calabrio has concentrated on making it easy for its customers to forecast and schedule.
Eg solutions specializes in back-office workforce optimization and management. Its strong back-office domain expertise and success in Europe should give the company an advantage as it tries to enter the U.S. market.
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, a contact center infrastructure vendor, offers a multichannel, multiskill WFM solution for calls and chat sessions, as well as deferred activities, such as email and noncall tasks.
Holy-Dis, the leading WFM solution in France, recently introduced an offering that will make it easy for customers to adopt its solution. Holy-Dis does an excellent job of handling France's work rule requirements in all business environments, contact centers, branches, and the back office.
Interactive Intelligence is investing in its WFM functionality, and is making progress. The company recently acquired Bay Bridge Decision Technologies, the leading long-term planning solution. Interactive Intelligence offers its WFM solution only to its own customer base of contact center infrastructure users, but plans to continue to sell the Bay Bridge solution to the broader market.
Intradiem offers a real-time intraday management application. It identifies periods of idle time and converts them into "active wait time," during which the application delivers nonphone activity to agents.
NICE/IEX remains a leader in the contact center WFM market. NICE has installed a new management team to reinvigorate sales of this essential product. Its WFM product is feature-rich but highly complex and challenging to use. The market continues to ask NICE to make the necessary investments to refresh this high-value solution.
Teleopti, a market leader in Northern Europe, has continued its multiyear effort to break into the United States market. During 2012, Teleopti's patience started to pay off, and the company has built a number of partnerships that are expected to give it more exposure in North America.
Verint has come on strong in the past 12 months, and is picking up momentum in the contact center WFM market. Verint's ability to partner is paying off, and it is being introduced into more deals than ever before.
WorkFlex is a Web-based intraday staffing management solution designed to complement and augment traditional WFM applications. WorkFlex helps companies automate intraday staffing adjustments in order to reduce the impact of staffing shortages and overages.
End users have more WFM choices than ever before. They can license a solution and put it on-premises, or use a cloud-based offering. They can acquire services to help them with an implementation, or do it by themselves. Despite the many choices, however, there is no ideal solution, and end users still have to make trade-offs when acquiring a WFM application.
Donna Fluss (firstname.lastname@example.org) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.