Workforce Management’s Best Years Lie Ahead
Last year was the best one in decades for the contact center workforce management (WFM) market, and 2016 is shaping up to be even better. The WFM market has finally awakened and is expected to continue picking up momentum. End-user organizations that have been sitting on the sidelines for years, making do with difficult-to-use and dated WFM solutions, have begun a major refresh cycle. Established and new WFM vendors are spending substantially on research and development (R&D) now that they see the opportunity to recoup their investments through new sales. As a result, companies of all sizes and levels of complexity can now find solutions to help them improve the performance of their contact center, and maybe that of their back-office operating departments and branches as well.
WFM VENDORS ARE INVESTING IN THEIR FUTURE
WFM remains the most important productivity tool in the contact center, and it will continue to be so for years to come. But WFM is about to undergo a metamorphosis. Millennials are challenging many of the established practices in contact centers and forcing managers to reconsider their approaches. Schedule flexibility has been discussed for years, but it is difficult to implement with most of the older WFM solutions. It’s time for change, and the vendors are starting to get on board.
The market is seeing investments in new architecture and databases that are greatly enhancing and speeding up processing capabilities and innovation. System complexity is being addressed with major enhancements in workflows and the user experience, as evidenced by improved user interfaces. Cloud-based solutions are becoming more common and improved. The vendors are not simply making their solutions deployable from cloud-based data centers like Amazon Web Services (AWS); the new generation of cloud-based WFM solutions is delivering on cloud values, such as faster time to market and deployment, and responsiveness to customer needs. Vendors are also introducing innovation more quickly because they can use the cloud as a “sandbox” where they can test their new capabilities without having to undertake an entire replacement cycle.
BACK OFFICES AND BRANCHES DRIVE GROWTH
With 2.5 times more employees than front-office contact centers, back offices have a tremendous need for WFM capabilities. Add in the opportunity for adoption in retail stores and branches, and the back-office and branch market could dwarf the sales of contact center WFM solutions. Vendors that get it and see the big picture are building in the features that back offices (and branches) need. Sales to these emerging market segments are slow, but the deals, when they happen, are very large. DMG projects WFM seats to grow by 11 percent in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and by 12 percent in 2019 and 2020.
Selling to back offices is harder than vendors initially thought it would be. Back-office managers do not want retrofitted contact center WFM solutions; instead, they are demanding WFM solutions that are built from the ground up with the features they need to manage their unique operating environments. Back-office WFM solutions must be able to forecast and schedule staff to handle multiple simultaneous tasks, deferred work, and backlog. And back-office managers also want vendors to understand the specific needs of their vertical.
Real-time work allocation and management modules, which control and account for the flow of work into and out of a back office, are starting to emerge as the core components of what are increasingly known as back-office workforce optimization suites. These core modules are needed to track in-progress and completed work and to share this data with WFM solutions so that they can accurately forecast the future workload at the item and activity level. However, until these solutions are widely available in the market, WFM vendors are coming up with semi-automated methods to help companies track their work so they can start to reap the benefits of the new generation of back-office WFM solutions.