• April 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The 2008 CRM Service Awards: Contact Center Infrastructure

Article Featured Image
The Market This year, CRM has made a needed change to the Service Awards. One of the problems with judging the computer-telephony Integration (CTI) category in years past was its inherent anachronism -- CTI was old technology that wasn't being advanced, and its functionality (along with much more) was available in newer, more cost-effective forms. Since voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), session initiation protocol (SIP), and services-oriented architecture (SOA) have made CTI obsolete, we've retired that category in favor of the more descriptive Contact Center Infrastructure (CCI). Whatever it's called, the market continues to evolve with new initiatives, including expansion into smaller contact centers. Click here for full-size image

One to Watch Nortel Networks continues to be a company to watch, thanks to its history and its technological strength. "Nortel's scalability is mind-boggling," Jacobs says. "They have some installations that serve 100,000 seats over 30 nodes." Still, he and others note, the company is not without problems. One analyst says that Nortel is "suffering from corporate image issues and many customers worry about [its] corporate future." And some old concerns haven't truly been resolved. "While the 6.0 release solved a lot of earlier issues, since most customers don't have 6.0 it doesn't matter," McGee-Smith says. With newer, smaller companies such as Interactive Intelligence beginning to pique interest, Nortel has to get some forward momentum. "Nortel is beginning to talk about tying its contact center solution to Microsoft [Office Communications Server]; this remains to be seen," McGee-Smith adds. "Nortel has been winning a lot of consolidation deals, but that business isn't sustainable in the long term," Jacobs says. The Leaders Avaya made another strong showing this year, though not strong enough to capture the gold. The company went private in June 2007, a move that concerns some industry watchers. "I know many customers and prospects are waiting to see how that change affects the company's direction," one analyst says. Not all saw it as a problem, though. "With its move to private-equity ownership, Avaya's ability to quickly execute on software-based solutions has dramatically improved," McGee-Smith says. Further, the company has built a reputation for reliability that's hard to ignore. "Avaya always makes it work," she says. "Customers are loathe to unhook Avaya Contact Center." While its functionality is also well regarded, the range of possibilities leaves Avaya seeming unfocused. "Avaya is trying to be all things to all people," Jacobs says. "They're still doing a good job of covering all the bases." He adds, "Avaya is finally starting to make good on having a viable market play for smaller enterprises." Cisco Systems continues to improve its performance in our ratings; middling scores in the 2007 CTI category for customer satisfaction and depth of functionality have both jumped significantly. The results show in corporate performance as well: Among award candidates, "Cisco has the highest percentage growth over the past two years," says Ian Jacobs, senior analyst with Frost & Sullivan. Jacobs adds that Cisco's functionality is likely even better than our chart shows when considering small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). However, one analyst says that Cisco loses points for customer satisfaction in his ratings "since [its] sales, service, and support have not been consistent based on feedback from end users." "The contact center is a focus for Cisco in 2008; in the past it has been dwarfed by IP telephony," says Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics. She notes that Cisco is highly leveraged in the indirect channel, and is still working to integrate recent acquisitions. The Winner Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent, has a lot to be proud of, and has returned to the top of the heap this year. Its individual category scores are second to none, and the analysts are very positive about the company, despite the apparent absence of a midmarket play. "Genesys is very bullish," Jacobs says. "They don't have much of an SME message, but that's not their target." McGee-Smith agrees: "I'd like to see them have a midmarket offering -- Genesys Express hasn't been embraced." However, she thinks the company is doing something else very smart: "I love the move they're making, taking contact center technology and making it available to other organizations in the enterprise." Jacobs adds that he thinks Genesys will score even better next year because of its voice platform. "Genesys is almost always on the short list for installations," he says. One analyst adds that Genesys "has been a consistent contender in this area, with the only significant customer satisfaction issue/concern being its reputation as a 'high-priced vendor.'"
CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

LiveOps Dials in Telephony to Salesforce.com's AppExchange

The announcement underscores efforts to speed contact center adoption of on-demand software; a Salesforce.com executive says LiveOps will "help us integrate better to telephony systems."

Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned