The 2009 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Workforce Optimization Suite

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The Market
The workforce optimization (WFO) suite—with analytics, e-learning, performance management (PM), quality monitoring (QM), and workforce management (WFM)—is in its second year as one of our Service Leader categories, and analysts agree that it’s here to stay. “It’s something that has come from being just a theoretical technology to one that’s proven and viable in organizations,” says Gartner Research Director Jim Davies. Saddletree Research Chief Analyst Paul Stockford says we can expect to see smaller vendors trying to corner niche markets, especially with small and midsize businesses (SMBs). “That historically underserved market has had to be satisfied with partial solutions in the past, but now garners the attention of several companies with products aimed squarely at [its] unique needs,” he explains.

The Leaders
Aspect Software makes a second straight appearance on the WFO leaderboard, having shed the One to Watch label last year. While its score for company direction (4.3) lagged behind those of the other leaders, the still-strong showing is a testament to Aspect’s continued investment in its PerformanceEdge product. The offering’s real value might be seen in users’ satisfaction, where a 4.5 score led the pack. Dick Bucci, senior consultant at The Pelorus Group, says Aspect has the industry’s largest service-and-support network, boasting more than 600 people, and offers three classes of services: professional, technical, and educational. Where the company continues to lag is in depth of functionality; its score of 3.8 is the lowest among the category leaders for the second straight year. “The package is strong in WFM, but not exceptional in recording, PM, analytics, and other applications,” Bucci says. “It’s not as tightly integrated as other leading competitors.” The January 2009 acquisition of AIM Technologies may help bolster Aspect’s PM capabilities, he says.

Nice Systems is definitely moving in the right direction,” says John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Service and Support Professionals Association, a claim backed by Nice’s strong score for company direction (4.7). While we noted last year the ongoing challenge posed by the acquisitions of IEX and Performix Technologies, analysts say the integration’s on schedule. IEX—now running the former Performix products—will continue to operate as a semi-autonomous business unit to combine best-of-breed with the WFO solution via NiceSmart Center, Bucci says. Meanwhile, Nice continues to fall behind in customer satisfaction, its score the lowest among other leaders for the second straight year. “It’s a big company with growing pains,” one analyst says. “Some customers are dissatisfied with the support they’ve received.” Analysts agree Nice is trying to fix things: For starters, the vendor has established a single point of customer contact. Clients can also get around-the-clock, Web-based training from the Nice Education Center Portal. As Nice strengthens its WFO offering, the company may have a realistic shot at next year’s crown.

The Winner
Verint Systems takes the top spot among WFO players for the second straight year, although the company led only two of the three scores compared to last year’s clean sweep. “Verint is the cream of the crop in WFO,” Ragsdale says. Stockford agrees, adding that the vendor “continues to be a market leader in every sense of the word.” Verint continues to shine in depth of functionality, a perfect score there blitzing the rest of the leaderboard thanks to its Impact 360 package—further enhanced with the October 2008 release of its Impact 360 Coaching product. “The level of integration is the tightest in the industry,” Bucci says. “Users can easily transition from one application to the other, and information is automatically shared among the various [components].” While a customer satisfaction score of 4.1 is hardly weak, it was only approximately a tenth of a point away from landing in third place among other leaders. Verint may need to improve on that point if it hopes to score a three-peat next year, but help may come in the form of its new Impact Services product, aimed at helping clients achieve customer-centric goals in the contact center from both a technology and process standpoint. 

One to Watch
Envision Telephony stormed onto the scene this year, just missing the leaderboard by less than a tenth of a point. Saddletree’s Stockford is quick to point out the company is often overlooked because it primarily serves the SMB space, but in a rapidly maturing market, this could become an advantage for Envision. “The company studies and understands the unique needs of this space and has designed products to meet those [specifications],” he adds. As the WFO market continues to take shape, stay tuned to see if Envision’s SMB focus can propel the vendor into the top three next year. —Christopher Musico

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