SCOPE: Unified Communications or Not?
Often, buyers need to replace an aging PBX that also provides their contact center technology—perhaps from Avaya, Cisco or Mitel. Or, the company will keep the enterprise telephony platform but opt for a new contact center technology platform, often cloud-based. That all seems straightforward.
Now, broaden the view from “phone systems” into “Unified Communications” (UC) with voice, video, and collaboration and decisions can get a bit trickier. The world we’ve lived in with coronavirus and remote working has further transformed how people work, spending their day on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting or other voice and video conferencing platforms. So “traditional” cloud UC providers (aka UC as a Service or UCaaS) like 8×8, RingCentral and Vonage, have some interesting new competition, as do the traditional PBX vendors that evolved into UC players. These vendors may offer UC and CC but not every buyer wants or needs both! This important decision can be intertwined with other scope and sourcing decisions. The levels of integration can vary and some vendors will help you migrate with a hybrid premise/cloud approach.
The Bottom Line: Don’t isolate your contact center technology decisions from your UC plans. Look at the whole picture and make informed decisions.
SCOPE: Core CCT, WFO, the Desktop and More
I’ve used Figure 1 in seminars and articles for years, and it keeps evolving with the market. The key message in this buyer’s guide is to consider many technologies as you pursue new contact center solutions. Take inventory of what you have and define which elements you will keep and which you will replace. Do a gap analysis and prioritize your “wish list,” even if that includes some phasing since you can’t have it all day one.
Having set your plan, determine if you will seek everything from a single provider or be open to vendors providing subsets or certain elements. With powerful niche solutions (e.g., knowledge management, unified agent desktop, bots for self-service or agent assistance) as well as rich suites (e.g., for workforce optimization), you have a lot to consider!
A key caution: As you pursue omnichannel, define where the various channels will be managed and how they fit together—for routing, reporting, agent skills, and the variety of workforce optimization capabilities such as workforce management and quality monitoring. Consider what you do in your CRM (e.g., Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics) or with niche channel solutions. It’s easy for sellers to convince buyers that various systems integrate easily, they have connectors and APIs, they’ve done it countless times… but how you use that variety of technologies and your business and operational expectations are unique.
The Bottom Line: Clearly define your scope for any contact center technology pursuit and make it clear what you expect of your new technology and how it will fit with your existing technology.
SOURCING: Premise and the Variations on Cloud
Figure 2 summarizes the key sourcing decision in the market today—variations on cloud, and where each fits, along with premise. Multi-tenant true cloud options can have highly developed applications, focus on the development platform, or both! In fact, many vendors are trying to straddle both these worlds so that buyers can have it all (e.g., use bought capabilities, extend them through a marketplace, and/or build their own through use of the APIs). Amazon and Twilio are the disrupters in this space, and many entrenched cloud solution providers have responded.
Some “cloud” solutions are private, hosted versions of what a premise solution looks like. And traditional premise vendors are happy to help a customer make that transition. Some of the key differences between cloud and premise are blurring as vendors offer (and downright encourage!) purchase models based on subscription pricing, as outlined in Figure 3. Vendors want to help buyers in their transition to the cloud. They also want to leave behind the challenges of maintaining back versions of premise solutions.
The Bottom Line: Make thoughtful decisions about how and when to move to the cloud that match your environment, investments, resources and expectations.
SOURCING: Best-of-Breed or Suite or Hybrid?
I have outlined the best-of-breed versus suite trade-off with countless clients and seminar attendees. That debate has now shifted into a world that I call the “hybrid/ecosystem” where buyers can hope to have the best of both worlds.
As Figure 4 shows, the hybrid is also driven by the market as cloud vendors offer an ecosystem of partners—with products and services—to be the “go-to” resource to help a contact center get everything they need and have it all work seamlessly together. (I’m being optimistic here!) The center of the ecosystem is an interesting consideration for contact centers. Is it the omnichannel routing platform like Genesys, Five9, Talkdesk or NICE inContact? Is it the CRM, like Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics? Or, is it the innovation leaders, such as Amazon and Google? As you look at the diversity of technologies in Figure 1 and consider your world, you may find a single “sun” or determine you have multiple “stars” in your ecosystem.
As most companies come from a best-of-breed (or just mixed breed!) environment, it’s important again to assess the current state and define what stays and what goes, which vendors are a good partner to consider going forward, or which should be relegated into an ecosystem niche player. And, if you’re looking at new vendors (or VARs), look for a broad ecosystem from someone that can be a strategic partner as your business and technology evolves.
The Bottom Line: The market is moving to the hybrid/ecosystem approach. As you plan for your next technology, make sure you consider how a buying approach that takes advantage of that can help you go farther, faster, and continue to enhance your capabilities.
SOURCING: Vendor Direct and Partners
One last sourcing decision to consider is whether to buy directly from a vendor or through one or their partners—variously called value-added resellers (VARs), system integrators (SIs), channel partners, etc. In some instances, this decision will be made for you based on the vendor’s business model—some are direct only, some rely almost exclusively on partners (with occasional exceptions, for example for large strategic accounts). In other cases, you have options and should explore the trade-offs and fit for your environment.
On the surface, it may appear direct is better for access to development, engineering, product management, etc. However, partners may offer more extensive product suites, implementation resources and support services. If you like the ecosystem concept, consider that while vendors have an ecosystem their partners may create a broader one. If ongoing support is a key factor for you, explore the vendor and partner offers in this realm. Many are now seeing this as a differentiator and offering value-added services—for free or at a cost—that help you get more out of the solution and continue to meet your business needs. Making buying even more interesting, partners may have a variety of vendor solutions to offer. They can look at a buyer’s requirements and suggest the best option(s) to fit.
The Bottom Line: As you consider which solution options to consider, approach the direct versus partner question with an open mind and define the factors that are most important to you short-term and long-term.
Lori Bocklund is President of Strategic Contact, an independent consulting firm that helps companies optimize the value of their customer contact technology and operations.
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, http://www.contactcenterpipeline.com