People ManagementTechnology

Workforce Optimization In The Cloud: Types, Advantages, Adoption

Kristyn Emenecker, Verint
Kristyn Emenecker, Verint

Many organizations are taking advantage of the cloud for information technology and business operations benefits, and workforce optimization (WFO)—the portfolio of solutions that typically includes interaction recording, quality management and learning, workforce management, performance management and emerging tools like gamification and various types of analytics—is no exception.

That said, the cloud means different things to different people. Today’s customer-centric businesses have many options and can choose from multiple deployment models for their WFO solutions, so every business can find the financial and operational environment that best meets their needs.

“Currently, business agility is the number one driver of cloud adoption. The financial flexibility, real-time service access and volume flexibility mean rapid response to changing needs and market conditions.”

Types of WFO Cloud-Based Solutions

Here, we’ll look at three models: software as a service (SaaS), hosted and hosted with a perpetual license.

  • SaaS. The customer pays on an ongoing basis to access their secure, private WFO instance as a service, run on a multi-tenant scalable platform with built-in on-the-fly scale, redundancy and disaster recovery, and on-demand 24/7 service, so users can focus on their business and not their internal IT queues and administration. SaaS solutions are always on the latest version, so big upgrade budget requests and operational disruptions are a thing of the past. This is typically the most cost-effective of the cloud models.
  • HOSTED. As with SaaS, in a hosted environment, the customer pays on an ongoing basis for WFO as a service managed externally, except that in this case, the entire system is theirs—even the backend infrastructure is not shared with other customers. This may provide additional capabilities for customized integrations back to systems they run on their premises or to meet unique requirements. The contract may include upgrades or may involve additional costs. System sizing will typically need to be scaled for peak use, as opposed to the large-scale spike capability that is typically part of a multitenant SaaS system.
  • HOSTED WITH A PERPETUAL LICENSE. Sometimes an organization prefers to use the traditional enterprise software license model, but have the vendor manage the system for them. In this structure, they typically pay for the services to maintain and support the system on an ongoing basis.

Types of WFO Premises-Based Solutions

Below, we’ll examine two types of WFO premises-based options.

  • SUBSCRIPTION. In a subscription model, a company may want to continue to own all of the equipment and manage it through their own IT staff on their own premises or in their own data center. Here, they pay for it through a subscription pricing model as opposed to an all-at-once capital expenditure.
  • TRADITIONAL. The alternative to a cloud environment is staying with an on-premises WFO solution. In this case, the traditional solution is installed at the customer’s site, and the customer’s IT department provides support for the applications and hardware. All hardware is located on site, where the applications are being used, and the customer purchases the licenses up front as opposed to over time.

Which Option for Which Function?

Today, all WFO functions can be provided in the cloud, but in some cases, it may make sense to keep certain components on premises, or in a hybrid cloud deployment. Following are two different scenarios that illustrate these approaches.

Workforce OptimizationLike CRM, which many companies today use in the cloud, workforce management (WFM)—a key component of a WFO suite—tends to be well suited to all cloud models. Because it is a business application that isn’t holding sensitive payment card information or healthcare information the way a recording system is, some organizations may feel more comfortable taking it to the cloud first, and keeping other WFO components on premises to transition later. However, advances in security have made cloud computing so secure, frequently more-so than what can be achieved internally, that even large banks and insurance companies are now adopting cloud solutions.

Multichannel interaction recording, unlike WFM, may be deemed in-scope for a company’s most sensitive security concerns, such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA, particularly if it is not currently using an automated pause-and-resume function to avoid sensitive data capture. This may cause some organizations to hold their recordings on premises, even if applications like quality management (QM) are handled in the cloud. And if the company’s ACD is on-premises, keeping recording on site may also make good sense. The good news is: there are hybrid options. These provide the ability to still reap the business agility and financial model benefits of the cloud, while keeping some select components and data on site and under control on premises. An equal number of customers may prefer to avoid the headache of managing those security compliance scans and reporting hassles altogether, opting for a secure cloud, where the vendor is responsible for that. Either model is readily available today.

For Organizations Large and Small

Usually technology advances are adopted by larger organizations first and then become more affordable for mid-size and small enterprises. With cloud, historically, the reverse has been the case. Cloud adoption started with smaller companies that didn’t have the ability to pay for big technology up front. Small to mid-sized organizations jumped at the chance to gain the competitive advantage of market-leading WFO and analytics tools without the big capital expense, as opposed to sacrificing features and functionality for an entry-level system. They have access to it, they only pay for what they use, and they can always be on the latest version without the heavy IT overhead required to manage it all.

Large organizations have the resources to invest in equipment and manage it locally, and that is what was done until recently. Now many of these CFOs, CIOs and COOs are realizing the benefits of focusing their business and their business expenses on what they do best, and leaving the daily maintenance to someone else.

That begs the question: Why the big push for so many options in modern IT solution deployment? Take, for example, the autonomy the cloud allows business users. If an IT staff member in a large bank needs a change made to an aspect of their WFO system, they frequently have to open an IT help desk ticket and get in line. Even before this, it might take months to justify the cost of an upgrade. Among business users, there is often frustration tied to not controlling their own destiny with regard to the tools they use every day to do their jobs, and feeling beholden to IT, who gets to whatever it is that they need done when they can. And for those resource-strapped IT managers, they’re frequently struggling to manage systems across multiple vendors, including responding to business user change and support requests, instead of what they need to think about—the IT services strategy for the company. With one of the above cloud options, business users typically have direct access to their support team at the cloud provider and can reach out any time, day or night, from the office or on-the-go, to get what they need without going through their internal IT.

The Main Driver of Cloud Adoption

Currently, business agility is the number one driver of cloud adoption. The financial flexibility, real-time service access and volume flexibility mean rapid response to changing needs and market conditions.

For example, in retail, during a spike in the holidays, in the traditional model, retailers had to build out a system that was scaled for their highest peak of activity, even though 10 months of the year, this capacity was not being utilized. In a cloud model, organizations only pay for what they need, when they need it. A retailer can pay for what it uses 10 months a year, and add extra capacity for the two peak months.

Considerations for Cloud-Based WFO

What should an organization consider when determining if cloud-based WFO is right for them? Here are some key considerations:

  • TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP. When faced with so many options, it’s important to do a careful total cost of ownership (TCO) assessment, taking into consideration all costs, including those paid to the vendor up front and over time in each model, as well as internal costs, where applicable, such as IT resources, hardware, database and operating system expenses, facility space, electricity, and all future costs, such as upgrades, maintenance, and scale and usage. Businesses should look for a vendor with the flexibility to provide all of the above options, so that the right model for their business can be selected.
  • BUSINESS OBJECTIVES. An organization should look closely at what they’re trying to accomplish with WFO and work closely to ensure that their vendor fully understands these objectives, including expected growth or volume fluctuation, and special customizations or non-standard integrations, so the right deployment option can be selected. Some companies today have mandates to acquire new technology only in a cloud model, but even in these cases, as mentioned above, not all cloud is the same. Even these companies need to make sure that business objectives come first, and work with a vendor with all models available in order to select the option right for them.
  • SECURITY. This is always a concern, especially if an organization has sensitive information in their calls and their call recording is part of the cloud consideration. Ask to speak to the vendor’s trust or security officer and to see a copy of all security certifications. Doing your homework will be very important here.
  • DISASTER RECOVERY. Organizations need to understand their SLA guarantee in terms of backup, should the site go down, the promised up time percentage, and how this is managed. What are the change controls to ensure that unexpected outages are avoided? 24/7 monitoring and support is table-stakes, as are appropriate security certifications and full redundancy. Keep in mind, given current events and increasingly erratic weather, the value of having a separate disaster recovery facility managed by an external vendor, and the ability of all employees to work from anywhere with an Internet connection and log-in, is a big plus.

Business Advantages

Up to now, we’ve explored the types of deployment models for modern WFO and looked at cloud models, their applicability to WFO and key considerations for use. Every organization and deployment is different, however. While we’ve touched on many of the business advantages of hosting in the cloud, following are some key takeaways and considerations:

    There’s no need to purchase software licenses or hardware. This provides incremental budgeting ease and can save significant money in the long run.
    Since SaaS solutions are updated automatically, organizations always benefit from new features of the most current versions of the solution, without performing on-site, complex or potentially disruptive installations.
    Management and maintenance of infrastructure and applications in secure data centers, 24/7, helps to ensure security. Redundant data centers further enhance reliability in the event of disaster recovery.
    Cloudbased solutions can often be purchased for an all-inclusive, predictable monthly subscription fee.
    Because the WFO solution runs on external infrastructure, if a problem arises, in-house IT staff doesn’t need to be diverted.
    Back-end infrastructure is often already in place, so after initial set-up and training, all that’s needed is a web browser.
    Instead of paying for unused licenses, organizations can just pay for what they need when they need it. They can easily scale up or down to accommodate seasonal or other fluctuations.

In closing, whether you choose to host WFO operations in the cloud, and to what degree, depends on a wide variety of circumstances and priorities for each organization. As the technology matures and business needs evolve, migrating WFO to the cloud can be an increasingly attractive option for those that wish to limit capital expenditures and enable their internal IT staff to focus on other activities to help drive the business.

Kristyn Emenecker is Global VP for Enterprise Workforce Optimization at Verint. With 20 years of experience in the contact center industry, she is active in industry groups, and is a regular contributor and speaker on such topics as cloud, customer experience and employee engagement.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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