There's little doubt that vendors of contact center technology see the value and promise of workforce optimization (WFO), as the market continues to undergo consolidation.
Yet customer demand and implementations have not yet materialized on a grand scale, according to Jim Davies, principal analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. The WFO market is essentially a combination of contact center performance management, quality management, workforce management and e-learning that allows businesses to optimize the performance of employees, technology and the underlying business processes.
"Workforce management is a very mature market with forecast and scheduling tools. It's decades old," Davies said. "It's the same for quality monitoring -- that's also a very mature market with more than 60% of contact centers adopting the technology. Workforce optimization is bringing those together with other components. Less than 2% of businesses have that unified approach." @24475
Vendors plan to be ready when customers do take the unified approach and are buying one another left and right. Quality monitoring specialist Witness acquired Blue Pumpkin in early 2005, call recording specialist NICE acquired IEX and Performix in April for their workforce management and performance management tools respectively, and infrastructure vendor Autonomy bought eTalk and its performance management functionality last year. The consolidation is unlikely to slow down, according to Davies, as suite vendors continue to buy up the best-of-breed operators.
"In 2006, the market has really exploded," he said. "Two years ago, there were probably only two vendors [that had] credible WFO offerings. Now there's six."
In a recent MarketScope report, Davies evaluated the major players in the WFO market.
Organizations need to think of executing against a WFO framework, according to Davies, whether it's via a suite or best-of-breed integration. Given the maturity of the workforce management and quality monitoring markets, most contact centers already have these applications in place and face a difficult choice between replacing existing systems and integrating.
"Because QM and Workforce management are mature, companies that want to benefit from WFO want to complement them with a consultancy," Davies said. "You're still effectively running half a dozen solutions with five vendors, lots of coding, and maintenance contracts, and you're complicating matters. You'll never achieve the depth of integration from vendors who provide a complete suite."