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As with many other research topics, Ventana Research investigates workforce optimization in two ways. Our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization assesses how companies use workforce optimization systems now and intend to in the future, while our Workforce Optimization Value IndexWFO_2014_Company_Weighted_Overall evaluates how well workforce optimization products and vendors match buyers’ needs.  In our newly released 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index the top vendors are Verint and VPI, both rated Hot, followed by five other Hot vendors: NICE Systems, OnviSource, Aspect, Calabrio and Envision. The overall scores place all seven Hot vendors within four percentage points of each other, and only a further three percentage points separate the three Warm vendors – Genesys, KnoahSoft and Interactive Intelligence. The closeness of the scoring suggests that this is a mature market and in most respects vendors support much the same features.

Among the seven categories by which we assess vendors, the three that have the greatest impact on an organization’s propensity to buy a new workforce optimization systems are capabilities, usability and reliability, which about two-thirds of organizations view as very important. A closer look at each vendor’s capabilities shows that in general all of the products support core capabilities and rate very similarly for all the subcategories. The primary exception is in agent variable compensation management where NICE Systems and Envision both have strong capabilities, whereas the other vendors are mostly limited to providing the data for other systems to calculate compensation. The lowest-ranked vendor, Interactive Intelligence, as noted in the summary of the results, is newer to this market and in the process of developing a full range of capabilities.

vr_NGWO_10_trends_for_improving_performanceOur workforce optimization benchmark research finds that regarding emerging capabilities, organizations rate analytics as their top priority in 80 percent of organizations. In this respect the three longest-established vendors – Aspect, NICE and Verint – have the best capabilities, with Interactive Intelligence, KnoahSoft and OnviSource behind them. NICE Systems and Verint have both been investing heavily in analytics so their products can utilize all forms of data and produce customer journey maps, which are increasingly becoming a “must have” for companies seeking to improve agent and customer satisfaction. We advise potential buyers to pay attention to the range of data sources a product can process, links between agent performance and customer feedback, the ability to generate performance metrics and flexibility in how outputs are presented (which I will come back to below).

Another emerging key capability is collaboration. My benchmark research into customer analytics finds that many companies are now focused on improving first-contact resolution rates, which have a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Collaboration can help in achieving this goal because it enables everyone to reach out to a colleague or an expert if they are having difficulty resolving customers’ issues. It also helps supervisors share performance information with an agent and to enables immediate coaching. However, the new Workforce Optimization Value Index finds this to be area in which most vendors are weak. Aspect rated highest in this capability, followed by Interactive Intelligence; both use their communication platforms to provide such capabilities.

The combination of our benchmark research and the Value Index reveals a contrast between the importance to companies of cloud computing, which ranked last among next-generation technologies, and capabilities offered by vendors, which rated highest in their support for cloud computing. All the vendors except VPI rated Hot in this subcategory, putting them seemingly ahead of market demand. The research provides insight into why this is in that it finds a direct correlation between size of contact center and propensity to invest in workforce optimization – most small centers rely on spreadsheets. However, we expect this to change as centers of all sizes realize that handling multiple forms of interaction across multiple channels requires more sophisticated systems to make the right number of skilled agents available to handle expected volumes of interactions. Overall the Value Index shows that apart from cloud computing none of the vendors is especially advanced in innovative technologies; this shortfall held down overall scores.

Of equal importance to capability is usability, which Ventana Research finds is of growing importance for all products. There are several aspects to usability. First is the user interface. Here the smaller vendors have a slight advantage because their suites have been developed from the ground up so the interface is common across all applications. Calabrio is the top vendor in this category; it has invested heavily in making its products easy to use, especially for younger “millennial” workers. NICE Systems and Verint face the biggest challenges in this area because their suites have been built largely through acquisitions; each is now investing to provide a common user interface across all applications. Another important aspect of usability is support for accessing systems through mobile devices. The Value Index shows that workforce optimization vendors are not advanced in this area, although Aspect, OnviSource and VPI are the top ranked. Sharing information is also key to workforce optimization and although the vendors all have standard capabilities to, for example, attach reports to email, none has very advanced support for Facebook-like capabilities to enable this aspect of collaboration.

The third category of most importance is reliability, which is linked with the overall product architecture. All the vendors scored closely in this category, with OnviSource standing out because of recently investment in this area.

Most vendors put a great deal of effort into creating case studies and customer examples, but validation of vendors ranks last in the list of categories most important to potential buyers. vr_NGWO2_07_benefits_of_agent_workforce_applicationsCompanies can access plenty of information on the Internet and check out vendors using social media. Just above validation is TCO/ROI, which only half (52%) of companies rated as important. This is surprising because very few companies will invest in any software unless they can build a compelling business case for it. In the Value Index VPI, Calabrio and Verint rank highest for the tools and services they have to support prospective buyers in this area.

Of course companies have different priorities, processes and requirements when it comes to choosing new software. Although the workforce optimization market is quite mature, the requirements have become more complex because customers now expect to have their issues resolved at the first attempt, no matter what channel they use to interact. This is borne out by the benefits received by companies that have invested in advanced systems. Of the top five, four relate to improving agent performance, which typically results in reduced operational costs and more highly skilled agents, which in turn significantly impact the fifth benefit, improved customer satisfaction; most of my research finds that is the top priority for companies. The next-generation workforce optimization research finds that many companies are thinking of investing in workforce optimization systems over the next two years. For them our benchmark research will reveal what other companies have planned, and our Value Index will show how well the vendors match these expectations.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

ManyWho was launched in May 2013 by two former Salesforce.com executives, Dave Norris and Steve Wood. They branded it the Cloud Workflow Company, It offers an innovative approach that allows organizations to create workflows, automatically convert them into business applications and run the apps on multiple types of devices. The key to its success lies in the second and third steps, which differentiate ManyWho from most other business process optimization vendors; the process maps that users produce are not static representations of how business processes should work but instead become apps that monitor what is happening and enable the next step in completing the process.

The ManyWho platform has drag-and-drop capabilities that enable users to map business processes as flow diagrams. These can include forms (or screens) in which to display or enter data, APIs to support pulling or pushing data to or from applications, and data-dependent logic – rules that alter the flow depending on what data is accessed or entered. The layout of the forms (or screens) is flexible and need only be developed once as the system can change the visualization to match the device it is being displayed on. ManyWho’s tools include collaborative capabilities so groups of people can work on developing maps before they are finalized and turned into a working app. This final step is achieved by clicking on a button; without IT intervention, the system produces a working app from the flow charts. The resulting app runs on the top of existing business apps so it doesn’t have to have its own data store; it pulls and pushes data to those underlying applications.

In essence ManyWho manages cross-functional processes that use data already in existing apps or data entered into a form to determine the next step. The next step can be virtually anything, such as ask the user to enter more data, gather more data from other sources, create an action or answer a customer query; it depends on the type of process being automated. Likewise the user interface changes automatically depending on the device on which it is running, so, for example, the same form can appear in appropriate form on a laptop, a mobile phone or a tablet. The system captures data about every step taken during the processes. This can be aggregated and input to third-party analytic tools to determine the efficiency, effectiveness and business outcomes of the processes; in this way organizations can optimize processes as they move forward.

ManyWho has examples of how customers use its product to automate a range of processes. My interest is in using it to improve customer engagement. Two of my research studies, vr_db_top_five_goals_for_customer_service_agentsnext-generation customer engagement and the agent desktop, have uncovered a number of challenges companies face when trying to improve the customer experience. These are among the most important:

  • Employees in multiple business units handle customer interactions.
  • To resolve interactions employees have to access and enter data in multiple systems.
  • The typical agent desktop includes multiple systems that manage communication channels (such as telephony), business applications, dashboards and notice boards. This complexity contributes to increasing average call-handling time and reducing agent satisfaction which are two of the top five goals for unifying the agent desktop according to the research.
  • Interaction handling process have become more complex because customers use self-service to resolve simple issues. This complexity impacts customer and agent satisfaction as agents have to concentrate more on the process and systems rather than the customer.
  • A key goal for improving the outcomes of interactions is to improve the use of best practices, which requires identifying how the most effective agents handle interactions and using technology to get other agents to follow the same process.

It appears that ManyWho could be used to address all of these issues. For example, it could be used to generate a smart agent desktop app that guides anyone handling interactions through the agreed process, displaying only the data and information the person needs at different steps in the process and changing the process depending on the customer. It also seems possible that a variation of such an app could be made available to customers, either as a smarter web portal or a mobile app, to guide them through resolving their own issues.

Other smart agent desktop applications and self-service systems can be used to achieve the same objectives. However the flexibility and ease of use of ManyWho can help organizations automate more processes, make them specific to defined types of interactions, customers or users, and for back and front-office processes.  ManyWho provides more than its marketing description of “workflow in the cloud”; it offers a new way of developing applications that automate and simplify business processes. I recommend that organizations evaluate how it could help them improve the ways they conduct their businesses.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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