It’s been more than 10 years since we introduced IP Telephony to the contact center market with Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (CCE). We may have lacked some features in our early product but we did one thing that no other vendor could easily deliver in 2001: When a customer had three sites with 50 agents per site and they wanted an enterprise-class contact center platform, we were the only solution that could offer them a “single ACD”. That was the initial advantage of IP-ACD. The benefits of that consolidation were pretty clear in the Erlang calculators and that type of multi-site business case launched us into the contact center market. Today we continue to see momentum around centralization and consolidation but the projects are getting much bigger and we’re focused on making our solution even better at addressing the challenges associated with this type of initiative.
In 2013, many contact center customers are faced with a decision to move to a new platform for ACD and IVR. Information Technology has continued to evolve and we see projects like “Data Center Consolidation” lining up with these new contact center purchase decisions. Our IT-focused buyers want to deploy contact center as a service in their data center to simplify operations and consolidate on a single-platform for ACD/IVR/CTI to reduce cost. Our business-focused buyers also see “Centralization” as one of their top business priorities. A centralized contact center system can reduce labor costs, improve speed of answer, and also deliver the best possible customer experience by connecting customers with the right resource anywhere in the enterprise. A centralized system can also provide a platform for implementing new revenue generating strategies like cross-selling.
I’ve been working on consolidation projects with our contact center customers for many years. I vividly remember some very tough conversations with one of our early customers that was putting a system in place to merge their two contact center locations into a single team/queue (while operating across two locations). The site managers were adamant about their need for a “service level by site” since this peer to peer site competition was so ingrained in their operation. I was shoulder to shoulder with the IT staff trying to explain the mathematical benefits of a single queue and how their new system would have one shared queue and therefore it would result in one shared service level. That wasn’t an easy conversation. It took many hours of discussion and alignment with the top level business management to help reset their plan on how they would operate as one team.
What I’ve learned from our customers over the years is that there are organizational dynamics around sites and in line of business groups that sometimes conflict with the output of the Erlang calculator. There is a need in some deployments to compromise efficiency in order to map more easily to varying departmental priorities. It is a small set of enterprises that can jump all-in to a uniform operation/service and therefore more often than not there is some compromise between consolidation and segmentation.
In the Cisco contact center development team we see the expansion of the departmental features as an area of innovation. We are looking to offer reasonable choices in how our customers can deliver a single platform that continues to support choices around distributed administration. The requirements are more complex then secured access control. In some cases our customers are asking for tiered hierarchies or hybrid access models with some combination of shared responsibility and access to data. We want to offer this flexibility without complexity and that requires continuous focus on how these features impact the supervisor and administrator user experience.
One of our key technology partners in this area is Exony We’ve had a deep technology relationship with Exony for nearly 10 years. They first came to us with a “Service Provider grade” security model for access control and we’ve incorporated parts of their technology into our core CCE platform. We believe the Exony VIM solution offers best in class contact center platform administration and control capability for our largest enterprise customers who operate multiple lines of business. The upcoming release of Exony VIM will be leveraging some new CCE access control functionality and we’re looking to expand this capability to support customers of all sizes and deployment models with future versions of CCE.
This is a key investment area for us so I’m very interested feedback on this direction so please share your thoughts here on our collaboration blog or in our Collaboration Community. This is also the time of year to set plans to attend this summer’s Cisco Live in Orlando so hopefully I’ll see many of you there.