Taking Workforce Management to the Cloud

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WFMcloudUnless you have been living on Mars for the past few years, you know that contact centers are moving their infrastructure to the cloud, and at a surprising rate.  As well-known industry analyst, Paul Stockford of Saddletree Research puts it, “migration to the cloud in 2013 was more than double what was expected at the end of 2012 and continues to exceed growth expectations in 2014.”

A recent ICMI study sponsored by Aspect Software shows that low cost is still important, but the primary drivers for this migration to the cloud relate more to the need for business agility necessary to address rapidly changing conditions.  It’s not surprising that these issues now rival low cost in importance.  The very nature of human communication is changing at internet speed, and contact centers, as the primary clearinghouse for customer communications, are having to become increasingly nimble.  They face a rapidly growing field of social media sites with mass customer audiences to engage, significant use of new channels like chat and SMS, as well as increasingly tech-savvy and demanding customers (and agents).  Layer on top of that the rising emphasis on customer experience rather than productivity (see Spence Mallder’s recent blog Customer Experience Takes the Lead Over Productivity), and you have a perfect storm of events that would make any VP of Operations rethink being bound to any vendor’s semi-permanent on-premises systems.

Just as the need for business agility is driving cloud infrastructure growth, it’s also driving the growth of the contact center’s right-hand assistant, workforce management (WFM).  For decades, WFM has been the most valuable tool in the high productivity/low cost arsenal, providing forecasting, scheduling, and tracking of employees to accurately project future staffing requirements and monitor intraday staff adherence in the voice channel.  Now WFM is being chartered with some new missions:  managing agents in new social media and customer interaction channels, providing a much better user experience for agents as well as ensuring the best customer experience (while maintaining low cost).  Prospective WFM buyers can clearly see the accelerating rate of change of the forces that influence contact center operations, and they are increasingly averse to bearing the risk and IT cost burden of keeping up with these changes.  If you could almost guarantee that some new, but yet unknown, workforce management requirement were waiting around the corner, you would not want to be locked into any particular long-term solution.

WFM benefits

WFM in the cloud also opens up a whole new segment of the contact center market for much more efficient labor management.  The high initial investment of most on-premises workforce management systems is cost prohibitive for many small contact centers, of which there are many.  WFM delivered in the cloud eliminates the large initial capital expenditure and creates low monthly operating expenses, so many smaller contact centers will now be able to afford a feature-rich, flexible and scalable workforce management tool.  To further promote this rapid deployment, Aspect has developed a new user interface that revolutionizes WFM making it easier and more intuitive than ever before, so new users can start, pick-up and run with powerful new features.

Following on the heels of the cloud infrastructure wave, workforce management is making its way to the cloud at a dizzying pace.  IHS Technology estimates that the market for SaaS based workforce management solutions will grow by more than 80% over the next four years.  That is explosive growth by anybody’s standards, and no doubt cloud-based quality management and performance management will be right behind.

Aspect will be in the vanguard of this growth with its cloud based WFO solutions.  Last week, Aspect announced the general availability of Aspect Workforce Management Cloud, the first of our WFO components to move to the pure cloud.  This new offering makes available the power of our hugely successful WFM software with all of the advantages of cloud delivery.  Integrated seamlessly with Zipwire, our scalable but simple omni-channel contact center solution, Aspect brings to the table a contact center offering that is extremely effective for small and large contact centers alike.  With the balance of the Aspect WFO suite slated for release in early 2015, the cloud contact center will never be the same.

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