Call Center Knowledge Management
Illustration by BEN POWELL

Cloud vendors capitalize on a message of “fast and easy.” Get it installed quickly—as short as hours (or days). Easy goes hand-in-hand with speed. Fast set up and configuration is perhaps true for very small and simple centers or new centers, but only when using Internet connectivity. It is less true for existing centers with any complexity, including plans to improve calls flows, take advantage of new capabilities, integrate or set up private network connectivity. But the good news is a cloud solution can be faster than a premise solution (e.g., a few months vs. 6-12 months).

Many buyers love the promise of rapid innovation. Cloud providers are tearing down the traditional models for development, testing, and deployment, creating and implementing new versions and releases quickly. Users don’t control if or when the upgrade occurs, and (ideally) don’t notice or care other than the potential to take advantage of new capabilities. However, this innovation demands agility when a change impacts other facets of the operation. For example, it has implications for training and communication with frontline, supervisory/management and administrative users when the user interface changes. Moreover, in an integrated, complex environment, contact center technology does not live in isolation. IT must have processes for reacting to ongoing changes to ensure things don’t “break” as a result.

Another lure of cloud is enabling resources anywhere, anytime, whether home agents, outsourcers, international locations, staff for peaks or disaster recovery. This capacity is particularly attractive when remote access simply requires a log-in through a web client. For example, cloud can be a good fit for non-voice agents handling email, chat or text/SMS. Those handling voice can use anything as the voice path: a PBX line, home phone line, mobile phone or even Internet voice. Those who want no risk to the voice quality will want this to be a land line.

Anytime/anywhere agents are not exclusive to the cloud; it can be done with premise solutions as well. However, the cloud offers licensing agility that can go hand-in-hand with the location flexibility. Some vendors will simply charge you by month for the maximum number of licenses engaged, even if deployed on the fly. Others may require advance notice on peak numbers and/or only offer discounts on annual commitments. While the market seems to be continually evolving in this regard, perhaps due to the high degree of competition, offerings are not always as agile as they appear.

Many centers lack business continuity and disaster recovery configuration and plans, so may seek the “built-in” BC/DR of a cloud solution. And they may well get it if they select the vendor accordingly and, in some cases, pay for an associated level of service.

Beyond these often compelling attractions, other long-standing cloud drivers include the move to an operational expense (Opex) model and less reliance on limited or overburdened IT resources. IT isn’t totally off the hook though. Integration, network and support responsibilities are greatly reduced but cannot be offloaded fully to the vendor.

In spite of these many pluses, the “true cloud” is not necessarily what everyone wants or needs. An abundance of hosted options still exist to address fears that swirl primarily around security and control. Single-tenant solutions will continue to appeal to larger, more risk averse companies that migrate a premise solution, want more control, and maintain IT involvement. Hosted is not as “fast and easy” or agile but still deliver the Opex, reduced IT demands, and some level of the other benefits noted above.

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Lori Bocklund
Lori Bocklund is President of Strategic Contact, an independent consulting firm that helps companies optimize the value of their customer contact technology and operations. Lori helps corporate and government contact centers develop and execute plans tied to business goals, such as technology strategy, VoIP and virtualization planning, technology requirements and selection, and project management and implementation. Backed by more than 20 years in the industry, Lori has developed a deep understanding of a broad spectrum of systems, applications and operational environments and extraordinary skill in making today's complex technology environments more easily understood. She's a popular, enthusiastic presenter, author and advisor, and shares her knowledge and practical guidance through numerous speaking engagements, articles, technology courses, and her book, "Call Center Technology Demystified." Email: [email protected]