Five Key Decisions for Buying Contact Center Technology

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE

Challenges and Priorities Survey

In earlier writings, I’ve offered up guidelines for purchasing cloud technology that focus on pricing, service level agreements, and the statement of work. But what if you don’t know if you are ready to go to the cloud? Or what if you want to leverage what you’ve already got? Here are 5 key decisions to put you on the right path.

Unified Communications or Not?

The coronavirus has transformed how people work, spending their day on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex, GoToMeetings, and other voice and video conferencing platforms. So, the decision to replace an aging private branch exchange (PBX) or contact center (CC) solution may need to consider unified communications. Some vendors offer all three, but levels of integration vary. You may consider a hybrid premise/cloud approach to satisfy your needs.

Core CCT, WFO, the Desktop and More

Today’s CC procurements consider multichannel support, self-service, workforce optimization, and desktop applications. Take inventory of what you have and define which elements you will keep and which you will replace. Do a gap analysis and prioritize your “wish list,” even if that includes some phasing since you can’t have it all day one. Then determine if you will seek everything from a single provider or be open to vendors providing subsets or certain elements. With powerful niche solutions (e.g., knowledge management, unified agent desktop, bots for self-service or agent assistance) as well as rich suites (e.g., for Workforce Optimization), you have a lot to consider!

Premise and the Variations on Cloud

Some centers prefer to manage their own technology on-site. Multi-tenant true cloud options can have highly developed applications, focus on the development platform, or both. And some “cloud” solutions are private, hosted versions of what a premise solution looks like. The key differences between cloud and premise are blurring as premise vendors offer (and downright encourage) purchase models based on subscription pricing. These vendors want to help buyers in their transition to the cloud. They also want to leave behind the challenges of maintaining back versions of premise solutions.

Best-of-Breed or Suite or Hybrid?

I have outlined the best-of-breed versus suite tradeoff with countless clients and seminar attendees. That debate has now shifted into a world that I call the “hybrid/ecosystem” where buyers can hope to have the best of both worlds. The center of that ecosystem is an interesting consideration for contact centers. Is it the omnichannel routing platform like Genesys, Five9, Talkdesk, or NICE inContact? Is it the CRM, like Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics? Or, is it the innovation leaders, such as Amazon and Google? As most companies come from a best-of-breed (or just mixed breed!) environment, it’s important again to assess the current state and define what stays and what goes, which vendors are a good partner to consider going forward, or which should be relegated into an ecosystem niche player.

Sourcing: Vendor Direct and Partners

One last sourcing decision to consider is whether to buy directly from a vendor or through one or their partners—variously called Value-Added Resellers (VARs), System Integrators (SIs), Channel partners, etc. On the surface, it may appear direct is better for access to development, engineering, product management, etc. However, partners may offer more extensive product suites, implementation resources, and support services. If you like the ecosystem concept, consider that while vendors have an ecosystem, their partners may create a broader one. Making buying even more interesting, partners may have a variety of vendor solutions to offer. They can look at a buyer’s requirements and suggest the best option(s) to fit.