Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives provide unique fact-based insights and education on business, industry and technology vendor trends. Each Analyst Perspective presents the voice of the analyst, typically a practice leader and established subject matter expert,  reporting on new developments, the findings of benchmark research, market shifts and best practice insights. Each Analyst Perspective is prepared in accordance with Ventana Research’s strict standards for accuracy and objectivity and reviewed to ensure it delivers reliable, actionable news and insights.  

Calabrio Supercharges Workforce Optimization with Analytics for Customer Engagement

Calabrio is a vendor of workforce optimization software whose core product is Calabrio ONE. It includes the common workforce optimization applications: call recording, quality management, workforce management and analytics. The company is rated Hot in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value IndexVR_WFO_VI_HotVendor_2015and its product suite is the highest rated in the Usability category. Since our assessment, each of the modules has undergone upgrades, Calabrio has introduced more cloud-based services, and its analytics has undergone extensive changes to support customer experience management. The aim of these enhancements is to provide a single view of the customer that includes customer interactions across all channels, help companies streamline processes through workflow and automation, support more users and provide more deployment options. The Calabrio ONE Cloud Edition supports the full suite in a multitenant environment and is scalable to support companies of all sizes. It also enables users to store data, such as call recordings, in cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services. I have reviewed these enhancements and note the most significant changes.

Call Recording has been redeveloped and supports a wider range of browsers, making it accessible my more users. Quality Management now speeds up the quality assessment processes by routing items that need to be assessed to the most appropriate person using configuration capabilities in workflow. Its assessment forms are more flexible, and it has enhanced capabilities for one-on-one coaching. Workforce Management has new tools for creating schedules, which allow agents to create their own schedules that take into account their personal time constraints, intraday scheduling for flexibility to schedule shorter periods of time that take into account voluntary time off, overtime and tasks that flow over one or more days, and workflow that automates many of the administrative tasks associated with creating schedules, such as individuals trading schedules. System reporting has also been enhanced so that administrators and users have a more complete picture of how the whole platform is working.

In my assessment the most dramatic changes are in Calabrio Analytics. In past versions the product focused primarily on analysis and reporting of workforce optimization activities; now it has been extended to customer engagement. Through an expanded set of integration tools, the system can ingest both structured and unstructured data from business applications such as CRM, ERP, HR management and workforce optimization, as well as from communication channels such as audio, chat, email, instant messaging and social media. To process all these forms of data Calabrio has added analytics tools such as LVCSR for speech recognition and phonetic processing of audio, as well as text and desktop analytics. There also are more visualization capabilities included in prepackaged versions that support common business processes such as predictive vr_NGCE_15_supporting_multiple_channelscall scoring, marketing effectiveness, agent performance by net promoter scores and call flow analysis. As in the other modules, users can customize these and thus see the information they need in their preferred formats when they need it.

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that integration is the most widespread challenge (for 49% of companies) in supporting multiple channels of communication; each channel typically uses its own system. This research also shows interactions are handled by almost every business group within an organization, and each of these typically has its own system. To support companies in providing consistent, omnichannel experiences regardless of who handles the interaction, integration is the key. Calabrio retains tight integration between its applications and has increased integration with other vendors such as Avaya and Cisco; for example, ingesting survey data now can be integrated into quality management processes. This enables the suite of applications to share data, support processes that flow across business groups and processes, automate calculation of key metrics and allow users in one application to drill down to data managed by other applications, such as being able to see interaction data that was used to produce a quality score. Calabrio doesn’t solve all integration issues, but its improved analytics and integration capabilities help companies develop integrated workforce optimization processes and provide a wider view of how they handle customer interactions.

I recently wrote that the customer experience is critical to business success in today’s digital economy, but providing consistently superior experiences is not easy. It requires giving business groups and individuals share a single view of the customer, enabling actions to be based on a single set of rules, and training and motivating employees to handle interactions in ways that satisfy customers. Companies wanting to improve the people side of interaction handling should assess how Calabrio can help those efforts, and as they do so they should examine how its analytics capabilities can broaden their view of interactions and help improve the overall customer experience.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

NICE Delivers Customer Journey Maps for Customer Engagement

Through a continuing program of acquisitions and internal development, NICE Systems has transitioned from being a vendor of workforce optimization systems to one focused on aspects of the customer experience, notably voice of the customer (VOC), customer engagement analytics and customer journey mapping. It is also moving to cloud-based services from products installed on customers’ premises and is taking a business-solution approach (providing previously integrated and configured products that address specific business issues) rather than general-purpose products. All of these changes are evident in its latest services, which link VOC, real-time journey mapping and predictive analytics to address common customer service and engagement issues. The foundation for these packages are products I have previously covered – Fizzback for multichannel customer surveying and feedback analysis and Causata for a big data analytics platform that includes predictive analytics capabilities – along with its own customer engagement analytics platform, which can link customer data from disparate sources. The result, for example, is that journey maps can show all interactions on all channels a customer uses to try to resolve issues, including the customer sentiment at each touch point and the outcome of the journey.

The key to NICE’s portfolio is its ability to collect and share data in real time, and to integrate its products to create specific packaged business solutions. Using these enables companies to determine which customers are engaging with them, on what channels, what the interactions are about, what the outcomes are, what was “said” by both parties during interactions, the customers’ sentiments during and after the interaction, and how well employees performed. With this information companies can be more proactive in serving customers during and after interactions.

NICE currently offers seven packages: two that span operational improvements, two for prioritizing business initiatives  and three aimed at improving return on investment (ROI) for customer engagement. The first of the two that support operational improvements allows companies to determine customer effort scores at different points in customer journeys and initiate proactive engagement to reduce the need for customers to contact them in the future or to make future engagement easier. The second determines the reason why customers are engaging and the customer sentiment to guide employees in handling current and future interactions.

The first package for prioritizing business initiatives allow companies to calculate customer value and use this to influence future actions (for example, making special offers to high-value customers), and the second tracks the journeys of dissatisfied customers to identify potential process improvements that might result in improved customer satisfaction and net promoter scores. The first of the three for improving ROI allows companies to track journeys across touch points and identify actions that increase customer effort and churn (for example, not fully explaining how a product works) and change processes to avoid such actions. The second produces more granular customer segments to help drive more focused customer service and engagement in the future. And the third maps customer sentiment at different points in the customer journey so processes and training can be changed to impact the flow and outcome of future interactions.

Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement vr_NGCE_15_supporting_multiple_channelsshows that many companies struggle to support multiple channels to extend their customer engagement: Nearly half have difficulty in integrating systems (49%), manage channels of engagement as silos (47%) and give customers inconsistent responses (33%). The NICE packages help companies identify where these issues are occurring and more importantly their consequences; for example, if one business group gives customers information that differs from what they receive through a self-service channel, this could generate a series of other interactions that reduce customer satisfaction and increase operational costs. The real-time journey maps show what customers are doing and the outcomes, analysis ties together process and people issues and can recommend action, and predictive capabilities identifies changes to be made before counterproductive actions occur again. Using data from many disparate sources companies can link actions to performance metrics and at the same time show the benefits of change; for example, it can show variations in net promoter scores by customer segment and suggest actions to be taken for different groups, and it can tie customer value changes to actions, thus indicating the future actions that are likely to achieve the best return. In applying technology to business what counts most is understanding the impacts of actions. These NICE packaged solutions enable users to develop insights they need to make changes, and I recommend that companies looking to improve the customer experience give them careful consideration.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Finance Transformation Requires Strong Leadership

The theme of transforming the finance organization is hot again. The term “finance transformation” refers to the longstanding objective of shifting the focus of finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic activities such as providing the rest of the organization with forward-looking analysis. I focus on the technology and data aspects of this type of business issue in these analyst perspectives because they are usually essential to achieving some business objective. However, technology rarely fixes a problem by itself. If it were a simple matter of just buying software or having better data stewardship, it would be relatively easy to achieve finance transformation. But it’s not simple at all. When it comes to changing how the finance and accounting organization operates, there’s no substitute for leadership. Doing that requires changes in the habits of the department, which include the CFO changing how the department works with the rest of the company.

Our benchmark research on the Office of Finance confirms that most company executives want their finance department to take a more strategic role in running the company. It also shows little progress in achieving finance transformation. To be sure, there are enough examples of the finance organization taking the lead to provide trade publications and vendors with case histories, but for the majority progress has been slight. When we compared the attitudes of executives and managers about the finance department’s performance generally, we found a big disconnect between how well people in Finance think they’re doing and what the rest of the company believes: Half of research participants who have finance titles said that the department plays an important role in their company’s success, but just one-fourth (24%) of the rest of the company said that. In fact, most people outside of the department said that Finance is doing only an adequate job.

As with most situations in business, there are multiple factorsvr_Office_of_Finance_08_it_takes_too_long_to_close_the_books that prevent finance departments from becoming more strategic. The accounting close illustrates the range of challenges that finance executives may have to overcome in improving the department’s performance. Closing the books within one business week is generally acknowledged to be a best practice in finance. Yet our research finds that only 40 percent of companies complete the quarterly close in six or fewer business days and 53 percent close monthly in the same period. To accelerate the close, finance executives often must address multiple issues to improve performance.

Technology plays an important role in accelerating the close. Our research correlates using more automation and fewer manual spreadsheets in the close process with closing the books sooner. But that might not be the only thing that’s holding up the close. Another factor – one that’s hard to measure – is the impact of other parts of the business on preventing the department from finishing the process in a timely fashion. For example, nonfinance processes (such as doing inventory) that aren’t completed until the second or third week of the following month may hold up completion. The accounting organization has no direct control over when work performed in other departments is done. And those outside the finance organization may resist making these changes, which may seem to them arbitrary or unwarranted burden-shifting.

Some issues that hold up the close or create avoidable work in finance and accounting departments are not always easy to spot. For example, I recently wrote that companies that have even slightly complicated revenue recognition requirements under the new accounting rules ought to write and manage their contracts with customers with the explicit aim of minimizing the workload of the accounting department. Contracts that are poorly or inconsistently drafted or that do not enforce common language will make finance departments hire additional staff or temporary accountants and potentially delay the quarterly close. In addition, those working outside of the accounting department often don’t realize that they are doing things that complicate the accounting process. This is especially the case when, for instance, data is collected in spreadsheets rather than in a dedicated enterprise system or when the data entered is incomplete, inconsistent or not collected at all. Often, it’s less burdensome to address the source of the accounting hassle at the source. Here is another situation in which leadership matters. Unless the senior leadership team understands the ultimate impact of, say, people not following procedures or neglecting to fill in a couple of fields on a form, it’s unlikely they will be motivated to enforce the changes that must be made. It’s even harder if the CFO does not have a good working relationship with the rest of the organization or cannot effectively communicate the need for change.

A truly strategic finance organization is one that embraces continuous improvement, uncovering the root causes of time wasting activities, addressing them methodically and investing the time saved into finance transformation projects. Addressing the sources of time-wasting finance and accounting processes requires a CFO who is unwilling to accept the status quo and has sufficient interpersonal skills to drive change. The senior leadership team also has to support a more strategic finance department. For example, the CEO needs to make it clear that closing sooner is everyone’s business and with good reason. How soon after the end of a period the finance organization closes its books affects the timeliness of the information it provides to the rest of the organization: In our research, half of companies that complete their monthly close within four business days said the information the finance department provides is timely, compared to just 29 percent of those that take five to eight business days and 19 percent of those that take nine or more business days.

Implementing change in business is never easy. Finance transformation almost always requires fixing information and technology issues, especially those that automate and enhance control of finance and accounting processes. Without leadership by the CFO, though, very little will happen.


Robert Kugel – SVP Research


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