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.  

Genesys and Workforce Optimization

Genesys is best known as a provider of contact center management systems and has long provided computer/telephony integration (CTI) and single-queue call routing systems. Over the pastVR_WFO_VI_2015 few years it has had changes of ownership and now is a stand-alone company focused on providing systems to improve the customer experience. To do this its combines contact center infrastructure systems and a suite of workforce optimization applications. We included the suite in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index, which evaluates workforce optimization vendors against the requirements of companies as found in our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization. Genesys is rated a Warm vendor in the Value Index as a consequence of not actively participating with our process forcing us to base the evaluation on publicly available information including product documentation, presentation and briefings, which although comprehensive does not address all aspects included in the Value Index. During a recent briefing I learned more about Genesys’ software and services that I can provide more depth on some key areas of their workforce optimization offering.

Its workforce optimization suite consists of five of the six components we assessed in the Value Index: interaction recording, quality management, workforce management, training and coaching (part of workforce management) and analytics. The missing component is agent compensation management; like many of the other vendors, Genesys provides no more than input for third-party systems. Each of the five components in the suite supports capabilities similar to those of most of the other vendors that took part in the Value Index, with a few notable exceptions. Interaction recording records both calls and the screens agents use to resolve interactions and supports random sampling and  quality monitoring driven by speech analytics. Companies can use it to score agents’ handling of interactions and to identify coaching needs. Quality monitoring includes a form builder that helps users evaluate performance in different types of interactions. It integrates with recording so that coaching sessions can be scheduled based on analysis of the forms. Workforce management works across all communication channels and forecasts agent schedules based on data from all channels and tasks. It tracks what agents actually do and compares that to their schedules, and it automates identification of training agents need based on their evaluations. Workforce management also schedules time for back-office workers to handle tasks related to resolving interactions. The fourth component, analytics, ingests data from multiple sources, including transaction and interaction data, to produce an analysis of the end-to-end interaction-handling process. It includes speech analytics that analyzes words and phrases used during interactions that can automatically trigger workflows to ensure action is taken based on actual conversations. The performance management component provides a real-time view of agent-related activities that is linked with customer feedback and business outcomes, and which drills down to root causes so actions can be taken anywhere across the organization.

vr_NGWO2_06_use_of_agent_workforce_applicationsOverall the workforce optimization suite thus includes the core applications and capabilities identified in my workforce optimization research. Our research finds plans to go beyond call recording and quality management and expand into other areas like coaching and learning systems where less than a fifth of organizations have indicated. I also learned three other key facts. There is close integration between the applications to support cross-functional processes; Genesys has been investing in a common user interface for all the applications; and the systems are available in the cloud, which the research shows is of growing importance to organizations.

As well as product capabilities Our Value Index evaluates Usability, Manageability, Reliability, Adaptability, Vendor Validation and TCO/ROI, none of which most vendors, including Genesys, cover on their websites; as noted, this held down Genesys’ scores. I was pleased to learn in the recent discussion that Genesys is investing in three innovation areas that Ventana Research sees as having great impact on users’ adoption of systems and use of modern technology. The first is usability. Genesys now offers a common look-and-feel across all applications and is moving the interface toward a task-oriented approach whereby users have single sign-on to all apps, role-based access control and point-and-click capabilities to activate task-oriented capabilities such as answering calls. The second area is mobility, in which apps run on any device so users can access systems and key information while on the move, including modern visualization of information and dashboards. The third area looks even further ahead by adding capabilities such as additional APIs to support wearable devices.

Genesys has also enhanced its support services, which our research and the Value Index find to be crucial. The company markets them as Genesys Guru. It is a portfolio of managed services designed to help customers realize the maximum benefit from investing in the company’s customer experience technology. Its planning services help companies identify problem areas and hidden costs so they can use the systems to maximum effect and thus concentrate on customers rather than the technology. Interaction analysis services help companies use speech and text analytics to best effect, especially to link customer feedback to quality monitoring and thus to improve agent performance. It also helps set up the system to deliver key analysis and metrics, supporting continuous improvement. Business performance services takes this one step further and provides services to collect, analyze and interpret all performance and workforce management data so it can recommend people, process and system improvements to improve the end-to-end customer journey. My research shows that organizations are relatively immature in their use of such technologies, so these services should help them gain benefits from their investments.

Taking this information into account, there are areas where Genesys could have scored higher but they need to be engaged into assessments like RFI/RFP can help them be considered further in workforce optimization. If the company continues developments in the seven categories by which we judge and win new clients it may well rank higher in our next Value Index assessment. I suspect its biggest challenge will be to convince potential customers that it can be successful over the long term as a stand-alone company. From a product point of view it will also need to convince the market it has moved on from being a CTI company and now has a broad portfolio that supports customer engagement. In this respect it has the advantage of being one of only a few vendors that combines communication channel management and workforce optimization products, both of which I believe are core to improving customer engagement. I therefore recommend that companies seeking to improve the end-to-end customer experience assess how Genesys can help in those efforts.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director


Make Automating the Office of Finance and Accounting a Priority

Our recent Office of Finance benchmark research demonstrates the importance of using automation to execute finance department functions. Information technology systems do at least two things very well that make better use of people’s time, and both of them can substantially improve organizational performance. First, they eliminate the need for people to do repetitive tasks, which frees them to spend time on more valuable work that requires judgment and skill. IT systems also can be programmed to focus only on relevant information while eliminating the need to get immersed in detail. The latter capability supports a “management by exception” approach, which enables executives and managers to better allocate how and where they spend their time.

Our research shows that in finance operations many companiesvr_Office_of_Finance_11_automation_speeds_the_financial_close don’t take advantage of these capabilities. Only half of participating organizations have automated a significant percentage of their finance processes. In particular, just 11 percent have nearly or fully automated their financial close, while almost half (48%) apply some automation and 36 percent little or none. It also reveals automation’s positive impact on performance: 71 percent of companies that nearly or fully automate their close process are able to close their quarterly books in six or fewer business days whereas 43 percent those that have only partially automated are able to do so and just 23 percent that use little or no automation have this ability. Another example is the automation of reconciliation, which is an essential element of the close process. It’s a repetitive task that lends itself to automation, and affordable software for managing the task is mature. Yet just 37 percent of companies have applied automation to their reconciliation process. Automation of reconciliation also correlates with how quickly a company closes its books: 57 percent of companies that use software for this purpose close their quarters within six business days and 30 percent do it in four business days. By contrast, 73 percent of the companies that do not automate reconciliation take seven or more working days to close.

Spreadsheets are a valuable tool for many finance department tasks, but they are out of place when used for repetitive, collaborative enterprise-wide processes. Indeed, they are both a symptom and a cause of dysfunctional processes, systems and data. A symptom because they frequently become the default option to put a bandage over, for example, vr_Office_of_Finance_04_spreadsheets_are_the_tool_of_choiceissues that arise because systems are not properly integrated or a process is not supported by the appropriate technology such as a dedicated application. But spreadsheets remain the tool of choice for a variety of finance department tasks. Almost all midsize and larger companies (those with 100 or more employees) use them for management accounting analysis and nine out of 10 use them to manage their long-range and strategic planning process and to do financial analysis. More than eight in 10 use spreadsheets for direct and indirect tax provisioning as well as treasury management. Spreadsheets have their place, but our research demonstrates that they are frequently misused.

The close is a useful process to benchmark because almost every company does it and there’s a measurable outcome: the number of days after the period’s end in which the company completes the process. To be sure, this metric does not represent the full amount of time companies spend on executing the close. Corporations that close their books the day after the period ends usually have already started parts of the process before the end of the period, and some of these processes are performed weekly or even daily in order to balance workloads over the month. Yet to focus on the total hours spent is to miss the point: Managing to a faster close is not just about efficiency, it’s also about getting the numbers to executives and managers so they can react quickly to issues and opportunities. The research demonstrates a close correlation between when the close is completed and the timeliness of communicating that information to the rest of the company.

Time is the critical ingredient that determines the overallvr_Office_of_Finance_09_fast_closers_have_more_timely_information performance of finance and accounting departments. Poorly performing organizations usually are mired in an endless cycle of fighting fires – for example, dealing with the impact of processes that are poorly designed or not properly executed. These departments are constantly contending with the impact of information sources that are unreliable, difficult to access or both. Poorly designed systems add to the problem, generating hours of work in the form of manual reconciliations done in spreadsheets. Think of a finance department that does not apply automation and that has poorly designed or executed processes and systems as a caged hamster running on a wheel. It expends a great deal of effort on repetitive manual processes that are only marginally productive.

Software automation by itself will not address all of the challenges of a finance and accounting organization. To optimize performance companies almost always must deal with an interrelated combination of people, process, technology and data issues in a holistic fashion. Yet confronted with the day-to-day struggle of meeting deadlines, many finance executives put off addressing their productivity and effectiveness issues. They shouldn’t, because a continuous improvement process involving a steady set of small advances can yield impressive results over time. Identifying the biggest time sinks that can be readily eliminated and then eliminating them can free up the resources needed to address the next set of significant problems. Even something as straightforward as uncovering unnecessary work or replacing the worst spreadsheets with better technology (for instance, implementing automated or self-service reporting) will be beneficial. For this to happen, though, senior finance and accounting executives must make automation a priority.

Regards,

Robert Kugel – SVP Research


Research Agenda: Customer Technology for 2015

I recently wrote about customer experience lessons I learned during 2014 and the technologies required to deliver EPIC experiences. Both of these analyses focus on the people, processes, information and technologies required to improve the customer experience at every touch point, and these themes will also be at the heart of our customer technology research agenda for 2015.

Looking back at our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement, I am reminded of the need for companies to rethink how they engage with customers, from marketing to customer support. They must realize that customers have changed the ways they communicate, and this has changed the customer engagement paradigm. I often use my 22-year-old daughter to illustrate this point. She never watches TV in real time, so she can skip those advertisements; the news she wants is delivered to her iPad so she never reads a newspaper; she doesn’t use email and opens postal mail only from people she knows. The net result is that none of the traditional marketing channels will reach her. Like almost everyone else these days, she searches for products she is interested in on the Internet and when possible will buy on the Internet as well, preferably using a chat vr_NGCE_Research_08_all_channels_for_customer_engagementwindow; that said, she does still go to shops, so at least one channel stays the same. Support is another issue. She lives on her iPhone and iPad, so she expects support to be available through one of these whenever she wants it. She is thus predisposed to use self-service technologies such as voice-activated IVR, virtual agents, corporate websites, text, chat or social media.

The impact for businesses hoping to sell to her and millions like her is threefold:

  1. Our research into next-generation customer engagement shows that organizations have to support multiple channels of engagement ranging from telephone (which 94% of companies support) to virtual agents (only 10%). All of these channels must be connected.
  2. The same research shows that in a clear majority (71%) of organizations the contact center is still the most common business unit handling interactions, but every business unit except IT must be prepared to engage with customers; they all must work from the same customer information, and their efforts have to be aligned.
  3. Providing responses requires access to multiple systems, including transaction systems such as CRM and ERP, communication management systems such as email, vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionschat and social media, and dashboards and performance analysis.

With these needs in mind, our customer technology research agenda for 2015 will focus on benchmark research addressing three themes:

  1. Optimizing the customer experience across all touch points.

This research will examine how organizations are using and intend to use cloud computing to accelerate omnichannel customer engagement. It will investigate how organizations can improve alignment between marketing, sales and service to make the customer experience consistent and how big data analytics can help optimize interaction handling and the customer journey.

  1. Improving the effectiveness of interactions through innovative technology.

This research will examine how innovative technology can improve interaction handling and employee and customer satisfaction. It will investigate technologies such as smart agent desktop systems to optimize interaction handling and employee satisfaction, mobility-enabled workforce optimization systems that managers and supervisors can use to work away from their desks and respond faster to alerts, and collaboration to improve alignment between business units.

  1. Establishing the next generation of customer self-service.

This research will examine how organizations are planning to improve customer self-service. It will investigate how mobile apps can improve self-service and integration with the contact center, the use of voice recognition, real-time voice analytics and virtual agents to empower customer self-service, and replacing FAQs with interactive, Web-based self-service, visual IVR and smart mobile apps.

Each of these research projects will include analysis of how organizations are using or will use innovative technologies to improve customer engagement.

Cloud Computing – Our benchmark research shows organizations increasingly prefer cloud-based systems as they strive to improve customer engagement, especially integrated communications management (often called the contact center in the cloud), workforce optimization and analytics. We will follow this trend and determine whether it is extending into other systems such as self-service. Our new contact center in the cloud research in 2015 will specifically examine this trend and how organizations are advancing their interactions and operations to the cloud.

Big Data and Analytics – These related technologies have become critical to customer engagement because more channels produce more data types and greater volumes of data. Customer engagement typically happens in real time so organizations need big data analytics systems that can process all customer data sources (structured and unstructured) and provide to any employee handling a customer interaction vr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagementa full picture of the customer, do it in real or near real time, visualize the information in forms and on devices specific to different users, and provide the ability to drill down to the root causes behind the data and produce predictive models of potential future customer behavior. Our research into next generation of customer analytics has found that analytics is essential to optimizing all customer related processes.

Business and Social Collaboration – In our research into next-generation customer engagement the largest percentage (19%) of participants cited deploying an internal collaboration system as the action most likely to improve customer engagement. Such systems can enhance communication between employees, enable managers and supervisors to coach agents in near real time to improve responses to customers, and enable agents to collaborate with subject-matter experts to improve the likelihood of resolving customer issues at the first attempt. Collaboration with customers through social media forums is also becoming popular not just to improve customer service but also to research potential products and service improvements.

Mobile and Wearable Computing – Mobile computing is having a double impact on customer engagement. One is the “bring your own device” (BYOD) movement as more organizations look for systems that its employees can access on mobile devices. This includes enabling more employees to handle customer interactions such as supervisors away from their desks, mobile customer service employees and home workers. The second is customer demand for self-service using mobile apps. Organizations must consider systems that help them build smart mobile apps that can automatically connect to a contact center agent at the click of a button without losing the context of what the customers was doing in the app. By their nature, wearables are likely to impact customer engagement, so we will seek to understand what organizations expect the impact to be and how they will address it.

Much has happened in customer engagement in the last 12 months, and I expect those changes to continue and perhaps accelerate. We will continue to assess customer engagement market maturity to gain insight into how many organizations intend to maintain the status quo and how many have adopted and will adopt innovations in people, processes, information and technology. We will identify best practices that can help organizations grow in maturity. I am excited about tracking how customer engagement is evolving and how companies are using innovative technology to keep up with customer expectations. Do not forget to come and download our customer technology research agenda for 2015. So please connect with me and share your insights.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director


 

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