While the contact center business is not the most dynamic market, it is undergoing more changes than I have ever seen. One of the biggest changes is coming about because of cloud computing. This trend was led by salesforce.com, and the impact is now being felt in the contact center market as more vendors start to provide a “contact center in the cloud.” I recently wrote about inContact, one of the first vendors to provide a full contact center in the cloud. Recently inContact announced an important partnership – and it’s not an obvious match.
While call center software vendors are making dynamic changes, the traditional on-premises communication vendors, such as Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Nortel and the many PBX vendors, have entered or are rushing into the software market’ with many replacing proprietary on-premises systems with software-based packages. And of course some of them have moved to the cloud. The latest announcement from inContact shows that one of the sleeping giants, Siemens, has jumped on the bandwagon by offering communications in the cloud through its Enterprise Communications subsidiary and by teaming with inContact has joined the competition for the contact center in the cloud.
There are some unusual aspects to the partnership, one being that Siemens Enterprise Communications has taken a large equity stake in inContact. With that it gets a seat on the smaller company’s executive board and an exclusive deal to sell and support the inContact contact center in the cloud outside America; the companies will sell jointly in America.
What does this mean for customers and potential new clients? It is good news for inContact clients, as the cash injection makes the company financially more stable and gives it funds to invest in products, marketing and support. It is good news for Siemens customers, who now have access to contact center services in the cloud. And it is good for companies looking to enhance or replace their contact center systems, because it provides another option that includes both communications management and contact center core applications. It’s also good from a support perspective, since Siemens Enterprise Communications has a far larger professional services and support staff.
On a recent briefing call, representatives of both companies assured analysts that there is great synergy between them and they are working hard to thrash out go-to-market strategies, further integration of the products, and how best to support customers in different regions of the world. I am often skeptical about how partnerships between traditional hardware and software companies will work out, but the contact center in the cloud is now a reality and it offers companies an affordable way to innovate in the ways they manage customer interactions and enhance customer service. It is too early to say how this partnership will work out in the long term, but stay tuned; you can keep abreast and understand the value of it for your contact center by collaborating with me.
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director