Just as the Trojans were taken by surprise by the Greeks hiding inside the wooden horse, many companies have accepted free gifts from vendors, only to later find that the gift was more of an albatross. It is imperative for buyers to do their due diligence in order to avoid finding themselves locked into a contract for a software solution that doesn’t meet their needs, or expectations. The ongoing trend of mergers and acquisitions in the workforce optimization (WFO) market creates new marketing opportunities for companies to offer free software as part of a bundled package that is promoted as end-to-end solutions. While this appears to be an optimal solution, buyers need to understand the genesis of workforce management (WFM) and how an accurate forecasting tool is designed.
Moving from Chaos to Order
There is a chaos theory in physics and mathematics that has been formulated after a great struggle by scientists (Newtonian Physics and Euclidean Geometry). It had long been believed that “Order” was permanent and universal….this was later challenged by the undeniable reality of chaos, i.e. clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones and lightning doesn’t travel in a straight line. With the advent of modern computers scientists discovered that if they examined the numbers long and hard enough a pattern emerges…a constant pattern. Thus, order out of chaos.
The truth is that “Random Call Arrival” is chaos, and a “Weighted Moving Average” cannot deal with chaos. You need a forecasting tool that not only understands chaos, but is designed with code and algorithms that can take advantage of the modern computer and evolve with technology and contact center management over the years.
If you find yourself in the market for a hosted Workforce Management System (WFM) for forecasting, scheduling and managing your modern contact center because you have been using Excel, then you know a thing or two about chaos. Just as we know mountains are not cones we know that the market is flooded with dozens of companies that offer cloud- based WFM solutions. In an extremely competitive marketplace, all claim to be the market leader. What is painted is a pretty cloudy picture replete with spherical graphs, presentations and claims.
There are four significant caveats to be aware of before making a purchasing decision that could be career limiting:
There are only a few companies in the WFM space that have offered a Hosted (SaaS) model for more than three years in this country. The three behemoth WFM vendors that have been acquired by ACD/ Quality/ Suite companies that try to monopolize your call center purchases, thus preventing you from getting the “Best of Breed” solutions, are now claiming to be cloud vendors offering Hosted WFM.
These companies designed their solutions for the Fortune 500, and in a premise-based environment, offered a workable solution. They are now ten years behind the legitimate SaaS providers and in their efforts to be a “Total” contact center solution, they have lost their focus on the science of workforce management in an effort to catch up.
These companies are more focused on their shareholders and the next quarterly financials than workforce management solutions. Their focus is on the bottom line. Just ask the sales rep how long they have been with the company. Most will say less than two years because these mega-companies churn the sales force every twenty-four months. Do not fall for slick marketing. Go back to basics and demand references. Ask for SaaS specific references that have used the hosted solution for more than three years.
2. Comfort and Security
Some of the smaller WFM Hosted vendors do the hosting in their own datacenters which offer very little in the way of cyber security. Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 and 3 Reports (formerly SAS70) are designed to provide comfort over the following principles: security, availability, confidentiality, processing integrity, and privacy of a system. A system is comprised of the infrastructure: software, people, procedures, and data used to complete the services provided.
If your center requires PCI-DSS-HIPPA Compliance it would be unwise to consider a vendor that is not SOC 2 certified. When talking to vendors you must ask the following question. “How is your company addressing AET’s?” Advanced Evasion Techniques (AET’s) are typically used to counter network-based intrusion detection and prevention systems. They can also be used to by-pass firewalls. A further target of evasions can be to crash a network security device, rendering it ineffective to subsequent targeted attacks. Attacks can happen right under the nose of the network and service administrators. Your Data Needs to be Protected. If they do not understand or attempt to avoid the question, or ask you a question to change the subject, you should end the meeting.
3. Single Tenant SAAS Architecture
By virtue of most WFM systems “architectural design” having originated with The Fortune 500 in mind, they deploy a multi-tenant architecture. That means they put many customers on the system at a time by partitioning the database. From a support standpoint it becomes a nightmare when one customer causes database issues then every one of the dozens of customers on that server must be moved to another cluster to resolve the issues.
Look for vendors that utilize single tenant architecture to more efficiently manage your center’s operation. You will have a much higher degree of inherent security as the access of data from one company to another is eliminated when housed in a non-shared environment. You will also benefit from significant configurability of the software and robust functionality without concern about the vendor’s other customers having an impact on your center.
4. Long Term Contracts
Beware of the WFM Vendors offering discounts in proportion to the term of the contract. For most vendors that are new to SaaS, the expense to move their products to the cloud is astronomical. In order to turn a profit they need you to commit to at least thirty-six months in order for the shareholders to be comfortable.
Well managed customer-centric WFM cloud providers offer their services on a month-to-month fee schedule, allowing you to pay for the actual services you use versus what a vendor projects you will use. If your business is seasonal where four months out of the year you need one hundred additional part-time agents, why should you pay for those agents year round?
Most WFM vendors’ architecture prevented them from going to the cloud and now the market has demanded services in lieu of products. Beware of companies that are in “catch-up” mode because they rarely ever get caught up. WFM companies with services offered for over ten years have successfully delivered on puffy white cumulus clouds in a bright blue sky. Cumulonimbus clouds create chaos and stormy weather. There are vendors available that offer solid SaaS solutions to fit both your business needs as well as your budget, and you won’t be taken off-guard by your newly purchased software.
Pipkins, Inc., founded in 1983, is a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry, providing sophisticated forecasting and scheduling technology for both the front and back office. Pipkins was the first vendor to offer a hosted workforce management solution. WorkforceScheduling.com is a hosted, low cost, subscription-based solution for managing your call center workforce that allows you to “pay as you grow” with no hardware to install and maintain, no long-term commitment required, and little or no IT requirements. You receive the same powerful features as our enterprise solution, customizable access to only the functionality you need, complete integration with your ACD, and scalability to meet your growing needs. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.Pipkins.com.