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 that a pattern emerges…a constant pattern. Thus, order out of chaos.
This was the concept employed by the scientists at Pipkins when they began to develop a forecasting engine thirty years ago. They knew that “Random Call Arrival” is chaos, and they also knew that a “Weighted Moving Average” cannot deal with chaos, so they set out to create a forecasting tool that not only understands chaos; they wrote code and designed algorithms in such a way that it took advantage of the modern computer and evolved with technology and contact center management over the years.
If you find yourself in the market for one of today’s hosted Workforce Management Systems (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 workforce management systems, all claiming to be the market leader. What they paint is a pretty confusing picture with all their spherical graphs, presentations and claims. There are four significant caveats to be aware of before making a 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 workforce management systems.
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 their workforce management systems. The 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 the 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.
Comfort and Security
Some of the smaller WFM Hosted vendors do the hosting in their own data centers 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 workforce management systems. 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 workforce management systems that are 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 bypass 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 run or end the meeting.
Single Tenant SAAS Architecture
By virtue of most Workforce management 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 workforce management system’s operations. 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 other customers of the vendor having an impact on your center.
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 workforce management systems 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 cloud workforce management systems 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. The big three vendors are in a chaotic state of moving to the cloud, and only time will tell what the weather will bring!
WFM companies with workforce management systems offered for more than ten years have successfully delivered on puffy white cumulus clouds in a bright blue sky. Cumulonimbus clouds create chaos and stormy weather. Buyer beware!
Pipkins, Inc., founded in 1983, is an American company and leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the contact center industry, providing sophisticated forecasting and scheduling technology for both the front and back office. Its award-winning Vantage Point is the most accurate forecasting and scheduling tool on the market. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide