Introduced into contact centers in the late 1970s, WFM systems were built by consultants and had to run on mainframe computers. A few years later, the first packaged WFM solutions made their debut as mainframe applications. While these “packaged” solutions were slightly improved since they eliminated the need to hire a consulting firm to develop a custom application, the implementation often lasted six to 12 months and was extremely complicated.
The ongoing maintenance of these early WFM applications was generally more challenging than a typical contact center could maintain on its own. Therefore, early WFM solutions often became “shelfware,” meaning that after a while they sat on the shelf and were not used.
The last few years have been turbulent for the contact center WFM market, due to acquisitions, shifting customer priorities and market innovation. Customers have emerged as winners, benefiting from the enhanced solutions that are being delivered by stronger and more financially viable vendors. Today, vendors are investing more in the future of WFM than they ever have in the history of this technology segment.
Contact center WFM is starting to pick up momentum in the market, mostly due to the investment and attention being given to this segment by the workforce optimization/QA recording suite providers.
DMG Consulting, a firm specializing in contact centers and real-time analytics, expects to see vendors continue to invest in these solutions during the next three years. Vendors will also focus more effort on selling the newer and enhanced WFM offerings, as they realize that they have a huge opportunity to replace older applications. In addition, overall usability is improving – vendors have heard the message that ease of use is extremely important and are building new efficiencies, such as “single-click” sickness handling, into their applications.
While the exact penetration rate of WFM solutions is not clear, there is a significant opportunity for vendors to sell their solutions to small and mid-sized businesses, large contact centers and even very large environments that want to replace their existing applications.
The future for contact center WFM solutions is more promising than ever, which explains the entrance of new vendors into this technology segment. Integration between WFM solutions and other workforce optimization products, such as quality management, eLearning, coaching and performance management, is increasing the benefits and contributions of these offerings.
DMG Consulting estimates that sales of WFM solutions will increase by 20 percent in 2008 and then fall back to 10 percent in 2009. Decreased growth is expected in 2009 as the analytics firm anticipates a significant economic slowdown during that year.
For the market to achieve a 20 percent growth rate in 2008, vendors need to continue to invest significantly in sales and marketing to increase awareness of the benefits of the new generation of WFM solutions. Ongoing and strong R&D will also help the market continue to grow, as it will speed up the pace of innovation, product enhancements and the product replacement cycle.
Michelle Robart is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Michelle's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Michelle Robart