Loyal readers of this magazine already know the tried-and-true benefits
of workforce management (WFM), so we won't belabor the point. What readers
may not realize, however, is how poorly underserved small-to-mid-sized
call centers are in the WFM solutions market. There are not many
affordable solutions that address this market strata. Fortunately, Aspect
aims to change this with its recently launched Iphinity product. Iphinity
is based upon the company's higher end WFM solution called eWorkforce
Management. In fact, it's the same code-base, only Aspect limits
Iphinity's functionality with license keys. Thus, a customer can start
with Iphinity and upgrade to eWorkforce Management seamlessly with
virtually no downtime.
By using historical data and employing mathematical models, Iphinity
WFM can predict contact volumes, average handle times and more. It
continually updates its forecasting model to provide the most accurate
predictions possible. You can view forecasts for monthly, daily,
half-hourly or even quarter-hourly periods.
Based on forecasts and employee preferences, Iphinity automatically
creates detailed schedules, ensuring the right number of agents is
available, with the right skills to meet customer needs, at any given
time. Then, it assigns these schedules to agents, taking into
consideration skills, experience, work preferences and other criteria.
TMC Labs tested Iphinity on a Windows 2000 server running Microsoft SQL
Server as the backend database. We should point out that Iphinity supports
40-plus telephony platforms for easy integration. No middleware is
required to connect to the ACD ' it simply uses a flat text file from the
ACD. In addition, it comes with a preconfigured database for rapid
Iphinity's Power And Flexibility
Using Iphinity, we were able to get answers to hypothetical questions such
as, 'What if we acquire Company XYZ? How will that affect the forecasted
staff?' Iphinity can simply pull data from the ACD for historical trending
and make decisions based on those data. Also, since holidays often have a
direct impact on agent requirements, you can specify a multiply 'factor,'
for example, 1.25 for Christmas if you expect a 25 percent increase in
required staff levels.
Shrinkage is an important element of WFM products, and Iphinity covers
the concept quite well. Essentially, shrinkage is covered by individual
'templates' a user defines and then applies to specific days. We were able
to define several categories of shrinkage, including 'general,' 'absence,'
'break,' 'project' and 'vacation.' Furthermore, we were able to set
shrinkage by the hour. This is important, since many competing WFM
solutions allow users to define shrinkage by the day only, and not by the
We liked the main interface of Iphinity (See Figure 1), which breaks
down several steps into smaller, more manageable processes. Following the
interface's clockwise arrow through each of the steps made it very easy to
perform forecasting and scheduling.
Iphinity has five different kinds of forecasts, including contact
volume, workload, staffing, budget and service analysis. This last feature
(service analysis) is interesting in that we were able to specify a given
number of agents and then determine what the service level would be; i.e.,
60 percent for 50 agents, 80 percent for 65 agents.
The product lets you enter notes for your 'what-if scenario' forecasts
to help you remember exactly what it was you were trying to achieve.
Another important feature is the slider bar that allows you to weight
'preference' (agents' preferences) versus 'coverage' (company's
preferences). Another way of expressing this idea is 'agents run the call
center' versus 'sweatshop.' Generally, the slider bar remains near the
middle to balance agents' preferences with coverage, but the ability to
favor one way or the other is available.
One of the most important features of a WFM solution is its ability to
fairly and justly hand out work schedules without prejudice. As a result,
the definition of rules and the flexibility of those rules in the
scheduling software is critical. We were impressed with the flexibility of
Iphinity's rules. For instance, we could specify the number of consecutive
weekends that any agent should be required to work. In addition, we could
perform 'weighted sorts' for prioritizing each agent's schedule by
seniority, performance, attendance and other fields. This takes the bias
out of the equation (i.e., accusations of favoritism).
Another highly requested feature is 'intraday re-forecasting.' Iphinity
offers this capability and does a good job of implementation. You can
exclude certain hours (such as 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.) which may dilute
the stats. After you perform a reforecast, if you see that you require
more people, you can view the 'states' (i.e., break, meeting, etc.) of all
your agents within the 'Intra-Day Timeline' (see Figure 2) to see who can
be pulled from other tasks. For example, you can simply double-click on
one of the 'project' or 'e-mail' agents and then delete that segment,
which will cause the agent to fall back to default status, allowing him or
her to staff the phones.
We should mention that Iphinity has another useful rescheduling utility
called 'Break Optimizer.' This is a particularly important feature when
agents call in sick. Similarly, Iphinity has something called 'Meeting
Optimizer,' which can determine if there is a particular time range when
there is 'overstaffing,' then schedule a meeting during that time. The
software also has a 'Project Optimizer,' which works in a similar manner
to the other optimizers, only it covers the course of multiple days or
Typically, workforce management solutions are not used for financial
analysis, so we were surprised to see Iphinity's financial reports, which
actually show the hourly call costs. Using this report along with the
service analysis report, a call center manager can report to a supervisor,
show him or her the report and say, 'If you want a 90 percent service
level, then according to this report, I need 10 more agents per day in my
budget to meet that goal.' All in all, we liked all the reporting
mechanisms and the ease at which we were able to navigate the user
Room For Improvement
Currently the 'performance' field is statically defined. We would like to
see some database integration with a third-party performance/monitoring
system to automatically determine the agent's current performance. Then,
based upon the agent's current performance, a manager can 'weight' the
agent's preferences when calculating new schedules. With this information,
a manager can, for example, reward agents who are currently performing
well; i.e., that agent need not work as many weekends. Finally, we would
also like to see LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) support.
TMC Labs was extremely impressed with the ease of use of Iphinity as
well as its powerful feature set. We especially liked the clean and
easy-to-use user interface, which has some nice usability features
including a customizable toolbar. Workforce management solutions may not
be as 'sexy' as the latest technologies such as VoIP, but the ROI on
workforce management solutions is just as important, and certainly
Iphinity does a fabulous job of marrying scheduling, forecasting,
reporting and financial analysis all in a single package.
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