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The Executive Spotlight speaks with Ralph Breslauer, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, for Aspect Software.

CIS: First of all, congratulations on the Aspect 20-year anniversary. What kind of edge, if any, do you think a company that has been around for so long has over the many new companies in this arena?

RB: Thank you. Aspect Communications has a lot to be proud of; it has achieved much during the last two decades. Interestingly, as the newly-formed Aspect Software, we have more than 30 years of experience in the contact center. I do believe that a company like ours, with a significant history, has an advantage over companies that are less experienced. We are deeply rooted in this business. We have seen the industry evolve over time and are actually responsible for many of its milestones over the years. It is this kind of understanding that gives us the insight to know what customers require and where the gaps are, so we can fill them. In addition, a company like ours that is comprised of many industry founders and technology inventors is uniquely positioned to offer a level of expertise that is unmatched in the space.

CIS: What is going to be the biggest challenge in merging the two product lines: that of Concerto and that of Aspect?

RB: Our top priority is to ensure that customers have the best solutions to meet their needs today and to continue innovating so that we can provide a non-disruptive path to the future as their business needs dictate. This means we do not need to merge all products, but rather we must develop a product roadmap that works for customers now, while enhancing their existing products and positioning them for the next step when they are ready. For example, we will continue to evolve and support the products that our customers rely on to run their businesses every day, and at the same time, we will continue to integrate inbound with outbound functionality, integrate our performance optimization offerings with our other core products, and provide an evolutionary path to IP to help customers better execute their customer contact strategies. Through several acquisitions, we have successfully integrated people, products and processes, and we are leveraging that experience to ensure the transition to Aspect Software is as seamless as possible.

CIS: What do you think Concerto did better than Aspect Communications and vice versa?

RB: I think that Aspect was very good at selling its products to large enterprise accounts as evidenced by its blue-chip customer list in North America and Europe, while Concerto was very good at expanding into new geographies like those in Asia-Pacific, where the company has seen triple-digit growth over the last several years. Overall, however, I think that both companies had specific, unique strengths that complemented each other. That's part of what made the combination so compelling. In merging, we have created the largest company solely focused on the contact center industry with tremendous strength in predictive dialing, unified contact center systems, automatic call distributors (ACD), workforce management applications and performance analytics. The newly-formed Aspect Software offers a rich portfolio of innovative voice and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) products to help our customers achieve their customer service, collections and sales objectives. '

CIS: A combination of Concerto's outbound expertise with Aspect's mastery of inbound technologies should make the new entity the company to beat in the call center space. Do you aspire to be the biggest and the best?

RB: We absolutely aspire to be the best, and if we do that, there is a high likelihood the rest will follow. We believe that with the insight, focus, expertise and resources we have, Aspect Software is certainly positioned to be the contact center solutions provider of choice. Our products give customers the kind of flexibility they need in today's changing business environment, the kind of reliability they can build their business on, and the range of choice and functionality they need to maintain a competitive advantage. Customers want more functionality and less complexity, and Aspect Software is delivering. '

CIS: Can you speak for a moment from your perspective as an industry leader on the acquisition of Siebel by Oracle? Do you think such an entity, if allowed to merge, will change the landscape of the call center/CRM industry?

RB: I believe this is a very significant transaction and will clearly impact the CRM industry. Not only is the size of the deal huge, but the number of customers affected is significant. Oracle has a tremendous opportunity to solidify the No.1 position in enterprise applications with an enviable customer base and product portfolio. One area that I think will be very interesting is that Siebel drove a lot of revenue for competitors of Oracle, like IBM, for example. This will create both an opportunity and a challenge for Oracle, given that customers do not want to be forced by vendors to change platforms if they are comfortable. Hence, Oracle is going to have to continue to make customers comfortable with the idea that they will be open to other databases, while also trying to sell their own into their new customer base. Like many acquisitions, the difference between huge success and dismal failure will be in the execution. While we feel it will have less of an impact on the call center industry, we are paying close attention. There are always lessons to be learned, and we know we can benefit from the experiences of others. One thing is for sure, there will be very few boring moments in our industry. Keep watching this space. CIS

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