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NICE Systems is well known in the contact center market for its suite of workforce optimization products. However, over the past several months it has gradually been expanding out of the pure-play contact center market into back-office and mobile applications, as well as the broader market of customer interaction handling. My research on the contact center in the cloud shows that customer interaction processes are getting more complex as customers demand faster, more personalized responses, interactions occur through more communication channels, and more lines of business are involved with interaction handling. My recent benchmark research shows that companies are becoming increasingly reliant on analytics to monitor and assess how well they are performing these critical tasks and in what areas they need to improve.

NICE Systems recently announced that its interaction analytics product now incorporates IBM’s big data analytics platform, enabling it to process the increased volumes and types of data generated by newer forms of customer interactions such as text and social media. It was therefore somewhat surprising when it recently announced its intent to acquire Causata, which makes a customer experience management product. On the surface, the Causata product looks like a big data product that focuses on processing multiple forms of customer data and producing analysis of that data that can be visualized in many different ways. And again, on the surface, this is what it does. However, as with many acquisitions, this raises the question of how the product fits with NICE Systems’ existing systems and the company’s overall strategy. To help explain the move, the company emphasized during a recent briefing that it is not about acquiring market share. Rather, it said the acquisition is intended to expand the types of data NICE Systems can include in its interaction analytics and add predictive capabilities that are enhanced as the system learns from previous analysis, producing outputs that can be used to support a wider range of activities.

Two particular new sources of data are web clicks, which means the product can capture at a click level which fields a user uses on the company’s website, as well as machine events such as data produced by sensor equipment. It also can rationalize customer identities to tie together different interactions from different communication channels. For example, it can recognize that a tweet from a defined Twitter handle has been made by a known customer in the company’s CRM system. In this way, a customer’s past and current interactions can be processed by one of the specialized predictive models to produce an understanding of the customer journey, customer value and likely future behavior. The outputs can thus be personalized for the unique customer ID and input into personalized web experiences, targeted marketing campaigns, next-best offers, and highly targeted social and mobile marketing messages. All of these capabilities not only add to NICE Systems’ existing functionality, but also support its journey away from what has been seen as contact center activities.

However, the acquisition brings with it a number of challenges,vr_inin_types_of_interactions_in_contact_center including overall integration of the products and usability, as well as the question of which big data platform to standardize on. Apart from these issues, the eventual products will address a number of hurdles companies are now facing. My research on the contact center in the cloud shows that companies now support on average nearly five channels of communication, each with its own unique data formats and customer identifiers. Add those channels to all the other sources of customer data, such as CRM and ERP systems, and producing the so-called 360-degree view of the customer – let alone predictive models and personalized outputs – becomes extremely difficult.

As such, the Causata acquisition is a good step in the right direction for NICE Systems to continue to advance its offerings for a new generation of customer analytics. The company’s resulting analytics products are set to enable superior customer experiences, based on in-depth analysis of greater volumes and types of data that will help organizations engage with their customers.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Ventana Research has just released its 2013 Value Index for Agent Desktop Management, in which we evaluate the competency and maturity of vendors and products that support the management of the AD_VentanaResearchValueIndex_2013desktop systems that agents use to handle customer interactions. Our firm has researched this software category for many years, and our benchmark research into customer service and the agent desktop shows the impact the agent desktop has on agent satisfaction and efficiency and the business outcome of such interactions. Because of its increasing importance, we have taken agent desktop management out of our Customer Experience Value Index and created a separate category for it.

I am excited to provide research and education on this critical software. It is essential in every contact center and industry, but its importance is often not recognized by businesses or other analyst firms. Our research on organizations using this software not only uncovered best practices and trends but also highlighted what businesses can do to improve competencies across their workforce and processes. The new Value Index for Agent Desktop Management assesses vendors and their products and whether they meet companies’ needs, based on what participants in our agent desktop benchmark research told us was important to them.

The Ventana Research methodology utilizes a request for proposal and assessment based approach looking more closely at the software than just a vendor’s vision or ability to sell software. Each Value Index takes six months to complete; unlike other analyst firms, we look at the product details that have the most importance in terms of successful use and benefits. We evaluate agent desktop vendors on seven categories that are essential for achieving expected benefits: usability, reliability, manageability, adaptability and capability of the products, as well as the customer assurance areas of validation and TCO and ROI. We assign weight to each category according to its priority to buyers, and total the results to 100 percent for scoring purposes. In the process, we identify best and worst practices to further refine how we assess technology vendors in each category. For instance, this year we placed a heavier emphasis on usability, a factor that organizations in our 2013 benchmark research indicated is becoming more important to the value of software used. You can read the details on our methodology and process in the 2013 Agent Desktop Management Value Index market report.

Our Value Index analysis for agent desktop management looks at a range of needs across industries and across companies and contact centers of all sizes. The Value Index examines requirements by job role, including management, contact center managers, supervisors and agents, and IT groups that support contact center systems. We also examine whether a system provides in-depth capabilities and features such as easy-to-use interfaces to optimize desktop use; workflow alerts and triggers to align operations; access to multiple channels of communication; the ability to find customer information easily so agents can provide personalized responses and complete after-call tasks; agent access to training information and dashboards; optimization of back-office processes; data capture and analysis; integration with communication systems and other business applications; analysis of interaction handling performance; and administrative capabilities to help create agent-specific desktops and manage use of the software.

Our analysis this year rates eight vendors Hot, which, as the highest value level, demonstrates product maturity. Upstream Works ranks at the top, followed by Cicero, OpenSpan, Jacada,, Cincom, AD_Weighted_OverallAltitude Software and KANA. Upstream Works retains the top position it achieved last year, while Altitude Software significantly improves its position and KANA enters as a Hot vendor. NICE Systems enters as a Warm vendor with a product that focuses more on optimizing agent performance and less on supporting multiple communication channels and integration with other systems. Genesys remains a Warm vendor, as its product focuses on telephony and  lacks sophisticated integration capabilities. SmartPoint and RiverStar dropped out of the analysis, declining to participate.

In line with the increasing importance of the agent desktop and its impact on the agent and overall customer experiences, the agent desktop management market has become highly competitive. Much has changed since companies such as Jacada and Genesys released their early systems, which focused on telephony and, in the case of Jacada, hid all systems from the user behind a replacement user interface. Today’s most advanced systems allow companies to choose the style of interface they want, support more channels of communication, guide users on the next best action, offer point-and-click capabilities to support ease of integration with other systems, and support more advanced analysis and presentation of performance information. All of the Hot vendors have released updated versions of their products in an effort to keep up with these requirements. As we note in the report, Upstream Works has released a new product, based on Cisco’s new offering, that changes the user interface and mode of operation, and Enghouse Interactive has entered the market with a system that focuses on optimizing access to multiple communication channels. The agent desktop management category thus is maturing rapidly, with new vendors entering the market and new capabilities to support emerging requirements, such as social customer service and mobility. This Value Index offers a guide to which vendors are in the market and their products’ maturity levels, providing a good starting point as companies evaluate how to improve customer interaction performance.

We take pride in our Value Index, and we believe it’s cool to be a Hot vendor. Unlike other analyst firms, we recognize the impact the agent desktop has on agent satisfaction and thus the customer experience. If you look at our research or talk to contact center managers, you will see that the agent desktop is becoming more complex as agents need to access more channels of communication and applications. Today’s desktop systems can therefore play a part in not only making processes easier and more efficient, but also ensuring that more agents follow best practices and achieve the best outcomes. To different degrees, our Hot vendors demonstrate capabilities that support these objectives, and each should be recognized for its efforts.

Congratulations to the vendors that stood up to our detailed assessment processes and granular analysis, which represent how organizations assess and select vendors. We’re proud of our objective and in-depth analysis, which we publish without review or editing by the technology vendors, unlike other analyst firms. While some vendors may object to the results, our independence provides the basis for the most trusted research in the industry. If you want further information, please download the executive summary and let us know if you need help selecting the right vendor for your agent desktop needs. We look forward to continuing to offer guidance to buyers in this critical application category, and to helping business and IT professionals who need to run the most efficient, results-oriented and profitable organizations.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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