Taking Workforce Management to the Cloud

By Doug Whitaker, Aspect Software


Unless you have been living on Mars for the past few years, you know that contact centers are moving their infrastructure to the cloud and at a surprising rate. Recent research from industry analyst, Paul Stockford of Saddletree Research, indicates that about 60% of contact centers have plans to move some or all of their contact center software to the cloud.

wfm-cloud chart

A recent ICMI study sponsored by Aspect Software shows that low cost is still important, but the primary drivers for this migration to the cloud relate more to the need for business agility necessary to address rapidly changing conditions. It’s not surprising that these issues now rival low cost in importance. The very nature of human communication is changing at internet speed, and contact centers, as the primary clearinghouse for customer communications, are having to become increasingly nimble. They face a rapidly growing field of social media sites with mass customer audiences to engage, significant use of new channels like chat and SMS, as well as increasingly tech-savvy and demanding customers (and agents). Layer on top of that the rising emphasis on customer experience rather than productivity, and you have a perfect storm of events that would make any VP of Operations rethink being bound to any vendor’s semi-permanent on-premises systems.

Just as the need for business agility is driving cloud infrastructure growth, it’s also driving the growth of the contact center’s right-hand assistant, workforce management (WFM). For decades, WFM has been the most valuable tool in the high productivity/low cost arsenal, providing forecasting, scheduling, and tracking of employees to accurately project future staffing requirements and monitor intraday staff adherence in the voice channel. Now WFM is being chartered with some new missions: managing agents in new social media and customer interaction channels, providing a much better user experience for agents as well as ensuring the best customer experience (while maintaining low cost).

Prospective WFM buyers can clearly see the accelerating rate of change of the forces that influence contact center operations, and they are increasingly averse to bearing the risk and IT cost burden of keeping up with these changes. IHS Technology estimates that the market for SaaS-based workforce management solutions will grow by more than 80% over the next four years, and that’s not surprising.

If you could almost guarantee that some new, but yet unknown, workforce management requirement was waiting around the corner, you would not want to be locked into any particular long-term on-premises solution.

WFM in the cloud also opens up a whole new segment of the contact center market for much more efficient labor management. The high initial investment of most on-premises workforce management systems is cost prohibitive for many small contact centers. WFM delivered in the cloud eliminates the large initial capital expenditure and creates low monthly operating expenses, so many smaller contact centers will now be able to afford a feature-rich, flexible and scalable workforce management tool. Aspect and a number of other recognized WFM software providers are now offering not only hosted WFM but WFM in the pure cloud as well. Expect cloud delivery to be an important consideration for new and replacement WFM systems over the coming years.

Aspect will be in the vanguard of this growth with its cloud based WFO solutions. Aspect has announced the general availability of Aspect Workforce Management Cloud, the first of our WFO components to move to the pure cloud. This new offering makes available the power of our hugely successful WFM software with all of the advantages of cloud delivery. Integrated seamlessly with Zipwire, our scalable but simple omni-channel contact center solution, Aspect brings to the table a contact center offering that is extremely effective for small and large contact centers alike. With the balance of the Aspect WFO suite slated for release in 2016, the cloud contact center will never be the same.

Doug Whitaker is Senior Director of Core Products and leads Aspect’s strategy around core products including Interaction Management, Workforce Optimization and Analytics. He has over 23 years of experience in the contact center industry and brings broad expertise for a variety of products including Workforce Optimization, Inbound Routing, Outbound, Proactive Contact, Interactive Voice Response and CTI.