A few years ago life was relatively simple for managers procuring new technology for their contact center.  "Round up the usual suspects", issue an RFP, secure funding, select a winner, pilot and roll out.  Repeat every 5 years.

Once a contact center supplier reaches a critical size they lose the ability to innovate, owing to the need to maintain their customer base and manage change risk.  There have been several disruptive technology changes that compound this issue:

* phones->multimedia/multisession
* standalone systems->distributed/cloud
* bespoke UI->everything in a browser

This has led to new players with immature products entering the market, and the usual suspects struggling to keep up with the pace of change.  We've seen one industry behemoth after another bite the dust, leaving contact center managers with a real problem implementing solutions that provide the new functionality that their sponsors require and the reliability and stability of mature product underpinnings.

So how to overcome this challenge and pick winners in the brave new world of the cloud?

In our view the old-school RFP process doesn't enable contact center managers to make value judgements to pick cloud solutions that deliver, and will support a contact center effectively over a 5 year term or more.  Here are a few of our suggestions on things to take a long hard look at when entering a relationship with a cloud contact center provider:

* Whose switching and streamed media fabric is the cloud provider using?  How does the cloud provider manage this?  Don't trust the provider that says 'its ours' and refuses to elaborate.  Developing reliable switching and streamed media fabric is expensive and difficult, and best left to OEMs and large open-source projects.  The underlying fabric used, and how the provider manages it to deliver scale, redundancy and media processing functionality is an important yardstick.

* How does the ACD deal with managing different media streams in a unified fashion?  Can the agent do both single session blending for multiple media types, and have multiple session delivery?  What rules exist to allow the contact center to manage multisession behaviour?  Answers to this will expose whether the cloud supplier has a homogenous offering; ASD® (Automatic Session Distributor) instead of siloed ACD + email + chat + SMS.

* How can the cloud contact center solution integrate with existing CRM and back-office systems?  Are the APIs natural and consistent?

* Data integration.  Contact centers still need to keep control of their data.  Can the cloud provider work directly with contact center data sources leaving you in charge of the data whether hosted in-house or private cloud?

* Is the reporting provided by the service provider configurable, and how well does it perform at scale?  Can it deliver all of your real-time and historical needs in an easy-to use form?  Lastly and most important, what is the underlying database technology?  A service offering based on a big data platform is far more likely to meet your needs over the system lifetime than one based on legacy database technology.


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