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Gartner ranks contact center infrastructures

Application vendors are moving into contact center infrastructure. While tight integration between applications and infrastructure holds promise, it remains separate, Gartner says.

Although contact center infrastructure and CRM technology are evolving from standalone systems to tightly integrated ones, the market remains separate, recent research from Gartner Inc. suggests.

The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm recently published its Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure, North America. Acquisitions have resulted in the rapid consolidation of the market, including Oracle's purchase of Telephony@Work and SAP's acquisition of Wicom, but infrastructure and applications remain separate, according to Drew Kraus, research vice president with Gartner.

"While it's a related technology, it tends to be a separate decision maker in most organizations," he said. "It's different audiences."

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Oracle and SAP are hoping to close that gap with their acquisitions, bringing infrastructure into their application suites.

"We still find when we survey call center decision makers that there's not a strong push among contact center decision makers to get their CRM application and their contact center infrastructure from the same vendor," Kraus said. "Historically, infrastructure integration has been very expensive and requires a lot of customization to implement. They tend to look for best of breed."

Leaders and challengers

Gartner does expect that to change, however, and one company poised to take advantage of the trend is Indianapolis-based Interactive Intelligence, which moved into the leaders quadrant of Gartner's ranking system this year. Other vendors in the leaders quadrant include Cisco, Avaya, Genesys, Nortel, and Aspect Software.

Two vendors were named challengers in the North American contact center infrastructure market, NEC and Siemens Communications. Gartner put Oracle, CosmoCom and Intervoice in the visionaries quadrant. SAP did not appear in the quadrant because Wicom has virtually no North American presence, Kraus said.

Trend spotting

Early adopter companies are looking at Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), service-oriented architecture (SOA), mobility and rich presence and collaboration. These advances help companies extend contact center functionality into CRM applications, incorporate CRM data and queue status to adjust routing and call treatment, and extend the contact center to the broader enterprise, such as second-level support staff, according to Gartner.

Vendors such as Interactive Intelligence, which provides applications like Interactive Voice Response (IVR), call recording and workforce management, in addition to call routing -- all within one architecture, one reporting system and with common administration tools -- have a leg-up with early adopters.

Alternatively, there are companies making the transition from TDM to IP telephony infrastructures, but they're not necessarily starting with the contact center, Kraus said. They still need to make investments in the contact center before they tackle their telephony systems, so they're looking for separate contact center applications that they can swap out easily if they switch infrastructures. However, the larger PBX players -- Avaya, Nortel, Cisco -- are "building nicer hooks into their contact center systems so you can share administration between the PBX and the contact center," he said. "There is one additional level of integration and coherence they lose by getting the ability to swap."

As for fully hosted contact centers, Kraus said, those remain the domain of small and midsized contact centers.

"Right now," he said, "there's a lot more hype than actual adoption of hosted contact centers."

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