Genesys has disclosed details of its strategy for unified communications, as well as a new integration-focused solution called Enterprise Connect, as part of the long lead-up to its next generation Genesys 8.0 release. In a savvy approach, the company is taking its message into the enterprise without impinging heavily on the domain of traditional enterprise vendors.
Unified communications (UC), as both an intellectual construct and a set of real-world products and services, began and took root in the enterprise. The roles of knowledge workers, administrative staff, sales organizations and back office employees have all been firmly woven into a UC story by technology vendors. While the reality of UC usage in the enterprise lags behind the marketing hype, vendors have done an excellent job of creating reasonable sounding and well-grounded value propositions for this use case. To date, that has not been quite so true for the contact center; customer interaction organizations have only just begun trying to piece together ways in which UC technologies can help to improve customer support, reduce the costs of customer interactions and make life easier for employees.
Sensing an opportunity for competitive differentiation, some contact center infrastructure vendors have tried to insert themselves directly in the middle of this fray. Aspect Software, for example, has focused essentially all of its marketing over the past year on the concept of UC and the ways in which it relates to the contact center. Genesys, however, has decided to take a different route, one that is completely consistent with the open-to-all-comers philosophy that has been at the root of the company’s success.
Genesys initially made a name for itself by adopting a strictly vendor-agnostic approach, using its T-Servers to add computer-telephony integration (CTI) and advanced routing features to legacy private branch exchanges (PBXs). The company has wisely decided to extend that approach to the UC market. At its annual conference for analysts held in San Francisco in late January, the company unveiled the details of its UC strategy, as well as the early outlines of its integration solution known as Enterprise Connect.
Not a UC provider
In a bid to make clear how its approach would differ from competitors, particularly companies such as Aspect and Cisco that have gone a bit UC-crazy, Genesys executives first made it clear what the company was not planning to do. This laundry list of no-go items included unified messaging and voicemail, UC desktop clients, information worker presence engines, enterprise-level directory services, and enterprise email or conferencing (either web or video). In essence, Genesys wants to stick to the customer interaction-side of the divide and leave the enterprise-side to the Microsofts and IBMs of the world. Given the headway that these companies have already made into the enterprise, and more importantly given the differing needs and focus of the enterprise and the contact center, this is an eminently sensible move.
That said, while the company will not expend its resources creating a new UC platform, Genesys will work to integrate with the leading UC platforms and to enhance them so that they can be used to provide superior customer service. Genesys plans to subscribe to presence information from the leading enterprise UC providers, use presence as a foundation to route work items to the enterprise, and also to route interactions, such as customer service consultations by knowledge workers.
Genesys will create a new solution, called Enterprise Connect, to accomplish those goals. The solution is based on the theory that existing UC solutions are not a great fit with the contact center, primarily because the contact center follows a strict set of workflows, unlike the ad hoc nature of UC. Additionally, Genesys rightly believes that there are qualitative differences between the enterprise knowledge workers and contact center agents, and that presence information in the enterprise is nowhere near as reliable as it is in the contact center. Finally, Genesys has no need to roll its own software out to the desktop since all major functions can be accessed and executed though standard UC clients.
Enterprise Connect will leverage the core Genesys routing components and then layer a new component atop those for connectivity to the UC clients. Because it leverages many existing components, customers may have already deployed much of the solution. This means that Genesys needs to work on licensing for the new UC-connectivity component. In its first iteration, due to roll out with the rest of Genesys 8.0 (likely sometime in 2009), Enterprise Connect will integrate with IBM’s Sametime and Microsoft’s Office Communications Server. Genesys executives said that they can already deliver the Microsoft integration through a professional services engagement, but Enterprise Connect will productize that integration. These are still early days for Enterprise Connect. Genesys has been presenting the concept to its partners, particularly the systems integrators, and it has been recruiting definitional customers for early stage testing.
Consistency aids adoption
Because Genesys has taken essentially the same approach to UC as it has to the world of PBXs and hard automatic call distributors (ACDs), the strategy will require less customer education than might otherwise be the case. The company’s UC strategy shows a company sticking to what it knows in the best sense. Datamonitor fully expects that, because Genesys is expanding its horizons into the enterprise in a reasoned manner, the strategy will pay great dividends in terms of both revenue and ability to move the company into a greater role as trusted advisor to broader enterprises.
Although IBM and Microsoft control much of the desktop UC world, Datamonitor finds it somewhat surprising that Genesys has not also targeted the My Instant Communicator client from parent company Alcatel-Lucent in its initial rollout. That would be the next logical extension of Enterprise Connect, according to company executives, but will not happen in the first release. There are also other potential UC clients that Genesys could tackle, most notably Cisco, but Datamonitor believes that the company needs to clearly execute on its strategy of integrating with the market leaders before it dilutes its efforts through escalation.
Datamonitor has one slight concern regarding Genesys’s approach, which bears watching as the company rolls out its UC strategy and Enterprise Connect. By expanding its mandate to include work items and processes beyond the boundaries of the contact center, Genesys has begun to plunge deeper into the enterprise. As companies adopt work item routing and Genesys’s newly branded Intelligent Worlkload Distribution solution, the vendor’s own customers might attempt to pull the company into creating some of the UC elements that it has expressly stated are non-starters. In difficult economic times, it becomes more difficult to say no to customers. However, because it adopted a solid and sensible approach that does not dilute its focus, Genesys will need to stick to its guns should customers start trying to pull it into becoming a full-fledged UC provider.