Combined entity to provide enhanced performance management, coaching, employee review and workflow functionality
Aspect has done a great job rolling up a number of call center companies and even in a slow economy is not letting up. In fact, the company just acquired AIM Technology, a company which streamlines the contact center process allowing organizations to more easily motivate, measure and manage employees. The San Francisco-based group was purchased for an undisclosed sum and the resulting product line will be called PerformanceEdge Performance Management.
This acquisition is a natural part of building out the PerformanceEdge business according to the company.
In a conversation by phone with the Aspect Management team it became apparent that the icing on this acquisition cake is the fact that Aim Technology's solutions are based on Microsoft SQL Server. I am told the enhanced relationship between Aspect and Microsoft including a cash infusion by the operating system giant is a reason for increased business. This is especially true in UC environments and obviously having more Microsoft-based technology in its arsenal can only help Aspect. The company calls this addition of Microsoft technology "cost efficient" and you can consider this being synonymous a with saying it is better to have a single vendor than trying to get Linux to behave nicely with Microsoft.
For existing customers, I am told this acquisition will be transparent and the offering will come in flavors geared at the mid-market which is 200 to a thousand users. Beyond that, there is an enterprise edition which will be helpful for companies with multiple data sources and multiple sites. Prices are $350 and $500 per named agent respectively.
I asked Aspect about how the call center market is doing in these challenging economic times and they mentioned that decisions are slowing in customer service related sales but speeding up in collections. This is consistent with what I am hearing elsewhere by the way.
In terms of geographies they are seeing North America strong and CALA less so. APAC is growing in line with estimates and Europe is the weakest sector.
Aspect tells me they see themselves quickly evolving to become a unified communications solutions provider. This includes software and consulting services around UC and the contact center.
I am told going forward the company will absolutely continue to acquire the skills needed in the contact center, Microsoft UC and services sectors. Basically if you read between the lines (not that you need to), we will see more acquisitions and I wouldn't be surprised to see the company evolve into a major Avaya competitor across all the NJ-based company's product lines.
According to the company, there are elevated conversations with customers due to the Aspect/Microsoft alliance. There was some initial confusion among customers regarding how the Aspect alliance is different from the one with Nortel but I was told this has been cleared up by explaining the Aspect relationship is more focused on the contact center.
Aspect reiterated they are seeing more OCS and professional services sales due to the Redmond relationship.
In the marketplace, the company tells me Cisco is gaining some traction by bundling complete solutions and to combat this, Aspect is utilizing the Microsoft relationship.
On the workforce optimization side, Performance Edge has seen consolidation in the market and Nice and Verint are the two other companies they see in major deals they are involved in.
When asked about its differentiation, the company responded by saying it thinks it has the most complete set of capabilities to address the needs of a customer. From customer service to collections to sales and telemarketing, Aspect says they have a unified platform allowing for inbound/outbound and multichannel environments.
When asked about the hosted market, execs explained that the managed service offering they have in performance management is doing well as many customers are looking to get up and running quickly but IT departments are not able to keep up.
In addition, the company works with partners in the hosted ACD space and they are seeing more tire kicking by customers in the SaaS space. The company is also reselling TellMe as a hosted IVR solution. But where the relationship gets interesting is the integration of TellMe and the Aspect inbound routing and outbound dialing capabilities.
The company has slowly been rolling up so many competitive companies over the years and as it has done this, one of its claims to fame is the "one place to view reports" and "one place to manage routing rules" philosophy. This now applies to Microsoft's TellMe as well and gives the company a unique hybrid approach with on premise equipment merged with hosted in-the-cloud solutions.
Aspect tells me customers like this blended approach as it allows them to not worry about having the required ports to handle peak call volume. The usage-based model is something the company seems to like and will likely be an area where Aspect will devote more energy going forward.
The timing of this acquisition shows Aspect is still very committed to the contact center space and although I don't expect this purchase was for a major sum of money, it shows Aspect is still looking to round out its portfolio with companies which fit within its product roadmap. For Aspect customers, this is a good thing and for fledgling developers in the contact center market, Aspect still represents an exit strategy.
The good news is this M&A activity in the contact center space will likely fuel more investment in the market. In all, this is good for contact center industry and will increase the level of competition - which is great for all involved.