In the year 2000 when society was in the midst of realizing how technology and the internet in particular was going to change the world, I noticed there was a need by companies and carriers to better understand the hosted communications space. There were a number of companies with very compelling business models being launched such as Congruency, the early pioneer and leader of the communication ASP movement.
Shortly after realizing the need for education in the market, TMC launched a magazine titled Communications ASP. The magazine was a hit with advertisers and readers for about six months until the VC community and the tech market as a whole seemed to turn on the term ASP" I haven't a clue to this day why the acronym wasn't accepted but it seemed to get lumped in with other technologies which were left for dead but emerged later - like "ecommerce," "VoIP" and others.
Suffice it say this publication and dozens of companies in the space were sentenced to death when funding was cut off by investors. I credit Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, for defying gravity and keeping his ASP and the entire movement going.
This leading hosted CRM company showed Wall Street that the ASP model was a good one and now we take for granted that hosted communications and hosted everything else is something the market needs - especially in a slow economy. But now we call it "cloud-based" computing or "hosted" or "on-demand" or whatever seems to be trendy at the moment.
I was thinking about the history of ASPs during a meeting with Evolve IP's Scott Kinka, the senior vice president of network services. Kinka's company supplies hosted voice, security, UC and messaging services to companies in the U.S. During our conversation he kept mentioning call center wins and how companies are embracing hosted contact center solutions.
He in turn referenced Paul Adams, the director of product management for enhanced services at Broadsoft, the company supplying Evolve IP with equipment which allows their company to in turn provide services to their SMB, enterprise and call center customers.
I know Broadsoft very well as a major player in IP communications - their BroadWorks platform is a vital cog in the carrier machine of providing services for customers.
During a recent conversation with Adams, I asked about the company's call center strategy and he explained that they added contact center functionality about three to four years ago, and since that time they have been adding features, allowing the product to support more formal and larger centers.
Recently BroadWorks 16 expanded contact center functionality even more with the above trend being adhered to. I asked him how his company's products compare to premise or CPE equipment and he explained they are competitive with many hosted solutions but aren't focusing on the high-end centers where their needs to be a focus on blending (inbound and outbound agents coordinating calls) and multichannel routing. Interestingly, Scott goes into the sales process explaining this limitation upfront and it hasn't been a barrier to winning large deals, which he says are in the 400- to 500-seat range.
One of the advantages Broadsoft brings to the table is its integration with UC solutions and FMC. You see, Broadsoft's end-customers get to take advantage of the latest in numerous technologies and they get it all integrated into their contact center solution.
And as agents become more informal and mobile, the company's ability to track calls while they are connected, including hold times, etc. mean that reporting becomes more accurate and call center management becomes more detailed and effective.
BroadWorks 17 is the next version in the pipeline and we can expect it to have enhanced reporting and ACD functions. A while back, Broadsoft purchased competitor Sylantro to pretty much become the 800-pound gorilla in the space. As the company continues to innovate and roll out new products, it can instantaneously upgrade the world's hosted contact center solutions provided by carriers. This is great for customers and yet another challenge for CPE vendors. But it seems there is still room to innovate on the high-end where Broadworks is not looking to compete - at least for now.