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Aspect Corrects Course from Microsoft to Migration

This week Aspect held its annual user group gathering in Scottsdale, AZ. Aspect Customer Experience (ACE) was 150% the size of last year's event, approximately 325 attendees from 127 different companies. While the energy of the event--and specifically the new management team--was evident, it's hard not to be more than a wee bit cautious.

Last June I wrote on No Jitter that, "Aspect shows off a renewed vigor, including a new co-CEO and a broader-than-Lync Microsoft integration message." A year later, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the co-CEO I referenced ended up being at Aspect for a very short time (~ 2 months). He and several other members of the leadership team were replaced in the second half of 2012. (Worthy of mention is the decision to keep Gwen Braygreen, SVP Technical Services; Manish Chandak, VP Microsoft Professional Services; and Michael Regan, SVP R&D, in place--they offer much needed product development expertise and service continuity.)

The good news is that the new team is focused not on a dream of Microsoft Lync-enabled contact centers taking over the world but on working with the existing customer base to move them to next-generation capabilities. That is not to say that Aspect is going to ignore the Microsoft opportunity. There are certainly still companies piloting, deploying and trialing Microsoft Lync solutions that today or in the future will require a compatible contact center solution. In fact, CEO Stew Bloom offered the statistic that the company had done 16 Microsoft Lync projects in 2012.

But a turnaround for a half-billion dollar company is not made of 16 projects. The best story I heard at Aspect's conference was from Theo Stern, Evangelist for Customer Migration. Aspect is 100% focused on being part of the planning process for the still 200+ customers running legacy ACDs from Aspect Communications and Rockwell. That includes a weekly catch-up call with company President Chris Koziol and direct executive involvement where and when required. That has meant Koziol being on the road, meeting and greeting customers and visiting international offices that haven't seen an executive face in...let's just say a long time.

You'll notice a lot of names in this post; people will make the difference in turning Aspect around. People and investment. CEO Bloom showed some innovative technology during an NDA portion of general session that brought applause from the user audience and showed technology investment. Some of the investment needs to come in marketing and messaging as well, and CMO Jim Freeze has gotten his share of funding, orchestrating a re-brand.

The final data point I'll offer on Aspect's determination to shift focus from Microsoft to customer migration is the graphic above. It shows a side-by-side comparison of the Next Generation Contact Center marchitecture used in Aspect presentations in 2012 and 2013. The left clearly shows Microsoft solutions as the underpinning for the future. The right recognizes that Aspect customers continue to use competing unified communications and contact center solutions. Customers will also choose CRM systems other than Microsoft Dynamics. The Aspect of 2013 is prepared to integrate with them all.