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Gartner CCaaS MQ Changes: What Regional Buyers Need to Know

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Contact center agent headsets laying on a keyboard
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"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances…" — Shakespeare
 
Like it or not, the Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) is the mainstage on which CCaaS providers await their positioning — a casting that many enterprises heavily consider when making contact center platform decisions.
 
The Trans-Atlantic Quadrant Shake-Up
Traditionally, Gartner offered one MQ for Western Europe — my area of expertise —and one for North America (NAM). But late last year, it decided to merge the two, causing some interesting exits and new actors for both markets.
 
Stick or Twist?
Irrespective of size or sector, organizations do not take the decision to invest in a contact center solution lightly. As I know from my experience as a consultant working within enterprise contact centers (generally +250 seats), decision makers are desperate to get this business-critical application right. To do so, they engage in extensive and lengthy buying cycles.
 
Interestingly, buyers in Western European are used to a lot of change in the CCaaS MQ, with only 31% of the vendors retaining a position on the quadrant since 2017. And of these established, ”steady-Eddie” players — Content Guru, Odigo, and Vonage (previously NewVoiceMedia) — none have made it into the coveted top-right quadrant now that Gartner has combined the regions.
 
Relegation Zone…
Rowan Trollope, the CEO of NAM-centric Five9, has publicly challenged Gartner after seeing his company’s established dot move from the ”Leaders” square into the not-so-marketable ”Challengers” square, a repositioning due to its low penetration in the European market. And it is not just the players that have seen an unwelcome shift in their positioning that must be frustrated. At least Five9 still made the cut; some other players that are strong in one region but not the other lost their placement altogether. This includes Aspect (NAM) and Puzzel (Western Europe), and they will no doubt be apportioning a sizeable focus to redressing this situation.
 
Rightly or wrongly, banishment or downward movement in the Magic Quadrant hurts vendors.
 
When choosing to transform their contact centers, many tech leaders put a lot of stock in the quadrant players. The marketing and sales teams of the vendors that gain a spot on the quadrant perpetuate the validity of this decision making, and you will rarely see a vendor presentation or any content that doesn’t have the footnote: “Recognized by industry analysts” or “Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant.”
 
What to Do Now?
So, should buyers in Western Europe continue to buy what they know, branch out, or ignore the MQ?
 
Incredibly, more than half of the vendors on the combined MQ are new to the Western European market buyers.
 
Two players are new to both sides of the pond. Almost inevitably, Amazon Connect, the DevOps-focused big-brand name, has made its first appearance (you don’t have many conversations with buyers who aren’t at the very least curious about this new Lego-style solution). The second new entrant is Worldline, a niche player with a pedigree in secure payments that has been around since 2002 in Europe. It has earned a place in the Niche Players square — probably as a consequence of the reluctantly adopted work-from-home model in the financial service and retail sectors across the globe.
 
Alongside these newbies, the buyers in Western Europe are also seeing a couple of NAM-focused vendors make an appearance for the first time. To get onto the Western European quadrant, vendors had to pass through a binary criteria gate: They needed to have a minimum of 12,000 concurrent seats deployed in the region. Despite seeming to have been around forever with big-brand presence, neither 8x8 nor Genesys Cloud had met that criteria before 2020. Being able to count NAM seats put them over the edge, giving them MQ visibility to the Western Europe audience.
 
As noted above, Five9 has not been as visible to European buyers, but has had some solid referenceable wins in the U.K. recently. No doubt it is already plotting its European partner strategy carefully, so will soon become another front-runner in the short lists of European buyers.
 
Lifesize (a videoconferencing company) merged with Serenova and re-branded as Lifesize (an odd decision for the Western European market where brand recognition would have been much higher for Serenova). Both Lifesize and EvolveIP are in the Niche Players square, but cannot be ignored.
 
In the coveted top-right square, you now have Talkdesk, which has a significant presence in Europe being based out of Portugal, and NICE InContact, with its CXone platform. Both have only been seen by Europeans on the quadrant from 2019. Alongside these is Genesys Cloud, which as a solution is new to the combined quadrant, but is a product in the stable of one of the most established European contact center providers.
 
A Data Privacy Headache for EU Countries — and the U.K.?
For those that bet their bottom pound/euro on Gartner’s assessment, this new quadrant creates a situation where in-country regional buyers are going to be assessing solutions with key referencability in North America, architecture and resources centered around North America, and a bit of a headache when GDPR considerations come into play.
 
Gartner says it assesses vendors against GDPR criteria, but in October 2020 the ”privacy shield” that existed to give confidence on the adequacy of data and its respective privacy between EU countries and the U.S. fell apart when challenged in court via the Schrems II case. This creates a legal burden if your vendor of choice does not have data centers in Europe and particularly if it has resources in a North American network operating center (NOC) carrying out GDPR requests such as right to erasure and subject access requests. To further complicate the situation, per Brexit, NAM vendors that want to deliver to the U.K. market best have a data center (and ideally a NOC) in Great Britain, too.
 
That said, the NAM vendors can overcome these challenges by securing data privacy compliance with standard contractual clauses or binding corporate rules that flow through the contractual chain. But it is without doubt the sort of subject matter that European procurement teams become nervous about, so the onus is on the NAM vendors to invest in the right architecture — or the right legal representation — to ensure new buyers can gracefully move past this potential hurdle.
 
Hold Onto Your Hats — It Is About to Get a Whole Lot More Confusing…
About 35,000 contact centers in Europe are split between on-premises systems and a cloud platform. Gartner plotted the vendors against their ability to execute and their completeness of vision — obviously critical criteria. But, market investment in CCaaS players saw an encouraging and significant boost in 2020. Vendors will no doubt direct these cash injections toward R&D for delivery on these key criteria points, but they also will spend tons of money on regional resources and marketing, too.
 
So Western European buyers, facing more options than ever before, can expect to be deluged with more webinars, more content, and more LinkedIn requests.
 
To further add to the confusion, the marketplace is just about to get a whole lot more competitive, with different sorts of players fighting for brand awareness. The competition will come from:
 
  • The CRM world — Salesforce is on the prowl for its first significant win for Service Cloud Voice, which launched last summer; Pega; SAP, and ServiceNow are leading with integration to an ACD instead of what has traditionally been the other way around
  • The UC world — players like RingCentral and Microsoft, with Teams, are securing a whole lot of the secondary buying decision market with contact center being added as an attachment to larger-scale UC deployments
  • Traditional players desperate to reinvigorate — Cisco, which recently launched the “all-new” Webex Contact Center; Avaya; Aspect; and Mitel all need to work hard to secure relevance in a market that has changed in the blink of an eye
  • The build model players — most of the players on the quadrant offer off-the-shelf solutions with little need to customize. The alternative is the highly customizable solutions like Amazon Connect, which needs a whole lot of development resources So, expect to see Twilio, with Flex, and others grappling to secure share in this market.
 
“O brave new world, that has such people in't” – Shakespeare
As reflected in my Shakespeare quotes, players are transient and opportunities to discover new people offer exciting and limitless potential.
 
The shake-up of the Gartner CCaaS MQ offers buyers a window into players that, for now, are riding high.
 
I would recommend that Western European buyers, so used to a changing landscape, should first consider their exacting requirements from all the critical angles that need to be assessed:
 
  • Current and future agent experience
  • Current and future operational experience
  • Current and future customer experience
And only when these needs are clear should they take analyst opinions into consideration when seeking a perfect fit. For now, most solutions have a way to go until they can fully claim a completed vision, but functionality parity, however it is achieved, will soon mean differentiation will become less about technology and more about the vendors’ ability to deliver true material value in the criteria listed above. The means to assess this differentiation will present themselves to buyers in solid frameworks, references and — something the critics / analysts cannot measure — that all important feeling you get when you feel assured that your contact center is in safe hands because you’re working with a partner that is able to deliver the right business outcomes.
 
Irrespective of which market you reside in, though, when looking to deliver contact center transformation take heed from the warning given to Romeo: “Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”

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