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Part III: The Battle for Contact Center Leadership

Bottom line: This is likely to be a market that moves a little slower than John Chambers might hope.

When this series began, I believed it would have just two parts--based on information gathered at back-to-back Cisco and Avaya contact center analyst meetings. After those first two installments, it became clear that it made sense to add the views of one additional contact center solution vendor, Alcatel-Lucent/Genesys.

The initial articles highlighted the fact that many--typically very large--contact centers have deployments that combine an enterprise-wide solution with a nodal solution. For example, Cisco's ICM co-exists in many deployments with Avaya Call Center Elite.

Similarly, in the years since 1990, Genesys has sold its solutions as an overlay to site-based ACDs. As is true in the Cisco case, given the market share of Avaya and Nortel in the contact center space in the last 20 years, there are a fair number of joint Genesys and Avaya/Nortel customers. There are a considerable number of joint Cisco and Genesys customers as well--e.g., cases where Genesys may have done the site-based screen-pop application and Cisco the multi-site routing.

Cisco and Avaya articulated a position that companies are actively looking for a single vendor solution, to update and simplify dual-vendor deployments. In an interview this week I asked Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, CMO of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise/Genesys, what he is hearing from Genesys customers.

de Kouchkovsky began by saying that Genesys has 4,000 customers, and roughly a third of those also use Avaya contact center technology. In terms of joint Cisco ICM customers, there are many fewer overlapping customers, estimated at less than 5% of Genesys customers.

He then addressed the issue quite directly: "We don’t see a lot of customers that are in the mood for refreshing their entire infrastructure to go with a single vendor." He went on to say that Genesys sees enterprises proceeding prudently, and that projects are being triggered by specific events, e.g., a key solution component entering end of life (EOL).

Commenting specifically on Cisco, de Kouchkovsky said that customers are beginning to be concerned about Cisco wanting to be all things to all companies, and are taking a step back to evaluate increasing reliance on a single company. With respect to Avaya, de Kouchkovsky admits that "they have done a great job with their roadmap," but at the end of the day, some platforms will have to be replaced and he sees customers reluctant to begin the migration.

He went on to say that, more than ever, customers want to maximize investments. To the business manager--the customer title Genesys most often deals with - openness matters more than ever. "The rumor that the market has recovered and is looking for a single vendor solution, we are not seeing."

I was frankly a little surprised by de Kouchkovsky's position. I expected to hear that the newly combined Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise/Genesys also believed that they had a single vendor solution to offer to these joint customers. Instead, de Kouchkovsky frankly talked about what his customers' concerns are, not what their technology roadmap should be.

Make no mistake; Alcatel-Lucent/Genesys does offer a single vendor solution. de Kouchkovsky says that "Genesys continues to be open to any platform while offering a tight integration with Alcatel-Lucent's, letting customers choose what's best for them," reinforcing that the Genesys core selling proposition is not changing.

To de Kouchkovsky's point, there will be events in customer businesses that drive a re-examination of some of these multi-vendor environments. But Geotel customers from the mid-nineties have been slow to embrace change, as have companies that invested in custom Genesys desktop creation or incorporated the reporting Avaya CMS into their business processes. This is likely to be a market that moves a little slower than John Chambers might hope.