Aspect Reimagining CX 'Via' the Cloud
Like other legacy vendors, company is evolving a series of stand-alone contact center solutions into a single cloud platform for customer engagement.
As Avaya begins the process of addressing serious "capital structure" issues, Aspect last week found out that a Delaware court has approved its plan to "deleverage its balance sheet." That's good news for Aspect, which in March promised that despite filing for Chapter 11, it would be "business as usual."
Aspect stuck to that promise at its annual user group conference, held May 9 to 12, where it announced solutions resulting from efforts to revitalize its product portfolio that began about 18 months ago. As early as February 2015, Aspect shared its vision with analysts, many of the details then under nondisclosure as part of a project code-named Manhattan. This month Aspect announced the cleverly code-named Brooklyn -- a bridge to the full vision of Manhattan (for those less familiar with the geography of New York's five boroughs, the Brooklyn Bridge joins Manhattan and Brooklyn). For release, Aspect has branded project Brooklyn as Aspect Via, a cloud customer engagement center.
Aspect CMO Jim Freeze walked me through the infrastructure path that Aspect has moved its portfolio down for the past 10 years or so. First, Aspect delivered applications from traditional infrastructure -- i.e., purpose-built hardware -- with its Aspect CallCenter and Davox Unison offerings. Then it moved to its Unified IP offerings, virtualized applications on standards-based servers. This allowed it to deliver the applications more easily on premises and to create a managed or hosted services model.
Next Aspect added some software-as-a-service offerings -- e.g., Aspect Zipwire (an SMB cloud contact center offering) and its self-service Customer Experience Platform, or CXP (from the Voxeo acquisition). But in Aspect's own words, integration of the portfolio's various solutions remained at a product level. The next stage of integration had to have these attributes:
- Solution simplification... removal of functional redundancy
- Flattened footprint
- Rapid deployment in a service provider cloud
- Harmonized user interface with purpose-built dashboards
- Automation via back-office integration
- Feature bundles enabled through licensing
Aspect built Via to deliver on these requirements. Like other legacy contact center vendors, the company used the term "refactoring" to describe how its research and development team is working to evolve a series of stand-alone contact center solutions (including ACD, IVR, text and speech analytics, workforce optimization, and so on) into a single platform for customer engagement. In addition, Aspect has created a common user interface for configuration and administration across the various capabilities, and has developed a streamlined user interface experience for agents, team leads, and administrators.
Aspect describes Via as "a complete set of native customer service capabilities, designed to integrate into the larger customer-driven enterprise, based entirely on proven technology from Aspect's comprehensive portfolio, all in the cloud, utilizing our latest next-generation components." Like others that have taken this journey (e.g., Interactive Intelligence and LiveOps), Aspect will deliver Via in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. As is true for its cloud contact center competitors, AWS helps Aspect deliver not only highly resilient auto-scaling for Via, but also global reach.
A phrase has been going through my head since I heard the Aspect Via story: Refactoring is the new black. Enterprise software expert Martin Fowler defines refactoring as "a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior." Several contact center solution providers are undertaking efforts similar to Aspect's -- some announced and some likely to be announced by the end of 2016. I've heard the phrase, "no sleep until" attached to the efforts of other vendors as well.
As a colleague recently said to me while talking about one of these refactoring efforts, it's great to have a strategic plan, but it comes down to execution. Customers will have to evaluate how well each of the new services delivers on its promise -- and that will likely come down to the amount of time and money each vendor has had to do the job. My point of view is that Interactive Intelligence has set the bar, spending an estimated $100 million over three to four years.
Existing customers and other prospects will have an opportunity to judge Aspect's efforts at the end of third-quarter 2016, when Aspect Via is expected for general availability.