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8/9/2006
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HardMetrics Maps Data Delivery

System provides new option for contact center performance management.

VentanaMonitor

Summary
Historically, contact center management has focused on how many customer calls a center can process in a day and how well agents meet their goals, which have been centered on how well they handle those calls. Research recently completed by Ventana Research shows this is about to change: Nearly 50 percent of centers indicated they will make their incentives for both management and agents more business-related. To support this transition, businesses will need to deploy sophisticated business intelligence (BI) tools that can take full advantage of all the data sources available in a center. HardMetrics provides one of the few BI tools that specifically supports these initiatives in contact centers.

Assessment
Our research into the relative maturity levels of contact centers shows that only 44 percent can produce a center-wide scorecard, and even fewer - 34 percent - can produce a customer-centric scorecard. This weakness exists because very few centers have deployed BI tools that would enable them to make full use of all the data sources available in the center. Most centers rely on reports produced by the core technologies deployed within the center; the main one of these is the automatic call distribution (ACD) system, which typically churns out reams and reams of reports about how many calls were processed, the average lengths of calls, what numbers were called and other details. To focus on business and customer issues, businesses need to address the challenge of accessing and analyzing data held in other complex, often proprietary systems.

HardMetrics has taken a unique approach to solving this issue. It is based on the premise that each of the contact center system vendors delivers data according to an internally defined (that is, vendor-specific) specification. HardMetrics maps these definitions (or application interfaces) into input data sets using rules that determine how the data is transferred. The data then can be loaded into the HardMetrics database, where it is available for subsequent analysis. This avoids the weeks, or sometimes months, of development effort required to build specific extraction tools for each data source. Over time, as HardMetrics works with more and more of the systems used in centers, this should become easier, as they build a library of common interfaces. But having access to the data in a predefined database is only the beginning; next is the question of what to do with it. In this respect every business is different, so HardMetrics provides the usual array of tools - dashboards, scorecards, tabular reports and graphical reports - that enable businesses to decide how to present what information to different users. Users also can define their own reports, reducing the support needed from IT. This not only makes the deployment process faster, easier and more cost-effective; it also means users can quickly make changes to what they see and how they see it. Bringing dispersed data together into a well-defined environment changes what analysis can be done, and businesses can move away from simple historical analysis of data from a single source to carry out cross-functional analysis, combining data from multiple sources. For example, instead of just analyzing the number of calls handled, the analysis also can show the number of calls handled by different agents to achieve different volumes of sales, or which agents complied with defined process rules. The HardMetrics system also supports the creation of rules that trigger alerts when certain conditions occur or when trends indicate such a condition might occur.

Market Impact
Options for BI tools to monitor and access the performance of contact centers have been limited. A typical choice was to use enterprise tools from vendors such as Business Objects or Cognos. But because these never had a contact center focus, it required considerable development effort to cope with the different data sources and to customize the outputs for contact center purposes. Over the last few years, contact center-specific vendors such as AIM Technology, Enkata, Merced Systems and Opus have emerged, each with a slightly different focus and approach to dealing with data access. HardMetrics is so confident in its approach that it is prepared to back its claims with favorable commercial terms.

The outputs from these systems are similar, so the keys to wise investment are the speed (and therefore cost) of implementation, the ability to customize the outputs to meet specific business requirements and the lifetime cost of the product. Competition will increase as some of the technology vendors extend their products to include more extensive BI capabilities, either by internal development or by working with enterprise BI tool suppliers on contact center-specific versions of their products.

Recommendation
Based on the outcome of our recent research into the maturity levels of contact centers, Ventana Research believes that over the next 12 to 24 months businesses will seek to deploy more advanced BI solutions in their contact centers, so they can change their approaches to performance management from efficiency to customer satisfaction and effectiveness. As they do this, we advise businesses to seriously consider HardMetrics as an option because of the product's capabilities, its speed of implementation and the considerable experience of HardMetrics' team.

About Ventana Research
Ventana Research is the leading Performance Management research and advisory services firm. By providing expert insight and detailed guidance, Ventana Research helps clients operate their companies more efficiently and effectively. These business improvements are delivered through a top-down approach that connects people, process, information and technology. What makes Ventana Research different from other analyst firms is a focus on Performance Management for finance, operations and IT. This focus, plus research as a foundation and reach into a community of over two million corporate executives through extensive media partnerships, allows Ventana Research to deliver a high-value, low-risk method for achieving optimal business performance. To learn how Ventana Research Performance Management workshops, assessments and advisory services can impact your bottom line, visit www.ventanaresearch.com.
2006 Ventana Research

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