We’ve had our fingers on the pulse of cloud-based contact center solutions since the initial offerings came to market. There’s a lot to like about them: features/functions, flexibility, agility, ongoing upgrades, reduced demands on IT, attractive economics, and so on. Vendor messaging leans heavily on “good, fast, and cheap” to draw overburdened contact center and IT staff to their doorsteps. Yet through a series of articles, we’ve been the voice of reason to ward off hasty decisions that could have serious long-term implications.
The latest market development involves a new breed of “consultant” who promise to cut through the “red tape” and accelerate the decision-making process. Unfortunately, they may simply act as brokers who solicit bids without investing the time and energy to define requirements and match them to the ideal solution providers. In fact, they may even get referral fees from their favorite vendors (not your best-fit vendor) for promoting their solutions. And when the time comes for contract negotiation and implementation, they may not have your back.
We appreciate the drive to streamline procurement and implementation processes, and we’ve found sensible ways to meet that need. However, a certain level of thoughtful planning and deliberation makes sense to get the right vendor partner and gain the most value from the technology investment.
The contact center needs a clear understanding of its requirements to drive the decision process toward solutions that will best meet them. This process considers the center’s short-term needs and long-term plans (e.g., growth, multimedia support). It’s also informed by an understanding of what’s possible, especially for those centers that have languished with old technology for years.
The selection process needs to focus on vendor solutions that that are aligned with the center’s needs. There is a lot of diversity in cloud solution architectures, technology integration, delivery systems, implementation approach and resources, support options, pricing models, etc. Not all vendors are created equal! The evaluation process should secure apples-to-apples comparisons among the finalists and yield accurate budgetary figures. Unpleasant surprises don’t serve anyone’s best interests.
Contract negotiation should revolve around a clear Statement of Work to gain a detailed understanding of project scope, licensing, payment structures, implementation and setup fees, network access, system integration, implementation, and ongoing support.
Senior leadership needs to read the contract to understand what they’re getting and what they’re not getting in the new business relationship. It should leave no mysteries about service level agreements (SLAs), including response times, resolution times, escalation processes and remediation. Licensing counts and changes, terms, and termination are also very important. Not all contracts are created equal!
The center, IT, and vendor need to assign roles, responsibilities, and timelines for implementation, testing, cutover, and ongoing support. A project lead should be designated to keep everyone on task.
Enthusiasm feels good and inspires hope, especially if you’ve labored with old or troublesome technology, but don’t let it distract from what is really important. Invest time up-front in planning to make sure you get what you really need and want. Thereafter, active vendor management delivers ongoing success.