If I mention Genesys to ten analysts in the customer service or CRM space nine of them will tell me they are a telephony company, and one probably won’t know who I am talking about. I was one of the nine when I first started with Gartner: to me Genesys was the software arm of Alcatel, and you could not have one without the other. In other words, Alcatel led with voice and telephony products, and if the client wanted a software product, they would offer the eService Suite from Genesys.
Somewhere in the mid-2000s this began to shift. I remember in 2004 when I was doing the research for the ERMS (email response management system – email automation tools for Customer Service) Marketscope I was very pleasantly surprised to see their offering was actually — good. Not market leader at the time, but good. It continued to get better and better over time, and the other components of the eService Suite were also getting better. In 2007, the last year I conducted the research for the eService Magic Quadrant, they had actually qualified for inclusion and were rated fairly well (unfortunately, the report was never published — but that is a long story and requires time and drinks).
After that debacle, I lost track of them and recently regained contact when I was invited to their Analyst day, which was last week in Palo Alto. Here is where I need to insert a short note to congratulate Joe Heinen, Rob Hilsen and the Genesys AR team for a wonderful and amazing event. Lots of great information, good pace, and good interaction — incredible how well they pulled off a very hard thing to do: keeping a squad of analysts interested and engaged. Joe Heinen had an interactive voting session that inspired me to write this post, and to jokingly post the following on Twitter:
Alas, all joking aside, the intent for this post if not to show my screen-scrapping skills but to share something very interesting I spotted at the event. Genesys, the little telephony company that could do better in software — has done better. The new vision and architecture introduced (parts available today, the rest coming out with the next release – version 8 – in Q1 of 2010) was significant for three reasons:
1. It was re-architected to work with a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) server in addition to switches and cards — making it easier to tie telephony with other channels, which leads to
2. They are using a framework called iWD (intelligent Workload Distribution) – a follow-up to an Universal Queue that leverages the concepts I laid out in the Customer Interaction Hub (CIH) while at Gartner making it not only a multi-channel management unit, but also an universal interaction resolution framework. Very powerful indeed as we move to a tight integration of the three layers of the cloud, which in turn leads to
3. They have the only working model (being implemented right now at a client that shall remain nameless under NDA laws) I know of a truly cloud-centric (not hosted applications or on-demand solutions) customer service solution. This is the biggest thing I took away from the event.
Unfortunately, this is only a summary of the event and the very-cool stuff I saw while there. I don’t have time (but do have the slides, email me if you are interested and I will share what I can with Genesys permission) to describe in details how the product works and how it does what it does (parts of it are still under NDA). But let me tell you this: as we evolve into a cloud-centric world, being able to work in all three layers (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) is what distinguishes the vendors who get it from those that just try to pass hosted applications as cloud-applications. Salesforce gets it now, as they’ve shown when they released Chatter as part of the PaaS and linked to Service Cloud 2 and other Force.com applications. And Genesys not only gets it – but can operate at any (or all) of the three layers. This is a very big step forward.
Now, wiping the drool and going back to being an analyst — will it work and stick and change the industry? Don’t know, too early to tell. It is going to be very hard to convince contact centers to replace their telephony hardware solutions with a SIP-based solution, and tie that into Genesys components that will also replace existing solutions. Technology refreshes that would address these issues happen every five-to-seven years at contact centers, so we are just beginning to see what could be a very large trend to come in the next few years. One point in their favor: lots of organizations have already committed VoIP (and by association SIP) as a core component of their next technology refresh. This is a good-news / bad-news item though, as Genesys has time to continue to improve and perfect the offering (yes, it is a version 1.0 right now, and with very limited distribution), but they may have to wait longer than they want to see adoption of the model.
One thing does remain in my mind: this is a good first step towards a true cloud-centric deployment of a Customer Service architecture. I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses in the next few months and years.
Am I seeing something that won’t happen? Is then cloud just vapor (not literally, of course)?Disclaimer: Genesys did invite me to their conference and paid for all costs, which would have included a stay at a very nice hotel if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to get up at 3 AM, drive 250 miles, spend the day in sessions, have a great dinner with show, and drive 250 miles back (leaving at 11 PM) on the same day. Alas, did not get the nice hotel room (bummer). Genesys is not currently a client, they may be if they are smart enough to hire me — but even then, my analysis above will not change. I am not that cheap of a date, takes more than that to buy my impressions. I was truly impressed by their progress and the way they presented the new vision. Time will tell, and then I may be vindicated for pointing it out first — or may be ridiculed for thinking it was possible. This analysis is based on my experience, knowledge, and time in the market. If you base any decisions solely on this, you deserve what you get as a result. Do your due diligence and read what others are saying, talk to existing users, and take your time to decide. If this is your only data point to make the decision — well…