Microsoft-Aspect Announcement’s Missing Piece

While everyone’s talking about the announcement made last week between Microsoft and Aspect Software, focusing on Microsoft’s investment in Aspect and the fact that Aspect will be integrating with and supporting Microsoft’s OCS, I think the most important piece of information is missing from the announcement. Ok, so it’s big news that Microsoft is investing a significant amount of money in Aspect, and it’s also important news that Aspect will integrate its Unified IP contact center solution with OCS to provide capabilities such as “ask-an-expert capabilities” (or what I’ve been calling Expert Agent capabilities) using OCS’s presence technology. This will certainly be useful to Aspect customers, and this helps clarify Aspect’s UC strategy. I see this announcement as being very beneficial to Aspect and its customers.
But what is missing from this announcement is information on Microsoft’s contact center strategy vis a vis UC. We still have not heard what Microsoft will offer in terms of a contact center solution as part of or in conjunction with its OCS offering. Clearly Microsoft recognizes how important it is to have some sort of contact center solution offering for customers that are looking into an enterprise UC/voice solution. But the company has not disclosed any sort of contact center strategy to date.
Microsoft has several options– clearly working with Nortel, a leader in the contact center space, to provide the needed contact center capabilities is one option (and while Microsoft made it clear that its investment in Aspect does not impact its relationship with Nortel, I’m sure the Nortel folks weren’t too excited when they heard the news).
Another option is to acquire a company in the contact center market, such as Aspect or possibly Interactive Intelligence. And of course rumors persist that Microsoft will acquire Siemens Enterprise Communications, Nortel, or any number of telephony vendors, which, if true, would provide Microsoft with the needed contact center capabilities and expertise. But these are rumors and so far no truth to any of them (yet).
The cynic in me believes that there’s a good chance that Microsoft will leverage both Nortel and Aspect’s expertise, and then offer its own contact center offering, competing with both companies (although less likely Aspect since they traditionally focus on high-end solutions).
Regardless of what route Microsoft takes, it’s important for the company to articulate its contact center strategy for those companies that are looking to OCS as an enterprise voice solution. Most of those companies also have contact centers and in many cases will be looking for a contact center solution down the road. Microsoft needs an answer for them.

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