To build on its movement into the world of UC and its relationship with Microsoft, Aspect announced that it is launching a new professional services and systems integration practice t”o assist organizations with planning, implementing and supporting unified communications products across their enterprises and into their contact centers.”
Aspect announced an important partnership with Microsoft a few months ago, focusing on integrating with and supporting Microsoft’s OCS (and Microsoft is investing a significant amount of money in Aspect). Aspect is integrating its Unified IP contact center solution with OCS to provide capabilities such as “ask-an-expert capabilities” using OCS’s presence technology.
Aspect, which now calls itself a “unified communications and contact center software and services provider,” says that the new services practice within Aspect Professional Services is “designed to help companies create and execute a logical UC rollout strategy, from basic infrastructure through business process enablement, which will improve enterprise productivity and enhance customer-facing business processes.” The new UC practice is intended to support the Aspect/Microsoft strategic alliance, and assists organizations in deploying Microsoft OCS and other Microsoft UC applications from planning through implementation.
The new services practice will include several types of services: UC Strategy, Planning and Architecture, and implementation and integration.
In addition, Aspect is already hard at work supporting the new voice capabilities in Microsoft OCS 2007 R2 (see my UC Strategies Views post on R2, Aspect’s Professional Services Practice – Makes Sense to Me. Aspect will support the voice features that support remote and mobile workers, audio conferencing capabilities, and developer tools, which will be used to create tight integrations between OCS and Aspect Unified IP, with the first integration release scheduled for December.
During my pre-announcement briefing with Microsoft about OCS 2007 RS, I asked about Microsoft’s contact center strategy, since there were no new contact center capabilities or features included in the new release. Knowing that many enterprises purchase their switch (IP PBX) based on the vendor’s contact center offerings, I was surprised that Microsoft acknowledged no plans to introduce its own contact center capabilities. Instead, the company plans to continue to partner with companies like Aspect, Nortel, and others.
Microsoft has made many partnership announcements since it entered the world of unified communications, and I didn’t take all of them very seriously (everyone is a “special friend” to Microsoft). Its relationship with Aspect is different – Microsoft isn’t just partnering with Aspect because it has to and because its customers are demanding it (like in the case of Cisco). Instead, when customers ask Microsoft about its contact center offerings, Microsoft points them to Aspect or Nortel.
So it makes sense that Aspect is building up its professional services capabilities in UC to help customers in their UC strategy and implementation. The more help that’s provided to customers, the better for everyone.