Five Important Trends in Workforce Management

At Pelorus Associates we have studied the workforce management space for more than a decade. Our biannual reports delve deeply into the size, composition, market shares, trends, drivers, and obstacles. Our most recent report was published in 2018 and revealed a robust market valued at $529 million. The supply side remains highly concentrated with three companies: Aspect Software, NICE Systems, and Verint Systems, accounting for more than 70 percent of global revenue.

Beyond the one-off events that occur in any industry, during the past few years we have seen some basic underlying trends that are changing our traditional view of workforce management. Here are the top five:

  1. Applications reach out beyond the contact center. Workforce management is not just for contact centers anymore. A growing number of organizations are extending WFM functionality to so-called back-office functions. Our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that back-office employees outnumber contact center workers by a factor of three to one. Much of what these employees do can be streamlined with today's robotic process automation. Verint Systems has been out front, going back to its acquisition of two companies in 2006 that specialized in this area. Extending WFM capability beyond the contact center significantly improves ROI and helps grow customer engagement by assuring that interactions and transactions are executed smoothly.
  2. The WFM solution suite is expanding. Labor scheduling and forecasting continue to be the prime functions, but now WFM goes much further than that. In recent years, leading vendors have added gamification, performance management, e-learning, coaching, knowledge management, long-range planning, and other applications. These applications all pertain to agents who are working on the job. NICE Systems takes a broader view of workforce management with a solution that begins at the initial employee interview and continues through the onboarding process. The theory is that if you make the right hiring decision less effort will be expended trying to improve that person’s performance later on.
  3. There is a rush to the cloud. In 2012, less than 4 percent of global WFM revenue came from the cloud model. In 2017 that figure increased to 18 percent. Our contacts with leading vendors indicate that today about 40 percent of WFM revenue is from either software-as-a-service providers or private cloud. And for new installations, the cloud model accounts for about 70 percent of revenue. The most common implementation mode is to rely on major providers, principally Amazon Web Services, for cloud infrastructure. Aspect Software contracts with AWS but has recently added Microsoft Azure as an alternative. Customers have reasons for preferring one cloud provider over the other, and providers offer different advantages. We expect the multicloud trend to continue as the technology for supporting different cloud environments continues to mature.
  4. Companies are leveraging artificial intelligence and analytics. Rich in historical metrics, WFM is prime for the implementation of artificial intelligence and analytics. For WFM, the key application is in forecasting. Determining future staffing requirements requires analysis of numerous variables, some controllable some not. NICE Systems uses more than 40 algorithms to develop schedules and forecasts. Artificial intelligence can automatically scan data in real time and determine which models are best suited for time and circumstances. Analytics can digest complex information to assess cause and effect. Contact center management can predict the impact of strategic and operational changes prior to making decisions. Leading vendors are committed to AI and analytics. In 2017, Calabrio acquired Symmetrics. In 2018, NICE acquired Mattersight and Verint acquired Kiran Analytics. And in the past few weeks, Genesys acquired nGuVu, a cloud-based software provider of gamified solutions that use machine learning and behavioral analytics.
  5. WFM is for all. WFM software has long been viewed as a product for the very large and complex contact centers. In each of our reports dating back to 2007, we lamented the absence of a product and marketing strategy for smaller contact centers. Our research indicates that more than 80 percent of all contact centers have fewer than 150 agents. This is a sizable market that has too long been ignored by the major players. With its 2019 acquisition of Monet Software, Verint is the first of the top-tier vendors to now offer a WFM solution designed and priced to migrate smaller contact centers from Excel spreadsheets to automated solutions. As the high-end market continues to compress because of business consolidations, we expect other vendors to show more interest in the smaller contact centers.

WFM is by far the most cost-effective investment the contact center can make. For those few contact centers that have not yet invested in WFM, vendors now have an offer for virtually every application and industry. If you are considering replacing or upgrading your current WFM, the choices have never been better, nor have you had more options.

Our next report, "The 2020 World Workforce Management Systems Market," will be available shortly and will have up-to-date numbers on market size, market share, and vendor offerings.

Dick Bucci is founder and chief analyst at Pelorus Associates. He can be reached at