With most of the world seemingly coming out of the recession, the professional services market has become sharply divided, with this year’s ratings pointing to a sharp split between large and smaller, more niche-oriented players in terms of what they can offer. The larger companies—none of which were among the tops in the industry for the past three years—overwhelmingly captured our analysts’ attention this year.
As an odd shift in dynamics, the professional services category this year saw no major mergers or acquisitions (after Avaya swallowed Nortel’s operations in 2009 and Convergys acquired Intervoice in 2008). Instead, this year’s market was dominated by partnerships, with analysts noting two of the top three companies have extensive partner networks that allow them to offer more services in more ways.
And with economic uncertainty still governing many companies’ purchasing decisions, hosted speech offerings seem to be the most heavily sought after by companies looking to incorporate speech into their operations. But while hosting carried serious weight in any proposal request or contract negotiation, many companies still seemed anxious about turning over their information to third parties. That gave rise to a hybrid model that lets the company keep some elements on premises while turning the rest over to a service provider.
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories was one of the firms noted by our analysts for having a very extensive partner network, which allowed it to dominate the field in breadth of offerings and company direction. Genesys’ professional services teams combine business consulting and industry experience, solution planning and training, implementation strategies, project management, and best practices. The company offers a wide variety of packaged, custom, and development solutions tailored to provide an implementation that meets customer requirements, and delivered in a way that fully supports their business goals and processes; this is indicated by its strong rating in customer satisfaction despite a poor showing in the area of affordability.
Microsoft/Tellme scored fairly high across all criteria and captured a near perfect score (4.8 on a five-point scale) in its ability to execute. The company also ranked high in company direction, customer satisfaction, and breadth of offerings, made possible by its ever-expanding business partner network. “They’re doing a lot with partners now already, and they’re continually ramping up their partner network,” says Susan Hura, principal and founder of SpeechUsability.
In the world of professional services, few companies can match the size and scope of AT&T, which literally came from nowhere to capture the industry’s top spot. It finished with a total score of 4.3, far ahead of Genesys, which garnered a total score of 4.1. Analysts referenced not only the variety of its business offerings, split among separate teams for small businesses and enterprise customers, but also the robustness of those offerings as the driving forces behind their scores. “Their mashup technology, especially their [automatic speech recognition] in the cloud, is leading edge. It’s definitely the way of the future,” says Bill Scholz, president of the Applied Voice Input/Output Society (AVIOS).
We expected to turn a few heads last year when we named Avaya as our Vendor Contender following its acquisition of Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions assets, but no one seemed surprised. In fact, most expected the new Avaya/Nortel professional services team to dominate the field this year. “One of the major benefits of the acquisition is the size and quality of the speech team Nortel brought to Avaya,” observes Sheila McGee-Smith, principal of McGee-Smith Analytics. Despite strong gains, though, Avaya continues to be a company to watch. It did, however, take the leadership position in company direction and finished near the top in breadth of offerings and ability to execute. As the company continues to integrate Nortel’s assets, look for it to provide enhanced product and support service capabilities that come from increased global coverage, a larger portfolio of systems and services, and greater expertise.