Workforce management, quality monitoring continue to converge

Last week's acquisition of Etalk by Autonomy, continues a trend in the contact center market.

Last week's acquisition of Etalk by the Autonomy Corp. continues the convergence of the workforce management and quality monitoring markets.

Cambridge, England-based Autonomy, said last week that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Etalk Corp. for $70 million in cash and shares. Autonomy provides infrastructure software for managing enterprise data, including audio, while Etalk provides contact center products, particularly in performance management.

The move mirrors the purchase early this year of Blue Pumpkin Software Inc. by Witness Systems Inc., which combined another quality monitoring software vendor with a workforce management application, as well as the purchase of Dictaphone Communications Recording Systems, a quality management system provider, by Nice Systems in April.

"Most organizations prefer a single interface and want to reduce the number of vendors," said Dave Gould, CEO of Witness. "They have better leverage and relationships that way. It's easier to have systems initially integrated on a single platform. That was our motivation in buying Blue Pumpkin."

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Etalk's customer base of more than 1,500 contact centers, 35 of which are in Fortune 100 companies, will help Autonomy extend its own offerings, the company said. Combined products are expected to be available within a quarter.

The move will bolster the company's data management and analytics capabilities, extend the Autonomy IDOL voice analytics and conceptual intelligence software to Etalk's current customer base, allow Etalk's Qfiniti platform to handle more complex and larger volumes of data, hasten the adoption of searchable Voice over Internet Protocol telephony and leverage Autonomy's international presence, according to Autonomy.

"We're extremely excited about this opportunity to deliver a higher level of service to our customers," Scott Shute, Etalk president and CEO, said in a statement. "Joining with Autonomy enables us to present our customers with a stronger product suite, giving them unmatched insight into their business operations."

Etalk shareholders will receive $30 million in cash and Autonomy shares worth approximately $40 million. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the transaction, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2005.

Don't expect this to be the last of the consolidation in the contact center market either, Gould warns. Over the next year and a half, he predicts the larger quality monitoring and workforce management software providers will swallow up the competition, until there are only two or three remaining.

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