The question of contact center “ownership” comes up every couple of years, often when Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are given increased authority and greater responsibility within their companies. Here’s the situation: CIOs, understandably, want to manage as much of the enterprise technology as they can. CIOs are dedicated to realizing economies of scale from shared standards and infrastructure. They see contact centers as a technology-driven utility that can be improved under their strategic guidance and management. From a pure technology perspective this makes sense, as it facilitates a consistent and cost-effective environment.
By contrast, contact center leaders are held accountable for providing a cost-effective, outstanding customer experience in a dynamic operating environment where the only constant is change. Contact centers are people-intensive organizations where technology is a mission-critical enabler. The key to managing a successful contact center is ensuring that agents and supervisors have the right policies, procedures and training, in addition to the best technology and applications to do their jobs.
IT wants standardization and cost control (which are sufficient goals for many operating groups). However, this can be a big problem for contact centers, which rarely stay the same and need to be flexible so that they can rapidly respond to changing business needs. Thus, the goals of these two business units – IT and contact centers – appear to be in conflict, as has always been the case. But there is a practical resolution for this inherent, and unfortunately, ongoing conflict, which can be costly for companies.
IT needs to be positioned to manage all core technology and platforms for the enterprise. This includes the network backbone that supports all voice and data activities, such as Internet Protocol. However, they also need to make their application decisions jointly with their business partners, and must strive to find a balance between standardization on the one hand, and cost containment and business needs on the other.
Contact center management needs to be able to make changes constantly to their operating environment – which includes their servicing applications and “telephony” infrastructure, such as routing, queuing and self-service applications. (Many of today’s contact center solutions are designed to be administered by business managers without programming skills.)
It’s Time for Compromise
A compromise can be reached when the rules of engagement between IT and contact centers are clearly defined and agreed upon by both sides. While this may not be the simplest goal to achieve, it’s a necessity most enterprises ignore, and it’s the fundamental cause of costly infighting and strife between IT and contact centers.
There is an ideal compromise that can and should be reached by IT and contact center leaders. Contact center leaders should be responsible for the day-to-day operation of their applications. This includes, but is not limited to, changes in routing, agent definitions and permissions, messages, self-service applications, etc.
IT should be responsible for setting the strategy for the enterprise’s core infrastructure, and making sure that all systems and applications used throughout the company are aligned with this strategy. They should also be responsible for overseeing the performance of the enterprise’s network backbone. Therefore, they should be involved in all contact center system selections, and largely responsible for all implementations, upgrades and ongoing maintenance.
Contact centers should be responsible for the day-to-day administration of their solutions. IT should be responsible for setting corporate standards and overseeing the performance of the enterprise network backbone. Formalized communications supported by service level agreements, can facilitate this balance of responsibilities with a minimum of conflict.