Wednesday, August 07, 2013

NICE Buys Causata to Extend Its Customer Experience Management Position

So, there I was around 7:30 Eastern time this morning, sending out reminder notices to vendors I need to interview for an upcoming report on Customer Data Platforms. I received an immediate response from the Kevin Nix of Causata, offering to talk that very morning. This seemed a bit odd – Causata is based in San Francisco, so it was 4:30 a.m. local time and most people need more notice to schedule a call. But I had Things To Do, so I didn't give it much thought. Then, at the end of another call, a participant casually mentioned that Causata had just been purchased by Israel-based NICE Systems.  At first I was struck by the coincidence, and then realized what had happened: Nix was up because he had been talking to the folks in Israel, and he replied because he wanted to discuss his acquisition, not my report. [Insert image of deflating self-importance].

Sure enough, when I did dial in, I was treated to a prepared briefing on why NICE had made the deal.

There’s really nothing wrong with that. NICE is little-known in marketing circles, although I had bumped into them previously when they bought decision management vendor eGlue in 2010. But NICE is a major player in contact center systems, with nearly $1 billion revenue and $2.5 billion stock market capitalization. So I was pleased to connect with them directly and learn a bit more.

The briefing itself was interesting too. It turns out that while NICE still sells primarily to contact center managers, it is working hard to expand to clients in marketing, sales, compliance (it bought Actimize in 2007) and other areas related to customer experience. Its interest in Causata related to all  that, and in particular to that fact that Causata can capture Web interactions in real time and present them with related recommendations to contact center agents and other systems. This pumped me back up a bit, since it can be read as validation of the Customer Data Platform concept that I’ve been developing, which is about exactly this need to make customer data easily available across platforms. In fact, Causata was the original example I used to introduce the idea.

But enough about me, at least for the moment. The idea of NICE expanding to become an all-channel, all-department customer experience vendor immediately raises the question of how they’ll compete with all those other omni-everythings approaching from digital marketing (Adobe), B2B CRM (, and general enterprise systems (Oracle, SAP, IBM). The contact center world has actually been a font of decision management systems, most notably Chordiant (now part of Pegasystems) and Infor Epiphany. So it’s certainly possible that they will be another source of competitors converging on the market for integrated customer experience management solutions. Like the CRM and Web content management vendors, the contact center firms start from a strong customer and financial base, making them formidable contenderss in what will surely be a long battle for high stakes.

I haven’t formed a solid opinion yet on how NICE in particular or contact center vendors in general are likely to fare in this new arena. But they are definitely something to factor into future assessments.

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