Chris / Dylan / Dave
The reasons why I'd suggest a WFM provision in this case are really the reasons that Chris has outlined. He already has an Excel model which does not provide all of the functionality that he needs. He is faced with two choices become more proficient in Excel or buy in a WFM product.
I'd recommend the WFM line for a couple of reasons -
Excel solutions are too creator specific - i.e. whoever designs them does so for primarily their own use. WFM tools have to be more inclusive
Stability, speed, and access - Excel models can become large, slow and unstable and can also have the additional limit of allowing only 1 user to access them at any one time.
Succession planning - All WFM tools are built around the same basic principles of forecast, plan, intra-day and report. Should the primary resource planner seek to leave the business then there is a growing pool of talent in the UK who can be recruited to take over with an array of transferable skills
Personal development - resource planners who develop large and complicated spreadsheet operations can become indispensable to the business. Whilst this looks attractive it means that that person cannot move on easily to a higher position, be it inside or outside the company.
I appreciate that Dylan and Dave have reservations about using WFM tools and they are not a cure-all, they do however significantly reduce the amount admin time required for resource planning and provide structure with flexibility. For instance in a previous role I could rearrange the breaks for over 1,500 agents and notify them all in under 60 secs, an extreme example yes, but it does show you what’s possible.
As for the cost effectiveness well let's say the fully-loaded cost of a single call-centre agent is £25k per year as an example. In your centre you'd only have to show that the use of WFM would save the equivalent of 2 agents per year to break even on the investment over 3 years for even the most expensive WFM tool.
As for the product, go with what feels good to you and which your business can afford, you'll primarily have to use it so you choose what appeals to you. I have experience of the 4 products mentioned and have nothing but good experiences from them all, both from a product and a support side.
But hey, don't just believe me -
The DTI report on Call-centres in the UK had this to say on WFM. "WFM can significantly improve the quality of service to the customer, improve staffing levels and save the scheduler a lot of time and effort......those that have a WFM provision experience abandonment rates 13% lower than those that do not use WFM software.
The Central Office of Information's guide to Better Practice in Contact Centres states "As the number of agents increases beyond 20, it becomes more difficult to take into account various rostering variables. In such cases, you should consider the use of specialist workforce management software...... The real benefit of a sophisticated rostering system is an increase in staffing efficiencies, which may result in cost savings. Staffing numbers will more accurately match calling patterns and it will take less time to construct rosters".
The 2002 report from the Professional Planning Forum on the use of WFM tools in the UK found that 97% of WFM users would recommend the use of a similar tool and that 71% described the software as "Very Critical" to their business.
Lastly. WFM tools do not do the resource planning, they help with it. An office of 80 agents should always need a resource planning professional to get the best out of it and any WFM tool. Using a WFM tool means that the professional can concentrate more on the fun, intuitive and proactive elements of resource planning and less on the mundane.