I had the opportunity to visit with Steve Hughes, president of Aspect Enterprise, this week to get an update on their business now that the ION acquisition has closed. Though he indicated that they are in the process of merging their administrative functions with ION, operationally the business continues, and will continue, as it has in the past.
Acknowledging that there has been a level of concern and uncertainty among the company’s client base regarding the deal’s impacts on Aspect’s products and support, Mr. Hughes indicated those concerns are waning as the company continues to deliver product and services in line with their client’s expectations and Aspect’s established standards.
In discussing the strategy behind the acquisition, Mr. Hughes stated that Aspect was acquired to expand ION’s presence in the commodities space as part of a multi-brand strategy. As such, Aspect will continue as a separate brand and operation…a strategy that he likened to hotel ownership, with firms such as Starwood or Hilton operating numerous hotel chains under a single parent company. He also stressed that, like these holding companies, ION has a long-term hold and grow strategy – not one driven by venture money that stresses a 3 to 5 year window for flipping the business at some overly aggressive multiple.
In terms of ION attempting to reconcile the commodity-centric holdings within their portfolio – Triple Point, Aspect and now Openlink (pending closing) – he indicated that ION is comfortable with the portfolio companies competing for sales, providing the customer the opportunity to decide which product or products within the ION brands would be a best fit for their business. That being said, he also noted that being part of a portfolio business does allows Aspect to reach across the aisle for additional capabilities when necessary, including solutions such as ship tracking from the Triple Point suite (Softmar) and integrate those into a larger offering via ION’s mature middleware technology bus.
Following the discussion with Mr. Hughes, I spoke briefly with Brigette Gebhard, Apect’s vp of sales and marketing. Though she wasn’t yet ready to provide results for the company, she did say that business has been very good, with a significant number of new deals signed in December, well after the ION acquisition was announced.
Obviously, if the multi-brand strategy continues to hold, it should be very good news for Aspect and Openlink customers. As we’ve previously noted on this blog, much of the consternation around these recent acquisitions within the respective customer bases has focused on the Triple Point experience. Allowing Aspect, Openlink and a now re-emerging Triple Point to continue operating independently – innovating and competing aggressively for new business – rather than trying to create some monolithic unifying solution from a collection of products (a strategy that has never succeeded in this space), ensures the customers of these solutions providers will continue to have access to quality products and support.