In this Industry Buzz Podcast, UCStrategies welcomes Gina Clarkin, Manager of Solutions Marketing for Interactive Intelligence. Topics include Interactive Process Automation, Interactive Intelligence's cloud capabilities, and the future of work. Michael Finneran is the moderator, and is joined by UCStrategies Experts Art Rosenberg, Clark Richter, and Don Van Doren.
Transcript for Catching Up With Interactive Intelligence
Michael Finneran: Well good day everyone! This is Michael Finneran, and I am here with a number of the UCStrategies experts, and our special guest today, Gina Clarkin, the manager of Solutions Marketing for Interactive Intelligence. Gina, welcome.
Gina Clarkin: Thank you very much, Michael.
Michael Finneran: There are a few things we’d like to hear about from Interactive Intelligence. The first is something I’ve been following fairly close, which is the Interactive Process Automation. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that, and how it fits in with the overall Customer Interaction Center?
Gina Clarkin: Sure thing. This is certainly a topic that is near and dear to my heart, having been one of the product managers involved with that launch. The whole business process automation application that we’ve developed is built on the underlying technology of our Customer Interaction Center platform, and what I mean by that is that it utilizes the power and sophistication of the ACD routing engine and takes all those principles, from a technology side and a best practices side, and applies that to work in a business process.
Now it’s a lot more than that, it’s not just a routing engine, there is also a very intuitive visual design interface, the ability to create end user interfaces that can be routed as interactions, real time monitoring and tracking, and all the things you’d expect to be able to create, deploy, deliver and manage work. Where it really gets interesting is when it goes out of the four walls of the enterprise. Today with the way people work and the way business gets done, there’s really a significant need to extend key business processes to the mobile user, whether that’s an end consumer who needs to interact with an organization that’s providing a service or product, or whether it’s the people in the field from a service technician, or appraiser, or adjuster who might be involved in some customer-facing process and need to interact quickly to improve service. The ability to deliver that work or that business process to someone who’s not tethered to a desk has really become critical with the pace of today’s work and the expectations of end consumers for the service experience.
Michael Finneran: So it looks like you’re really getting beyond the traditional customer service role and focus to real communications enabled business processes with this.
Gina Clarkin: We are, but we certainly haven’t left the customer service perspective behind. This is one application, along with its mobility applications, that certainly spans the contact center, and out to the broader enterprise and then even, as I mentioned, beyond the wall so it can be a directly customer-facing service process, or it can even be something that is maybe another work team or another business process somewhere else in the organization or a combination of the two.
Michael Finneran: Wow, tell me, is this work across industry groups or are there particular verticals that you found where this process automation really fits?
Gina Clarkin: We have seen adoption across a variety of verticals, but to your point we have seen significant interest and very high value applications in certain industries. One is healthcare, another is insurance. The retail industry has a huge interest. We actually did a webinar earlier this year with a customer, Blinds.com, that is a division of Home Depot. And they use the process automation for their customer complaint process. So there’s certainly a significant interest in certain key industries. We see healthcare in particular looking at this from both the customer service patient engagement perspective, as well as really enabling mobile workers, like physicians and clinicians who need information and who need to respond real time to work-related requests and they’re certainly not tethered to a desk.
Michael Finneran: That’s certainly the case in healthcare.
Gina Clarkin: Yes, absolutely.
Michael Finneran: The other core capability we’ve seen Interactive Intelligence getting into the last few years has been the move toward the cloud. Are the two coming together? The business process automation and your cloud capabilities?
Gina Clarkin: Very much so. I think that in general we’re seeing a huge uptick in our cloud business in terms of just the number of customers who are looking at a cloud solution and only looking at cloud solutions. They really want to take advantage of that particular model. With that, much of the new activity for our Interaction Process Automation product has been in with these cloud customers. They see not just the benefits of the cloud but the benefits of implementing a solution like that in a cloud environment because they get the best of both worlds, combining the process automation capabilities with all the underlying business benefits of the cloud.
Michael Finneran: I think Art Rosenberg has a question for you here Gina, particular how this regards to your partners. Art?
Art Rosenberg: Yes, when I look at who the end users are, you mentioned two of them. One obviously is our customers outside the organization and then people within your organization especially if they’re mobile and in a field service as you highlighted, but I would include business partners who are not in your organization and you have little control over what technology they use and BYOD and so on, but they also have to be part of the whole BPA process. Comment?
Gina Clarkin: Absolutely, you are spot on, and I’d go back to that Blinds.com example. One of the things they were challenged with, and this is documented in their video testimonial and their case study with us, is the complaint resolution process that they have also involves their external business partners, so it’s critical that information is communicated to those external business partners and that they can act on it as quickly as possible to get that customer resolution. And you’re right, that this is a unique case, but you’re right that once any vendor starts working with other business partners, they don’t have necessarily control or influence over how that partner will be interacting with, whether it’s communications or work events. So there really does need to be flexibility there in terms of ensuring they can participate in a process.
Art Rosenberg: That’s where I see the cloud being very powerful, because it’s a place where you can integrate, interoperate and make contact, as opposed to trying to do it system-to-system for the internal CPE kind of technology.
Gina Clarkin: Absolutely. And the web is such a big part of that, ensuring that you can just deliver things in a very simple, intuitive way, in a browser-based application. I think that is driving a lot of organizations to maybe rethink some of the pieces of their business processes.
Michael Finneran: I think Don Van Doren has a question for you as well, Gina. Don?
Don Van Doren: Hi Gina, I’d like to follow on this discussion about the partners and just what’s involved there. It seems to me that to make things like IPA work effectively within organizations, there’s a fair amount of consulting work that has to be done. Understanding what the business issue is, configuring and tailoring the capabilities of Interactive Intelligence’s solutions so they can really meet those needs. If that’s something that traditionally at least many of the partner organizations, haven’t been so strong on. They’ve really been better on selling the equipment and delivering it to the customer door. I know that’s changing, obviously, but talk to me a bit about number one, is that an issue, and number two, if it is, how does your company go about supporting your partner organizations to make them be able to do this more effectively?
Gina Clarkin: Sure thing, Don, a couple of comments there. You’re absolutely right. Not every partner has the expertise to be the kind of process consultant and best practice consultant that is ideally part of any business process reengineering effort. But that is where we have sort of a variety of approaches. At one level we have the partners who do have that expertise and who have seen our process automation offering as an opportunity to expand their business capabilities. We then have, I would say, another group of partners that maybe aren’t looking at it in quite the same way. They typically either enlist the help of our consultants; we do have a consultant liaison program that is very active; and/or we also offer the kind of training and certification for the partners who do want to maybe not necessarily build a center of excellence in their organization but who do want resources who are more proficient.
So it’s a variety of ways to approach this, and there’s also one other type of implementation. We find that some customers who have partners also have their own in-house expertise and the way IPA has been designed, they really just team up with the partners and they can create, test and deploy any number of processes without any assistance from us. And we’ve seen that with several customers as well. So it does run the gamut but we try to equip them either through training and certification, through the access to the consultant liaison program, through specialized assistance to teach them and help them build their business, so it’s a variety.
Michael Finneran: Gina, Clark Richter has a question for you in particular with regard to the cloud deployment. Clark?
Clark Richter: Hi Gina, I don’t know if you’re familiar with a study that comes out, it’s come out for the last five years from CompTIA, an organization that does a Cloud study. And part of it they survey end users on their adoption of cloud applications. One of the numbers that kind of stuck out to me, I’d like to get your perspective on, (to see) if it’s consistent with what you’re seeing with customers. When they break out different cloud application usages, call centers are by far the lowest in terms of cloud adoption. It ranges from 26% in small businesses up to 36% versus other business productivity application like email and things like that are usually well above 50%. Are you seeing those types of numbers as well in your customer base?
Gina Clarkin: Actually no. I understand why the Cloud versus some sort of single point applications or the contact center is maybe not as prevalent in general because it’s certainly a fairly complex organism, to consider changing a business strategy and going from on-prem to Cloud, and I think a lot of that speaks to the solution itself. For us, last year we ended the year with over half our revenues from cloud and we’re already seeing more than that this year in 2014. So we’re looking at numbers of closer to 50+, 60+ percent of our business is coming from the Cloud and that is, by and large contact center. So we’re seeing numbers that are much higher in terms of adoption of our particular solution.
Michael Finneran: I think it was also something of a surprise, Gina, with regard to the size of customers was showing up in the Cloud.
Gina Clarkin: That is true. I think there’s sort of a kind of an industry perception that Cloud is really suited toward the smaller end of the market, the small to medium enterprise and while that may be true, we have actually seen a number of deals where our customers are large and in many cases multi-national organizations. And they’re looking at the Cloud for the same business benefits, the ease and speed of deployment, the benefit of operating versus capital expense and just the continuous enhancements availability, the simplified administration and management, all the things that go with the Cloud, so yes, we are seeing some very large customers adopt our cloud solution.
Michael Finneran: That probably speaks to why your percentage of cloud seems to be higher than the average here. I think Art has a question for you about the role of line of business management and IPA.
Art Rosenberg: Yes, we’re talking here about automating business processes and the question is who really understands the business process? Not how to implement it, but what’s required in terms of priorities and who is involved because different people are involved with different processes so you have to look at it from that perspective. And my question is, to what extent is line of business management starting to focus on that kind of responsibility, because it’s not up to IT to decide that; it’s got to be business process management and the line of business people.
Gina Clarkin: Very true, and we find that typically the need and the pain that is driving consideration of IPA or any kind of process reengineering, I’ll call it, any kind of process improvement is always driven from the business. But at the same time I think where we’ve seen the most successful implementations and when I say implementation I’m including the up front work of process analysis and all the heavy lifting that has to happen before we ever touch the technology. The most successful implementations are the ones where business and IT work as a team. Where IT understands there’s a need that the business has and that it really is a benefit if they support them and the business understands that IT can truly be the enabler and they actively participate together and that’s key too. I think by having both the key stakeholders from the business and IT involved in some of that up-front process analysis, it’s quite illuminating for both sides and it sets them up for a much better project going forward.
Art Rosenberg: Yeah I would definitely endorse that feeling because obviously IT will be very instrumental, once they know what they want to do to help in the migration from whatever they’ve got to what’s coming. They’ve got to be part of it that way.
Gina Clarkin: Again, I think sometimes there’s this expectation or sort of “prevailing wisdom” that IT will not be a champion but a barrier to any kind of process automation or process improvement. But in reality once they understand the benefits, I think they typically want to be that enabler for the line of business.
Michael Finneran: Now we’ve talked about two of the big trends we were seeing in the industry, the increased mobility and the shift of the cloud. There is a third – I was wondering, Gina, how do you see the IPA capability fitting with a BYOD environment where people are bringing their own devices? Do you see any particular challenges in that?
Gina Clarkin: Yes and no. I think that any time an organization is looking at and maybe assessing how a BYOD strategy would fit, if it would fit at all with their organization, there are going to be a number of different kinds of hurdles. But if they’re also at the same time not just looking at the technical hurdles but the opportunity costs or business value in terms of whether we do or do not pursue a BYOD strategy – that typically tends to clarify things pretty quickly. And for our purposes with so many applications web enabled, it’s really a matter of can IPA or any other type of application work in a browser-based environment. If you can do that, then that’s really a lot of the battle to BYOD. And obviously there are a number of other technical challenges specific to device operating system and security. But I think now what we’re seeing – not just with IPA, but with almost any enterprise software – that it’s almost now not even considered whether an application will work across devices. It’s more of a “of course” it has to work across devices. And I think that really goes to this whole concept how people are getting work done. Not just today, but how are they going to be working in the future. We’re already seeing this trend. You walk into any Starbucks and chances are you’ll see someone with both a laptop and a smart phone, or a tablet and a smart phone, or just a tablet… and they’re not just there for the coffee. They’re working; they’re waiting for a meeting; any airport, people are working. People tend to work wherever they are and that’s just an expectation.
Michael Finneran: The like the old saw, work’s that no longer a place you go, it’s a thing you do. But it does sound a lot like what you’re aiming at, at Interactive Intelligence, is focused on these future work scenarios. I guess that is the case.
Gina Clarkin: We are definitely looking at that. It started with looking at the customer engagement or customer service experience in the future, what’s that going to look like? And I think that drove a larger vision, in general. What will consumers expect from the service experience and what will employees expect from their user experience? And how do you provide the tools to facilitate a superior experience, an exceptional experience on either side? And at the same time, how do you enable companies to deliver those kind of experiences to both the employee and the customer?
Michael Finneran: It sounds like you have a good vision. But the big challenge here is always how do we get from here to there, making these future work scenarios a reality? What is it going to take to move it?
Gina Clarkin: Well I think some of it is moving along regardless of what we’re doing or thinking. It seems like it’s almost a tidal wave. I think you had just mentioned some of these huge macro trends, between the Cloud, mobility, I’d throw in social technology and the kind of e-consumer experiences people are now used to. That is just kind of this huge groundswell of change.
So yeah, we think we have a pretty good vision and we definitely want to harness next generation technology to enable us to deliver on what we think consumers, customers and employees will want and that’s why we’re looking at this next gen type of Cloud architecture, taking advantage of a distributed cloud model, to create the kind of infrastructure and applications that really are suited to the future of work and the future customer experience. Things like enterprise profiles that are tied to collaboration applications, and UC in the cloud, to give people all the various communication tools, to connect real time in the manner of their choice, content management, all the contact center technologies. Leveraging new architecture allows us to deliver new kinds of services which enables those new kinds of experiences.
Michael Finneran: Wow, it’s clear that what you are branching out with IPA certainly Interactive Intelligence has not lost focus of the traditional customer service role. But this has been a great conversation, and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to describe Interactive Intelligence’s vision in this, and thanks to my UCStrategies experts here for contributing their content as well. It’s been a great chat, Gina Clarkin, thank you very much for joining us and we’ll talk to you all next week.