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Last week I attended Interactions 2012, the biggest event yet put on by Interactive Intelligence. I’ve been to a few of these, and this was the first time they had both partners and customers there, so the crowd was big – over 1,500. Just like the cloud-based business they’re in, the event seems to have scaled effortlessly and everything came off smoothly.
Of course there were lots of people behind the curtain making things happen, and there were plenty of helpers on hand to make sure we knew where to go. I guess you might call them the routers in this rather virtual network that was disbanded in no time as soon as Don Brown finished his roadmap update to close out the sessions. Anyhow, I had no complaints about the scale of the conference. Like others I talked to, the bigger issue was picking which sessions to attend. As Joe Staples noted in his long list of thank-you’s, 170 ININ employees gave presentations, so you can imagine how much preparation went into all this. I’m sure they’re happy they only do this once a year.
I took in my share of sessions, and overall, the quality was very good. The rooms were full and there was lots of interaction with the audience. Customers got their fill of product-focused presentations, while partners had lots of content to digest around vertical market opportunities and selling ININ against the competition.
Joe Staples set the stage early, talking about the customer experience and how ININ helps partners turn that into a “competitive weapon.” ININ is a pretty laid-back company, and I rather liked this messaging – it’s a bit out of character, but they know what they’re doing, and it doesn’t hurt to amp up the tone in such a fast-changing, competitive space. They’re on track to hit $250 million in sales; they have $100 million in the bank, no debt and a great track record of profitability. If this isn’t the time to take on the Tier 1’s – Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, etc. – I don’t know when the right time is.
Based on what I was hearing, they’re definitely on message with today’s hot buttons in the contact center space. It’s all about CEM now – customer experience management – and that means multichannel, mobility, social media, Web services, business process integration, etc. Sure sounds like a recipe for Unified Communications, right? I’ve always found ININ to have that unique mix of UC and contact center and that’s why I’m writing about them here.
All of us here at UCStrategies understand this connection, and we try hard to make it clear to our readers. While contact center isn’t a core focus on this portal, many of us are active in that space, and the business case for UC is getting stronger all the time. However, it’s easier said than done, and as smart as ININ is, they recognize this as well. One of the strongest takeaways from the conference was hearing how they know the company is not well understood. Despite their solid track record of growth, the financial community and the broader business market sees ININ as a complex company. I don’t see that perception changing anytime soon, but as long as they keep growing, does that really matter?
Perhaps the biggest contributor to that is the schism between cloud and premise-based solutions. ININ has been featured on our portal many times, and by now you should know about CaaS – Communications as a Service – their cloud-based contact center offering. We heard how 23% of 2011 orders were CaaS, and they expect to hit the 30-40% range this year. That’s a pretty strong growth story, and clearly, they’re bullish on the cloud. During one of the sessions with analysts and consultants, our crowd wasn’t quite so optimistic about near-term market adoption, so time will tell who is better at reading the tea leaves.
For now, the majority of the contact center market remains premise-based, so the cloud has a ways to go before rendering physical networks obsolete. One of the key points of contention is the underlying business model. It’s not clear at what point the economics of the cloud – renting – become more costly than premise-based – owning, but I’m sure that longer-term view has to be a holdback for many businesses. I think the winning value proposition comes instead from positioning the cloud as the better way to deliver the tools and benefits the contact center needs to do their job. If you attended the event – or followed the Twitter feed (#InteractIndy12) – I’m sure you’ll pick up on my tie-in here to Clayton Christensen’s keynote. This was a highlight for me, and pretty much everyone I talked to there.
This, of course, brings us to UC. We know that CEO Don Brown gets it – UC is a great enabler, not just for contact agents, but tying their activities to another ININ focus – BPA – business process automation. Most of us in UC circles would call this CEBP, and ININ is doing a great job trying to bring these areas into a common focus. The cloud provides scale, flexibility and cost savings (at least in the short term). UC allows agents to provide multichannel support in a consistent fashion, regardless of where they are located. Finally, BPA uses analytics and business intelligence tools to tie those interactions to internal processes that make the business perform more efficiently.
There’s a lot to think about here, and you can’t help but come away from the conference feeling good about their ability to deliver on all these fronts. We heard – and saw – how Interaction Mobilizer adds mobility to CEM. During Don Brown’s roadmap update, we heard about their focus on social media, speech analytics, business intelligence, enhanced multimedia support, and process automation tools. He also talked about video, especially supporting point-to-point sessions among agents. I’m not so sure that will be much of a driver, but it’s certainly in their plans. They also have mobile support for video on Android, iPhone and Windows 8 – I can see more take-up there, as I believe mobile customer service will really take off in 2013.
All told, ININ is striving to solve a lot of the problems facing the contact center, and no doubt this contributes to the view of them being a complex company. Conversely, if customer service was so easy to provide, every company would have top tier customer satisfaction ratings. The opposite is much closer to reality, and that’s why ININ is doing all these things. I think the cloud story will take some time yet to develop in this space, but whether customers are buying CaaS or premise from ININ, UC has a key role to play.
On that note, I’ll leave you with a photo from the analyst and consultants roundtable, led by Joe Staples. Many of my thoughts herein were echoed on the panel, which included Blair Pleasant (seated, far left), Jim Burton (seated, third from left), and Stephen Leaden (seated, far right), all with UCStrategies.
Thanks for the review of ININ's conference. I have long felt they were doing the right things to create what I have been calling the "UC Contact Center." That perspective updates the old telephone call center to support multimodal, mobile customers with both increased self-services (mobile apps) and all forms of live assistance. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the conference, but am glad to see that UCStrategies was well represented.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
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