Interactive Intelligence Conference - Day 1

So far so good here at Interactive Intelligence's Partner conference. CEO Don Brown set the tone with a bright picture about the company's strong financial performance. I wouldn't underestimate the importance of this, especially with so many major vendors being on shaky ground. They also have a healthy cash balance, and having made their first acquisition with AcroSoft, ININ is in a nice spot to become a consolidator. Don made a good point about ININ being the tortoise, growing slow and steady - while the competitors around them and struggle for a variety of reasons.

The main focus for Don, though, was the launch of IPA - Interaction Process Automation. This is their new focus to enable the mapping of business processes to ININ's underlying contact center technologies. Pretty ambitious idea, since vendors like this generally don't have business process expertise. However, during the demo, Don pointed out that they listen to their customers and learn how to understand their problems. They've applied this to their solutions, and a demo was presented using the process of filing an insurance claim to show how IPA works.

It was an effective way to show how various steps in this process can be automated, but what I really liked was how Web 2.0-style tools were integrated into what otherwise would be a normal phone call between a customer and an agent. In particular they used chat, as well as Google Maps so the agent could visualize where the vehicle was. Lots of interesting possibilities here, although it remains to be seen how much faith customers put in ININ to automate these processes for them.

Basically, I see IPA as a nice value-add and differentiator for existing customers, but it's probably too early to use it as a lead application to attract new customers. On that note, I agree with Don's comment that IPA allows them to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, making it a bit of a Trojan Horse that may open the door for additional ININ offerings.

Later in the morning, Jim Burton of UC Strategies gave a nice overview of the state of the market for telephony vendors. He provided good insights on Avaya/Nortel and the competitive landscape for all the other majors. The main message for me is that telephony is becoming reduced to being a feature server, and call control is no longer the domain of legacy vendors. He pointed out that it only took Cisco 5 years to master this, and Microsoft will get there too.

Bottom line - telephony as a standalone offering is no longer viable or valuable. There are too many ways to get voice - including the cloud - and he sees the best strategy for the telecom vendors being to go vertical and focus on a niche they can dominate. Software vendors, on the other hand, are horizontal solutions, and can't compete as well this way.

Furthermore, the PBX is quickly losing its primacy as an endpoint device, with most of the momentum and new adoption shifting to mobility and softphones. Early on, Jim noted that we communicate more via email than telephony, and this trend will just continue. This makes it pretty hard to keep end users tethered to a desk phone, especially when we travel so much and work increasingly from home.

It's not a great scenario for telecom vendors, and not surprisingly, Jim's message was that if they're to survive this transition they have to integrate voice into business processes - i.e. CEBP. It's a welcome message for this audience, and I guess that was the point. ININ totally gets this idea, and this conference is very much about using business processes to create new forms of value for end users, and of course the channels, who do most of the selling for ININ.

More to come for tomorrow, including the Battle of the Bands in the evening. Our group is The Dead Circuits, and we hope to have our mojo working...

Joe Staples

Don Brown

Jim Burton