How Interactive Intelligence's Global Alliance Program Helps Drive UC Adoption
Some businesses are followers and others are leaders, and by most accounts, Interactive Intelligence falls into the latter category. This became evident with an initiative recently announced at Enterprise Connect.
Dubbed the Global Alliance Program, this heralds the company's strongest expression - and branding effort - of something all leaders must do. Every vendor wants to own as much of the customer relationship as possible, and these days, nothing does this better than having a great partner ecosystem around which you can deliver a more complete solution.
The definition of "great" is highly subjective, but according to Interactive Intelligence, this program does four things:
Leverages the latest technologies so organizations can deliver better experiences for their customers
Provides an open platform that makes it easy for partners to achieve deep integration with Interactive Intelligence and develop more complete contact center solutions
Creates a cloud-centric ecosystem to accelerate technology innovation and diffusion in the contact center space
Provides a marketplace environment where customers can see what's possible with this model - both in terms of new solutions and capabilities, but also the breadth of partners that integrate with Interactive Intelligence.
While these principles could apply to any partner program, Interactive Intelligence has a couple of twists that differentiate them.
First, and perhaps foremost, the company is more than holding its own in a crowded, competitive environment. They are pushing up market, going after bigger customers and trying to own a bigger piece of the contact center pie with their offerings.
Our readers know full well how dominant the cloud has become, and Interactive Intelligence's CaaS offering has established the company as an early innovator. The Global Alliance Program formalizes efforts that have been underway for some time, and provides a showcase for both the range and caliber of partners that help make the CaaS platform a more complete cloud solution.
When moving up-market, it's important for potential customers to see how well the company integrates with major players such as IBM, Microsoft, AudioCodes, Oracle, Polycom, Nuance and Salesforce.com. This ecosystem will keep expanding, as demonstrated with the latest additions announced at Enterprise Connect, namely Zendesk and Plantronics.
Interactive Intelligence isn't the first vendor to offer a sandbox environment for partners to test out their ideas - remember Microsoft's short-lived Connected Services Sandbox? What strikes me, however, is how Interactive Intelligence's approach stays true to their corporate mantra of being "deliberately innovative." In talking to Interactive Intelligence about this, there is a repeated focus on being open to support the cloud, and that's how they want the world to see them.
In essence, they're inviting the world to their doorstep - developers in particular - with the message being that they want to enable innovation and present a strong alternative to the usual suspects who rule the contact center world. After all, if everyone is partnering with the same players, how can you really differentiate?
No doubt, their competitors can, and in some cases, are certainly playing the same game, but it's refreshing to see how genuinely open Interactive Intelligence is to hearing from all comers. Lots of vendors talk about being open, but it's not clear how open they really are about - being open. Actually, a key take away from my research was learning how surprised Interactive Intelligence was by the range of ideas coming their way. That tells me that the future very much remains unwritten in this space, and I have no doubt that UC has a big role to play.
This isn't to say, however, that all ideas they receive are accepted. Many applicants don't make the grade, but more importantly, Interactive Intelligence is making the effort to see what's out there, as you never know where innovation will come from. Not only is this true for the Wild West of the cloud in general, but regarding changing expectations for contact centers from customers.
A great example was from a cloud-based video startup that presented two new value-add ideas to enrich their ecosystem. As always, you need to first identify a problem and then work backwards to the solution. In this case, the problem is the high turnover rate for agents - how do you shorten the recruiting cycle and how do you find the right agents to hire?
This solution addresses both problems, and along the way showcases what's possible with UC. By using video, a contact center can do more face-to-face interviews, which streamlines the hiring process. Another more subtle benefit that adds value for contact centers is that by doing these interviews with HD audio, you can get a very clear sense of the agent's voice, which is obviously important for voice-based customer service. Not only can the interviewer assess this on the spot, but the interview can then be shared in the cloud with others on the team, and you could even layer speech analytics on top of that to see who matches up best with the voice profile you're looking for.
Taking this one step further, when thinking about what Amazon is doing with Mayday, video is poised to become another go-to for agents. Forward-thinking contact centers will no doubt welcome having an application to help them gauge not just how audio-friendly these candidates are, but also how they will come across visually.
I'm not saying that such an example will reinvent the contact center space, but it's a sign of what's out there. Apple has taught us that the best developer ecosystem is a winning strategy, and it's clear that Interactive Intelligence is thinking along these lines. I should also note that their Global Alliance Program is more marketing-driven than sales-driven - at least for now. The larger, more mature vendor ecosystems are largely the opposite, and after a while this dulls their innovation edge. Interactive Intelligence isn't there yet, and hopefully they'll keep it this way.
Nobody knows how this space will unfold, but if the market wants to have alternatives to the top tier players, we'll need to see more programs like this one. Of course, this program could end up being just a blip that doesn't gain much traction, but you have to tip your hat for the effort. Whether you follow or lead, the main thing is to keep trying new things, and this is one company that I can say will never stop doing that.
This paper is sponsored by Interactive Intelligence.