Interactive Intelligence Moves to the Cloud

21 Oct 2014

Over the summer I had a chance to spend some time talking about the cloud with Interactive Intelligence's Senior Solutions Marketing Manager Jason Alley. I knew Interactive Intelligence was a market leader in the contact center space and that it had dabbled in UC in the past. While many customers do use Interactive's on-premises all-in-one IP communications software suite, Customer Interaction Center (CIC), to support business users too, the company is not yet considered a major corporate telephony or UC player. However, I got quite a lesson from Jason about how advanced the company's become as a provider of cloud solutions, and how he believes the company's new PureCloud offering is set to strengthen its UC play.

One thing I learned is that Interactive Intelligence made its first significant move into the cloud back in 2009 when it radically re-architected its communications as a service offering, now branded as Interactive Intelligence CaaS. Today, the company reports CaaS seat CAGR (2010 to 2013) of 67 percent, and in 2013 its cloud-based orders were 50 percent of total orders, up from 35 percent in 2012.

Peeling back these numbers, what this shows me is that Interactive Intelligence has is a lot of experience delivering cloud services to a wide variety of customers. This experience has enabled it to address and solve problems that typically plague more recent entrants - problems such as provisioning, service, readiness, and performance - so that the customer experience is a positive one.

Interactive's comparatively long history of delivering cloud services has enabled it to design for security. CIOs won't move to the cloud unless they have particular assurances about security. As Jason pointed out, Interactive Intelligence has invested a lot in making its service offering secure. The evidence suggests that the company has gotten it right. It's also true that cloud economics don't really work unless the service is well designed and well managed, and Interactive runs a mature business that emphasizes effective architectural planning rather than reactive patching heroics.

Reliable engineering has also enabled the company to design its CaaS offering so that it meets the emerging cloud services standards, such as PCI DSS and SSAE-16. Of course, meeting compliance requirements is nothing new for Interactive Intelligence. Its on-premises product, CIC, has a long history of industry certifications for SOX, JITC, ISO 9001, and ISO/IEC 27001. But in the "wild west" that is the cloud today, it's good to see the company continuing its tradition of compliance-based design in its cloud services.

One of the more interesting threads in my conversation with Jason was the challenge of innovating when stability and reliability are of paramount importance. Many of the cloud services out there today either don't innovate at all (because it might destabilize their platform), or they innovate so often that their platform never stabilizes. Interactive Intelligence has found balance in driving innovation into its service through the rigorous application of solid development - staging, testing, and deployment - disciplines that are more deliberate than you would see from a start-up that needs to push new features out to support a new round of venture capital investment.

This innovation has led Interactive Intelligence to its next iteration of cloud services called PureCloud. PureCloud, which is offered in addition to the company's single-tenant CaaS offering, is a suite of multitenant cloud services for communications, collaboration and customer engagement.

The first thing I like about this is that now Interactive Intelligence offers both a single and multitenant cloud solution. Too often I'll see a nifty cloud offering come into the market as a single-tenant part of an on-premises product, but there is no multitenant version, or the multitenant version is a real kludge.

Another thing I like is that PureCloud's built on distributed cloud architecture atop Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is actually pretty interesting because the design enables edge devices in customers' networks to provide a highly available and reliable solution. The architecture scales gracefully via AWS and maintains the highest standards for security and instantaneous scalability for which AWS is renowned.

PureCloud is also interesting because it adds some important UC capabilities to the company's suite of services. One is PureCloud Unified Communications, which offers presence management, instant messaging, voice, video, fax, and conferencing accessible via desktops, notebooks, mobile devices, and phones. Another is PureCloud Directory, which offers rich, searchable employee profile content such as title, skills, certifications, location, interests, and more to improve collaboration and productivity.

It was good to see that PureCloud already had a fully developed mobile experience for its users. Mobility really is not optional with cloud solutions, and Jason was all over this explaining that PureCloud was designed with the mobile user in mind. Far too many enterprise cloud solutions seem to deliver a mobile experience that is obviously an afterthought.

PureCloud also offers intelligent services to improve customer interactions with contact center agents. One is PureCloud Social Customer Service, which empowers customers to pick an agent by viewing their profiles and data about their service ratings and wait times.

Another is PureMatch, which does some dandy multivariate analysis to dynamically match customer interactions with the right contact center agents.

An interesting architectural attribute of the PureCloud suite is that it's extensibly designed to natively add new services as Interactive Intelligence develops and releases them. This is what cloud solutions are supposed to do for customers, particularly those who want to continue to rapidly deploy new, innovative solutions.

To be fair, there are some initial limitations with PureCloud. As my colleague Blair Pleasant pointed out in an article about the PureCloud announcement, "When it comes to contact center capabilities, PureCloud's initial release will be more limited than what's available with CIC, and the feature set is considered 'wide but not deep.' For example, voice and Web chat are offered initially, but email, social, mobile, or other channels will not be available in the first release. The initial release will not offer workforce optimization, post-call surveys, coaching, mobile agent, and some other capabilities available with CIC."

At this spring's UC Summit I had a great series of meetings with Interactive Intelligence to ramp up on how special its contact center solutions are. My takeaway after talking with Jason this summer is that Interactive Intelligence is a pretty special provider of cloud solutions too, and it's increasingly making headway in the UC market.

This paper is sponsored by Interactive Intelligence.


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