The Contact Center as Company
Interactive Intelligence seems to be far ahead of its bigger rivals when it comes to the convergence of communications systems with business process systems.
I had a chance to visit with the folks at Interactive Intelligence last week, on the heels of the company's announcement of its new Interaction Process Automation (IPA) product (see the announcement here). IPA is a software load that can be activated on Customer Interaction Center, the company's flagship product.Interactive Intelligence seems to be far ahead of any of its bigger rivals among enterprise communications vendors when it comes to the convergence of communications systems with business process systems. Most of the big platform vendors have Web Services interfaces that let them tie into business process automation (BPA) software that the enterprise may already have in place. But with IPA, Interactive Intelligence is folding the BPA functionality right into the communications platform.
Now, nobody expects an enterprise, especially at the Fortune 500 level, to ditch its purpose-built process automation software in favor of a communications platform that does BPA. The Interactive Intelligence team-we visited with CEO Dr. Don Brown, marketing VP Joe Staples and solutions marketing director Tim Passios-clearly understands this. But as Don Brown pointed out, a BPA system thats built into the communications platform does offer significant advantages, specifically the ability to track and display user presence and skills.
The fact that Interactive Intelligence understands the importance of user presence and skills shows that the company's heritage as a contact center vendor continues to inform its approach to solutions in Unified Communications. It's been fashionable to talk about the notion of the "company as contact center"-that is, letting the contact center reach out to non-agents to serve as resources-but you could sort of describe the Interactive Intelligence approach as, "The contact center as company." In other words, the capabilities that communications brought to the contact center can now be applied to anything within the enterprise that uses (or should use) a documented business process-i.e., just about any back-office function.
The appeal of this process automation integration-Interactive Intelligence calls it communications-based process automation (CBPA)-is its clear, quantifiable payback, promising shortened process times and potential savings in headcount. Also, tying process automation into the communications system could let you track metrics on employee performance and processes comparable to those that contact center managers are used to receiving, allowing you to see how communications integration really does affect employee productivity.
As I said, none of these concepts is really new: Avaya popularized the term Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) to describe the aforementioned integration to existing BPA systems, and the industry has largely adopted this term and concept as the standard for what you can do when you connect these 2 types of business systems.
But Interactive Intelligence is making a bigger bet in this area. Not only are they putting CBPA front-and-center, they've adopted a sort of miniature version of the Cisco model of moving into adjacent technology spaces via acquisition; last May, Interactive Intelligence purchased a small BPA software firm that focuses on the insurance vertical.
The big news over the last few weeks has been the fate of Nortel's Enterprise Solutions division, and the question has been which incumbent vendor, Avaya or Siemens Enterprise, would buy Nortel in order to bulk up their installed base. Interactive Intelligence offers a different vision of the way forward for communications-specialist companies looking to a future where Cisco and Microsoft will be the dominant horizontal players in the market. Of course market share is the name of the game, but a company like Interactive Intelligence, that can't necessarily go toe-to-toe with the biggest players, is coming up with new ways for a communications vendor to differentiate itself.Interactive Intelligence seems to be far ahead of its bigger rivals when it comes to the convergence of communications systems with business process systems.