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Product Reviews
July 2003

Enterprise Interaction Center 2.2

Interactive Intelligence
7601 Interactive Way, Indianapolis, IN 46278 Tel: 317-872-3000 � Web site: www.inin.com

Price: EIC averages $500 to $750 for enterprise PBX workstations, and $1,200 to $1,750 for ACD seats. The ranges are based on user�s selection of phones and telephone interfaces such as softphone, voice over IP, basic or executive style phones, etc.

Editor's Choice Award

Installation: 5
Documentation: 5
Features: 5
GUI: 4.95
Overall: A+

When we think of small-to-mid-sized PC-PBXs, Artisoft and Altigen typically come to mind. Both are fairly open platforms, especially the Artisoft product, which uses Intel/Dialogic cards, whereas the Altigen system uses its own proprietary hardware. TMC Labs has espoused the merits of �open� PBX systems for over seven years, thus the Artisoft and Altigen systems were two of our favorites. The benefits of using an open PC-based system that uses industry standards are endless, including but not limited to: more interoperability, less chance of obsolescence, easier upgrading, and smoother introduction of new features.

Interactive Intelligence jumped on the PC-PBX bandwagon a little later on, but by no means was their product any less impressive than the earlier PC-PBX adopters. In fact, Interactive Intelligence took things a step further and not only designed an open system, but they also included an integrated application generator that made it easy for customers to customize and change the way their PC-PBX functioned. They also bundled advanced features that both PBXs and PC-PBXs did not have, or required special add-ons, including VoIP, ACD, Web callback, chat, integrated fax server, integrated e-mail, CTI functionality, and more. Called Customer Interaction Center (CIC), it was for all intents and purposes the most comprehensive and feature-rich PC-PBX system we had ever seen!

Unfortunately, CIC was targeted at medium to large-sized call centers and was priced as such. Then Interactive Intelligence launched Enterprise Interaction Center (EIC), a cost-effective solution targeted at small-to-medium sized companies and offering an extensive feature-set that nearly matches the CIC product. In fact, EIC is a derivative of the CIC product with certain features stripped away. For instance, the application generator is not included with EIC, although it does have a powerful graphical user interface for configuring the auto-attendant/IVR.

Importantly, unlike some of its competitors, the EIC system is fully SIP-compliant, which allows you to use any SIP-compliant phone device on your desk, thus negating the need for an expensive digital phone. The EIC platform also supports analog phones, though we believe the SIP phones offer more power and flexibility. In addition, besides supporting VoIP extensions via the SIP protocol, EIC can also support IP trunking to create tie-lines between two office buildings.

Administrative/Supervisory Highlights
This product has a centralized graphical administrative console to allow organizations to control every site from a single screen and to perform remote maintenance and diagnostics. It uses a well-organized tree hierarchal structure that is very easy to navigate. Also, a Java-based supervisory console provides a graphical �dashboard� view of any number of important operational parameters such as call abandon rates, queue sizes, line utilization, and much more. In addition to call recording/monitoring capabilities, a supervisor can view in real time the screen of the agent handling a call, as well as listen to the conversation simultaneously.

At the heart of the EIC system is the queue manager, which handles all sorts of interactions, including telephone calls, faxes, e-mails, call-back requests, Web text chat sessions, and VoIP calls. Importantly, all interactions flow through the same skills-based routing engine and alert on the same client-side interface, making it much easier to provide consistent service to telephone and non-telephone customers.

To install or not install, that is the question�
Since EIC is not an end-user installed product, it was not necessary for us to install the EIC system from scratch ourselves. However, we decided it would be beneficial to resellers and VARs that will need to know how hard or how easy it is to install such a comprehensive PBX platform. After all, what good is the EIC system if VARs and resellers can�t figure out how to install it? Thus, we worked with one of Interactive Intelligence�s sales engineers to install the system from scratch.

The �Pre-installation�
Before the product was even installed, Interactive Intelligence went to great lengths to �dumb down� the installation process and put all of the hard work at the �pre-installation� phase, before the system is even shipped to the customer. This ensures a quick and easy cutover or installation when the system arrives at the customer premises. Essentially, customers choose their package and options, and answer a list of pre-defined questions. Their answers go into an HTML form called a manifest. That information is captured in an online form and sent to the hardware vendor for package selection and shipment.

Then the vendor sends the prepackaged EIC Server to the customer site, and the partner�s technician runs the EIC Setup Assistant, importing any information already in the manifest, which configures most of the major items. That technician then sets up any remaining items.

Presence Management
EIC has extensive presence management that allows you to set where calls are sent depending on your current presence status. For instance, if you are out to lunch, send your calls to your assistant. You can manually set �My Status� and click �Until� a certain date/time. When someone calls your extension, the IVR will say �John Smith is in a training session until next Tuesday at 3:00 pm� using the IVR�s voice prompts. You can change the status via the phone or the Interaction Client GUI. In addition, you can also camp on a co-worker�s phone if they are busy, and once the presence status changes, you will be connected.

General Usability Observations
We liked the right-click functionality within EIC. We also liked how we could customize the Interaction Client by adding additional tabs. When transferring a call, you can type into the Caller Name field anything you want, such as �Customer is irate,� or �Offer him a 10% discount.� EIC also supports �hot desking,� so you can log on at any desk (or even remotely via VoIP) and receive your phone calls. In version 2.2, they added call waiting and parking from a phone (before, you could only park from the Interaction Client software). Also, Interaction Client can act as your SIP softphone utilizing the audio from MSN Messenger.

We should mention that EIC extensively supports VoIP -- and not just software-wise via SIP. EIC also supports hardware-based VoIP solutions including AudioCodes hardware-based IP card with up to 120 stations on a single board. They also support Intel�s IP Media boards.

Interaction Client
The Interaction Client essentially is a soft-phone on steroids. It does so much more than just answer, put on hold, transfer, and conference calls. Depending on your security rights, you can view queues, view the presence status of users, view workgroups, reports, and more. Since we mentioned security rights, we should point out that EIC has a very impressive granularity when it comes to choosing which users can view or perform certain actions. It also features speed dials and a corporate directory. From the Interaction Client (as well as from the TUI) you can set up your call forwarding or follow-me features.

The company in/out board (presence indicator) is very useful. Icons graphically depict the user�s current status information. Information may be sorted by status description or user name, extension, etc. The system administrator can configure company-specific status indicators as well. The in/out status of users not only displays on the Interaction Client, but also is spoken to callers or can be shown on the Web.

Voice Mail/E-mail Features
On the voice mail side, EIC uses TrueSpeech codec for 1.1kbps compression, which is very good not only for minimal impact on the voice mail system (including minimal voice mail storage impact), but also for streaming the voice messages over the LAN, broadband, or even narrowband (dial-up). This is great for remote workers that want to check their messages via the Interaction Client without having to call the office. From the voice mail system you can also check your e-mail using text-to-speech. Besides voice mail, it is one of the few solutions offering an integrated fax server. It also has a �one number voice and fax� feature due to its ability to auto-detect fax tones.

Other important features include:
� Supports account codes;
� Can record all calls, nth calls, or user-selected call (on-demand);
� Can integrate with Cisco CallManager server where the EIC provides automated attendant, unified messaging, automatic call distribution and interactive voice response from a single solution; and
� You can assign skills to users or workgroups.

With so many features, excellent customization, and a user-friendly interface, we had a tough time finding any �room for improvement� areas. However, we did come up with one. We would like a user selectable option that will automatically change the presence status to �Away from Desk� if no mouse/keyboard movement occurs for an extended period of time -- say 15 minutes. This could be set up to only occur during the work week and work hours and only if the user has not overridden the presence status.

When employees ask their telecom manager if the phone system can do a certain function, most of the time the telecom manager�s answers are: �No� or �Not without a costly upgrade,� or �That would require a third-party add-on solution that is not in the budget.� Not so with Interactive Intelligence�s EIC product; this product has more features than you can shake a stick at. There wasn�t a single feature that we could state was missing from EIC. That, combined with the fact that this is an open system that supports many standards including SIP, made EIC hard to beat. TMC Labs was in awe of Interactive Intelligence�s EIC�s feature-set and in fact, we envy those that have an EIC phone system in their office.

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