With Interactive Intelligence Inc.
Interactive Intelligence hosted its
first analyst and consultant conference recently, bringing together
company execs, customers and partners for the analyst and consultant
community to grill. And we liked most of the answers we received.
After discussing the company history, financials, products, sales and
marketing and client services models, Interactive Intelligence had not
one, but two customer panels (one for its contact center solutions, and
one for its enterprise solutions).
One of the best things about this conference was that the analysts got to
talk to customers without PR people standing over us. The customers were
open and willing to answer all of our questions both while on stage and in
private discussions. Let me tell you, these are happy customers. Even
after a few after-dinner drinks, they still didn't dish any negative dirt.
While they admitted that they don't always get five nines reliability with
the Interactive Intelligence software (primarily because it's based on
Windows 2000), it certainly didn't seem to bother these customers.
One Communité customer did not want to disclose too much information
because she feels that her company's particular use of Interactive
Intelligence's unified communication product will give them a competitive
edge, but she did indicate that some exciting and innovative applications
of Communité are in the works that will set her company apart from its
As far as the Communité product is concerned, there have been some nice
features added, but there are also some omissions.
Communité provides services supporting unified communications to the
enterprise end user. Its primary user interface is Outlook, so the basic,
voice-fax-e-mail in the same mailbox is presented to the user. While we
have seen this trick done many times before, Communité added a few
First, is the ability to view faxes and listen to voice files without
the need for a special "viewer." Again, a trick we have seen
done several times simply by using standard .TIFF and .WAV formats. But
what Communité did do differently was to include special viewers that
gave additional functionality not available from the standard issue
viewers. So, it gives the best of both worlds. Usually, you only get one
choice or the other. For those enterprises that prefer to be cautious,
conservative and like to push as little software onto supported PCs as
possible, Communité is a viable choice. For those enterprises that prefer
the bells-n-whistles of extra functionality, they can also have the
Communité also provides consistency between interfaces. Whatever can
be done via a PC screen can also be accomplished via a voice phone, PDA or
Web interface. So, users could change various parameters of their
Communité system regardless of their location or device. We felt this was
very powerful. We have seen too many systems where users could tweak all
the parameters while using an office desktop PC, but were very limited
when away from their desks.
Of particular importance in the unified communications space are
real-time communication contacts, traditionally incoming phone calls.
Interactive Intelligence defined UM to be "all those things that
happen after a message is left" and UC to be "all those things
that happen before a call is answered." Based on that premise, the
company has developed a sophisticated system that lets users direct
incoming calls to best suit them. The call routing process is rules-based
and works by directing calls using the identity of the caller's phone
number (this is in addition to time and status-based routing
The user can establish routing rules based on the caller's identity.
For example, if a spouse is calling, the call could be routed directly to
the recipient. If the call comes from an unknown party, it could be routed
directly to voice mail. If it is from a known friend, the call could be
sent to the desk phone but no farther.
We believe that the features they provide are very strong and met many of
the needs of business users today. But, we have a few concerns.
Considering this is the second release, the implementation is certainly
acceptable, but needs some further tuning for the next release.
The idea of integrating with Outlook is good since it is the
predominant messaging interface out there today. But in order to manage
the powerful rules and contact features of Communité, the user is
required to use a Web browser to control the various functions of
Communité. While this is not overly inconvenient, we feel that if it
could be done directly through Outlook's native interface, the user would
have a more cohesive experience. Interactive Intelligence should not do
away with the browser interface, but simply integrate it into the native
We loved the rules-based routing of incoming calls. Very powerful! In
fact, Communité supports the ability to specify partial phone numbers so
that ranges of phone numbers could be matched easily. We applaud the
company for such insight. For the next release, we would like to see that
a person's name could be entered, as well. The person's name would
represent ANY contact address. So, if Joe has a home phone, desk phone,
cell phone, and three e-mail addresses, all of which he uses to contact
us, we should simply put in Joe's name and all those contact modes would
be covered by the same routing rules.
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