Lots of Energy at Interactive Intelligence’s Interactions 2011 Global User Forum

Today, Interactive Intelligence announced the upcoming availability of the company’s all-in-one IP communications software suite – Customer Interaction Center (CIC) version 4.0. This was all the buzz at Interactive’s annual customer conference which I had the pleasure of attending two weeks ago in Indianapolis, IN. Regrettably, I had to leave before the Indianapolis 500, which happened at the end of that week, but there was a race car in the lobby of the hotel – one with Interactive’s name on it, along with RightNow Technology, and a lot of race track type of energy. This may have been their largest customer event to date. I’m not sure of the numbers but I think I heard more than 700 customers were there, including a couple hundred that registered at the last minute and a couple dozen walk ups. Walk ups — at a customer conference in Indianapolis during iffy weather. That hints at what kind of excitement this event produced.

There were seven tracks and over 100 sessions, so there was plenty to hear about, but the theme of the event was really “taking the cover off of CIC 4.0” from both a premise and hosted (CaaS) perspective. Underlying themes of the event were, of course, cloud, social media, UC, mobility, and the contact center of the future. In President and CEO, Don Brown’s opening remarks he reiterated that the CIC “suite” is really only one product: a complete SIP stack, same code base with no siloe’d applications, and that the 4.0 release was the result of hundreds of development years, representing millions of lines of code.

The formal unveiling of CIC 4.0 falls into the category of “significant release”, which for me means the attributes of significant architectural change, old functionality clean up, plus the addition of new features and functions, rather than just one of these components. We have seen this occur a number of times this past year; for example, Aspect’s Unified IP7 release, and Siemens OpenScape UC Suite 2011. With Interactive’s CIC 4.0 there was plenty of all three components as well.  In the case of Interactive, the blend of these attributes in CIC 4.0 is represented by, but not limited to:

  • Much better scalability – more than double the number of ACD-enabled agents on a single server, five time increase in IVR sessions supported
  • Improved IP-PBX capability
  • ‘Bullet-proof’ recording capability (completely re-written, and seven time increase in the number of calls that can be recorded in an hour)
  • Better email and web capability (completely new email interface is much more like Outlook than previously)
  • Tighter integrations with third party applications, such as RightNow, MS Lync, Salesforce.com
  • Improved management insight

Another architectural improvement Interactive made was to eliminate all of third-party call processing software previously used in CIC; greatly improving reliability. Further, the company moved all media processing to its Interaction Media ServerTM, leaving CIC 4.0 as a pure application server that can be located at a central data center with media servers at branch offices, creating a private cloud deployment model.  This change facilitated one of the key goals of the release – increased scalability, and it allows customers to process media locally for improved business continuity and survivability.

Speaking of cloud and deployment models, we also heard a lot about cloud and Interactive’s Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS) success. They had a number of CaaS customers telling their deployment stories, including Thatcher Young, the Director of Call Center Operations at New ERA Tickets (parent company Comcast), who loves the CaaS model as he said that their call volume can run from 200 calls to 1.5M calls an hour depending upon what event is happening.  I would consider that to be the definition of “large spikes in call volume”.  He also said that “As a CaaS customer I haven’t had to worry once about updating or breaking the system”.  It was a very interesting and nice testimonial.

Interactive Intelligence also announced Interaction Web PortalTM , which is a new application for contact center outsourcers that gives them secure, branded access and real-time visibility into their contact centers from reporting to monitoring and call recording, with different levels of access so that lower managerial staff and agents can have a view into certain aspects of performance.

The part of the announcement that I was most intrigued by was the release of Interaction AnalyzerTM; Interactive’s foray into speech analytics. Interaction Analyzer isn’t a bolt on, third-party speech analytics product. It is the company’s own creation, and while not as fully featured as many of the incumbent speech analytics products out there, Interaction Analyzer has some distinct advantages that I think will just make this product rock for Interactive Intelligence, most notably ease of use and real-time analytics capability. You can read more about it on my June rumors and happenings blog in speech technologies.

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