Interactive Intelligence conquers collaboration market from the cloud

The “unified communication space” is a weird space. It has been around for ages (I used to be in charge of that product line for Orange at the turn of the 21st century). Now a new player in that field is rising, and they are no newcomer. Interactive intelligence is coming from the call-centre world, vs. most players in that area, coming either from the Web world (pure-players) or the Telco world (convergence). A little while back, I interviewed Donald Brown who founded Interactive Intelligence 20 years ago in Indiana. He turned his business into a $ 450m revenue machine. The software vendor’s model has evolved into a cloud multi-tenant model filled with innovation and features at cloud prices, some of them quite amazing and incredibly cheap. The hoosier company has performed a complete turn-around and is now planning to take over the world of a) collaboration software b) PBX in the cloud c) turnkey cloud-based call-centres. Here is the result of my interview with the Indianapolis entrepreneur.

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The Cloud helps you build relationships with your customers

At the time you founded your company, Interactive Intelligence 20 years ago, there was no such thing as “the cloud”. Could you walk us through how you started by developing solutions for contact centres before turning your business into this huge software company?

Back in 1994, the internet was still in its infancy. So we built a communications platform on a Windows NT server. It was a system that could act as a PBX, IVR, ACD, Voicemail system and provide everything an organisation needed for communication.
Today, we are about 2,300 people around the world. About 3 years ago, we decided we needed to bite the bullet. So we developed an all new multi-tenant cloud solution based on Amazon Web Services. And we invested about $50M in it.

 

You decided to invest all this money on R&D and come up with a cloud-based solution. This made you change your business model, moving away from contact centres. Can you explain your new strategy?

We really see a convergence happening between employee/client collaboration, of business communications and customer engagement. The lines are blurring to the point that everybody in the organisation needs to be thinking about their role in customer engagement. In fact, collaboration technologies are increasingly being used in customer service.

When you had to start from scratch, did you eliminate your client server solution to go into the cloud on Amazon Web Services?

We did not omit our solution; we still sell it. There are large organisations that still prefer to buy and own a premise-based solution. But we also developed this all new multi-tenent cloud solution because we felt that’s where the future was going.

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is Email a necessary or Unnecessary evil? (interview with IBM’s Luis Suarez)

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I have been a long time fan of Luis Suarez whom I was supposed to meet at the Enterprise 2.0 summit except that my clients decided otherwise. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to Luis and send him, ironically, my questions via email.

That’s my point precisely. Email is one of those necessary evils. A system which is broken but difficult to break away from. At least, this is my perception. I have managed, over the years, to cut through the clutter… yet, I have never managed to do away with email completely.

Even worse, whenever I spread the good news that one doesn’t have to use email and that other solutions exist, there is always at least one person in the room who takes it personally and gets very very cross. It happened to me again last Monday after a lecture at HEC, while we were all having lunch. There was only one person around the table who seemed very angry with me but it got me thinking. Why would people be so in love with e-mail. Is it because this is the only online system which is close enough to the old world and mimics – vaguely – traditional letter writing?

Well, I don’t know. So I turned to Suarez instead, a man who is supposed to have turned off his mail reader completely … except for my questions. Good man!

photo by Londonbloggers

Doing away with email: Interview with Luis Suarez

1. You have been heralded as a no-email evangelist. How and why did you decide to do that?

I initially started this journey of Life Without eMail over six years ago (On February 2008) and, mainly, for three different reasons:

1. Over the course of time you realise that e-mail is not really a good collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. Quite the opposite. It’s today’s productivity killer, not necessarily because of the system itself, but more than anything else because of how we have abused it over the course of time resulting in all sorts of political games, bullying, managing up (or down), and overall unnecessary stress seeing how plenty of people keep using it as a way to protect and hoard their knowledge vs. helping one another.

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2. The second reason why I stopped using e-mail was because over the course of the last few years I have been having hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions with younger generations of knowledge workers, whether they are working already or before entering the workplace, and all along I realised that we were using all sorts of various different collaboration tools, except e-mail and we got the job done, just as effectively, so I thought if they could pull it off together, why couldn’t we, right?

3. The last reason as to why I started this movement over six years ago was essentially to demonstrate, as a social business evangelist, that there is a work life without e-mail. That, nowadays, we do have more appropriate and relevant collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that help us get our jobs done much more efficiently and effectively. Time and time again, plenty of people came to me indicating, as a show stopper, that they couldn’t do social networking at work because they just didn’t have the time and when asking additional questions about why that is happening I realised how they were all saying a large chunk of today’s interactions are happening through e-mail as a time sink, which is why I decided to challenge the status quo of e-mail in the enterprise and, instead, prove and demonstrate, day in day out, that you can eventually have a very productive work life using social technologies versus just e-mail.

2. Wired pointed out that you had reduced email volume by 98%, does that mean that now you only receive 2 million emails a year?

Well, before I started this movement of Life Without eMail I used to get about 30 to 40 e-mails per day. Over the course of the years, that amount has gone down substantially till it reached that 98% of e-mail reduction to the point where I was getting two e-mails per day a couple of years back, averaging about 15 per week, which, I guess, is not too bad after all. The interesting part is that I have not reduced my interactions with others though, quite the opposite, they have increased a great deal, so the main difference is that the vast majority of those conversations are now happening through open, public social networking tools allowing for knowledge to flow freely helping people make better decisions with that information.

3. Honestly, who can really get rid of email. I can’t imagine telling my clients I don’t want to communicate with them in that way?!

You would be surprised about the large amount of people (Customers as well!) who are most willing to reduce their e-mail Inboxes in order to collaborate and share the knowledge across much more openly and transparently through social technologies. It’s that inertia that’s killing us, that is, the one where we don’t challenge the status quo and we all keep resorting to e-mail because “Everyone uses it, so why change?” Well, exactly because of that!

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wikipedia by numbers

A little while ago, I published a series of articles about Wikipedia, following a conference which took place last October in Amsterdam. Thanks to the open-site.org website, here is a little illustration of the prominence of the online encyclopaedia. Worthy of note is the fact that, after a long and passionate battle, encyclopaedia Britannica has eventually gone out of print. It is now restricted to its online version(s). All those extraordinary numbers exposed in this infographics should not force us to overlook some of the shortcomings embedded in the online Cyclopaedia, as explained and detailed in my article available at http://bit.ly/waleswm2

Wikipedia
Via: Open-Site.org

Amsterdam iStrategy conference digest – #istrategy

today’s selection is …

The very thorough and embarrassingly eulogistic review of day 2 of the iStrategy conference which took place in Amsterdam on October 26. The report was written by Bertram J. Croesn (@BertramCroes) a Spotzer Media Intern, and self-proclaimed Budding Writer, Marketer, Musician, and Observer of the World. Thanks Bertram for the nice words!

[panel discussion 1 on the morning of day 2 at the istrategy conference in Amsterdam]

[Review] #iStrategy Conference Amsterdam Day 2

As soon as I woke up in the morning, and without checking SEOmoz, I knew what the keyword for the day would be: opportunity! Given this unique chance to rub shoulders with the buffs in the industry, I inserted my spongiest of brains and proceeded to the Park Plaza Hotel near Schiphol International Airport, where the event was held. I was meeting up with my colleague and supervisor, Spotzer Media Group’s own Social Specialist, Nicolas Griffioen (@NicoGriffioen), who kindly provided me entrance to day two of the iStrategy Digital Marketing Conference (@iStratBuzz) here in Amsterdam.

Audience Engagement, User Experience and Social Monetisation

Upon receiving my nametag, we headed into the large conference area of the hotel, where we docked and prepared for the first panel discussion on Audience Engagement, User Experience and Social Monetisation. Here we got the inside scoop from social media celebrity and VP Brand Development at Tampa’s Head of Lettuce firm, Amber Osborne (@MissDestructo) as she shared some funny anecdotes on yams and experiences on what got her where she is today. I was particularly keen on hearing what Warner Music’s Ritch Sibthorpe (@RitchSibthorpe) had to say, mostly because of my interest in music and the industry. We got kicked off with a successful campaign they collaborated on with pop sensation Katy Perry. I jokingly tweeted that I wondered if I could slip him a demo, instead I did the next best thing.

via Nicolas Griffioen’s Blog : review of iStrategy conference day 2

iStrategy Amsterdam : keynote on social media ROI/ROE – #istrategy

 

As announced in a previous post, I will be keynoting at the forthcoming iStrategy conference in Amsterdam on Oct. 26. In order to introduce this keynote, I have recorded a short video clip with my team which you can visualise if you click the picture on the left-hand side. 

The ROE/ROI debate and controversy is still rankig very high on the Marketing agenda as shown in this post on the Sysomos blog entitled “Is Social Media ROI That Important!”Actually, 4 years ago, I was thinking like that too, as stated in this old blog post I wrote late in 2008 and republished in 2009 entitled “Beyond the ROI Issue”. 

Nowadays though, I rather disagree that the “numbers are so low”. We are spending more and more, and that – whether we like it not – means that there must be a shift in our attitude. So, while we need to measure things, there is a requirement for us to:

  1. dissociate ROI from just sales (savings work too!)
  2. dissociate ROI and ROE (which is also a valid measure)
  3. know what we measure and what with
  4. take all this with a pinch of salt as the goalposts keep moving and we need to adjust constantly (the “Klout” index for instance keeps shifting.

I will be keynoting on this subject in Amsterdam, and you can catch a glimpse of the slides

See you at the iStrategy conference which is due to take place in Amsterdam next week.