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.
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.