Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Interactions 2013 - My Takeaways and Some Music Too

Am through two days here at Interactions 2013, the global customer and analyst event run by Interactive Intelligence. It's being hosted in their hometown of Indianapolis, and they do a great job here. Time is up for me this time around, and am flying back today, so I'm going to share my takeaways with you now while they're still fresh.

This year's theme is "delivering the experience", and given the company's contact center focus, it's all about the customer. We hear a lot about network and architectures at these events, and while there's plenty of that on tap here too, it's nice to see more emphasis on the end user experience. Interactive certainly has a strong and growing customer base, so it's clear their technology works well. I like the message here, as distinct cusotmer experiences are one of the few ways companies can differentiate themselves these days.

A lot of companies are struggling in this space, and Interactive is making it clear here that they're not one of them. Being a public company, we already know that, but it's nice to get another layer of detail to reinforce how well they're doing. The deal sizes are getting bigger, their international footprint is growing, and traction is strong in the right place - cloud. They expect cloud to account for 50% of total orders in 2013, and that's way up from just a couple of years ago. It's fair to say they're betting big on the cloud, and so far it looks like they've bet right.

Small thing, but I think it will get bigger - compliance. I don't hear vendors talk about this, and since I'm currently doing work in this area, it gets my attention. It was nice to hear that Interactive understands the importance of being compliant with regulations and standards like HIPAA, SOX, ISO and PCI. Some of this is standard procedure for anyone in the contact center space, especially when agents are handling personal information like credit cards. However, I believe that IT compliance audits will become more vigilant when it comes to things like VoIP and UC, and the more they start to see these as weak links that expose networks to security threats.

Interactive has a deep and expanding product portfolio, and I like seeing their focus on value-added applications that go beyond routine contact center peformance monitoring/management tools. Of particular note were  Interaction Analyzer and Interaction Mobilizer. The former focuses on real-time speech analytics and the latter on mobile customer care. Context is a big missing link in the contact center value chain and Analyzer will help customers make more sense of what is washing over agents all day long, and it's clear that Interactive sees a lot of opportunity here.

Two other areas caught my attention for things that help differentiate Interactive. One is their focus on vertical markets, and we heard a few examples of this, such as health care, retail, financial services and utilities. Anyone can come to market with a generic solution, but Interactive has smartly been emphasizing their expertise in verticals, each of which has a distinct set of customer needs.

The other focus was IPA - their take on CEBP. This is relatively new, and while not their core competence, they have slowly been building up some traction with process automation tools. They could have quietly exited, but they've stuck with it and now have a small base of commercial deployments, including some who are not using their UC platform. This means you don't have to be using CIC to use IPA, and if they're getting some standalone business, they must be doing something right on this front.

As usual, CEO Don Brown gave us the big picture, and the main message is that their cloud strategy is working. Interactive was early to market with this, and it's clearly paying dividends and validating Dr. Brown's vision for where communications is going. There are bigger things coming that we can't talk about yet, and if you like Interactive now, I think you'll like them even better as the rest of their 2013 roadmap unfolds.

Last but not least was the Mission Control keynote by Captain Jim Lovell and Gene Krantz, recounting the Apollo 13 mission and the value of teamwork and leadership. This was the conference highlight for sure, and these guys are totally the real deal. Makes you feel pretty expendible when you get stressed out about downloads that take 2 seconds too long, and these guys are trying to bring a spaceship back to Earth without any guidance tools because they didn't have enough power to support them. It was nice hearing their views on what it would take for the US to get back in the saddle with the space program, as it would do wonders to make everyone feel good about America again. Seems like such a long time ago now, but they are living proof of what it takes to be great. This is the only time I've seen a keynote get a standing ovation at a conference, and there was no doubt about how inspired everyone felt in their presence.

To wrap up, for fun, I was asked to play on a couple of songs with the SIP Tones Monday night. They're the travelling band of consultants who have been doing this a while now at various conferences, and it really shows. Great guys, and I really appreciate the chance to join them for a bit. A quick shout-out of thanks to Alice Deer - I'm told her Dad lent us the guitar I used. I just found that out now - thanks!

Garrett Myers put together a really nice 3 minute compilation of their set, and has posted it on YouTube. I'm in a couple of segments, and overall, it's a great sampler for what the SIP Tones do so well. Here's the link - enjoy! Also, colleague Blair Pleasant took a few photos, and thanks for sending this one over.


James Rafferty said...

Hi John. Nice to see you up on stage playing some blues. Contact centers and rock 'n roll -- a natural combination.

Anonymous said...

Nice review and music, Jon. Hope the Strat copy played well. Dave Deer

Jason Napierski said...

The customer experience will make or break your business. Customers have all of the power today now that they have been given a voice with social media, and they know it. It's important to ensure that all customer interactions at all touch points are positive ones.