Six months ago I wrote that Interactive Intelligence bases its product strategy on continued support of its three core products: CIC, CaaS and PureCloud. During a recent briefing CMO Jeff Platón made it clear that although the company continues to support all three, its main focus will be PureCloud Engage that is also certified and available on the Salesforce AppExchange. When the company first released this product in 2012, the financial markets and some analysts saw it as a big risk because it is a ground-up development designed to run only in the cloud. The question was whether the company could succeed with a new architecture, all new capabilities and a new cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Now the answer seems to be yes; the company asserts that cloud revenue is up and that it has gained 26 new PureCloud customers in the last 12 months and some positive customer references. This is not surprising to me because in my past research I carried out nearly two-thirds or organizations said they planned to adopt contact center applications in the cloud, and just under half said they intended to adopt communication systems in the cloud; judging by results from this and other vendors, many seem to have carried out this intention.
The PureCloud Engage architecture is based on what Interactive Intelligence calls a “microservice” architecture; that is, it is divided into small components, each of which handles a defined function, for example, call recording, ACD, inbound email and Web chat. This approach is highly flexible as microcomponents can be added, removed or duplicated without impacting others. Each microcomponent processes one transaction at a time. If processing completes successfully, it moves to the next, and so on. If a transaction fails, that transaction might be lost, but another version of the microcomponent is activated to go on processing other transactions of the same sort. Thus any failure is isolated and has limited impact. If the number of transactions is higher than expected, this can be handled in one of two ways; either the system calls on AWS to provide more processing resources, or more instances of the microcomponent can be activated. The architecture also impacts how bugs are fixed or new capabilities are added. In both cases a new microcomponent is developed, and once tested, it takes over from an existing one or is activated to provide new capabilities.
The system uses several of Amazon’s Web services to handle infrastructure management. The upside is that Interactive Intelligence doesn’t have to develop them, but it does tie the company to the AWS platform, which it says it has no intention of changing, a point emphasized in the company’s recent press release announcing that is now an AWS Advanced Technology Partner. Running PureCloud Engage on AWS enables the company to operate anywhere in the world that Amazon has a data center, and it can be up and running in any new centers within a few weeks. I believe this is a unique approach to running contact center systems in the cloud, and it opens up the opportunity for more user companies to update their existing systems or add new capabilities.
The architecture supports an optional, multicarrier, telephony service, PureCloud Voice, which provides a link between the Internet and the selected public telephone network. A physical or virtual device provides a link to the telephone network and ACD, IVR and recording capabilities if the Internet is down. The architecture also provides various methods to connect to external third-party applications such as CRM, other vendors’ communication systems and its own CIC and CaaS systems. Overall, as the foundation of PureCloud it provides an innovative set of capabilities that run in the cloud, can be scaled to meet any organization’s requirements and is flexible enough to meet most user demands.
As organizations look for systems to help improve the customer experience, a solid architecture and operation in the cloud are only part of the answer; they also need capabilities that meet changing business and customer requirements. Since launching PureCloud Engage, Interactive Intelligence has continued to develop new capabilities that now are equal to or in some cases better than those in its two other products. Being in the cloud has helped in this respect as the company averages 27 new updates per week, which have been a mix of bug fixes, enhancements and new capabilities. It now supports a range of capabilities for multichannel interaction management (voice, Web chat, email, text messaging and social media), various levels of interaction routing, an agent desktop, speech-enabled IVR, interaction recording, quality and workforce management, creation of outbound marketing campaigns, analytics (including speech) and reporting, graphical scripting tools and prebuilt integration with several major CRM systems. It also has continued to work on its user interface to improve the user experience. Not all of the capabilities are best in class yet, but the company has an aggressive development program designed to keep up with customer, market and internal user demands. The architecture helps in this regard because organizations can select the deployment option that best meets their needs.
Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that customer engagement is a multichannel, enterprise issue. Organizations support on average 7.5 channels of communication, and every business group except IT handles customer interactions. The research reveals problems in providing consistent responses across all channels and at every touch point. To address these issues, research participants most often identified collaboration as a system that would help them improve engagement. Interactive Intelligence supports two additional products that help organizations meet this need: PureCloud Collaborate and PureCloud Communicate. Together they provide Facebook-like capabilities that allow users to find experts to collaborate with, share information, and chat or set up a video call to work as a group to resolve the customer’s issue based on common information.
I have been involved in the contact center industry for more than 20 years and have seen game-changing developments. The first was when organizations moved from on-premises call centers that handled voice calls only to on-premises contact centers that handled multiple communication channels. During this period I saw how difficult it is to integrate communications systems and route interactions based on a common set of rules. Then came the transition from on-premises to cloud, which is now accelerating. These systems overcame many of the integration issues but left many organizations uncertain about the difference between single and multitenant, public and private, and hybrid clouds, and what is best for them. I think the move by Interactive Intelligence to focus on PureCloud marks another game-changing development that opens up the opportunity for organizations of all sizes, in all industries, anywhere in the world to deploy an integrated set of interaction management capabilities that can deliver omnichannel, consistent, personalized experiences to customers. It continues to advance PureCloud with significant milestones that it recently outlined. I recommend that companies assess how it can help in these efforts, which have become a matter of survival in this increasingly competitive business world.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director