Unified Communications can transform a company or organisation into a smooth running machine when they combine and unify all their different types of communications. Interactive Intelligence’s Regional Business Development Manager Deon Scheepers recently spoke to IT News Africa about the benefits of IP communications, how important it is to have it in the workplace and plans for the company’s expansion into Africa.
Interactive Intelligence is also a sponsor of IT News Africa’s inaugural Tech Demo Africa, which will be held tomorrow at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel in Johannesburg.
1. What exactly does Interactive Intelligence do?
We specialise on a very high level in IP communications. In IP communications we have three key focus areas - one is contact centre, the second is Unified Communications and third Business Process Automation. We have been around since 1994 and have developed a communications platform that we call the Interaction and Communications Platform. We have used this same platform to develop modules and functionality that will allow for full multimedia communications solutions in the contact centre, as well as Unified Communications centre in the business communications enterprise world. We recently acquired a company that we have fully integrated and that will allow us to provide Business Process Automation across the contact centre and business communications enterprise environment.
2. How important is Unified Communications in today’s busy workplace?
A lot of organisations see Unified Communications as a “nice-to-have” – something that typically only the executive should play with, but which is never rolled out within an organisation. In an enterprise, as technologies evolve, a similar thing is starting to happen. If you look at where mobility is going, mobile applications, touchpad, smartphones, and the way the business users and enterprises initiate communications both internally, as well as to customers in the back-office or enterprise environment, we are seeing similar things happening. Even just the basic smartphone is multimedia enabled – from voice, to fax, to email, to social networking. Customers are expecting business users to start reacting and responding in that environment, so they do not expect the call centre to be just the only service channel they have. Typically we are now seeing that the Holy Grail of the contact centre is First-Call Resolution. So you can see how our strategy with regards to our three different modules is starting to fit into the way that the business organisation is evolving, and it is literally all about improving and delivering better customer service.
3. What are some of the key factors that companies need to consider when switching over to Unified Communications?
Anybody can switch over to Unified Communications. Most organisations today sit with legacy boxes to provide communications channels, although it is not unified. So what we are now seeing is that with the evolution of Unified Communications, people are saying they need to take control of multimedia interaction in the business environment. The communications chaos is almost driving people to take control. So where the customers already have platforms, we will integrate to that. If they have existing Microsoft Link as part of their strategy, we will integrate to that, or if they are running a back-office or IBM solution, at the same time we will integrate into that. You do not have to go and throw out all your existing SMS, email or telephony systems just to buy our equipment. So customers can decide on the best solution in order to move towards a Unified Communications strategy. There are so many different components within Unified Communications, but there needs to be a clear strategy that needs to be designed to allow the organisation to assess what they need.
4. Interactive Intelligence is worldwide. Do they have expansion plans for the rest of Africa?
That is the key strategy behind acquiring or setting up an office in South Africa. Since we went live on 1 January, Interactive Intelligence initiated a strategy of buying up key vendors and key resellers in the market place. In South Africa, we started on 1 January as Interactive Intelligence South Africa, but our focus is driving the product set and solutions set into the African market. Right now, we sell directly into South Africa, but we also have local channel partners. But outside of South Africa, we typically work through partners or resellers. So right now in Africa there is only one office, which is in South Africa, and we are driving the rest through channel partners into the rest of Africa. Most organisations are using South Africa as a springboard to drive their strategies into Africa, and that is typically what we are doing at this time. As the market changes, we might acquire some of our African business partners.
5. What applications have Interactive Intelligence pioneered?
There are many. We were one of the first companies to employ true SIP IP telephony, we were one of the first organisations to develop our first proxy server and our dialler is one of the first in the world to be a true dialler on a SIP platform. So many of these applications are first into the market place. From 1994 we have had the right strategy in place to develop everything on an All-In-One multimedia communications platform, based on open standards. The evolution of our product set from the correct base platform has given us an edge in the market. And, obviously, we are way ahead of the other guys trying to play catch-up.
6. How important is a social media strategy for Unified Communications?
Without a doubt it works into the strategy. If you look at contact centres specifically, what we are seeing is that people are starting to communicate about service, organisations and about products in the digital space. People are saying things about companies, products and solutions. The way to manage that typically is by understanding that a customer contact centre needs to be in a position to monitor the social world and understand, in real-time, what people are saying about you and your products.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor