A Few Things in Common Between ININ and Cisco

by Dave Michels

Last week there were two worthwhile simultaneous events: Interactions 2015 and CLUS.

Interactions 2015 was hosted by Interactive Intelligence in Indianapolis, IN. CLUS, or Cisco Live, was hosted by Cisco in San Diego, CA. It was impossible to attend both. I ended up in Indy. ININ invited me up to discuss with their dealers and customers why cloud is always cheaper.

Interactions is ININ’s big annual event. It drew a lot of UC analysts and consultants. There were about 3000 influencers, dealers, and customers in attendance. CLUS was about five times larger, but Cisco has numerous events each year. I prioritize the Collaboration Summit usually held in December. Upon my return, I made it a priority to watch the Cisco Live keynotes.

There’s a lot to say about both events. Jon Arnold beat me to writing about Interactions. You can read his post here. If you are not sure which one Jon is, he was the one on keyboards at ININ. Not to be confused with Russ Irwin of Aerosmith on keyboards at Cisco Live

Fresh back from ININ, while watching the CLUS keynotes, I realized (for the first time) how much these two dissimilar companies have in common. Allow me to explain:

First, they are both in the Leaders quadrant of Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant report on Contact Center Infrastructure. That report was authored by Drew, Steve, and Sorell. Drew was in Indy and Sorell was in San Diego. Not sure where Steve was, but I’m sure it had good food.

Despite both companies being healthy and prosperous, both are making big bets on totally new collaboration technologies in similar ways. At ININ, Don Brown had to convince his board for a redo with a whole new approach to communications called PureCloud. Collaborate, a base PureCloud service, is available now under a freemium model and will soon be complemented by PureCloud services Communicate and Engage. PureCloud Engage, a hosted contact center, was announced at Interactions 15.

Cisco didn’t make any big announcements regarding collaboration at CLUS, but did do a preview of how Spark (also a freemium model) will soon interoperate with Cisco equipment. We all knew that some form of interop was coming, Rowan previewed an MX800 and Spark interoperating back in March. Cisco’s thinking has evolved significantly and this newest demo exceeded my expectations. I will be writing more about it separately. The main point here is that both companies are making similar big bets on the future of team collaboration, workflow, and communications.

Both firms are on the cutting edge of redefining hybrid. ININ PureCloud uses a hybrid architecture with newly designed custom hardware to facilitate real-time cloud communications. With PureCloud, ININ started fresh and combined the global Amazon cloud with local equipment to enable cloud managed services with local survivability.

Cisco also took a new look at hybrid and set out to combine cloud benefits such as pay as you go with premises benefits such privacy. Cisco’s new approach to hybrid is ambitious and innovative – and could effectively seed Spark with a large base of prospects. This is different than the more popular approach of overlapping duplicative cloud services on top of premises-based equipment as a stepping stone to the cloud.

The CEOs of both companies presented and were accessible. Don Brown is the founder of ININ and it’s great to hear his unique take on how the industry is changing. For John Chambers it was more emotional as it was his last Cisco Live (as CEO), an event he’s attended since they started. He said the first Cisco Live had 25 attendees in the room. Both CEOs are optimistic and passionate, though Chambers had some dark predictions for the non agile.

Both events brought in professional guest keynoters. At Interactions, Matthew Dixon presented why exceptional service doesn’t offer the best ROI. I was happy to hear this because I am tired of the vendors telling us that experience is all that matters when IVRs tell me that my call isn’t important. There’s a major disconnect between hype and reality in the contact center, so let’s talk about what does matter. Dixon pointed out that a larger opportunity exists in not pissing off customers. You can read more about it here.

Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs, did the closing keynote at Cisco Live. Mike did an updated version of his immensely popular 2008 TED Talk optimized for a Cisco audience. He took the audience on a journey through his career starting with how a trip down a sewer led to Dirty Jobs. He’s very concerned about the disconnect between most flushers and what actually happens in the pipes. It’s the sewer guys that keep our modern world modern – at least that was the case 20 years ago. Today, in a digital age, it’s the networks that keep our modern world modern.

I have more to say about both events, but nothing more about commonalities. I am very excited about PureCloud and Spark – I think these types of services are big ideas that represent the next major evolution in enterprise communications. I will be writing much more about these and other emerging solutions for collaboration.