Banking on the channel

With the software solutions market being touted as the sector that holds lots of opportunities for solution providers in the Middle East IT channel, Interactive Intelligence a global provider of unified IP business communications solutions is looking to expand its geographical coverage of the region through partners.


The moves comes on the back of continued investments in the region as more organisations upgrade their IP business communications infrastructure.


The maker of contact centre software is currently talking to well-known large regional integrators like CNS, Emirates Computers, Wipro, IBM, GBM and others about its solutions and the relevance to their customers. At the same time, Interactive Intelligence is also targeting the more focused smaller partners selling value added solutions into key verticals.


Shaheen Haque, territory manager, Middle East and Turkey at Interactive Intelligence, says the company’s solutions offerings are largely software based, without the reliance on multiple boxes and boards like other vendors. Haque says Interactive is the alternative the Middle Eastern channel has been waiting for and they should seriously be considering its technology outside of the traditional monolithic providers in the business communications space. “With several prestigious government and private project wins under our belt, a rock solid support for the Middle East and a fully Arabised offering, we have a strong platform for our channel partners to build up on,” he says. “We don’t want to limit partners by size as no partner is too small for us.” He adds that a “good” partner for Interactive is one with plenty of drive and enthusiasm to do the evangelical job of pushing the brand, products and solutions into various market segments.


Haque explains that the company’s target is to get the channel and the entire partner community educated in the Middle East, aware and excited about Interactive Intelligence’s vast, solution offerings from IP telephony, contact centres, messaging solutions and unified communications (UC) to process automation and soon to be document management. “Our channel programme is mature, diverse and flexible to accommodate individual traits of our partners,” he says. “We go beyond the typical ‘classic partner programme’ attributes,  expanding our reach to deliver and offer support to our partners.”


He points out that some of the key features that partners who join the programme stand to benefit when they on the partner programme include flexible rebates and partner tiers, joint marketing campaigns and business planning. “At the moment, we have around 12 channel partners although we intend to significantly increasing this number in the months to come,” he comments.


Channel engagement model


Haque explains that Interactive Intelligence does not fit into a typical distributor reseller model. He says the company made a conscious corporate decision some three to four years back to only have a single tier partner model globally, eliminating the distributor. This, says Haque, has allowed us to have a high touch approach and drive opportunities through implementation and support for partners.


In the Middle East, he says that Interactive has found that customers are keen to have a direct relationship with the company alongside the partner which creates a “comfort level” for them. “We need our partners to supply the value-add to our customers and we support our partners in every way we can,” he says.


Haque says even though the Middle East in general is an emerging market, Interactive already has over 100 big name customers in this geography. “Our growth requirement entails not just regional partners but those with a particular vertical experience, be that in government, telco, retail etc,” he says. “From a regional perspective we are pushing forward into Saudi Arabia with local presence and support for our partners and customers, for obvious regions as it is the biggest IT market in this region.”


He adds that the company has continued to see tremendous opportunities for its solutions in this market and because of its innovative offerings. “The fact that the Arabic language support is available has really helped us to win customer confidence,” he says. Other key growth markets according to Haque are Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, within each of which Interactive is seeing tremendous interest from partners and prospective customers alike.


Product/technology solutions


Haque says the two main technologies Interactive is focusing on at the moment are the Customer Interaction Centre (CIC) product suite, an all-in-one application suite that manages all contact centre interactions on one platform architected for SIP and voice over IP (VoIP), and the communications-based process automation product, Interaction Process Automation (IPA). “We are also looking to introduce the Interactive Intelligence communications-as-a-service (CaaS) offering in the Middle East at a later stage, after seeing our success in the US and European market,” he says.


He points out that CIC is a powerful application for managing phone calls, Web chats, faxes and email, for all business users, agents and, supervisors. “Workforce performance and customer service reach the highest levels with features that bridge the gap between location and technology, allowing companies to take advantage of every aspect of unified communications and interaction management,” he says. “We believe CIC will do extremely well in the Middle East.”


IPA on the other hand, is the all-in-one communications-based process automation (CBPA) solution that moves beyond just “enabling” communications within applications or business process management suites. IPA becomes the process automation platform for the company, orchestrating processes across people, departments, and existing core business applications.

Haque adds that because it was built on top of the CIC, it leverages proven communications technology that has been in use for years in contact centres around the globe.




Haque says Interactive’s MDF is a resource available to partners for funding demand generation activities that increase sales. He says that MDF has been designed to assist Interactive partners in building new end-user customer relationships and increasing revenue streams through co-branded marketing activities and co-sponsored events. He says in addition the programme is designed to promote the Interactive Intelligence brand and its product line through activities such as joint advertising, joint collateral, direct mail, lead generation, seminars, trade shows, telemarketing, Web marketing, and select promotional events.


Skills development fund programme

Haque says in addition to the MDF, Interactive also offers its channel partners the skills development funds (SDF) programme, an initiative designed to help offset the cost of the technical certification for employees of partners selling Interactive solutions. He says SDF credits are earned by eligible partners on the programme for product orders in the current year and may be applied towards payment of technical courses for certification.


Furthermore, Haque adds that Interactive also has the enablement services programme (ESP) which has been designed to mentor its new partners in a way that enables them to provide future installation services internally with little or no involvement Interactive Intelligence. “We believe that providing real-world mentoring out in the field provides for the best learning experience after the initial certification classes,” he says. “The design of the programme is a three phase approach comprising

Enablement, mentoring and evaluation,” he says.


Haque says although Interactive will not be exhibiting on its own stand at this year’s GITEX technology week in October, the company will be supporting any of its partners that might be exhibiting. “We intend to meet partners and customers during the show and spreading the message that Interactive is committed to the Middle East market,” he remarks. “We have a lot of awareness building to do. We believe that once people know about our products and solutions, converting them will be easy on account of our technological superiority.”


Looking ahead, Haque says with the emergence of cloud computing every organisation’s business model will have to change in response to these developments. “Our partners and customers have already joined this band wagon and subsequently we are seeing a keen interest in our CaaS solution from partners and potential partners,” he says. “Single product transactions will become monthly subscriptions that will bind the reseller to the underlying service provider, or cause it to become one. There’s a financial impact to both of these responses.”

He adds that essentially partners will move from being vendor resellers to becoming quasi service providers for their customers. He adds that to do this, partners will need to move towards efficient fulfilment models, because with CaaS they are likely to have a difficult transition into this model if they don’t support services around the technology. “Education and support for business planning through the transition to CaaS would likely be good investments now,” he says. “We’re in the early stages of selecting Caas partners but we should be ready to take off quickly. Customers are more willing to accept input from channel partners that can help their businesses survive or grow. Interactive together with its partners are taking time to understand the fact that the customers’ needs are changing along with the way they operate.”


Haque says the challenges of 2009 have been as a direct result of the impact of the global recession which did have a knock on effect on customer budgets and project priorities. He notes that it’s pleasing to say that this situation seems to be receding and customer confidence appears to be returning albeit a little slowly.


“We will be looking to attract some key partners in the coming year – partners who are focused on customer delivery and support, and understand the essential nature of education and training – not only from the technical perspective but from the business needs and potential efficiencies,” he says. “This will drive interest in Interactive Intelligence solutions in the Middle East going forward.”


Software solutions vendor Interactive Intelligence is betting big on the channel as the company moves to broaden its Middle East reach. Reseller Middle East listens to Shaheen Haque, territory manager, Middle East and Turkey at Interactive Intelligence on the vendor?s channel plans.

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