From the UK to Texas, Interact pushes intranets back into the limelight
5 June 2013: Recently Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Research Director for Content Management & Collaboration at 451 Research, took an interest in reporting on Interact Intranet after hearing many success stories in the industry. Here is his exclusive report from reviewing the intelligent intranet software…
Many, if not most, first-generation intranets built in the early and mid 2000s have fallen into disuse, with grand visions of providing a corporate communication and collaboration environment long since abandoned. Interact-Intranet tries to pre-empt this disillusionment by building its system around a sophisticated recommendations engine, and further expanding this prompting motif with active benchmarking against similar intranet systems. The result is relevant content being pushed and prompted to end users; since inactivity is the death of an intranet, the use of these tools aims to keep Interact-built intranets lively, purposeful and relevant. It is not completely alone (check out Huddle, for example), but it is part of a small minority that sees the power of recommendation engines within the enterprise and the intranet.
Interact-Intranet is a firm that has flown beneath the radar for a while, but its time in the sunshine could be coming. The launch of Interact 7 sets a pretty high bar in the emerging world of smart intranets, and pits the firm against competitors much greater in size. The company believes that social interactions should not be the focus of its efforts, nor should creating static intranet sites; rather, it should be the enablement of greater employee productivity. Interact is potentially tapping into a healthy and growing market need. The firm has done well in the UK, and its foray into the US is showing good early results, but to really grow into its full potential, much more investment (or potentially becoming the subject of an acquisition) may be needed.
The 451 Take
Most software vendors want to focus on external customer engagement, and show much less love toward the unglamorous world of employee engagement and the good old intranet. This, in turn, provides a market gap to be exploited by those not fixated on customer-focused ‘big data,’ but on employee productivity. What makes Interact 7 stand out is that it is an intranet system that is designed to rethink first-generation intranets and bring relevance to the fore. Overall, Interact has a very comprehensive and well-tested system that should be good for prime time, but it currently does not have the channels to market to really lift it to the next level.
Interact has been around since 1996, originally in the form of a services company, but its move into software came in 2009 after the release of Interact 4. The firm is based in the North of England, just outside of Manchester; it also has an office in London, and in the past couple of years started operations in Irving, Texas, to grow the business there. The firm is currently led by its founder and CEO, Nigel Danson, and has around 60 employees. Revenue for 2012 was $7.2m, with about two-thirds of that coming from EMEA, and the remainder from the US. The firm grew by 42% in 2012, and is bullish about growth in 2013. The firm is profitable, and has had no venture funding. Interact is owned by a London-listed firm, Hasgrove, that also own a graphics design and creative consultancy. The majority of Interact’s sales today are direct, but it plans to develop a reseller and partner channel through 2013-14. Key customers include DHL, Superdrug Stores, Tyco, Avios and G4S (with 30,000-plus users).
The Interact strategy has been pretty straightforward: to sell directly to larger firms that are looking to upgrade installed Intranets. This has worked pretty well in the UK, and early efforts in the US are promising. The firm hopes to build more of a channel (particularly in the US) in the future, and to have a greater percentage of its sales come indirectly. Interact-Intranet is pretty clear about what it does, but we can’t help but wonder if a brand makeover along with some localized marketing might not boost the general awareness of the brand and product. Interact is likely to be looking for funding or a buyer in the future to finance expansion, and we believe it makes a very attractive target for either an investor or buyer – the technology is good, the firm and its customer base are credible, and the potential for growth is substantial.
Interact-Intranet is a full-featured intranet system that combines content management (both Web and document), blogging, search and social features. To be frank, most of the functionality can be found in any intranet system, but what sets Interact apart are three key elements:
The recommendations engine that Interact calls ‘Intelligence Store‘ analyzes a combination of search strings, document popularity, access frequency and browsing activity. It then pushes information recommendations based on this analysis. It does this by creating intelligent objects around people and items of content that are then processed via the search platform (Lucene). It works well and brings life to what can easily become moribund information stores; moreover, it typically helps generate more activity and interaction between users.
Similarly, the report management capabilities are quite distinct, in that (in this latest release) the system is able to proactively benchmark an intranet. It does this by tapping into intranet stats taken from other Interact customers (assuming the customer subscribes and allows this). But more than simply benchmarking, the resultant reporting data can suggest improvements and intranet hotspots that need attention. For example, it will point out areas of disuse or circuitous routes taken to access important resources, and provide push-driven warnings, suggest changes, etc.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the online help functionality – every page on the intranet system has text-based help embedded. Something that goes above and beyond most help systems, and can dramatically reduce or even eliminate the need for user training in some instances.
Currently, Interact has a connection to SharePoint, as well as to LDAP/Active Directory and some HR application directories, and there are plans to also integrate with Box at some future point. We would like to see more integration with HR, CRM and cloud storage systems in the future.
The intranet world is large, but is not quite as crazily competitive as some sectors; even so, Interact does have to deal with major incumbents, such as Microsoft with SharePoint and IBM with its Lotus and Connections. Other collaborative enterprise players will come up on the horizon more regularly in the future, be it in the form of Huddle at one end of the spectrum or Citrix ShareFile and salesforce.com at the other. In this regard, Interact probably has a year to eighteen months to really grab the throat of this market; as of now, much of the competition has jumped onto the social side of the equation rather than controlled collaboration, but as that market settles, the potential for (dare we say it?) ‘next generation’ intranets should become obvious to all and sundry.
Interact can make a fair claim to being one of the most tested and sophisticated intranet-replacement options on the market today.
Interact’s weaknesses are pretty clear-cut – the brand is relatively unknown, and it has a weak reseller and partner channel.
Intranets are big business, and many huge and aging installations are at a refresh stage; the timing for Interact is good.
Other larger, better-funded firms, such as Citrix, Salesforce and IBM, also have ambitions in this space.
Reproduced by permission of The 451 Group; © 2013. This report was originally published within 451 Research’s Market Insight Service. For additional information on 451 Research or to apply for trial access, go to: www.451research.com