Vendor Profile: Interact – updated

The Intranetizen team are often asked advice about intranet vendors that supply software and hardware solutions to run your intranet. Whilst we have 35 years of blue-chip intranet experience between us, in common with many intranet practitioners, we have relatively limited experience of the 200+ software systems that companies use.

To help you, to help us and to help the vendors themselves, we’re running a series of posts of over this coming week showcasing 5 intranet companies. We’ve supplied them with the same standard set of questions and will publish their answers in their own words to ensure equity! All the images have been supplied by the company themselves and are reproduced with permission.

Today, we showcase Interact 

In a brief paragraph, who are you?

We specialize in solving internal communication and collaboration challenges by combining our sophisticated intranet software with outstanding professional services, focusing on developing long-term strategic partnerships with our customers. Our enterprise intranet software is designed to help organizations drive communication and engagement with their most important asset; their people.

Interact has offices in Manchester and New York, and operates across the whole of the US and Canada, EMEA, and Australia.

Briefly describe your product’s history? Why did you start it, where does it come from?

Interact was founded in 1996 as a software development company. In 2002 we developed our first intranet and never looked back.

In 2007 Interact’s innovation and growth caught the attention of investment company Hasgrove, who bought out the company. The additional security of a parent company enabled Interact to expand its market reach; extending its customer base across a vast range of business sectors, focused on internal communications, HR and IT.

Today Interact has over 900 customers and over 1.1m users using the product on a daily basis. We’re headquartered in Manchester in the UK and have a quickly expanding US office in New York.

Companies such as Lush Cosmetics, HotelBeds, ASOS, Sony Entertainment, and Frontier Communications now trust Interact to run their intranets and internal communications.

We focus on providing our customers with a secure cloud-hosted intranet that’s incredibly easy to use. On average, only 3% of our customers have a full-time intranet manager: therefore, it’s vital that an intranet can evolve and expand without heavy IT involvement.

Our customers regularly feature in recognized industry awards such as Ragan and Step Two Intranet and Digital Workplace awards.

Describe your typical customer – what kind of company, what size, what are the kinds of problems they need to solve

Interact has a broad customer reach as our offering is almost universal to most businesses and sectors. However, any business that has a high number of employees where a large of majority of these are offline, and/or where a good proportion are transient and/or remote, presents the very basics of the ideal customer profile for Interact.

In these businesses the pain of communicating with employees is drastically enhanced due to the nature of the employee demographics. Interact has huge experience solving these problems through both our enterprise software and our delivery expertise.

Interact looks to work with customers between 500 and 75,000 employees.

What do you see as your product and company’s USP?

From a product perspective it’s simply our extensive easy-to-use feature set that really differentiates. There’s no one single feature that can be defined as our USP: our product’s agility and flexibility means each business makes use of the vast options in different ways.

However, throughout all these features is the common experience for internal communicators of ease of use. New technology can be added or fundamental changes made to the intranet without IT assistance, empowering communications teams to react quickly and adjust messaging for a truly responsive communications experience for both business and employee.

From a company perspective, it’s our experience of delivery.

In many ways, technology is the easiest part. Understanding an organizations’ employees and ensuring they gain long-term value from a new intranet is the hardest. With over 1500 intranets launched, we’ve learnt what works and what results in failure.

Knowing that intranets are typically replaced every 8 to 10 years, it’s essential that an organization recognizes the value of correct implementation and chooses a partner for the long-term.

We have an in-house team of digital workplace strategists, technical consultants, project managers, designers and a dedicated customer success team who offer a spectrum of dedicated services for our customers, covering strategy and governance through to delivery, training, launch and long-term success management.

This is supported by our Service Desk team, who offer comprehensive on-demand support for customers around the globe. It’s thanks to this support that we enjoy a 96% customer retention rate.

We also have a dedicated online community for our customers, built on our own technology, where intranet managers and users can collaborate to share ideas and inspiration, success stories, and challenges that can be addressed using Interact software.

The combination of brilliant, easy-to-use technology and 365-degree services that focus on the long-term success of our customers is what sets Interact apart from the competition.

Which feature(s) of your product do you feel are most under-used?

Interact Homepage

So often it’s the most basic features that get ignored.

An intranet’s primary purpose is to build connections: between people, tools, and information. At Interact, we are committed to ensuring we get the fundamentals right with an agile and comprehensive content management system, feature-rich People Directory and powerful search functionality.

These are features that many users and intranet managers take for granted, but the sheer capability of these often gets under-utilized.

For example, our content management system goes far beyond a platform to store information. Features such as Mandatory Read, used for onboarding and compliance, offer significant cost and time savings for customers.

The CMS integrates with existing storage systems including SharePoint Online (as part of Office 365) to truly centralize business knowledge and information. Version control, permissions and review alerts or publication end dates tackle the age-old challenges of duplicated and outdated information facing large organizations.

All this is underpinned by a powerful search function with tools such as Best Bets and Findability scoring ensuring staff can find what they need, when they need it.

The Interact People Directory

The Interact People Directory offers a centralized profile management solution that brings data into the intranet from multiple sources, synchronizing with directories such as Active Directory and Azure Directory.

Going beyond traditional directories, rich profile fields can include skills or expertise, profile badges, integration with communications apps such as Skype or Jabber, and more. If a staff member in Connecticut needs to find a French speaker based in the Berlin office to help with a customer query, they can easily find someone to help.

Our software also goes one step further by offering Persona Groups, which empowers internal communicators to create dynamic categories based on multiple criteria and truly target communications.

Organizations no longer operate to traditional hierarchies and our software is designed to serve the more agile ways in which we work. This is a relatively new functionality introduced to the product, but given the demand for tailoring and personalization in the consumer market, we believe the ability to go beyond traditional criteria such as location or department offers huge benefits for customers.

How much customisation does your product typically need / how much to you recommend your customers make?

The simple answer is none. Interact is an out-of-the-box product.

We pride ourselves on ensuring internal communicators have everything they need. There is no customization required to launch a brilliant intranet.

But (and there’s always a ‘but’) should any organization wish to customize later down the line, we provide a comprehensive Developer Platform designed to support those organizations to extend Interact in a variety of ways.

What advice would you give a company planning to invest in a new intranet platform? / what are the three most important factors to consider?

In our experience, there are some fundamental factors that can make or break an intranet project. Our most successful customers all bring to their intranet project the following elements:

– Senior leadership support. An intranet is a wider business project and a process of change; to ensure it is successfully embedded and adopted, it requires buy-in and support from those at senior level. With senior leadership support, you can remove cultural blockers to adoption, reduce risk of common project threats such as over-spend or delays, obtain support for intranet managers and content writers, and continue to enhance and develop the intranet in line with strategic objectives to ensure it delivers value.

– An understanding of the need to link intranet objectives with strategic aims. While intranets are traditionally aligned with ‘softer’ business measures such as improved communication, we find the greatest success is seen when the intranet is aligned with strategic business aims that are measurable and tangible. We’ve seen from experience how an intranet can contribute to business performance indicators including lower staff turnover, attraction of talent, increased productivity, improved efficiency and reduced costs, enhanced levels of innovation, improved customer service and brand, and much more.

– A partnership mindset. An intranet is not a one-off event, or a short-term project: it has the capacity to deliver significant long-term change. Our most successful customers select us as a strategic partner to deliver on their vision and approach their intranet as a long-term solution. On average, an intranet is replaced every 8-10 years. Finding the right vendor for that relationship is crucial.

What’s your cost model? Free; one-off; per seat per month charging; something else?

Per user

What are your hosting options?

Public cloud

Who are your main competitors?

Many of the leading analyst firms point to wide array of products from Google, IBM, and Slack as part of their broad categorization around social software in the workplace. However, in our experience, the leading challenge generally comes from SharePoint from Microsoft, in particular SharePoint Online as part of Office 365.

The instant assumption that SharePoint Online is the silver bullet to solve the ‘new intranet’ requirement is often hard to overcome from IT. Especially when the investment in Office 365 is relatively new. We know from experience this is often a misconception and has led to a rich-history of SharePoint failures.

There’s a reason why there’s a thriving marketing for out of the box products like Interact. Most professionals working in internal communications recognize the benefits of using a best of breed product matched with a supplier that knows what they’re doing.

In more recent years there has been a plethora of new challengers on the market attempting to capitalize on the ‘built on 365’ theme, particularly in Europe. Many of these organizations have spun out of digital agencies as side projects an although the technology can seem appealing on the surface, they lack the vital experience to make it a success.

What do you need from *your* customers to deliver intranet success?

The interact broadcast analytics page

Intranet projects are business-change projects. They’re a fundamental shift in internal communication designed for the long-term. Therefore, the project itself must be treated as such. As previously mentioned, technology is often the easier aspect to address. Ensuring people gain value from an intranet over the long-term is the bigger challenge. The majority of the organizations we work with recognize this fact. Those who don’t often end up undecisive and unprepared in their approach.

From our customers, therefore, we ask for the necessary strategic investment and commitment to change. This includes gaining stakeholder buy-in, working with us to create a strategic plan that aligns with overall business goals, and committing the necessary time and resource to delivery.

The most effective intranet projects also don’t stop at launch: continually revisiting those original goals, measuring success and evolving an intranet over time will ensure the business gains the maximum value possible.

We offer a wealth of services and support to drive the success of our customers; regular customer meet-ups and events, our online Community and a dedicated Customer Success Manager are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our business model is built on the premise of long-term partnerships with our customers. Perhaps the most important thing we need from our customers, therefore, is to keep talking with us. With new features and functionality continually introduced to the product and the nature of change facing any organization, there are always new and different ways for Interact to support with business challenges.

An intranet is a continuous evolution, not a one-off event.

What does the future have in store for your product?

At Interact we try our utmost to balance the feedback we get from our customers, combined with exploiting new innovative technology, to provide internal communicators with the tools they need to drive engagement.

Examples of new features include:

  • Brand new user experience with a huge focus on ease of use and quick access to information for end-employees both in web and mobile experiences.
  • Deeper integration with Office 365 through the Microsoft Graph and other 3rd party products (e.g. Salesforce, ServiceNow) to ensure Interact is the centre of an organization’s digital workplace.
  • Continued expansion of Interact’s Developer Framework (API’s) providing more flexibility on integration with complex cloud and on-premise based systems.

What does intranet 2019 look like?

2019 is set to be another exciting year. From a product perspective, we have a huge number of new features coming to the product.

In the past twelve months we’ve also invested heavily on our mobile team, reflecting demand in the market for more agile ways of working. This trend is set to continue in 2019 and there are some exciting features and functionality being introduced to our mobile offering.

More generally, Interact is set to enjoy another exciting year of growth. In recent years our international expansion has been significant, with 40% year-on-year growth in the last 3 years running. That’s a trend set to continue, particularly in the US and Europe.

Who should Intranetizen readers speak with to find out more about your product?

There are a variety of places to get further information. The first is our website which is constantly being updated with new features, events, and resources (e.g. white-papers and blog posts). We’re also extremely active on Twitter . Finally, if you want a personalized tour you can arrange a demo here.

What question should we have asked? And if we had, what would the answer have been?

As mentioned earlier, an interesting trend we’ve seen recently is the question around new players emerging in the market, attempting to capitalize on the ‘built on Office 365’ strap-line in a bid to attract IT decision-makers. Why has this changed so much?

From Interact’s position as a global vendor, we’ve seen this trend emerge more in Europe than in the US: likely due to Europe being a little behind in terms of general global Office 365 deployment.

That is, in the US, Office 365 is not a new topic. Originally launched in the US in 2011, many US businesses have been through the hype cycle.

In Europe, this hype cycle is still in play with many businesses planning to rollout or having recently deployed Office 365. With the continued development of the Microsoft Graph, this has led to new companies offering basic intranet products apparently built on SharePoint to capitalize on the trend.

Of course, Interact offers Office 365 integration utilizing the Microsoft Graph like all other vendors, especially with SharePoint Online.

However, for us this is not a technology question. Our extensive experience of what actually results in a successful award-winning intranet is not about being apparently ‘built’ on Office 365, but about what will result in increased engagement and bottom-line ROI.

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