The Monday Stack: Low-code, High Power

You need to know: Matthew Calkins

Not that he’s any kind of newcomer to the tech scene. Matthew Calkins is founder and CEO of Appian, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year (and was one of the top tech IPOs of 2017). But if your sweet spot is marketing technology and the customer experience, there’s a chance you haven’t been focused on low-code software development. After all, Appian hasn’t been in the habit of making a lot of noise about itself, especially in comparison to some of the bigger vendors out there. “Maybe there are advantages to being behind the scenes in comparison to Salesforce, which makes more noise and absorbs more oxygen than anyone else,” said Calkins. 

If you’re not up to speed on low-code and no-code strategies, here’s the short-hand guide. Low-code is a strategy for developers to build and deploy apps at very high speed; no-code is essentially a drag and drop approach to app building for people with no development skills. Appian offers the former; it’s competitor Pega offers a little of both. But what you also need to know is that Appian has also moved into the pre-built app space, starting with a solution which addresses a central customer experience challenge: fixing the contact center. 

The Intelligent Contact Center, launched last year, is based on the fabled 360 degree view of the customer. Calkins told me: “When someone calls, we bring to bear all the data which exists in the enterprise to give the agent a clear view of who they’re talking to, including the value of the customer, and what their objective should be in talking to them. It’s familiarity plus actionability. The other thing contact centers are often missing, but which Appian provides, is case management. That means everything that happens as a result of the call. Typically, call center technology is focused on capturing the call,  but it doesn’t know what to do with the call. That’s inefficient.” (Appian is consistently named a leader in dynamic case management.)

For an example of results, take Barclays, the global bank with contact centers around the world. “Partner finance is a division within Barclays that makes unsecured loans on large household items. They implemented Appian for contact center technology, and in the month after customer satisfaction was up 60 percent. Immediate impact.”

For Appian, case management exceeds next-best-action. “These days,” said Calkins, “Artificial intelligence can go so far beyond the old, scripted, boring next-best-action. At this point we deserve rich insight into the situation: not only, what’s the best thing to pitch this customer, but what is the customer worth, what is the relationship worth, and what will it mean to have a good outcome to this call? And if the customer is happy at this moment? We’re giving you so much more than old, decision-tree style recommendations.”

Other than generic diagnostics, like English-based natural language processing, the algorithms behind the Intelligent Call Center are trained on the client’s own data, but using leading AI engines. “We don’t purport to compete with Google or Amazon when it comes to a great artificial intelligence engine. We just make it easy to use Google or Amazon, and make your data in their system easily usable in the Appian environment. 

Is there any connection between Appian’s new app venture and it’s established low-code business? “We have a platform that allows us to rapidly create and change new applications; it’s a natural extension to that, in my opinion, to build an application on that platform that can be like a bridge between our platform and the customer. It makes it more intuitive, faster, easier, for a customer to consume and understand what it is that we’re offering.” The two sides of Appian’s business are, therefore, synergistic, Calkins says.

On the low-code side of things, Calkins has some extraordinary stories to tell — including from the non-commercial space. “We’re always doing the most mission-critical applications in an organization. The output is not simple, but the means by which it is obtained are simple. Our intention is to make a little bit of effort go a long way.” How long a way? Forty applications across the Dallas Fort Worth airport rolled out in eighteen months. Beyond that?

“The government tends to be a bit private, but there was a very important, high-profile program a few years ago…you would know it. It was a disaster averted. We hadn’t been involved, but one month before this Presidency-shaking application was due to go live, we were called in. ‘Can you build this entire thing in four weeks? It’s going to have three thousand users from day one, and millions of Americans are going to be registering for it.’ We did, and our side of the application never went down. It was the one constant in this entire problematic roll out.”

Surely this isn’t just because Appian is really good at what it does? It must be about the distinctive approach. “The low-code approach is different, and we’re the only vendor that can apply low-code to the creation of a truly sophisticated application.”

Will Appian bring this approach to aspects of the customer experience beyond service? To sales or marketing for example? The roadmap remains tightly rolled up, but we’re watching. — Kim Davis

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Personalized email marketing still has a way to go. In my inbox: “”This is Collin from [redacted] Diamond Products. We know you are professional in the diamond tools market.” You know more than I do.  — Kim Davis

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  • Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected
  • When I started Facebook from my dorm room in 2004, the idea that my roommates and I talked about all the time was a world that was more open
  • People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people
  • People increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room

The last of those quotes is from just last week, and it’s surely fair to suggest it represents an evolution in Mark Zuckerberg’s thinking from the earlier quotes above. An evolution perhaps prompted by having the value of its shares cut in half by the market during the last six months of 2018, a low from which it has only partly recovered. Private conversations (okay, with the possibility of group conversations) will be central to Facebook’s mission going forward: “(W)e should be working towards a world where people can speak privately.” Oh, okay, a pre-Facebook and Twitter world.

Facebook-watcher Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers, sees signs of growing maturity in the move: “Users expect the social networks to take ownership towards tighter privacy and security versus stepping back altogether from using the platforms. Facebook’s latest plans seems to be in line with these expectations. We welcome Facebook’s latest plans and see it as a step forward as the network continues to mature. Overall, as people spend more time on private communications than on public ones, providing services around that can just open more business opportunities for Facebook. New Ad/content formats could be introduced for brands as a result, but I do not expect the opportunity to reach and engage audiences at scale will change.” — Kim Davis

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As the marketplace for digital advertising matures, bargaining power (and revenue) goes to the side that uses technology effectively to assert their true value. Advertisers and media agencies on the buy side manage to bargain hunt and “cherry pick” to connect with their audience at the lowest possible rate. Publishers can take some of the power (and revenue) back by using tech that offers better measurement to accurately determine what campaigns are worth it to them. As he indicated in our recent podcast, Pub Ocean founder and CEO Chris Ingham Brooke has developed solutions on the publisher’s side along these lines, helping them grow revenue through more accurate measurement. Time is a major factor, and real-time measurement is gold.

Prezna, a native advertising platform used by hundreds of digital publishers to scale their content on Outbrain, Taboola, and other destinations, now offers Pub Ocean’s LiveYield solution, through a new partnership announced last week. Publishers with Prezna will now have access to key data points that affect ROI, including real-time revenue, enabling them to optimize their audience development strategies. The addition of LiveYield is also expected to increase Prezna’s usership.

Equipped with new metrics like these, now both sides of the digital ad biz can grow up together. — Chris Wood

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But there are still other more lasting ways for tech to march forward.

Last Friday was International Women’s Day, and EMPOWER held their NYC-based event to celebrate women in business, marketing and leadership. Sponsored by Bizzabo, in partnership with Convene, the summit contained three panels and two keynote speakers. With industries ranging from tech and retail, to finance and insurance, the discussions had incredibly diverse points of view from women in high positions within their companies – companies with recognizable names and also tech startups. With topics including company culture, experiential marketing, audience engagement and personalization, the diversity didn’t go unnoticed. It was clear that each panelist had her fair share of successful marketing strategies, but the conversations didn’t just focus on email marketing and brand awareness campaigns, but also on what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace, and having awareness for what your company offers when it comes to equal pay, maternity leave, inclusion and social responsibility. With only 17 percent of the tech world being women, the goal is to pave the way in the tech industry for generations to come. One of the most enlightening takeaways from the discussions was from Adi Eckhouse Barzilai, Founder & CEO at RealFace: “Start with young girls, and let them have a seat at the table, which hopefully one day will be 50-50.”  — Colleen Mills        

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Lester Wunderman

We received sad news today of the passing on January 9 of Lester Wunderman, aged 98, from natural causes. Known as the “father of direct marketing,” Mr Wunderman was a good friend of DMN, and was the recipient, in 2011, of the prestigious Andi Emerson Award for his outstanding service and contributions to the direct marketing community (presented as part of the Caples Awards, then hosted by DMN).

Brothers Lester and Irving Wunderman, along with Ed Ricotta and Harry Kline, founded Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline in 1958, coining the term “direct marketing” to describe the close connections they wished to establish between marketing messages and consumers. At the end of 2018, parent company WPP merged Wunderman with historic agency J. Walter Thompson to form Wunderman Thompson, a “creative, data, and technology agency.”

Mr Wunderman had been retired since 1998. — DMN Editorial Staff

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Whenever we can, we’re happy to share content from our friends at CabinetM, the marketing technology management resource for the enterprise, so we’ll kick off this week’s Stack by announcing the publication of their first workbook, Attack Your Stack (available as a paperback or a Kindle edition).

It’s a guide to creating a marketing tech stack, and developing it throughout its lifecycle, based on insights derived from the hundreds of stacks managed on CabinetM’s platform. Key topics include:

  • Identifying stakeholders
  • Stack architecture
  • Stack auditing
  • Stack strategy
  • Product discovery, and
  • Stack management

CabinetM CEO Anita Brearton, the book’s lead author, said: “The workbook is succinct, filled with worksheets to invite the scribbling of ideas, and covers the entire lifecycle of the marketing technology stack.” — Kim Davis

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Last week, New York-based events marketing software company Splash launched The Universe of Events, the “ultimate guide” to events marketing. One thing that’s valuable about the guide is that it covers both the sophisticated digitization of the event space which is Splash’s signature offering, but also a works as a practical guide to event organization (Will your door staff need shifts?). We decided to catch up with Splash at an NRF satellite event.

As a kickoff to NRF 2019, I went to an event this morning presented by Splash and Kendra Scott (the jewelry, home, and beauty vendor). The Q&A, at Kendra Scott’s new location in Soho, featured Amy Young, director of retail marketing at Kendra Scott and Ben Hindman, CEO of Splash.The discussion focused on how much of a role events play in marketing the Kendra Scott brand, and how they utilize social media, micro-influencers and tech to maximize their ROI. Charity is also a big factor when it comes to connecting with local communities and building lasting relationships. With their focus on data acquisition and customer personalization, it was not surprising to hear that they throw 12 to 20 events per month across their different store locations, to really hone in on their customers, and grow the brand even further. — Colleen Mills

Take a look:

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Last week, SCL, parent company of the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica, pleaded guilty to breaking British data laws. As a result, SCL was fined £15,000. The fine is the conclusion to the year-long court case that began when American professor David Carroll tried to retrieve his data that was shared without his consent. It is unclear whether or not his personal data, along with millions of users, will be available in the future, but Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, has handed over its server to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). There is another High Court date in March, which could lead to more revelations.

This result should serve as a warning to companies to obtain consumer data through ethical means, and to be accountable for its use. Whether it’s complying with GDPR, or adhering to other laws and regulations, companies must be careful not to run roughshod over individual rights. The stakes are high: companies can risk brand damage, heavy fines, negative press coverage, or some combination of all three. — Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria

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One thing we’ve written about many times here are the high brand safety risks associated with careless use of programmatic advertising. While programmatic bidding can get your message in front of a lot of eyes, relatively inexpensively, it also means that your message can end up in the most inappropriate places imaginable. Some brands, of course, and some ad exchanges, take measures to defend against this — by blacklisting; or, for really focused control, whitelisting sites on which ads appear.

Last week, we stumbled over a great example of why spraying messages into the void can lead to brand embarrassment, following an offensive online comment by one Michael Moates. Described by some as a “right-wing Twitter troll,” Moates chose to use the b-word to refer to incoming Congress woman — and lightning rod — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

We wondered just who Moates is. He describes himself as Chairman of the Narrative Times News Foundation which oversees DC Chronicle, a Conservative politics site. The site is supported, in part at least, by banner advertising. And who is advertising there? Keds, for example; Thompson Hotels; in both cases, doubtless unwittingly. But here’s the one which caught our eye:

Okay.  Do we understand now why it’s important to know where your chosen ad exchange and/or programmatic platform is placing your message? — Kim Davis

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Programmatic isn’t going anywhere, of course.  In fact, thanks to the Internet of Things, it’s likely to show up everywhere.

By 2030, there could be 50 billion household devices connected over the Internet. If your smart refrigerator is slow in ordering a new bottle of SunnyD, and instead is busy buying and selling cheap available energy, you might have Andy Vesey to blame. Most recently, Vesey was CEO of Australia’s biggest utility, AGL Energy. Now he’s taking his vision for a digital future in energy to Washington. He seeks transformation, not mere transition. Sharing his views in New York this morning, Vesey explained how real change will be brought on by new accounting, enabling “end use arbitrage.” Utility companies can already begin to see energy loads as they are used in individual households. The next step will be to get large home systems and appliances (HVAC or refrigerators) connected.

This connectivity will “cut energy traders out of the business,” Vesey said, recalling how advertising inventory is sold through programmatic. Big power plants and analog distribution will get more digital and granular. Each household and battery-powered car will become a local “virtual power plant” trading surplus energy in real time across the mobile grid. In this plausible future, anybody in town who parks their electric car will plug it into the new digital system, and their car will trade energy while its driver runs errands. The grid will be sure to power the car back up in time for the drive home. 

Vesey cautions that forces of resistance to this new digital transformation are strong. Current regulations and workers reinforce the old paradigm. But costs attributed to worker displacement and updating the infrastructure could be funded by government-backed securities or “green bonds.” Sure, there is less incentive to change in the U.S., where energy is cheap. But everybody can get behind more efficient energy use brought on by a digital transformation – lower electricity bills and a cleaner environment — Chris Wood

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And finally, regular readers might recall how BigCommerce boosted outdoor brand Kelty’s eCommerce play. The Austin-based platform has now broadened its solutions to the millions of merchants on WordPress through their just-announced BigCommerce for WordPress offering. The scalable SaaS platform allows etailers on WordPress to customize and grow their businesses, including on mobile. The new WordPress solution positions itself as a gamechanger by introducing native support for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), allowing access to websites across mobile devices.

Considering that 30 percent of all websites run on WordPress, including millions of businesses, it might be surprising that such a solution hasn’t come out sooner. According to Jimmy Duvall, chief product officer at BigCommerce, merchants have been making do with plugins that are less than stellar. Unfortunately, WordPress was never designed to be an eCommerce solution, and using it as such limits a merchant’s ability to scale,” Duvall stated. “On the other hand, the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin relies on BigCommerce’s backend to manage all aspects of a merchant’s commerce needs, freeing up WordPress’ CMS to focus only the content aspects. It’s really the best of both worlds, as it gives enterprise-level merchants the freedom to grow their ecommerce business uninhibited, without being forced to move off a familiar and beloved platform.”

Ultimately, the intention is to bring BigCommerce’s back-end management to a large, new audience. “Processing orders and running an eCommerce store shouldn’t impact a merchant’s site up-time and speed, both of which can have a negative impact on SEO, conversion and overall brand perception, said Duvall. “Yet, this is often a concern for merchants running a store on WordPress. With BigCommerce for WordPress, all of the backend commerce work is done through the BigCommerce platform, which helps keep the site up and loading quickly.” — Chris Wood

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Appian may not be one of the first names that springs to mind in the Customer Experience space. Why not? After all, like Pega, it has roots in BPM, and it has made deep investments in AI and RPA. Also like Pega (but with some significant differences, CEO Matt Calkins recently told me), its technology allows enterprises to develop apps without teams of coders writing code (more about “low code” here.

But unlike Pega, Appian has remained chiefly focused on marketing its technology to enterprises which wish to develop their own, custom business apps. Where Pega offers Pega Infinity, an end-to-end automated customer engagement solution, Appian has so far only dipped its toes into the waters of ready-made apps, and mainly in the customer service space. Now you know what Appian is, we can tell you the company just released the results of a “Future of Work” survey (conducted by IDG), finding that IT culture and business alignment were among the big stumbling blocks to digital transformation.

Here are some other headlines:

  • The two main goals of digital transformation were improving customer experience and boosting operational excellence (39 and 35 percent respectively)
  • The main impediment to transformation was risk aversion and an embrace of the status quo (43 percent)
  • IT departments face major challenges adapting to new technologies, evolving at speed, and reconciling cloud deployment with security (range of 75 to 81 percent)
  • 83 percent said better training would help
  • A majority of companies have deployed, or are actively planning to deploy, intelligent automation and machine learning.

The survey pool consisted of 500 senior IT executives from companies with over 1,000 employees, evenly divided between U.S. and U.K.-based.

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The melee of New York’s advertising week didn’t stop us from catching up with Experian over soft drinks in a crêpe shack — about the only place to sit down in a quarter mile radius of a Lincoln Square cinema colonized by the Ad Week hordes. VP of Strategy Aimee Irwin was here to talk about recent Experian research on identity, and a new white paper, “Connecting the Dots of Consumer Identity: How Identity Resolution Can Transform the Customer Experience.”

One thing Experian is aiming to do is rationalize the discourse around customer identity. “There are so many different terms out there,” said Irwin. “Identity graph, device graph. What is probabilistic matching? What is deterministic matching? What are the best practices around identity resolution? How does you first-party data fit into that puzzle?”

Failing to identify a customer across channels and devices, means a brand has a problem. “It can create a very negative customer experience,” she explained, “when the customer is going from one touchpoint to another and getting messages which are not relevant to them. One of the things we’ve learned is that consumers expect communications to be somewhat personalized. If they’re not, marketers are letting customers down.”

There’s a sense that personalization is almost there. Brands are finding us, they understand some of our behavior, but the ultimate message often misses its mark. What’s missing? “I think marketers are starting to connect their own first-party data; they’re good with that piece. What is still a challenge is taking third-party data, and being able to have that holistic view.” Experian is eager to help brands connected those data sets (in a compliant and privacy-conscious fashion).

“Marketers really use our data in three different ways,” Irwin said. “First to identify audiences; next, to determine the appropriate channel and messaging; and third, to determine the effectiveness of the messaging. Identity is at the core of all of those things. It’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of a campaign if you’re trying to connect online with offline transactions, and you don’t understand who did what.” Experian can assist with the execution of campaigns, or provide the data for execution through alternative tools.

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With Ad Week already a fading memory, the DMN editorial team heads in two directions this week, Amy Onorato to the Gartner Sales & Marketing conference in Las Vegas; Kim Davis to SAP Customer Experience Live in Barcelona.  Say hi (or hola) if you see us.

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Maybe the biggest news from Salesforce Connections last week should have been the integrations between Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics 360. If that wasn’t the case, it’s probably because this was a news announcement with a long arc. At Dreamforce last November, Salesforce announced  a global strategic partnership with Google, including a commitment to integration. At Connections, Salesforce made good on some elements of the commitment (for example, data from Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics can now be viewed in a single dashboard in Marketing Cloud); but they’ve yet to execute on the real show-stopper.

The first-time opportunity to activate Google Analytics data outside the Google eco-system is now expected, in beta, in Q3 2018. In short, that means the ability to create audiences in Google Analytics, then publish those audiences to Marketing Cloud. Users will also be able to identify audiences within Google Analytics which have engaged with Marketing Cloud campaigns, and share the audience to Google Optimize 360 to create custom web experiences for its members.

If Salesforce customers are still waiting on these capabilities, implementation partners are getting their game in shape already — none more, perhaps, than Salesforce platinum partner Isobar, which last week announced a joint implementation and activation with Cardinal Path (both agencies are part of the Dentsu Aegis Network).

I found a noisy corner on the Connections expo floor to discuss the initiative with Peter Giersch, VP of global channel partners at Isobar, and David Booth, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Cardinal Path, a Google Analytics 360 premier partner and reseller.

Giersch: We’ve done a series of acquisitions which have brought a number of Salesforce competencies under the Isobar umbrella globally. That being said, Salesforce has a really robust set of partners like Accenture and Deloitte, so we’re constantly looking for ways to differentiate in a crowded partner eco-system. When we saw the Google announcement, we knew we worked well with Cardinal Path, and we were like, this is perfect.

Booth: From a Cardinal Path-specific perspective, we’ve been doing Salesforce/Google Analytics integrations — I think we released our first case study in 2012. We had to hack it together; we had to spend our customers budgets on  external tools — processes, automations, and scripts — to make sure all this would work, and it was susceptible to, if Salesforce or Google makes a change, we have to make updates. So when we saw this announcement, with Google partnering for the first time with another vendor directly, we said this is great; all the budget which was blown on this hacked approach we can now spend on activation. We can do audience activation, we can build audiences out of first-party data sets which we can bring into the digital world, and we can start to augment Salesforce profiles with all the web-based data which is there in Google. We can provide value rather than do the plumbing.

Giersch: A lot of clients are investing money in sophisticated. enterprise-class platforms, and they’re starting to ask if they’re getting value. This is an example of where we can now make it easier for the client to consume these technologies. We’re not burning the budget on custom implementation work: you’re seeking that vision they originally bought into when they decided to go with Salesforce.

I wondered what Salesforce and Google each get out of this partnership.

Giersch: It’s basically a two horse race now in the analytics space, you’re either Adobe or Google. This allows Salesforce the opportunity to potentially cross- and upsell into instances where [a customer] has Google’s premium version installed, but there’s no marketing cloud. For Google, where there’s a free version of Google, alongside Marketing Cloud, there’s an opportunity to go to their premium subscription. Because of their footprints, they both see that they can complement each other. Benioff’s growth goals are off the charts over the next three years, so Salesforce is looking for creating ways to sell more, and drive more value off of what they’ve sold.

Booth: Also for Salesforce, it’s a chance to expose people to more clouds.  It started with Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud is in progress, Commerce Cloud is coming. We’re starting to get deeper integrations which really facilitate identifying who it is you want to connect with, build your messages, and then activate the messages on wildly successful platforms. It’s an exciting time.

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