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
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
- 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
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
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