Our Customers Are “Visionaries”

I am a technologist at heart who has always been extremely interested in working with customers. So, when the opportunity came to be CTO and Chief Customer Officer simultaneously, I embraced it and am super excited about it. Being one of the few executives with this type of combination role, the advantages that it has brought to BAI and our customers tell me that this kind of role will become more prevalent.

Some of these benefits are:

Technology Knowledge

  • My technology background, paired with the CTO duties, allows for awareness of emerging technologies, patterns, and approaches.

Customer Interaction

  • By working directly with customers, I can bring them “state of the world” technology advice and share experiences while learning about their ideas and concerns about technology and requirements.

Impactful Combination

  • The combination of the above two has allowed us to often be ahead of market. It also allows us to prototype early, showcase to customers, and mature our products and requirements rapidly.

Since I have written several blogs about AI and technology, I thought you might want to know more about our customers to showcase the real-world impact of such a position. I’ve come to know our customers very well, and there are quite a few who should get credit for the visionaries that they are. I plan to share several of these stories in multiple blogs. Here is the first one:

“Large Engineering” Consulting Firm

This customer operates within the engineering and construction consulting space. They came to us with a problem, but not one that traditionally sounded like a search problem. Their CEO had challenged the CIO with some direct issues based on his passion for making people successful:

  • Their people were unproductive, stemming from not knowing what others had done in similar situations or projects, and therefore were unable to take advantage of it
  • Their people needed to be able to find the right information and expertise quickly

I recall specifically a discussion about the time it took to find information. We shared a statistic that on average 30% of a person’s time is spent looking for information. Their CEO thought that they were worse than that! He knew that at its heart, this problem was around providing access to information. Like many organizations, they had information in many systems, with lack of clarity for employees to know what each system had, on top of which not everybody had access to all the systems because of licensing constraints. Based on the core issues he was challenged to solve, their CIO knew right away that they didn’t have a solution for this internally. It was at this point that we started talking with this customer. Given the strategic nature of their issue, I volunteered to work directly with them to both understand what they were trying to accomplish and also guide them on the technical options available to them.

We started showing them possibilities, not by demos of our products, but rather things we had done with other customers. These were small vignettes of capabilities for people thinking of all the things that are possible and how these apply to their issues. With agreement on some ideas, it was time to bring these ideas down to earth. Their CIO felt, and I strongly agreed, that their leadership team needed to be educated on these possibilities and approaches. Now, when I agreed, I wasn’t aware that it would lead to an invite to Bermuda for me to present all of this to the combined leadership team!

Surviving the Bermuda Triangle

At the Bermuda leadership meeting, we took the management team on a tour of the vignettes we had put together. (No, it wasn’t a three-hour tour, and thankfully it wasn’t on a boat!). We showed:

  • “Why Google?” – an example of a site where users don’t have to search and are proactively delivered content based on their location, role, department, and project.
  • “Customer Intelligence” – an example of a dashboard/mash-up page combining information about a customer from sources across their organization, including active projects, projects in bid, a summary of their key contacts, related documents, and a summary of the business units active with this customer.
  • “Finding the Right Person” – A specialized search interface aimed at helping users find the right expert. For each expert, it knows the hours they worked on projects, the documents they authored/contributed to, the prior sales deals they worked on, and much more.
  • “Knowledge Centers” – A portal that combined internal and external information on customers, projects, RFPs/Proposals, and onboarding content.
  • “Internet-Like” – a tour of features and capabilities that are ubiquitous for typical internet sites but are often forgotten on internal/intranet sites. Capabilities like type ahead, deep refinement/filtering, instant content previews, and responsive interface designs.

Now We Have a Project

The Bermuda trip was a success, their leadership team was on board, and a formal project was started. The project team built upon the vignettes that were presented in Bermuda, working to refine this into a project vision defined as:

  • A platform for enterprise access to collective knowledge and expertise
  • A user experience that gives users a single connection to their relevant systems
  • A focus on intelligence and insights made available by the connected data

Getting to Work

With the vision in hand, the next step was to align on the technology and platform. The flexibility of BA Insight’s software provided a platform that allowed their vision to be executed. The project team used a prototyping approach and agile methodology to make rapid progress and incorporate review and feedback cycles throughout initial development. A cross functional advisory board was chaired by the CIO and allowed key departments to provide guidance and feedback throughout the process. The project was delivered in phases, with phase one focusing on a personalized single search interface for all users. Phase two will incorporate role-based dashboards, while phase three will focus on the proactive delivery of content based on machine learning and analytics.

The Key

Looking back, it was easy to identify what allowed this endeavor to succeed. The solution always focused back on the core challenges their CEO laid out.  They were the guiding light for the decisions made by the project team and for the final product that was delivered to end users. Here’s the lesson: start with the end in mind, and make sure you are solving a real issue. If you do that, then users will flock to the solution.