Category Archives: helpdesk

VisualCue at BBBT: A New Paradigm for Operational Intelligence

The latest presentation to the BBBT was by Kerry Gilger, President and Founder of VisualCue™ Technologies. While I find most of the presentations interesting, this was real eye-opener.

Let’s start with a definition of operational intelligence  (OI): Tools and procedures to better understand ongoing business operations. It is a subset of BI focused on ongoing operations in manufacturing, call centers, logistics and other physical operations where the goal is not just to understand the high level success of processes but to better understand, track and correct individual instantiations of the process.

A spreadsheet with a row of data for each instantiation is a cumbersome way to quickly scan for the status of individual issues. The following image is an example of VisualCue’s solution: A mosaic of tiles that show different KPIs of the call center process, with a tile per operator, color coded for quick understanding of the KPIs.

VisualCue call center mosaic

 The KPIs include items such as call times, number of calls and sales. The team understands each element of the tile and a review shows the status of each operator. Management can quickly drill down into a tile to see specifics and take corrective actions.

The mosaic is a quick way to review all the instantiations of a given process, a new and exciting visualization method in the industry. However, they are a startup and there are issues to watch as they grow.

They have worked closely with each customer to create tiles that meet needs. They are working to make it easier to replicate industry knowledge to help new customers start faster and less expensively.

The product has also moved from full on-site code to a SaaS model to provide shared infrastructure, knowledge and more in the Cloud.

VisualCue understands operational intelligence is part of the BI space, and has begun to work with standard BI vendors to provide integration with other elements that make up a robust dashboard including the mosaic and other informational elements, that’s rightfully in its infancy given the company’s evolutionary stage. If they keep building and expanding the relationships there’s no problem.

However, the thing that must change to make it a full-blown system is really how they access the data. It’s understandable that a startup expects a customer to figure out all its own data access issues and provide a single source database to drive the mosaics, they’re going to have to work more closely with ETL and other vendors to provide a more open access methodology as they grow and a more dynamic, open data definition and access model than “give us a lump of data and we’ll work with it.”

Given where the company is right now, those caveats are more foibles than anything else. They have the time to build out the system and their time has, correctly, been spent in creating the robust visualization paradigm they demonstrated.

If Kerry Gilger and the rest of his team are able to execute the vision he’s shown, VisualCue will add a major advancement in the ability for business management to quickly understand operations in a way that can provide instant feedback that can improve performance.

Salesforce1 and “The Internet of Customers”

This is the second part of a series on the Salesforce1 road show held in Philadelphia on March 6, 2014.

One key point repeated throughout the road show event was that behind every device in The Internet of Things is a customer. Good point. The question is if Salesforce is beginning to truly address that and not just prospects.

In the early 1990s, I worked at Aurum Software, one of the companies that created the market. In those days, all the companies, Scopus, Vantive and a few others were trying to address the full customer interface. We had a single database and built early SFA, CRM and customer support applications on top of the database. Unfortunately, neither the hardware or software allowed for both quick development and the number of users supported from all the branches. In addition, since the areas were all pretty new, most prospects wanted to start with one of the three applications. That caused the three branches to split up and they’ve been separate for most of the last twenty years.

Salesforce is one of the companies working to bring it all together again. As one of the oldest and most successful of the SaaS companies, they’ve been focused on the power of the cloud and how to expand. In the road show, they did a good job of showing SFA, CRM and customer support applications working in concert to benefit companies wanting to understand the true picture of their interactions with their customers.

The company has acquired ExactTarget and Pardot to provide the confusing pair of automated marketing and marketing automation. ExactTarget provides list management, schedule and automated distribution of emails (automated marketing). Pardot helps marketing manage campaigns and lead through those campaigns (marketing automation). I was very impressed by both the Pardot software and team. The software works well on its own and has tight integration with Salesforce SFA, though there’s still work to do in order to show good closed-loop reporting.

On the support side, Salesforce advertises their Service Cloud, supposedly powered by I’m not as impressed by this as I am the CRM, but the strategy is in place. In addition, having designed for the internet, SaaS has a good partner ecosystem with a number of products and SI’s at the roadshow to help add service to the other customer facing systems.

The technology is finally in place to build integrated systems that can give management a view of all their customer interactions, and Salesforce has the strategy in place to achieve that. However, as they’ve been focused on acquiring the pieces and building the integration, the one piece still missing is true business intelligence, and that will be the focus of my next post.