What’s one technology you think is poised to blow up?
Chat as the new UI. Workstream collaboration tools like Slack are really exciting to me. Since the advent of modern computing, the employee experience has been largely the same. You show up, log in, and spend your day switching between apps while trying your best not to get distracted. Workstream collaboration tools totally turn that model on its head by creating a central employee UI where you can do basically everything, from checking how many people registered for your event in Eventbrite to creating and enriching new leads with AI.
What are some practical ways that chat as the new UI will change the way marketers work in the coming year?
Ultimately, it comes down to making it easier for marketers to work with the vast number of apps in their MarTech stack. Marketers are always looking for
- (a) speed, how fast can it be done,
- (b) insights, how quickly can we find out if something is working, and
- (c) scale, how can we take what’s working and scale it.
Slack coupled with an automation/integration platform makes it easy for you stay on top of things and take action. You can streamline your marketing workflows including lead flows and follow-ups by bringing them into Slack. Having insights across your marketing and sales apps delivered to you in real-time in Slack makes it easy to collaborate. And finally, using a chat app like Slack to actually monitor all of your automations and integrations will make a huge impact.
On a related note, some industry experts say that chatbots are dead. What’s your take?
From where we’re standing, chatbots aren’t dead. During the initial hype, chatbots were seen as an answer to everything — an unrealistic expectation. Now, chatbots have become more purposeful and people have started realizing how to best leverage chatbots to get their job done faster and more efficiently.
I think the key here is to reframe the goal, which is how can we use chatbots to help people do better, faster work. In order to be truly useful, and not just a firehose of notifications, chatbots rely on other technologies like AI, NLU, and automation to interpret what is being requested and take action across apps and people to get things done.
We’ve seen the term “digital transformation” start to go out of style in the past year. What does digital transformation look like in 2019 and beyond—particularly for marketing teams?
There’s no doubt that digital transformation is needed for businesses to stay competitive and address the ever-changing demands of their customers. However, I think digital transformation has begun to shift away from being an enterprise-wide initiative to something that is more pragmatic — incremental and necessary changes with a focus on tangible results. For marketing teams specifically, this could mean shifting customers to digital channels, launching digital products, monetizing data assets, and automating processes to improve overall productivity and margins.
The bottom line is that having a customer-driven, agile delivery model will help businesses achieve their digital initiatives much faster as compared to an enterprise-wide digital transformation initiative.
What will the most pressing roadblock be for marketers in 2019?
It has been and will continue to be fragmentation. It’s a problem for the whole business — a recent McAfee report indicates that enterprises now use an average of 1,935 cloud services, an increase of 15% over last year — but it’s especially apparent in Marketing. You have different tools for landing pages, emails, customer data, in-store experiences, the list goes on. Without all of this information in one place you simply can’t be effective.
This leads me to the second biggest roadblock which is getting marketing and IT aligned to get automations and integrations created to provide a 360 degree customer view. Marketers are a really fast moving bunch. They don’t have time to wait months for a simple automation, and this often leads to them doing unnecessary manual work, which is prone to errors.
How can marketers avoid this roadblock?
Finding a singular tool that can unite business with IT is a huge one. One platform for all means that IT can govern and marketing can be agile. This is an issue I think about a lot at Workato. We just released a new feature called Automation Editions in an attempt to address this and allow the whole marketing department to get core automations up and running in one go.
Similarly, a Capgemini study shows that organizations are having trouble scaling their use of automation. How will that change, if at all, in 2019?
The problem of scaling automation is really two-fold. First, many automation tools are really only good for a limited number of use cases. Businesses often start using one tool, only to discover they can’t use it to scale or automate everything that they want to automate. Second, most of the automation tools aren’t particularly useable by business users like marketing ops, sales ops and require developers or IT to build those automations.
I think the emergence of intelligent automation, which can unite a multiplicity of automation technologies and connect all systems under one framework (while weaving in cognitive tech like AI/ML) will be a game-changer.
Which area of enterprise tech are you most excited to watch over the next year?
I’m really excited to see how voice technology will start playing a role at work. Just like chat is becoming a new employee UI, I think voice has the potential to also change the way we accomplish ordinary tasks. With integration and automation, smart assistants such as Alexa and Siri could connect to just about any enterprise app.
Imagine that you’re at home browsing vacations on Travelocity, and you want to make sure you have enough PTO accrued before you book a trip. Usually, you’d have to log into your HR portal to find out. And then you’d have to submit a request for that time off and wait for approval.
If Alexa is intelligently integrated with key business apps that scenario changes drastically. Instead of logging in to your HR portal and submitting a PTO request, you can just say “Hey, Alexa, schedule PTO for me from January 15 – January 23.” And it’s done!
There’s been a big focus on upskilling workers in the face of such rapid technological advancement. Do you have any predictions for what skills will prove to be the most worth investing in?
Digital skills have become an absolute necessity for any marketing person. I think the following are the essential skills for mastering marketing technologies:
- Data Analysis:
This is critical to making the right decisions in order to run successful campaigns.
Automation platforms make it easy to reach people more effectively and get a complete view of the lead/contact across their entire journey.
- Demand generation:
Customers today have a plethora of choices and generating the right set of demand is critical for a company to be successful.
Along with the above skills listed above, there are other skills like paid advertising expertise, sales skills, specific marketing channel expertise, and more. Investing in the essential marketing technology skills can help a person stand out as compared to the others.
Thank you, Bhaskar! That was fun and hope to see you back on TecHR soon.
Bhaskar brings more than 20 years of experience in building innovative products and taking them to market. He is an entrepreneur and a proven leader with startup experience (like PlaceWare, Qik), an advisor to startups as well as leading groups within large organizations, like Oracle, Microsoft and HP.
Businesses are adopting software like never before. Today, we have hundreds of apps for every type of business function and every business, including SMBs, use a large number of apps. As good as these apps are, they do not work well together. Workato’s vision is to bring an enterprise-class integration platform to businesses of all sizes.
Prior to Workato, Bhaskar was the CPO of Playphone, which was acquired by Gung Ho. And prior to that, he was the Founder and SVP of Products at Qik. Qik was acquired by Skype in January of 2011 by Microsoft. At Skype, Bhaskar was Head of Qik Products where he led the charter to bring asynchronous communications and new mobile experiences in Skype.
Workato is the operating system for today’s fast-moving business. Recognized as a leader by both Gartner and Forrester, it is the only AI-based middleware platform that enables both business and IT to integrate their apps and automate complex business workflows with security and governance. Given the massive and growing fragmentation of data, apps, and business processes in enterprises today, our mission is to help companies integrate and automate at least 10 times faster than traditional tools and at a tenth of the cost of ownership.