It's not often that I get excited let alone interested in AI-powered solutions. Why? Most of what I've seen to date is at best 'so-so.' But Rimini Street's announcement of two applications that use NLP as the basis for improving service delivery caught my attention. What's going on?
Regular readers will know that Rimini Street's pitch is to provide Oracle and SAP third party maintenance at fractional price while at the same time increasing the throughput of support tickets. Customers routinely say they like that they've increased the number of support tickets but equally important has been the ability to support complex customizations. This from 2014 with Joel Gibbons, IT director at National FFA illustrates the point:
He says that apart from the 50% cost savings they were able to achieve, "The thing that swung it for us was the support for customizations to our Peoplesoft implementation for...some of the things that we do and that was not supported previously."
Here is another example from 2017 and Jones Packaging.
However, as Rimini Street scales its business the need to further refine its service delivery capability gets increasingly difficult. Brian Slepko, executive vice president, Global Service Delivery, Rimini Street makes the point that:
With some 600 engineers, finding just one engineer whose profile fits the customer's needs was taking 20 minutes. When you then have to do that many times over to create a team it's easy to see how time consuming it gets just assembling the right team. What's more, we were never really sure if we had the right mix of skills and experience because there was a lot of tribal knowledge locked up in the undocumented experience of individual engineers.
In order to overcome this deficiency while improving service, Rimini Street developed two complementary software solutions. From the blurbs:
- Case Assignment Advisor - Reviews dozens of different vectors in real time to identify the right engineering team to assign to a specific case, ensuring relevant experts are in the right place, at the right time, to resolve the client's issue more quickly and effectively. Vectors analyzed include specific expertise required, historical case performance, language, availability, engineer caseload and time zone match.
- C-Signal - Performs sentiment and anomaly analysis on cases, contacts and clients to anticipate potential issues and proactively recommend actions to prevent issues from occurring.
According to Slepko, the results are consistent across all service assignments with some 23% drop in time to resolution. But getting there wasn't a slam dunk. Knowledge is power and people are naturally reluctant to give up acquired knowledge as it helps maintain their perceived value. Rimini Street recognizes that, having a mandate to only employ engineers with proven track records across many years' experience. The average number of years' experience for its Oracle and SAP practicwes is 15 years.
It took time to get people comfortable with providing the data the applicartions need but once the engineers saw the results then they readily understood why it mattered to capture as much information as possible. For instance, CAA has allowed us to undertake root cause analysis on problems we kept revisiting. On the client side we capture survey score data which allows us to better prioritize cases and, in some situations, swap staff in and out where needed.
Slepko was keen to emphasize how these applications enhance the work that engineers undertake rather than acting as an automated replacement. In short, it's a pragmatic approach to using AI technology.
I've not seen NLP used in this way for this class of solution although it is a logical extension of what pattern matching can achieve. The fact that Rimini Street and its customers have seen such a significant improvement in time to resolution for a service that was already setting the proverbial service bar higher than that offered by the vendors can't be ignored.
It also struck me that Rimini Street's ability to both capture and then use highly specialized knowledge has to represent an organizational breakthrough that would otherwise be difficult to communicate let alone implement. It means that engineers continue to undertake high value problem solving work that is appropriate to their level of experience while at the same time providing Rimini Street the ability to assemble and disassemble teams at the the right time.
Finally, Rimini Street can now analyze the reasons behind factors affecting custsat scores and adjust teams accordingly as a way of demonstrating improverment to customers. I call that the very definition of win-win-win.