Will Cousins, Sr. Director of Product Management, Nuance Communications [NASDAQ:NUAN]
• How has your IT operating model in Cloud changed during the last five years?
Certainly the emergence of the public cloud coupled with the explosion of public API’s have changed things tremendously.
These things have increased pace so much. One other area that is evolving quickly is security. Standards like PCI and HIPAA are table stakes now. So the ability to easily and seamlessly adapt to regulations put forth by such standards is important. The cloud allows us to do this—not just for Nuance’s sake but for our customers as well.
• What do you think are the biggest obstacles that Cloud technologists face in working in a more agile and outcomes based model?
I would say “keeping secure”. We can all move fast now, but our customers demand high levels of security, and that can add time and cost. However, when considering the alternative, security is a no brainer.
So getting them to understand the work that needs to be done on the back-end to ensure the highest levels of security is important. It is also important for them to understand the value of security in their customer-facing interactions. For instance, as automation, self-service, and virtual agents continue to gain traction in the customer service arena secure authentication becomes critical. The tools used to authenticate consumers upon first contact need to be effective and accurate— keeping businesses and their customers safe from fraud. In this area, we offer voice biometrics, which provides customers with an efficient, secure and natural experience that allows them to simply speak to access their accounts without passwords, PINs or security questions. We offer this securely through the cloud for a number of organizations—from large financial institutions and telecom providers, to government organizations, and more.
The outcome is what matters and the cloud is one way to get there
• Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in Cloud. How did you make that happen?
We focus on the outcomes, whether it is increased revenue, decreased costs or increased customer satisfaction. The outcome is what matters and the cloud is one way to get there.
• Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?
I’m excited about Artificial Intelligence. As a pioneer in voice and language innovation, Nuance has been providing people and businesses with the ability to converse with technology. Parallel to that, we have also been working on AI systems for many years. We are focused on advancing language understanding and cognitive computing through AI and machine learning to make experiences more human. Our research agenda is setting the next milestones for conversational agents and collaborative assistance applications. As a result, we have been able to transform customer care through intelligent agents that quickly adapt to and understand the unique needs of each and every customer.
We are so excited to see it become a mainstream as it is, and believe that specifically in the area of customer care, AI will significantly transform contact center jobs and the customer experience. Since AI can certainly automate many tasks and functions, contact center agents (aka humans) will be able to better focus on emotionally resonant, human-to-human interactions.
• We are all dealing with technology every day. How does technology drive your life?
Yes, it is all around us. But again, outcomes are what matter. We need technology to solve real business problems for our customers.
Everything that we offer for customers—from artificial intelligence by way of virtual assistants to voice biometrics— is done with a purpose of helping them solve real business issues, and moving their businesses forward. We don't develop technology for technology's sake. Just being the coolest new tech is not enough.
For instance, customer service is fertile ground for AI research and innovation. There are 10 million people worldwide employed in contact centers, and about half of those are in the U.S. (source: USA Today). AI initiatives in customer service have the potential for enormous scale and impact on people worldwide, and because of that we are razor-focused on how to help organizations and their customers benefit from this opportunity by bringing AI-powered interactions to all the channels through which they communicate—from mobile phones and tablets to PCs and landline phones.
Bottom line: We need to provide a real value-add to our customers, and I believe that we are doing just that.