The keynote at Aptttus Accelerate was gate crashed by Max, the Aptttus virtual assistant. While it is still tagged by the organisation as “the world’s first and only Quote-to-Cash virtual assistant” it became clear that it can become far more than that.
Most technical demonstrations at industry events are risky. People often find it challenging to appear on stage with technology, children and animals. Fortunately Max behaved with a consummate performance that will have impressed many in the audience. In fact some of the customer speakers who came onto stage are already heavily investing in the technology. Max is already planning to appear in at least 20 customer environments in the coming months.
Customers won over
Lenovo got to see their new virtual sales assistant in an impressive demonstration. Apttus has taken its bot to a level beyond many others in the marketplace. It is able to do more just answer questions. Apttus has shown it can also deal with time consuming business processes, often in a far more efficient manner than a human could. Not only that but Apttus has integrated the bot with the cognitive computing of both Microsoft and IBM’s Watson. The core applications is built using the Microsoft cognitive services, including LUIS (Language Understanding Intelligent Service).
The demonstration was delivered using Skype, both with text and the Cortana voice recognition service. This won’t be suitable for all companies and Apttus has also added integrations for Slack, Text, Email and even augmented reality using Microsoft HoloLens.
So did it work?
The answer to that was yes. This wasn’t a demonstration of a bot that added little value. It was clear that Max could carry out complex business processes that take hours of elapsed time to complete. The process that Apttus demonstrated was the creation of a quotation using a Lenovo catalogue. The AI was able to quickly advise on which options for a laptop met the customer requirements. For both new and experienced Sales reps this could save a lot of time trawling through information to locate the best item. The final decision was done by the salesman though.
Once created and a price decided upon it was flagged for approval as the margins were too high. This is where Max was able to open a call between the manager and the sales person to confirm the quotation. Max again offered insight into a price point that might be optimal, from the managers point of view, giving an idea of how to maximise the success of the deal. Once the quotation was agreed the quote is sent for electronic signature by the client to agree the sale. This cuts out the process of attaching the quotation to an email, again saving time.
Max goes beyond quote to cash
Apttus also demonstrate the capability of programming Max to interact with a CRM system that Apttus is able to push data to. The natural language interface allows for predetermined business processes to be programmed. The example given was adding notes into a customer record. For sales people on the move these features could be very useful. Lenovo was clearly impressed by the demonstration.
LUIS means that language variants are easily understood and development can focus on the business process mapping and compliance rules. For many customers this will cut out a large swathe of administration processes. The risk is that the processes are not defined accurately and that individuals trust what is programmed into the computer. It will be interesting to see how quickly Max starts to identify issues from the data it collects.
Max is also able to prompt users when they might have forgotten something. This is what Apttus calls a behavioural nudge and could merely be informing them about a product that they are not selling but others are. The possibilities are endless and as AI develops it will be interesting to see where Apttus takes Max
Kirk Krappe, Apttus CEO commented: “Apttus has a long history of advancing revenue operations far beyond what anyone believed they were capable of, and today we honor that legacy once again. Max has demonstrated its value to enterprise organizations and Quote-to-Cash solutions continue to demonstrate their immense value. We are excited to share those results with the world at Accelerate 2017.”
We first saw Max at Dreamforce, the demonstrations there focused around the use of HoloLens. Whilst impressive as a technical solution it was not really ready for the market though the potential was obvious. What Apttus have delivered to customers is a virtual assistant that really helps cut costs and deliver efficiencies in processes that humans are just not equipped to do as well. This does not mean that AI’s like Max will replace humans entirely as there are still important aspects of business relationships that only humans can handle.
Day three of Apttus Accelerate lies ahead and the most interesting keynote includes the roadmap for Apttus. They have already announced the release of of Quote to Cash for manufacturing . Whatever lies ahead they appear to be delivering solutions that really make a difference to their customers business.