Relevance, personalization and what many firms are missing when it comes to GDPR – Interview with Rob Walker of Pega

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Today’s interview is with Dr. Rob Walker, Vice President, Decision Management and Analytics at Pegasystems, a leading provider of software for customer engagement and operational excellence. I spoke to Rob at Pegaworld, Pegasystems’ customer event in Las Vegas in early June, where we talked about customer relevance, personalisation, artificial intelligence, GDPR and what firms should be focusing on in this era of constant change. This is the second of three interviews that I conducted at Pegaworld (like last year) so look out for the final one coming out in the next couple of weeks.

Please note: Here’s the link to my conversation with Rob at the same event last year.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Getting help is often fraught with friction. It shouldn’t be – Interview with Tom Martin of Glance Networks – and is number 270 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Rob:

  • Before we start talking about personalization, we need to talk about customer relevance.
  • Relevance is about if customer is going to say yes to this i.e. have we identified that this is the right next best action for the customer in the right channel in the right moment?
  • Only then can we think about personalizing it through using the right language, image, voice, format etc.
  • So, relevance comes before personalisation because it’s an enabler of personalization.
  • Relevance will change over time, however.
  • Whilst human intervention can aid with this, it is best done by modern AI systems, which can see changing patterns and quickly test, learn and adjust quicker and more accurately than a human can.
  • Considering the impact of GDPR, there is a danger that folks in Europe are being a little naive about what it entails. It is not restricted to opt in and opt out, the right to be forgotten and the right to query what data a company has on you.
  • That’s part of it.
  • But, another big part of it is that every automated decision needs to be explained and not many people are talking about that.
  • The first lawsuits will be very clear on that. Particularly, when customers ask why they didn’t get a certain mortgage, say, or they ask why you asked them a certain question and you can’t explain it.
  • Your answer cannot be….that’s how the system works.
  • However, there a lot of companies that are already ahead of GDPR practices. Not because they are necessarily good companies but because of how they handle and manage data, technology, security and privacy as an operational risk.
  • If you are a big organization that’s dealing with millions of customers and tens of millions of interactions that’s a lot of permutations to track and explain in a robust way.
  • That’s why they introduced the T(toggle)-switch into their platform so clients can switch between different types of AI models and that allows them to ‘set’ a policy.
  • Opaque AI does not mean it is completely inexplicable, it means, in reality, it is not practical to audit as it is dealing with 1000s of models and 1000s of permutations.
  • We must remember we have own sort of opaque systems inside our heads.
  • When it comes to GDPR, it will be interesting to see what lawsuits deem to be a significant decision, how we can automate that and then what are our obligations to explain will be.
  • However, it is making companies question how they acquire, store and treat data and that is a good thing.
  • An area to watch is the fintech area with all of the Open Banking/PSD2 initiatives.
  • If you want to improve experience then start by following the money.
  • Focus on a pain point, like what Pega did with Sprint in the US. They were having a problem with customer churn and that is where they started. They started with a business outcome, figured out how they could use the technology and the techniques to try and address that, make it better and produce better outcomes.
  • That will then familiarize yourself with the approach and then you can think about scaling from there.
  • Pega made it’s biggest platform announcement in five years at Pegaworld this year, where they announced that they have brought together their customer engagement and digital process automation suites into one unified portfolio called Pega Infinity.
  • Exciting things to look out for …..currently we are using A.I. as a foundation for human decisions but things will evolve to the point that these systems will end up making recommendations about business strategy…..like an operating system for the business.
  • Whether you choose to accept it and implement it or not is up to you.

About Rob

Rob WalkerDr. Rob F. Walker is Vice President Decision Management and Analytics at Pegasystems with responsibility for thought leadership, strategic direction and market share of Pega’s decisioning technology and related applications. Rob is one of the world’s foremost experts in the areas of omni-channel customer engagement and front-office decisioning. His vision for Next-Best-Action and 1-to-1 marketing has gained broad market acceptance and adoption among some of the world’s leading brands. He is frequently called upon to speak with global audiences, the media, and Fortune 1000 executives about using data to increase the value of customer relationships.

Prior to the acquisition of Chordiant by Pegasystems in April 2010, Rob was responsible for managing the strategic direction and development of Chordiant’s industry-leading predictive decisioning technologies. As a member of the office of the CTO Rob also provided support to Chordiant’s global sales activities and partnership initiatives. He joined Chordiant when the company he co-founded in 2000, KiQ Ltd., was acquired by Chordiant in December of 2004. KiQ was a specialist provider of decision management and predictive analytics software.

Prior to KiQ, Rob spent eight years in positions of increasing responsibility with leading global information technology consulting firm Capgemini. From 1999-2000, he served as Program Director for Capgemini during which time he was responsible for the creation, development and evangelization of technological innovations in the areas of business intelligence and predictive analytics.

Rob holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands.

Check out Pegasystems, Pega Infinity, say Hi to them on Twitter @pega and connect with Rob on LinkedIn here.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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