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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Laef Olson, CIO Of RightNow (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Feb 7th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

The Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model of cloud computing has seen steady and overwhelming growth that has cut across industries, verticals, and big and small enterprises. Worldwide SaaS revenue in the enterprise application software market was pegged at $8.5 billion in 2010, up 14.1% from 2009 revenue of $7.5 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. The projected shift in total SaaS revenue from just over 10 percent of the combined markets in 2009 to more than 16 percent of these combined markets in 2014 due to widespread adoption of SaaS, is creating newer opportunities for cloud computing entrepreneurs. The SaaS space is no doubt crowded when it comes to innovative solutions, but there is a clear gap, especially in terms of solutions that address concerns of SaaS adopters such as cloud provider lock-in and the ability to interoperate from one cloud to another – be it infrastructure, the platform, or the solution itself.

Interoperability coupled with the need for disaster recovery (DR) and availability of business data for these SaaS users are the two key areas where intermediaries or integrators could look to create newer opportunities and solutions in the cloud market. In the following interview, Laef Olson, CIO of RightNow, talks about how RightNow itself uses several cloud-based solutions within their enterprise. He also discusses many open opportunities in cloud computing that are ripe for innovation, especially from the cloud adopter’s point of view.

Laef Olson oversees the strategy and vision for the company’s on-demand hosting platform. As CIO, he is also responsible for information security and compliance, customer care operations, and internal systems management. He plays a key role as an external company spokesperson for RightNow cloud services.

Prior to joining RightNow, Laef was group vice president of global technology operations of Travelport and Orbitz Worldwide. In that role, he managed systems engineering and 24/7 operations capability for the company’s global infrastructure, which supported Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and eBookers. While in this position, he led the successful transformation of the Orbitz search and booking technology into a multi-brand platform.

Laef has also served for several years as CTO for Cars.com and prior to that held technology management positions in the financial services industry. His experience building and operating high-volume transactional systems is reflected in RightNow’s world-class technology operations.

RightNow (NASDAQ:RNOW) provides on-demand customer experience solutions. Founded in 1997, RightNow is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, and employs more than 800 people. RightNow CX, their customer experience suite, is designed to help organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences across the Web, social networks, and contact centers, all delivered via the cloud. With more than eight billion customer interactions delivered, RightNow can be described as the customer experience fabric for nearly 2,000 organizations around the globe.

SM: Welcome to the TLCC series, Laef. Before we get going, would you set us some context on RightNow and cloud computing adoption? RightNow is a well-known name in its field, but would you describe the scope of your IT and the cloud environment that you are dealing with? What are some of the complexities of your business, and how is the IT organization at RightNow dealing with those from a scope and scale point of view?

LO: Sure, I’d be happy to do that. We probably fit into the CRM or the customer experience space as far as cloud application delivery. We are global, do business around the world, and have products in 33 languages as far as cloud services go; I mean, they are not created equal. We kind of fit into a mission-critical category for the type of work that we do – supporting customer experience and providing customer service solutions to companies around the world. That lies in a mission-critical category in the sense that a lot of times we front the channels for customers to go and reach their providers.

Whether it is telecommunications, gaming, or retail, it is that type of thing that we deal with. Due to the brand impact, a lot times we fall into the mission-critical category of solutions for our customers. We operate at a significant scale, with probably 1.5 billion Web pages a month being served out of our data centers around the world. We support about 10 billion different transactions a week. In addition to that, we measure ourselves in terms of customer interactions. A customer interaction is a conversation that takes place between a client and their customers. It could be a completely online conversation, or it could be facilitated by a service agent. There are about 2.5 billion customer interactions a year. So, you can see that we operate at a significant scale, again because of the consumer service nature of what we do. Did I help you with that answer?

SM: Yes, absolutely.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Laef Olson, CIO Of RightNow
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