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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Louis Tetu, CEO of Coveo (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Jan 28th 2016

Sramana Mitra: Switching topics, what do you see on the horizon? What are the trends? What are the open problems around which people can build new startups in the cloud space?

Louis Tetu: I’ll declare from the get-go that I’m fairly passionate way above Coveo on the whole topic of leveraging data and not so much for BI and analytics, which is a major trend right now. I feel it is more important to leverage data in better ways to empower people. The fundamental premise is that people are capable of more on their own. We saw that as a major trend even over the past 20 years starting with ATMs. People can suddenly manage their transactions on their own. I’m starting with a very simple example. We evolved to portals and now e-commerce. Increasingly, we are in an era where digital literates can do a lot on their own and are not very well served, in general, by companies.

If you give digital literates richer information, they will do more on their own. I’m talking basically about intelligent software or software that can provide a better response. I think there are three things here in that journey. When a customer has a question, it might sound simplistic, but companies should provide the best available answer. That’s the first step. Once I understand your question and what you’re asking me, I can start making suggestions because I know what you want to talk about and then I can get into the area of, “Hey you might be interested in this.” The world of suggestions and proactive insights is up for grabs.

The level three is predictive. By using data, you can start making statistical predictions around next issue avoidance or next best action. Using data, you start gathering a better understanding of true intent. I would put a wrapper around that by saying, everything that deals around making data more personal and more intelligent is a massive trend, not so much in terms of putting it in the hands of the CFO or the analysts, but really putting it in the hands of every user. Using your theme, putting it in the hands of a million people—the million people who buy and deal with problems and do work every day. Regardless of device and all of that, it’s really that layer of intelligence. We think that’s going to spin a lot of companies.

Sramana Mitra: I have a couple of comments to make on what you said. One is the whole area of suggestions and recommendations as it has evolved has come from the collaborative filtering technology end. I’ve believed this for 16 years now. You need a combination of expert systems and collaborative filtering to be able to get to real precise personalization.

Louis Tetu: You’re correct. That is very correct. I would add a very exciting element now. It has to do with what we used to call the wisdom of crowds. Let me take it from a different and simpler angle to start with. The world or recommendations has predominantly relied on content historically. So did the world of relevance.

When we talk about recommendations, at the end of the day, it’s relevant science. What am I going to tell you first? Whether it’s the result of a query or a suggestion that pops up, it’s all the same. It’s a query that runs behind the scenes and some ranking algorithms that would prioritise what I’m going to recommend next. The interesting thing now, and in what Amazon has been clearly a precursor of, is that crowd behaviour tells you a lot. There is amazing convergence by leveraging data around usage analytics and throwing machine learning on top of that.

We’ve been testing a new technology at Coveo called reveal, which is our own flavour of machine learning using usage analytics. We’ve been testing that with companies like Salesforce and Logitech. We’ve seen amazing results. In our world, we measure by click-throughs and click ranks. In the ideal world, every use clicks on the first result that we suggest to them every time. That is ultimately the nirvana of the world of suggestions.

If every visitor of Amazon clicked on the first product recommended by them and bought it every time, I think Bezos would call it nirvana. To summarise what I’m saying, what’s really exciting right now thanks to the cloud and analytics, is our ability to leverage crowd information as opposed to just content to drive better suggestion and more relevance. I can guarantee you we are seeing, with hard metrics, the result of that. It’s going to be a massive game changer. We’re now talking about a few percentage points of improvements here. We’re talking about major improvements.

Sramana Mitra: Cool. Hopefully, we’ll watch the industry evolve over the years. Thank you.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Louis Tetu, CEO of Coveo
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