When I was a kid imagining the future of 2019, it looked a lot different than the present we live in today.
I mean, I thought for sure we’d have fusion reactors, space elevators, replicants, basically everything from Minority Report. It’s been half a century since we landed on the moon and we still don’t have a moonbase. Is the future just way less futuristic than we were hoping for? Did innovation somehow slow down? Maybe we’re just less inventive than previous generations.
Except we know that’s not true. In my lifetime I’ve seen astonishing leaps in science and technology; it’s just that most of the really impressive stuff is happening behind the scenes. The major leaps forward might not look like flying cars or teleportation beams (working on those, though), but in the field of computer science, we’re truly living in a golden age.
So why doesn’t it always feel like that? When you compare flipping the switch on a revolutionary quantum computer to launching a lunar mission, it just can’t measure up in terms of the public spectacle. But even when a computer science achievement captures the imagination of the planet, like Deep Blue or AlphaMind or Watson, it’s definitely a more ephemeral moment in the public consciousness than nuclear fission or spaceflight.
Almost none of us will split an atom or travel to space, but many of us will use a computer every day for the rest of our lives. Familiarity might not breed contempt, but it does breed nonchalance.
So what’s the point?
I write articles for a software company. That company employs a team of hundreds of brilliant engineers who research and develop our software. And what they’ve built over the seven years or so is equally brilliant in ways I’ll talk about in this blog. But for most of my time here with Gainsight, I’ve had the same kind of casual appreciation for our technology that I do for my smartphone or my MacBook or the internet in general. I just don’t think about it much.
And I hear the same thing sometimes when I talk to people about what our software can do. I was talking to our Chief Product Officer, Karl Rumelhart, who has an infectious love of computers and computer science and the finer points of engineering. He was lamenting that occasionally we’re known more for our huge events or our category creation or our industry-standard best practices than we are for our core technology—technology which is on the bleeding edge of computer science and engineering.
That’s why I’m writing this post: to give credit where it’s due and to raise the profile of our world-class engineering team. So I’m picking out my personal favorite feature from each of our five products that make up Earth’s first and only Customer Cloud software platform. All of these features represent a bit of that bleeding-edge technological innovation that doesn’t seem to get enough credit when it’s behind-the-scenes powering other businesses on to success.
1. Workflow Engine (CS, CX, CDP, RO)
When I think of the most powerful and clever feats of engineering within Gainsight, the first thing I think of is the Workflow Engine. We used to call it “Bionic Rules Engine” after the Bionic Woman, but hardly anyone remembers that bit of pop culture trivia these days.
In the show, the main character was a tennis star/school teacher who almost died in a skydiving accident, but the government rebuilt her using robot parts to make her superhuman. When we built Bionic Rules, we upgraded our Workflow Engine to a similar degree. These days, most customer success software uses a process called ETL (Extract, Transform, Load). In other words, the data set you’re performing calculations and analysis on has to get pulled out of the system it lives in, processed externally, and put back into the system before you can perform subsequent actions on it—even something as basic as creating an alert or a health score. But our Workflow Engine can perform complex, multi-step, in-memory transformations for large datasets within a single rule (including aggregations, multi-dataset merges, formulas, and time-series calculations). Sundar Vellaichamy, a Product Manager at Gainsight who drove this project explains it all in this must-read blog, but the way he puts it, it’s like replacing a manufacturing plant with a 3D printer—it can build custom objects in one step, much faster and simpler.
2. Renewal Center (CS, RO)
When the customer success movement was young, the so-called “burning platform” was churn. In the SaaS model, the natural tendency of the customer is toward churn. You could be growing like gangbusters but hemorrhaging customers—and revenue. Everyone started wracking their brains to figure out ways to predict and prevent churn. We came up with Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) and health scores and success plans and journey maps and all the actions and best practices of customer success. And now we have a little color-coded number next to every account telling you each customer’s likelihood to renew.
There’s so much going on beneath the this score. A recursive Bayesian framework, machine learning, data science, health scores pulling from your product, segment data pulling from your CRM, and more. You can read all about it in this blog by Shantan Reddy, Product Manager, Data Science, but it’s super cool. And it’s only one part of the Renewal Center. It’s an all-in-one dashboard that can best be described as pure money.
3. Product Analytics (PX)
With so much of customer success dependent on information out of the product, we’ve always had to think a lot about playing nice with product data. Over the years we’ve put a lot of sweat equity into working great with adoption data coming out of all kinds of apps and analytics tools. After all, customer relationships are happening by-and-large inside the product—that’s where your users are, and that’s where you need to be. But with every product analytics tool, we’ve always wished it could be better, more tailor-made for driving customer success.
In the end, we didn’t end up having to build that tool from scratch—it was already there. When Aptrinsic (now Gainsight PX) came along it was the first analytics tool built by product managers for product managers. It wasn’t just a web analytics tool with product analytics bolted on. It allowed you to map your product in a point-and-click interface—no coding required. That’s obviously a big selling point; and a big trend in innovation in the computer science space is exploring visual programming languages and “coding without coding.” But my favorite part of Gainsight PX is the analytics—the heart and soul of the platform.
PX Analytics has a few super-clever tricks over other product and web analytics tools. Obviously it has the table stakes (user/account level metrics, feature adoption, funnel/path analysis), but it goes a bit further with custom events and attributes, cohort retention, and what I really want to gush about: Query Builder. This is what I’m talking about with interfaces being engineered to be more intuitive. All computing interactions used to happen in text-based code. When I was a kid, you didn’t tap or click on an icon, you had to type “C:\DOSSHELL>keen4.exe” or something like that just to play a game. And when it comes to running complex SQL queries or Excel equations, it’s a headache even for skilled coders. But PX Query Builder is a drag-and-drop tool for deep and specific queries without pain. Check it out:
If you’re a product manager or owner, you’ve got to read this post from Dan Steinman (author of Customer Success: The Book). It’s a great primer on what makes PX the ideal product experience tool for customer success.
Incredible New Releases All the Time
Comparing your software app or really any engineering project to the moon landing is obviously a huge stretch. Like, the moon landing was the greatest engineering accomplishment in the history of humanity. So while we’re not there in terms of scope, that was a tremendous centralized project. Billions of dollars mobilized, teams of thousands, decades of work. We’re not on that scale. But we have one thing up on the Apollo program—we’re still working! In fact, we just launched one of our biggest releases ever. You’ve got to check out the Release Notes—we have new modules, a HUGE update to Gainsight CS, and a HUGE update to Gainsight PX.