Friday, December 21, 2018

2018 In Review: Another Year of Growth and Innovation

Looking back on 2018 from Mainstay’s point of view
By Craig LeGrande, CEO, Mainstay
It’s hard to believe 2019 is already upon us. But as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Now’s the time to reflect a bit on the past year and highlight some of the trends and accomplishments from my vantage point here at Mainstay.
A Year of Technology Innovation
We are fortunate enough to work with many of the world’s leading technology innovators, which makes our small contribution to their success so exciting for us. This past year we witnessed some exciting new technology launches – everything from innovative networking solutions that automate and centralize core IT capabilities, to self-healing databases, to applications employing machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive business outcomes. These next-generation IT solutions are helping industries reduce costs, boost productivity, strengthen security, and create a competitive advantage. It will be exciting to see how these solutions mature in 2019 and what new technologies will emerge.
Marketers are Broadening their Toolkits
We look at marketing through a very focused lens – namely, as the ability to accelerate and grow sales by differentiating your solutions with value-based content. This year, we’ve seen our tech clients large and small continue to broaden their marketing assets to encompass new high-impact formats and channels. We attribute a lot of this diversification to the growing sophistication of CRM and marketing automation solutions, which have helped our clients better measure the effectiveness of their programs and assets. One of the fastest-growing areas of demand has been in cloud-based business value tools. This asset class isn’t new by any means, but the integration of these tools with marketing automation platforms has added significantly to the business impact these tools deliver.
Sales Organizations are ‘Getting It’
Many enterprise sales organizations – especially traditional product-based ones – are facing stiffer headwinds in their markets. As we argue in our book, Competing for Customers, the game is changing quickly for tech companies as more and more customers adopt subscription-based business models. But the good news is that the leaders at many global technology companies “get it” and many are rapidly changing their compensation models, adding customer success teams, and pushing their channel partners to adapt. In other words, more and more companies are moving from mere lip service to putting all their chips in. Not that enterprise sales organizations can turn around on a dime, but these companies have finally put the right mechanisms in place to move towards a successful long-term sales model.
Customer Success Growing Pains
This past year, customer success organizations took a lot of baby steps. On the upside, more and more companies are making significant investments in customer success teams to support new subscription models. On the downside, many companies are doing little more than rebranding existing customer services resources. What they should be doing is empowering customer success teams to accomplish more strategic goals and closely aligning these teams with sales to achieve long term success. We still hear sales teams question the value of their customer success brethren, and customer success managers complain about being marginalized and frustrated in their efforts to help customers improve business outcomes. Part of the problem could be that many companies are only dipping their toes in the water when it comes to customer success. Much work is still needed around gaining full alignment at the executive-level on goals, responsibilities, and success measurements for these new organizations. As we highlight in Competing for Customers, the key to success lies in tightly integrating the customer success organization with every part of the customer experience – from presales to renewal. It will be interesting to see how these teams mature in 2019 and gradually earn a well-deserved seat at the executive table.
As we close out the year, we want to thank our customers and our partners for all of your support. We are blessed to have such talented people like you to collaborate with every day. We wish you and your families all the best this holiday season and cheers to 2019!

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Rise of the Bots: Robotic Process Automation for Business

By Attie Vandermerwe, Mainstay Company

Not long ago, robots were mainly found in the pages of science fiction – or cheesy 1960s TV shows. No longer. Now you can find them in the back offices of businesses and organizations all over the world. I’m referring to software robots – also known as robotic process automation or RPA.

In a nutshell, RPA is software code that performs functions formerly done by people. A simple example might be comparing two sets of transactions. The software bot goes out and analyzes column A and B, extracts selected data, puts it into a spreadsheet, attaches the doc to an email, and sends it out to a distribution group. Following a set of defined business rules, bots can handle everything from processing purchase orders and invoices to distributing management reports.

One reason bots are becoming so popular with businesses is that they can save a lot of time and money. A case in point is a global staffing company we had the pleasure of working with recently. In North America, the company places thousands of people in temporary positions at hundreds of companies across the U.S. and Canada.

Deadlines are tight: tens of thousands of timesheets need to be tallied up and approved at the end of each week and then entered into the company’s payroll system fast enough to pay workers a few days later. The problem is that the timesheet information usually resides in external websites and databases. To collect it, you have to visit each site, copy the data, and transfer it into the company’s internal payroll system. 

In other words, it's a perfect job for a robot, which is why a few years ago the company asked our client to help design a state-of-the-art RPA solution for the staffing leader. The bots were programmed to go out to the various systems and pull it from databases. Today, instead of the staff gathering timesheet data by hand, the company deploys software bots to do it at a fraction of the time and cost. And this is providing the staff with more time to work with clients to fill open jobs, among other revenue-generating activities.

The company also trained a separate army of bots to help manage customer invoicing. The bots again comb through the vendor management systems, this time seeking billing data. Then they assemble the data on invoices in the specific format each client needs.

More recently, the company decided to use bots to unearth strategic business data residing in the vendor system, including open positions, billing rates, and candidate work performance. The information is helping the company formulate more effective recruitment and sales strategies.

All told, we estimate the staffing company is realizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct savings and avoided costs by putting software robots to work and giving the staff more time to add real value to the business…

Has your company considered using RPA to save money and have you quantified the benefit impact of your technology deployments? Let me know at