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        Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

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        NICE Puts Knowledge at the Heart of Its AI Strategy

        NICE held its annual Analyst Summit this month in the magnificent high-altitude mountains of Peru, a fantastic environment in which to hear top executives share insights into the changing company and industry. NICE has been very successful in navigating the industry transition from voice-centric interactions to a digital-first posture. Consumer behavior is one of the underlying causes of this shift, forcing many organizations to rethink customer experience strategies.

        Every aspect of the technology stack is affected by the shift to digital, along with the transformative effects of artificial intelligence, automation and cloud applications. From a practical perspective, organizations with contact centers are looking to vendors like NICE for guidance on outfitting those centers with new tools for new problems: managing remote workforces, for example, or making knowledge resources available to agents and self-service systems.

        NICE’s leadership believes that new technologies are demonstrating a transformative impact on enterprise operations. In particular, the emergence of AI has significantly accelerated conversations about modernizing customer service activities and processes. NICE highlights three elements that the company brings to the table to help guide organizations in building (or rebuilding) an advanced customer experience program focused on the contact center.

        According to NICE, an advanced CX program requires an “interaction-centric” cloud platform. This platform seamlessly connects interactions across all channels and includes a unified data and application framework. An open ecosystem that operates across departments, the platform primarily supports the contact center but also includes relevant, customer-adjacent people and processes to create broad, integrated CX.

        The ideal platform integrates all of the CX resources within an organization: media channels, data sources, applications and knowledge from existing silos. The role of the platform is to maintain awareness of the customer’s intent and the surrounding context of the interaction.

        CX programs also need to maximize AI, specifically machine learning and generative AI that is purpose-built for CX applications and trained on data sources relevant to the CX domain. Programs must be secure, built with guardrails and able to align with the branding needs of the organization deploying it.

        NICE submits that CXone is a platform capable of fulfilling these needs. The market clearly supports this premise, as demonstrated by NICE’s strong growth in recent years, both financially and in terms of the number of agent seats and interactions under its control. And NICE’s offering ranked first in the industry in Ventana Research’s own Buyers Guides for both Contact Center platforms (i.e., tools with an automatic call distributor) and for broader Contact Center Suites.

        NICE has dedicated resources to develop its AI solution, Enlighten AI, building out applications that address specific use cases for different types of interactions. Enlighten Copilot, for example, supports live agents by giving them real-time assistance during interactions and summarizes the content of interactions afterward. This one-two punch provides better experiences by boosting the agent’s capabilities and controls costs by reducing agent work time between interactions.

        For self-service, Enlighten Autopilot powers self-learning virtual agents. The inputs for both applications are managed by the unified platform with models that are built from NICE’s store of domain-specific industry interactions. All of Enlighten’s activities are integrated across the CXone suite, so its insights are consistently applied to all interactions throughout a customer’s journey. NICE’s progression with AI appears to be moving from the broadest notion of how it will be used – essentially as part of an analytics and data strategy – to one more focused on finding specific problems that it can solve and applying it to those use cases, like supervisor desktop applications and the management of core company knowledge resources.

        NICE also demonstrates a commitment to knowledge management as a key element of its strategy going forward. One speaker asserted that knowledge management will change from being a “backwater” to being the area that fundamentally controls an organization’s AI. That’s a strong assertion, but one we believe is fundamentally correct and insightful. Another executive noted that for most companies, the corpus of business knowledge available is diffuse and unfocused. More than that, it is stuck in an outdated mode where much of the information useful in service contexts is locked away in sources like CMS tools, which are optimized for marketing content rather than service. Bridging this gap should be a priority for organizations and is one of the most compelling arguments for applying AI to the knowledge problem.

        Our findings echo this. Ventana Research asserts that by 2025, one-third of small and mid-sized organizations will deploy AI-based knowledge management systems for the dualVentana_Research_2023_Assertion_Self-Service_AI_Knowledge_Mgmt_42_S purpose of assisting agents in real-time and boosting customers’ use of self-service.

        NICE offers Expert, a knowledge product that unifies desktop and cloud operations by incorporating Enlighten AI. The company has devoted considerable resources to building Expert since it was brought in-house through the acquisition of MindTouch several years ago. NICE appears to see knowledge management as an essential complement to its operational AI tools, and it is correct: Without robust and timely access to knowledge, it is not possible to get the benefits of advanced self-service tools like conversational chatbots or intent-driven agent guidance. These systems work in tandem, which means an organization can’t just patch one AI application onto its existing processes without working through the entire cycle of where knowledge resides and how it is created, parceled out and updated. We agree that knowledge management has been a backwater, but also that the AI revolution is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for organizations to tackle this knotty problem and turn KM into a key asset.

        NICE’s customers who spoke at the event appeared to be wrestling with some of these issues as well, describing an approach to AI as embryonic so far. They appear to be looking for ways to do proof-of-concept tests with many of the newer NICE components, looking for use cases that provide realistic value and allow users to become comfortable with the controls, guardrails and unique characteristics of tools that are very different from the traditional mainstream standard.

        When we step back and ask why NICE has been so successful during a tumultuous period of drastic change in technology and market dynamics, there appear to be two key reasons.

        First, the company’s leadership clearly understands the challenges posed by external circumstances – changes in consumer behavior, possible economic headwinds and the sudden emergence of transformational technology (e.g., AI, automation, the cloud and omnichannel communications). CEO Barak Eilam has, since the acquisition of inContact in 2016, guided a consistent shift away from NICE’s roots in agent optimization towards something better thought of as interaction optimization or relationship optimization. NICE can be technologically agnostic to the extent that it can add or subtract elements of the core, so long as it focuses on the big picture of providing companies with an overall platform that incorporates the best available components addressing the widest spectrum of problems and use cases.

        Second, since the acquisition of inContact, NICE has acquired companies with talent and intellectual property to fill portfolio gaps as they emerge. MindTouch was one example in KM; ContactEngine was another that brought in significant conversational AI. This past month, NICE also announced the intent to acquire LiveVox, largely because of its strong capabilities in outbound, proactive outreach and messaging. NICE has a strong enough financial position to be able to consider filling gaps as they arise in a timely way.

        NICE is a contact center vendor well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the broad customer experience, even well beyond the contact center. Like the Peruvian alpaca, NICE has evolved to be amazingly alert to its environment, capable of thriving as that environment changes and a key part of a balanced and varied ecosystem. As the landscape continues to change, buyers should view NICE’s Expert as one of the industry’s strongest KM tools and the CXone platform as a set of tools that satisfy both contact center and broader CX needs.

        For more information on related subjects, see the recent Analyst Perspective on Optimizing Customer Communication Channels, or visit our Customer Experience Expertise Area.


        Keith Dawson


        Keith Dawson
        Director of Research, Customer Experience

        Keith Dawson leads the software research and advisory in the Customer Experience (CX) expertise at Ventana Research, now part of ISG, covering applications that facilitate engagement to optimize customer-facing processes. His coverage areas include agent management, contact center, customer experience management, field service, intelligent self-service, voice of the customer and related software to support customer experiences.


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