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ProsperWorks CEO Jon Lee: You’re Going to Need Great Data

Jon Lee is the CEO of ProsperWorks.

In this exclusive interview, Lee discusses the importance of high-quality data to CRM success.

ProsperWorks CEO Jon Lee

ProsperWorks CEO Jon Lee

CRM Buyer: What are some of the current trends you see in the CRM space?

Jon Lee: You’re seeing the trend of AI and machine learning. There’s this notion that software is primarily something you have to work for. There’s a lot of data entry, a lot of navigating screens and moving between different windows.

Software as it was designed in the 1980s was a database for recording information. The trend you’re seeing today is that instead of working for my software, what if my software works for me? You see companies trying to use machine learning and AI to record calls and help them sell. Rather than being just a recording device, it’s now a coaching device. That can include recommendations about what to do next, and what to do on your sales calls.

The key is, does the existing software have really good data? AI and machine learning rely on lots of different types of data. That’s the future — software that’s able to take all your data and ultimately provide you with a recommendation for what you should do next, what you should focus on, how you should conduct your sales calls.

The other theme we’re seeing is that CRM is becoming increasingly more important. What’s happened on the macro level is you’re seeing the relationship actually change between the buyer and the seller.

You largely relied on the sales rep before, but now there’s so much information online, and you build a relationship with the community, and the community can tell you want you should buy and purchase. What’s happening is that the original sales person is being intermediated by technology. Companies are moving away from middle people and going direct. We’re seeing it with Tesla, which doesn’t use third-party dealerships.

We live in the relationship era, where human beings still are influenced by a connection with other human beings. It’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself in the market by building a relationship with the customer. Being able to provide a better relationship through personalization is key.

CRM can now help you customize that customer relationship, which can build loyalty and increase sales. CRM as a concept is now bleeding into the tools that we use on a daily basis. The concept of staying within one CRM tab is going away. It will ultimately become transparent and work with the tools you already use. Wherever you communicate with your customer, you’ll have context-rich information.

CRM Buyer: Why is it important that CRM is easy-to-use?

Lee: If you want to get value out of your CRM, it requires great data and the ability to extract that data. If it’s easy to use, it’s easy to create records and find information. When things take a lot of time, you lose productivity, and you’re less likely to do it because the friction is really high.

If you don’t have the data, CRM becomes useless. The purpose of CRM is data and automation — being able to establish a repeatable sales process based on data, so you can make decisions about who’s your target customer, who’s your best-performing salesperson.

All those decisions are based on data. If it’s not easy to use, people won’t use it, and if people don’t use it, you’re not going to be able to get the data.

CRM Buyer: Do businesses of any size need CRM? Why?

Lee: I think all businesses can benefit. The value of CRM is organization, and having a single source of truth. If you’re a productive person with a lot of contacts, you’re going to have to track all of that.

Once you get larger, you have a team, and you have to provide a platform for them to collaborate. As you get larger, you really need to see the larger picture. As you get larger, every CEO loses sleep over numbers and hitting revenue targets.

CRM can help you better understand your customers, so you can market to them better. The utility goes up substantially for larger businesses, but there is real utility for smaller business.

CRM Buyer: How is the CRM industry evolving and changing? What’s in the future?

Lee: You’ll see the future is AI. It really is. It’s being able to make recommendations about what you do next. CRM’s been a backwards-looking tool, since hasn’t been telling you what you need to do. That’s part of the problem, and that’s why people often don’t use it. It’s difficult to use, clunky, and requires data entry. Does it actually help you sell more? Sort of, but not really.

Technology that lets you analyze data and recommend data-driven decisions on the fly before you walk into a meeting, and after you step out of a meeting: That’s the future.


Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

Cloud Health Services, Part 2: Privacy and Security

Cloud Health Services, Part 1: Benefits and Complications

In response to the migration of health services to the cloud, vendors have been partnering with various organizations to gain a foothold in the market and to test out their solutions.

One of the cloud’s major selling points is security — but it is not as safe as it’s made out to be.

Google’s Healthcare Approach

Google Cloud “recently announced a significant expansion in HIPAA compliance across our portfolio of cloud products,” noted Joe Corkery, Google Cloud’s head of product healthcare and life sciences.

It also launched the Cloud Healthcare API to get around data interoperability issues.

The API works with leading industry standards, and provides DICOM-aware storage. This “can reduce the burden of IT management in medical imaging, in particular PACS migrations,” Corkery told the E-Commerce Times.

Google’s G Suite has been gaining adoption in the healthcare industry as a vehicle for HIPAA-compliant collaboration and data exchange, Corkery said, and Chrome “offers a variety of hardware options” for the healthcare industry.

Google Cloud supports various partners, including Google Brain, Verily Life Sciences and DeepMind, to deploy healthcare solutions on a global scale.

Google Cloud also has invested in genomics, and it offers the Google Genomics API. Further, its team has been working with other Google researchers to bring machine intelligence capabilities to medical imaging.

Google is “really building out the machine learning and neural nets,” Constellation Research Principal Analyst Ray Wang told the E-Commerce Times.

Google Cloud last week announced an agreement to acquire enterprise cloud migration technology provider Veleostrata, a move that will enable its customers to do the following:

  • Adapt workloads on the fly for cloud execution;
  • Migrate virtual machine-based workloads to and from the cloud; and
  • Easily control and automate where their data is held at all times.

Microsoft’s Play

Healthcare NExT is a planned series of collaborations between Microsoft’s AI and Research organization and healthcare partners, beginning with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Other collaborations from Healthcare NExT:

  • HealthVault Insights, a research-based project that lets partners generate new insights about patient health;
  • Microsoft Genomics, which uses an Azure-based genome analysis pipeline;
  • An AI-based health chatbot project; and
  • Project InnerEye, which uses machine learning to build automated tools for quantitative analysis of radiological images.

Microsoft also offers the Microsoft Office 365 Virtual Health Templates, powered by Skype for Business, to build healthcare solutions.

Microsoft earlier this year released the Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint for HIPAA/HITRUST Health Data and AI, which include reference architectures, compliance guidance and deployment scripts.

Apple’s Healthcare Moves

Apple in January updated its Health app in the iOS 11.3 beta with a feature that lets consumers see their medical records on their iPhones. Partners include John Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai and Penn Medicine.

The App Store offers more than 40,000 healthcare-related apps.

Apple also offers the CareKit and ResearchKit open source app building frameworks.

Facebook in the Wake of Cambridge Analytica

Facebook reportedly began engaging last year with organizations, including the American College of Cardiology, about matching their anonymized health data — related to age and health issues, for example — with anonymized profiles from its pages.

Facebook then would use insights from the users’ behavior on its platform to inform medical treatments.

Facebook apparently shelved the idea following the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal.

Privacy Is a Problem

“The real challenge here is patient — and facility — acceptance of Google or Facebook, for example, as a trusted steward of private and sensitive personal information,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

Amazon and Microsoft “have strong track records in security and performance with AWS and Azure,” she told the E-Commerce Times, but “the recent [Cambridge Analytica] fiasco and Zuckerberg’s inability to articulate a mature and thoughtful strategy about protecting individuals’ Facebook data would rule it out for most consumers.”

Google “lies somewhere in the middle,” Wettemann added.

Google “has a reputation of taking excessive risks with people’s data,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told the E-Commerce Times.

However, Google Cloud does not have access to the data users bring to it, Google’s Corkery pointed out. That data “is controlled by those organizations and is not used for other purposes.”

The Perennial Bugbear

The move to electronic medical record systems has made patient records vulnerable to cyberattacks, and the rapid rise in healthcare-related Internet of Things devices “has created a new and large attack surface,” said Bob Noel, director of strategic relationships and marketing at Plixer.

IoT devices in healthcare range from small scale test equipment in a doctor’s office to the largest scanners in major hospitals, noted Andrew Lloyd, president of Corero Network Security.

DDoS attacks can result in denial of access to a cloud service, performance degradation, or a data breach, he told the E-Commerce Times. Another possibility is that IoT devices could be compromised and swept up to form a botnet.

“It costs only (US)$100 to rent a DDoS attack on the Dark Web, and individual attacks can cost victims up to $50,000,” Lloyd pointed out.

Public cloud providers are better able to protect against security risks, Google Cloud’s Corkery remarked.

Many healthcare organizations “come to Google Cloud specifically for the security benefits associated with running their infrastructure and applications on Google Cloud,” he said, noting that it has “the highest reliability in the industry.”

Still “the ultimate responsibility for data safety remains with the healthcare provider,” Plixer’s Noel told the E-Commerce Times. “The Google Cloud has gone down a few times this year alone.”

Customers likely will cause at least 95 percent of cloud security failures in the next several years.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Cloud Health Services, Part 1: Benefits and Complications

The cloud offers a host of potential uses, according to the healthcare industry and academic medical center representatives who participated in a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
survey last year.

Application hosting was the top use, identified by 90 percent of the 64 respondents.

Other potential uses cited:

  • Disaster recovery and backup – 84 percent
  • Hosting primary data storage such as application data – 74 percent
  • Hosted email services – nearly 70 percent
  • Managed services – 52 percent
  • Virtual servers – 36.5 percent
  • Security – 36.5 percent

The global healthcare cloud computing market will reach US$35 billion in 2022, from about $20 billion in 2017, according to BCC Research.

Cloud computing lets user organizations avoid heavy capital expenditures, and it requires less skilled IT staff, according to a report from the Cloud Standards Customer Council, an end-user advocacy group dedicated to accelerating cloud adoption.

The cloud also offers the following potential advantages:

  • Easier scalability and ability to adjust rapidly to demand;
  • Better security and privacy for health data and health systems than in-house systems;
  • Improved information sharing through standard protocols — although vendor contracts and technical impediments remain a problem;
  • Support for rapid development and innovation, especially for mobile technologies and the IoT; and
  • Better analytics capabilities, through services such as intelligent business process management suites and case management frameworks to mitigate medical mistakes.

“Cloud services in healthcare is a rapidly evolving area, and a case where cloud makes a lot of sense from a cost management and portability perspective,” Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research, told the E-Commerce Times.

However, all is not rosy in cloud healthcare land. Standardization has been a problem, so information sharing is not quite as easy as it should be. Security also has been problematic.

Everyone Wants to Get Into the Act

Major cloud players Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been pushing into the healthcare field, along with several smaller firms. Facebook and Apple also have been showing interest.

“We’re seeing a great deal of interest in the cloud in the healthcare industry,” remarked Joe Corkery, Google Cloud’s head of product healthcare and life sciences.

Most have been offering traditional cloud-based services such as hosting and Software as a Service, as well as security, data storage and data crunching. Google and Apple have been leveraging the Internet of Things through mobile devices.

All providers have an eye on the IoT, which is expected to generate a huge market, sparked by smart cars, homes, cities and the ubiquity of mobile devices.

“Offerings that are more enterprise-focused — like Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer and Dell Virtustream — should have a significant advantage because of their higher focus on security,” observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

On the other hand, smaller companies “should have a significant advantage, thanks to the strong privacy laws, if they have that extra focus on security,” he told the E-Commerce Times, and don’t have “a bad reputation for the cloud, like Apple, or a bad reputation for privacy, like Google.”

The Healthcare Tower of Babel

Interoperability is a real issue in the healthcare industry. Some blame the problem on legislation — specifically, the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health.

The HITECH Act was designed to promote the adoption and use of electronic health records, but the legislation’s overall design pushed interoperability in a limited way, according to Julia Adler-Milstein, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT put off defining criteria for the Health Information Exchange until the second stage, Adler-Milstein pointed out.

Further, interoperability is not just a technological issue, she noted. There are also governance and trust issues, business agreements and confidentiality issues.

“Multiple standards, as well as flavors of those standards for medical and health data, have been developed over time … based on the changing needs of the technology products being developed,” Google’s Corkery told the E-Commerce Times.

The Office of the U.S. National Coordinator for Health IT earlier this year released its 2018 Interoperability Standards Advisory.

However, the advisory is for informational purposes only. It is non-binding and does not create or confer any rights or obligations for or on any person or entity.

International standards organizations have stepped in to take up the slack. Health Level 7 International “has taken an active role in the development of standards,” Corkery noted.

HL7v2 is “the dominant data exchange format used in clinical settings today,” he added.

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources — managed by the nonprofit FHIR Foundation, which is closely affiliated with HL7 — is an emergent standard, said Corkery.

At the industry level, the Google Healthcare application programming interface is an attempt to get around the interoperability problem.

The API provides “a cloud-based implementation of several widely deployed standards — HL7v2, FHIR and DICOM — to ingest, store, query and analyze data using protocols and formats that clinical systems use today,” Corkery said. “The intent … is not to replay existing standards, but to delivery interoperability between clinical systems and Google cloud services.”

Stay tuned for Part 2.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Cloud Providers Look for Legal Loopholes to Protect Customer Data

By John K. Higgins
May 17, 2018 10:36 AM PT

United States-based providers of e-commerce resources, including cloud services, must release foreign-held customer information to law enforcement agencies under a new law enacted in March.

Providers have strongly objected to releasing customer information residing outside the U.S. for fear of violating the privacy laws of other countries. In a legal filing, the providers noted a potential “staggering” loss of international customers who no longer would trust the providers to protect their privacy. The document cites the positive trade balance of US$18 billion for U.S.-based cloud service providers in 2015.

As the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act, was enacted, a dispute between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice over the release of foreign-held customer data was playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Microsoft had challenged the basis of a 2013 DoJ warrant for customer information residing at a data facility in Ireland. The DoJ sought the information in connection with a criminal drug investigation.

Since the CLOUD Act addressed the major issue in dispute between DoJ and Microsoft, the Supreme Court agreed to a request by both parties and mooted the case.

DoJ Targets Microsoft in New Warrant

The Justice Department quickly resumed its case against Microsoft under the CLOUD Act.

DoJ asserted that the Act clearly provides U.S. law enforcement agencies with the ability to seek customer information related to criminal investigations when that data resides at a facility outside the U.S. DoJ argued that the CLOUD Act demolishes the legal basis for Microsoft’s past refusal to comply with its request for the information, and issued a new warrant to the company.

“The government is now unquestionably entitled to disclose foreign-stored data under the Stored Communications Act (SCA),” DoJ said in a petition to dismiss the Supreme Court case.

DoJ and Microsoft had different views on the reach of the SCA, which led to the original court case. The CLOUD Act removed the SCA ambiguity by stating that U.S. law now would cover customer information that is “located within or outside of the United States.”

The CLOUD Act applies to any “electronic communication service or remote computing service,” and it requires providers to “preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber.” The data must be within a provider’s “possession, custody, or control.”

Microsoft Is Not Rolling Over

Microsoft may be contemplating a rejection of the new DoJ warrant, however. While the company no longer can use the international location argument to reject the DoJ request, it has indicated there may be another legal means to challenge the department under the international “comity” provisions of the CLOUD Act.

“We did not sue our own government four times and devote energy to these issues over four sometimes long years to stop showing resolve now,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft.

The Act allows some leeway for companies to refuse to comply with law enforcement requests for information located outside the U.S., he contended.

Broadly speaking, the comity provision allows companies to ask a court to cancel — in legal terms to “quash” — a warrant for information if the situation would interfere with the terms of any reciprocal agreement between the U.S. government and another country over such data protection.

Courts then would have to find that the release of sought-after information would compromise the comity of any country-to-country agreement.

In the event there was no specific bilateral agreement, the CLOUD Act would allows companies to challenge a warrant based on the “common law” concept of comity, according to Microsoft. In its petition for dismissal of the Supreme Court case, the company argued that it would evaluate its options under the CLOUD Act regarding the new DoJ warrant.

However, Smith’s commentary highlighting the value of bilateral agreements and the use of common law protections in lieu of such agreements appears to indicate that a challenge to DoJ on the comity issue is an option.

“The CLOUD Act both creates the foundation for a new generation of international agreements and preserves rights of cloud service providers like Microsoft to protect privacy rights until such agreements are in place. Each of these aspects is critical,” Smith said.

Microsoft did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.

Questions About Comity

The only problem with Microsoft using the comity argument associated with country-to-country agreements is that currently there aren’t any such accords, according to a commentary by DLA Piper attorneys Ilana Hope Eisenstein, Jim Halpert and Lindsay R. Barnes.

“As of yet, no CLOUD Act agreements have been established, and thus providers have no present recourse under this procedure,” they wrote.

That presents another legal hurdle, as there are no rulings by courts related to use of the procedure.

“Comity analysis only comes into play if the data the government seeks resides in a country with whom the U.S. already has the kind of bilateral executive agreement contemplated under the CLOUD Act,” Eisenstein told the E-Commerce Times.

“Only after the U.S. starts to make these agreements with other countries and the courts have an opportunity to interpret the CLOUD Act will we start to see what that comity analysis looks like,” she pointed out.

“Both before and after the CLOUD Act, providers could raise common law comity concerns, if and when a disclosure order puts the provider in the middle of conflicting legal obligations,” noted Jennifer Daskal, associate professor at American University Washington College of Law.

“Microsoft has never claimed that any such explicit conflict existed, so it seems strange that it would raise the issue now,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

“That said, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect at the end of May,” said Daskal.

“Once in place, that could provide a source of conflict if the data is located within the EU. I would think, however, that courts would — and should — look unfavorably on any delay tactic that dragged this out until the end of May and then claimed conflict there,” she observed.

“There are, of course, other independent reasons why Microsoft might object that have nothing to do with the location of the data or foreign law — that could possibly provide a separate reason for their further evaluation,” Daskal said, “although I don’t have any knowledge as to what those objections might be.”


John K. Higgins has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2009. His main areas of focus are U.S. government technology issues such as IT contracting, cybersecurity, privacy, cloud technology, big data and e-commerce regulation. As a freelance journalist and career business writer, he has written for numerous publications, including
The Corps Report and Business Week.
Email John.

NICE Bot Wants to Take Over Employees’ Most Tedious Tasks

NICE on Tuesday debuted its NICE Employee Virtual Attendant, or NEVA, a process automation bot powered by the company’s desktop automation technology.

With chatbot capabilities, NEVA “is designed for both front- and back-office employees,” said NICE VP Oded Karev, head of advanced process automation.

NEVA process automation bot from NICE

Employees can use NEVA either to execute a complex business process or inquire about a process, he told CRM Buyer. “The latter use is common in a dynamic compliance-driven environment where processes are highly influenced by changing laws, regulations and company policies.”

NEVA could be a natural for the healthcare field, for example.

It implements routine and repetitive tasks faster and more accurately than customer service agents can perform them, and with complete adherence to company policies, according to the company, resulting in increased productivity, improved process accuracy and greater customer satisfaction.

“The market for providing automation for employees is extremely important,” said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Employees are overwhelmed with too much information coming from too many applications,” he told CRM Buyer. “The first barrier in getting assistance is often not even knowing where to look.”

Helping New Hires

NEVA gives new employees on-the-job training through step-by-step process guidance, doing away with the need for classroom training sessions. By reminding employees to follow policy-based processes — such as reading a required disclaimer, checking a required box, or completing a step in the process — it drives compliance.

It “can guide employees through completing complex tasks,” Karev noted.

NEVA “shortens training time, and is available to answer any questions relating to systems, processes and policies, or regulations,” he added.

Design time analysis is built into the solution, so NEVA can detect when an employee needs guidance from their mouse clicks and keystrokes. It can respond automatically to such desktop activity to provide real-time, contextual process guidance.

NEVA’s interface invites employees to request assistance and ask questions through voice or text chat when needed.

Helping Sales Teams

NEVA’s intelligent decisioning engine translates requests into structured workflow actions, and interacts with desktop systems to execute the requests, the company said. It pulls data from back-end systems and can put together a script listing the next best actions at the opportune time as a guide for the employee.

The script can be developed from records of sales interactions or other sources. Business analysts will review the parameters that can define the next best action during the design phase, Karev said.

Sales teams constitute one of the major target markets, but “as many processes depend on changing data or interactions with others, different departments and teams within an enterprise can also benefit,” Karev observed.

Sales force automation might prove to be a good market for NEVA.

Artificial intelligence is a good fit for SFA software because “SFA lacks completeness, consistency, and accuracy of win/loss data,” observed Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

Most CRM software vendors have listed embedded AI on their roadmaps, if they don’t already include it in their products now, she told CRM Buyer.

Further, “customer service is ripe for AI because of the volume and consistency of customer case records that can be used to train AI-enabled applications,” Wettemann noted.

Playing Nicely With Others

Based on the NICE Robotic Process Automation platform, NEVA is fully customizable and easy to deploy, according to the company.

The NICE RPA guarantees connectivity to any application anywhere, regardless of platform.

NICE developed object-based connectivity, a method in which the RPA connectors use the native application’s interfaces and the local operating system’s APIs to communicate directly with the automated application.

The NICE RPA combines this object-based connectivity with surface connectivity, which uses keyboard, mouse and screen elements to trigger and interact with native applications.

However, “With interactive knowledge bases and AI-powered chatbots already reducing the need for agent interactions,” Wettemann observed, “this is an ironic niche.”


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.