AiThority Interview with Colin Earl, CEO at Agiloft
Could tell us about your interaction with the new-age technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Robotics?
Unsurprisingly, I have always had a passion for the latest technology, and AI and Machine Learning are the most ground-breaking advances in software to happen in the last decade. And it is entirely unlike traditional software, for example, it is only this year that theories have emerged about how neural networks actually accomplish their magic. Fueled by the rapid progress being made by-products such as TensorFlow, and my own personal interest, I began to see exciting possibilities for AI and Machine Learning at Agiloft. This led to the development of Agiloft’s AI Core and the transformation of our no-code platform to allow customers to train and deploy their own AI models. They can use data either from Agiloft or an external system to leverage our integration with SageMaker and TensorFlow. We are still a CLM software company, but we are now offering CLM software on an open no-code platform that incorporates Machine Learning capabilities at its heart.
How is AI disrupting the whole Contract Management ecosystem?
Contract Management software is no longer a stand-alone data repository, and it is evolving faster every year thanks to new technologies like no-code software, AI, and Machine Learning. In the most advanced CLM systems, AI-based intelligent OCR automatically imports contract data into systems, even from scanned documents. Coupled with risk scoring powered by machine learning, the entire process from contract creation to execution is now happening faster than ever before. Standard CLM features like one-click contract creation, e-signature, and flexible approval workflows, all play a critical part in streamlining contract processes and AI is added additional value.
Agiloft is bringing AI into the contract management ecosystem by providing both pre-built, out-of-the-box AI models for contract management as well as integration with existing AI systems for contract risk analysis, automated metadata extraction, automated translation of information using Google Translate, and deep integration with Alexa. This enables contract managers to utilize voice assistants in their processes, creating a totally new way to interface with contract management. The hope is that as organizations continue to train machine learning algorithms, contract software will be able to evaluate contract language, flag any issues, and eventually suggest alternative clauses based on previous experience. That would be truly transformative.
How did you start in this space? What galvanized you to start at Agiloft?
I began as a Developer, then Product Manager and CIO. When I was a CIO, implementation was the area that kept me awake. I rarely trusted the vendor’s implementation estimate and, given the number of moving parts in a major IT project, it was genuinely hard to predict how long it would take to get everything working.
This was what motivated me to build Agiloft’s no-code platform so that we could accelerate the building and deployment of enterprise business applications. By removing the need for manual coding, you reduce the project time by 70%, and you give customers a platform that is easy to configure to fit their changing business needs. Eliminating manual coding also eliminates the primary causes of project failure and so allows us to offer the industry’s only unconditional satisfaction guarantee—one that covers both the software and consulting services.
What is Agiloft and how does it leverage technology for Contract and ITIL Management?
Agiloft is a no-code platform for building or modifying enterprise applications. Early uses included service desk and ITSM applications, and customers found it so flexible that they began extending it to meet other business needs. We realized there was an overlap between all enterprise applications. They all needed workflow, email integration, business rules, graphical reports, API connectors, etc. Only the data model differed from program to program. The tables, fields, and workflows were specific to each application. We leveraged EJB as the foundation for the adaptive platform and then built out-of-the-box applications on top of it.
We built our Contract Management Suite in response to customer requests and it soon became our best seller. The flexibility of no-code has enabled us to rapidly configure systems for contract management, business process management, RMA management, ITIL, change control, task management, and entirely custom applications.
Could you tell us more about your vision into growing revenue opportunities within Sales, Marketing and Customer Support?
Our no-code platform’s deep configurability has led us to a new methodology we are calling Contract and Commerce Lifecycle Management (CCLM). As the next evolution of contract lifecycle management, CCLM positions contracts at the core of all commercial activity while bringing adjacent business processes into the system using contract data as the unifying factor. Adjacent commercial processes may include customer support, vendor management, asset management, CRM, or any number of other processes.
With a holistic CCLM system, customers can monitor, analyze, and ultimately both forecast and optimize the value flowing between internal commercial processes as well as from external sources such as suppliers. Most importantly, CCLM reduces security and compliance risk by bringing contracts and other sensitive data into one secure system. A no-code platform is integral to CCLM because it allows the system to seamless adapt to each company’s internal processes and integrate enterprise data in a way that is highly flexible, secure, and fully auditable.
What is the biggest challenge to Digital Transformation in the market you cater to? How does Agiloft contribute to a successful Digital Transformation?
The biggest challenge is that unlike Salesforce automation, there are huge differences between the way that different companies or even different departments within the same company process contracts. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. This means that CLM systems that are more than just passive repositories need to be deeply configured to reflect the workflows, data structure, background data, and business requirements of the customer.
Our success is largely driven by the fact that we have a no-code platform that enables such deep customization without programming.
A second challenge is user adoption, which really flows from the first. If the system isn’t fully tailored to the needs of the customer, then it’s not going to be adopted. We actually build into our project timelines one or two rounds of iterations for user feedback after the system has been developed and turned over for initial use.
Where do you see AI-enabled car journeys and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?
I don’t believe that fully autonomous cars for city driving will be available within the next five years. For freeway driving? Absolutely. For general city driving, the hard fact is that the technology is not there yet. After making rapid progress for years, it has stalled at a level of reliability below that of human drivers. The next breakthrough may require a deeper understanding of how neural nets work and an architecture that combines multiple specialized AI’s into a unified whole – much as areas of the human brain perform specialized functions.
What is your opinion on “Weaponization of AI and Machine Learning”? How do you promote your ideas?
All modern technologies have been deployed by the military and indeed much of their development has been driven by the military. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is just the way technology works in this and other countries.
What start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
OpenAI, TensorFlow, Azure and SageMaker, among others.
What technologies within your industry are you interested in?
AI, ML and RPA as it relates to contract and commerce lifecycle management.
As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI in car-making with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?
Long haul trucking – AI is well suited to freeway driving
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
At Agiloft, we don’t meet for in-person interviews until potential candidates have taken objective tests to determine their aptitude. This saves a lot of time and more importantly, it eliminates bias based on age, gender, ethnicity, etc. We have a highly diverse workforce and management team as a side effect of this emphasis on objective standards and finding the right person for the job, rather than the results of a formal diversity program.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
I would love to read the answers of Reed Hastings. It’s not widely known, but in addition to founding Netflix, Reed is the co-inventor of Purify. In my opinion, Purify was the greatest single advance in software debugging tools.
Thank you, Colin! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Colin Earl, CEO and founder of Agiloft, is a software industry veteran with over 25 years of experience as a developer, product manager and CIO. Colin worked at IBM, General Electric and three startups before founding Agiloft in 1991.
His vision was to accelerate the building and deployment of enterprise business applications by removing the need for manual coding. Under his leadership, Agiloft created a market segment for Agile business software.
Over three million users at organizations ranging from small enterprises to U.S. government agencies and Fortune 100 companies depend on Agiloft’s top-rated product suites for Contract Management Software, Service Desk, Custom Workflow, and more. Agiloft specializes in automating contract management and related processes that are too complex for competing vendors. Our best practice templates and adaptable technology ensure rapid deployment and a fully extensible system.