AiThority Interview Series With Christopher McLaughlin, Chief Marketing Officer, Nuxeo
The potential of AI has been appealing to people like me in our industry for a long time, but we’re now finally beginning to see real-world benefits and value from leveraging AI for information management.
Know My Company
Tell us about your journey into Artificial Intelligence?
I’ve been working in the enterprise content management (and now content services) segment for quite a while, and it’s been fascinating to see the progress and evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology during this time. Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Sentiment Analysis, and other AI-based technologies are not only enabling companies to automate the classification of documents, videos, pictures, and other content vital to their enterprise, but are also allowing them to better automate content-driven processes in a manner that is intelligent, intuitive, and personalized.
The potential of AI has been appealing to people like me in our industry for a long time, but we’re now finally beginning to see real-world benefits and value from leveraging AI for information management.
As a CMO, how do you prepare for an AI-driven world?
I’ll give you two different answers here, first as CMO who thinks about the benefit of AI from a go-to-market perspective, and second as the person in charge of our product strategy who is interested in what value AI can bring to our offerings and customers.
As a CMO, I am constantly thinking about how we can make each customer journey more personalized and more relevant to each individual customer. AI gives the modern marketer so many new capabilities. We can be much more intelligent about how we identify and segment customers. We can also be much more agile in the way that we deliver messaging and content based on where a customer “is” in their journey and what other information they have consumed along the way. In short, in an AI-driven world, it is increasingly possible to provide a journey that is unique to each prospect and customer.
As a product leader, AI is a part of our broader focus on delivering a superior experience for our customers. We know our customers are always looking for new ways to become more efficient and productive. They want to simplify how they manage and maximize the value of their information assets. And, ultimately, they want to better use their data and content to better serve their own customers and discover new opportunities for competitive advantage. AI is a big part of what enables us to make all these things happen for our customers.
Artificial Intelligence has now become a critical building block for new business solutions, not simply a fun tool for tagging images. And this is why an increasing number of businesses are looking to modernize their content capabilities with fresh solutions, such as Nuxeo, that incorporate AI.
What are the foundational tenets of your intelligent content automation platform?
We have four foundational tenets for what we refer to as Nuxeo Cognitive Content Services, and how we are incorporating AI into the Nuxeo Content Services Platform:
- Data transforms content into valuable information assets
- Smarter content delivery is the foundation for an effective digital workforce
- Continuous optimization and automation drive business efficiency
- Specialized models create greater context and business value
Now, these probably don’t make a whole lot of sense without a little explanation, so let me give you a little more detail here. First, content or asset management is all about applying structure to unstructured information. In other words, we use data to describe content and digital assets. It provides context, which makes content easier to find and put to use.
One of the real challenges, historically, is that we relied on end users to supply this data. However, with AI, we can greatly enrich content without burdening the end user. This is hugely valuable for customers who want to get greater use out of their content. It is also tremendously valuable for helping customers to comply with various regulations and compliance mandates.
Thus, as a core tenet, we believe that AI can be used to better enrich content and transform it into a much more valuable asset for your organization.
One of the other traditional challenges for content management — and, more broadly, for search technologies — is that it helps to know what you are looking for. In other words, knowing that a piece of content exists is literally half the battle in helping to find it. However, as a core tenet of our AI efforts, we believe that the right information should find you.
Using AI, our goal is to better understand user behaviors and preferences, as well as their roles and types of work that they perform, and then seek to intuitively deliver the right information to them, perhaps even before they know they need it. Hence, smarter content delivery creates a more effective, efficient and empowered digital workforce.
AI has applicability well beyond making information more readily accessible. We believe that we can use AI to streamline business processes and increasingly automate decision-making. We envision “learning process automation” that adapts to user behavior and learns from user actions, enabling the system to further automate routine or repetitive decision-making.
We also envision “adaptive business processes” that are agile and evolve with the changing needs of the business. Further, we believe that we can also use AI to identify exceptions and determine issues before they create problems for your business. All of this leads to continuous optimization, greater automation, and increased business efficiency.
And, finally, all businesses are unique; therefore, our final core tenet is that business value increases with specialization. What this means is that an early lesson for us with AI is that generic models are interesting and can demonstrate the power and potential of AI, but, they don’t add a lot of real value. We can use a generic model to “tag” an image and that can provide a lot of intelligence about what is in the image, but what it can’t tell you is what that image means to the business.
Let’s use a picture of a car as an example. Using an AI engine with a generic model will tell you that there is a car or a sedan in the picture and that the car is blue (along with a lot of other myriad details about the picture itself). But, it can’t tell you that the brand is Ford and that the model is a Mustang.
I would argue, for Ford, this brand and product information is much more valuable, particularly across extremely large asset bases. Therefore, we believe that specialized models that are trained with specific customer datasets can provide more insight and intelligence, and therefore more value for business use cases.
What is the state of ‘AI in Content’ in 2018-2020? How can marketing teams better benefit from leveraging Nuxeo’s AI-powered content platform?
Let’s start with the state of content management in general. The sad truth is that, despite substantial IT investments made in systems for storing and managing enterprise content, most employees still spend an inordinate amount of time each day navigating between different systems, content repositories, cloud apps and various file stores in order to find the accurate and up-to-date information they need to do their jobs. And, as a result, most organizations struggle to get real value out of their various content management systems.
However, there is hope on the horizon. First, these same organizations are beginning to realize that their scattered systems and numerous investments in content management are actually contributing to the problem. And, they are beginning to look for a more consolidated approach to managing all of this information. Second, many are also beginning to recognize the real potential of AI to augment their content management strategies.
Predominantly, I would term the state of “AI in Content” as a fledgling, but we are seeing some early efforts across most vendors in the space. More advanced vendors have moved beyond simple tagging to metadata extraction and enrichment. The most advanced support custom models enable customers to train on their own datasets which, as I commented earlier, deliver much greater value to the business.
For marketing teams that work with Nuxeo, the benefits are significant. First and foremost, Artificial Intelligence allows us to completely streamline and automate how assets and content are ingested into the Nuxeo platform. AI enables “zero-touch” ingestion of new digital assets. And, if you have ever worked with marketers, and particularly creative types, they don’t want to waste a moment fulfilling the administrative requirements of systems that are there to support them. Further, with AI, we can instantly identify brand assets to provide greater insights into how these assets are being distributed and consumed across the enterprise and in the marketplace.
In summary, AI makes it easier for marketers to create, distribute, and reuse high-value, branded assets, particularly for large enterprises with global distribution channels.
What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which new geographies are you currently targeting?
Nuxeo’s ideal customer profile is a large enterprise, typically a Global 2000-type company, though we have a number of customers in the mid-market as well. Our customers are typically forward-looking organizations that look to leading-edge technologies for competitive advantage. From an industry standpoint, we focus on financial services, CPG, retail, media, tech, and government. As a newer entrant in this market, we have a strong presence in North America and Western Europe.
We just opened a new office in Japan and are also working with partners to expand our footprint in Eastern Europe, Africa, and China.
How do you make AI deliver economic benefits as well as social goodwill?
As a company, we are very focused on the economic benefits of AI and the value these technologies can bring to our customers. Principally, we find that AI is a great tool to automate routine, repetitive, low-value activities that typically consume considerable time and resource, often for expensive knowledge workers. As we discussed above, if we can automate the task of classifying content when it is ingested, we can save valuable time and resource for higher value activities. We also can better apply records management and compliance mandates across the enterprise, reducing the risk of fines and penalties. Further, various reports estimate that knowledge workers waste about two hours a day — or one work day a week — ineffectively searching for information.
Again with AI, if we can make it even 50% easier for knowledge workers to find information, that’s a 10% productivity gain for the organization. So, in many ways, AI is already delivering real economic benefits for our customers.
With regard to social goodwill, I am constantly surprised by the breadth of applications people have found for AI. Artificial Intelligence is being used to speed clinical trials to find new drugs and treatments. It is being used to monitor livestock to ensure proper feeding and improve yields. It is being used to provide broader access to financial products and to eliminate human bias and discrimination in lending transactions.
Again, I think we are already well down the path where AI is delivering both meaningful economic benefit and social goodwill.
What’s the synergy between your concepts in Zero Legacy and SaaS architecture at Nuxeo?
As I commented on earlier, the majority of our customers have invested in any number of legacy ECM technologies. In fact, according to most studies, large enterprises, on average, have between six and eight different content management technologies in production today. And these legacy systems come with a number of issues. They create silos of information, making it difficult for businesses to fully leverage key content, like customer information. They are difficult and expensive to maintain. They require expensive hardware to scale. They are difficult to move to Cloud. And, they can’t support the modern requirements of the business.
But, the real issue isn’t just that many of these systems were architected more than 20 years ago; it’s that many customers have failed to update and upgrade these systems along the way.
So, at Nuxeo, we have taken a very different approach. First, as you noted, we believe that customers should “never go legacy again.” To this end, we have a modular architecture that is “pluggable.”
What this means is that as newer technologies — such as AI — become available, we can simply plug them into our platform. It also means that we can continuously modernize our platform, taking advantage of the latest Cloud technologies, such as Elasticsearch as MongoDB Atlas, as well as various Cloud services such as Amazon Rekognition and Google Vision. And one of the key benefits of our pluggable model is that we can perform upgrades and deploy new technologies without disrupting our customers’ businesses.
We can even take this a step further with our SaaS architecture and Nuxeo Cloud Services. With Nuxeo Cloud Services, we will continuously upgrade our customers’ environments, ensuring that they are running the latest versions of our technology, again without the significant disruption that often accompanies legacy system upgrades. And, finally, we also find that our Nuxeo Cloud is a very compelling offering for customers that are looking to modernize and replace existing legacy systems.
Tell us about your AI research programs and the most outstanding digital campaign at Nuxeo?
As I shared above, we have already made considerable progress with our R&D efforts around AI. We have created a pluggable framework that allows us to leverage Google Vision and Amazon Rekognition for image tagging and metadata extraction. We also work with other enterprise software vendors, such as Ephesoft and Clarifai, for tagging and metadata enrichment. And, we have developed a pluggable framework for sentiment analysis, working with Amazon Comprehend. We are beginning to experiment with Natural Language Processing (NLP) as well.
We also have implemented new functionality in our platform to enable our customers to build custom AI models and to train on their own unique datasets. This will enable our customers to leverage generic Cloud services — such as Google Vision — to enrich their assets and content with data that is much more meaningful to their business. We are developing capabilities that will leverage AI to automatically suggest metadata values for users that are creating new content and “over the shoulder” functionality that will allow the system to learn from user actions and decisions to further train custom models.
With regard to Nuxeo digital campaigns — and this really fits here — I am particularly proud of a new program we have launched to educate our customers about the benefits of modernization. We are targeting a broad range of personas, from both IT and business, and are encouraging our customers to develop an application rationalization strategy for their legacy content systems, rather than a wholesale “rip and replace” approach.
We’re finding that our “connect and consolidate” messaging is really resonating with customers who are looking for a more intelligent and realistic approach to modernization.
What are the major challenges for AI technology companies in making it more accessible to local communities? How do you overcome these challenges?
There are a couple of key challenges that I perceive. First and foremost is cost. While Nuxeo is a true open-source technology (for example, you can download a complete version of the Nuxeo Platform from GitHub), we have a commercial model that is targeted at larger enterprises, which makes technology like ours expensive for local community use cases. However, in this case, the answer is simple.
At Nuxeo, we believe in positive corporate action and social goodwill and are willing to explore ways to make our software financially accessible to organizations that are seeking to positively impact the local community. Further, one thing we aren’t short on at Nuxeo is passion and we have a very socially aware workforce that is always willing to help out and make a positive impact.
The second challenge is a bit more difficult. As I noted above, generic AI engines and models can provide some benefit for customers and local communities. However, most organizations find that they need custom models and extensive training to get real benefit from AI technologies. Simply put, the more customer-specific data that we can throw at an AI engine, the better it gets. And this may not be viable for local communities and smaller use cases. In this circumstance, we may need to wait for the availability of industry-specific or pre-trained models to better address customer needs.
The Crystal Gaze
What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
Wow. There are so many companies out there doing interesting things.
Where to start?
I like Conversica and we use their technology in our Marketing. Captricity and Clarifai are close to home for Nuxeo are great tools for intelligent character and image recognition. There are some great solutions, such as Bitvore, for financial services. And, of course, our customers get a lot of value from the various AI offerings from Google and Amazon.
What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?
I’ll stick with some technologies that we see immediate value in for our customers. As I touched on earlier, AI technologies for image and character recognition have a lot of value in providing context for content. And we are currently working hard to enable our customers to quickly train and leverage specialized models in their businesses. Beyond this, we are looking at various technologies for robotic process automation (RPA) and automated decisioning.
We think NLP has amazing potential to transform our user experience and make our platform even easier for users to interact with. And we are also experimenting with technologies such as Sentiment Analysis that can provide another dimension of insight into digital content like customer correspondence, instant messaging and social media.
As an AI leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?
Personally, I have been really impressed with how quickly the financial services industry has adopted AI. I think this is a product of proliferation of FinTechs and the impact that they have had on the industry; but, so many banks and insurers today are using AI for customer guidance and support, for real-time risk analysis, alternative credit decision-making, fraud detection, and so on. AI has so much applicability for improving the customer experience with faster, smarter service, for reducing risk, and even for making financial products more accessible.
An emerging market for AI that I find fascinating is healthcare and pharmaceuticals. I am literally amazed by some of the use cases and applications they have found for Machine Learning.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
I believe in “starting my day tough.” I am an early riser and am at my most productive after that first cup of coffee. So, for large projects and complex tasks, I prefer to tackle them early in my day. Working for a global company, this can be difficult as a lot of my calls with Europe happen before 9:00 am. Pacific. But, I try to make time every morning to tackle the most difficult task on my list for the day or to progress a large project.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jeff Bezos. Amazon is making amazing strides with AI and he has to be one of the busiest people on the planet.
Thank you, Christopher! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Christopher McLaughlin is a Chief Marketing Officer at Nuxeo. He specializes in Marketing Strategy, Product Strategy and Marketing, Field Marketing, Financial Services and Insurance,Partnerships & Alliances.
Nuxeo, developer of the leading Content Services Platform, is reinventing enterprise content management (ECM) and digital asset management (DAM). Nuxeo is fundamentally changing how people work with data and content to realize new value from digital information. Its cloud-native platform has been deployed by large enterprises, mid-sized businesses, and government agencies worldwide. Customers like Verizon, Electronic Arts, ABN Amro, and the Department of Defense have used Nuxeo’s technology to transform the way they do business. Founded in 2008, the company is based in New York with offices across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Learn more at www.nuxeo.com.