In a wide-ranging interview with VentureBeat, an IBM executive was asked about their position in the virtual agent space. The response was a disservice to IVA customers across the globe: “What’s interesting about it is that there really are no big players, except for us.”
And then, with no sense of irony, this spokesperson waxed poetic about the flexibility and choice provided by IBM Watson: “Today, anyone can go to any cloud and deploy Watson.”
So Watson is your only choice, but it’s okay because it’s all the choice you need?
Not Just One IVA Option
Gartner doesn’t seem to agree. Here’s their 2019 Market Guide for Virtual Customer Assistants. This report offers an overview of not 5, not 10, not 15, but 20 different vendors operating in the space, including Verint. We are proud to compete with each and every one of these companies, including IBM, for the business of our customers. Competition benefits customers, not just on price, but by driving innovation.
Verint, who acquired Next IT (one of the first players in this market), got started nearly two decades ago. As the market evolved and grew over the years, we were front-and-center for every major tilt and turn. If there’s one thing we learned as vendors rushed the market in recent years, it’s that choice and competition brought out the best in all of us.
That’s why, when we hear a company claim that they are the only choice available to customers, we’re more than a little skeptical. IBM may be a big company, but that doesn’t mean every line of business or product is big. Nor does it mean any one product they sell has a particularly large base of deployments. Outlandish claims like these are ill-advised because they are bad for everyone. They confuse buyers, degrade the reputation of all the vendors in the space, and create a sense of skepticism that will slow down the virtuous cycle of innovation.
Decades of Intent Research Lead to This
But the over-the-top claims didn’t stop there. The spokesperson went on to say: “So we do a really good job of understanding intent. Just based on the questions you ask, we can get a feel for what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s kind of the secret sauce.” If understanding user intent is the “secret sauce” of a solution without competition, then presumably none of the other “fireflies” would have a competitive answer to IBM. Right?
Opus Research had this to say about Verint’s industry-leading library of intents: “(Verint) has a new service offering that takes the lid off of the “black box” by making its library of 90,000 business intents and 165,000 unique actions garnered for 11 vertical industries commercially available.”
Opus went on to say: “(Verint) offers businesses a chance to hire and deploy virtual agents or bots that are informed by the collective intelligence and experience derived over more than a decade of IA deployments and assembled into a set of “Intent Libraries.” Over the years, those libraries have evolved to include more than 20 million “labeled user questions”, encompassing more than 750,000 unique terms that map to the above mentioned 90,000 intents. This means that today’s IA developers can streamline initial development and shorten the time it takes for a new assistant to understand and respond to what individuals say or text to an IA.”
We’re proud of our Intent Libraries not just because of their sheer size and scope, but because they are rooted in and developed by real-world deployments. At the end of the day, customers get to decide who offers the best intent classification capabilities for their unique needs. That’s why it’s so important that they know they have multiple choices to evaluate.
AI Technology & Adoption
The interview moved on from intent classification to speech, language and NLP, and an in-depth discussion of public cloud strategy at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Come to think of it, there was a lot of talk about competitors for a company that claims not to have any.
The overall message was pretty clear, despite the breadth of the interview: You might see 19 other vendors operating in this space, but don’t believe your eyes. None of them really exist. Such a message makes it all the more confounding that this spokesperson cited “trust” as a hurdle for AI deployments.
On that final point we actually think he was correct. You need to be able to trust the vendors that deliver AI-based solutions. That has been true of every software category since the advent of the software business. At Verint, we think our longevity, track record with real-world deployments, and unflinching focus on business ROI is the foundation for building trust.
Choice Belongs to the Customer
For the customers assessing vendors in the space, we hope you’ll continue to put us through a rigorous diligence and procurement process. We hope you’ll continue to ask tough questions, and continually push vendors, including Verint, to raise the bar.
We also hope you’ll remain skeptical of any attempt to dissuade you from looking behind the curtain, because you have every right to verify the claims made by vendors before you make a purchase. And you have every right to evaluate multiple solutions, whether they’re provided by Verint, IBM Watson, or any of the other competitive, respected vendors operating in our market today.
In software, as in any business, the choice belongs to the customer.