Spiceworks puts 'personalisation factor' into IT procurement

Technology marketplace company Spiceworks has detailed how it thinks new Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities can be used to drive a ‘new personalisation factor’ at the connection point between technology buyers and sellers.

The firm estimates the IT industry to be worth as much as US$3 (UK£2.3) trillion today. With the scope of that huge market worth in mind and the advances in AI decision-determination that we have today, Spiceworks is suggesting that we shouldn’t rely on human choice alone when making purchasing and deployment decisions about the technology that we use.

New AI capabilities enable Spiceworks to connect technology buyers with the people, [software and hardware] tools and information they need.

A moment of union

But it works both ways.

Simultaneously, this same AI and data-driven approach can enable technology brands to identify and engage the right buyers. The resultant beautiful union (if everything works out perfectly) is a point of increased trust between the two parties.

“We’re building the first community-powered marketplace for the IT industry, one that couples first-party data and pervasive intelligence to directly connect technology buyers and sellers with the resources they need in any given moment,” said Jay Hallberg, CEO and co-founder of Spiceworks.

“With the critical mass we’ve achieved [nearly 20 million people come to Spiceworks every quarter], this evolution marks an important milestone in our history – the development of AI technologies that can be leveraged across Spiceworks to reshape how technology buyers and sellers get their jobs done,” added Hallberg.

Procurement people

Of course you’d imagine that technologists (developer/programmers, database pros and systems administrators) choose what hardware and software they need to run the applications and supporting systems they are tasked with keeping online, would you?

In many cases they will, but in many large-scale enterprises there is a defined role in the shape of the technology buyer, or chief IT procurement officer (CITPO, perhaps) or some such job title. This is a tough job; technology changes every week, as we know. This means that being able to buy with confidence is difficult.

Tech buyers (who very often go by the title ‘system architect’) need to have confidence that any given piece of technology has the scope of functionality, ability to scale, capability to integrate and base compatibility with their firm’s existing IT stack before they press ‘buy’ – — and that’s a big ask.

These guys (in the gender neutral sense) will need to know user requirements, data workflow levels and a feel for the guts of the network if they are going to make the right decision. Putting AI into that decision making process is what Spiceworks is now focused on doing to reduce the possibility of errors.

According to Spiceworks, “Technology buyers and the businesses they represent find themselves lost in a landscape that’s constantly shifting and expanding. The result: a sense of frustration and lack of confidence in their ability to find the insights, content, tools, and people they can trust to make informed decisions. Simultaneously, technology brands spend over $300 billion each year on marketing and sales, much of which is wasted or spent inefficiently. Technology buyers and sellers need a new approach and partner they can trust to help them make better decisions and drive their businesses forward.”

How to do how-tos

The Spiceworks platform is now employing AI to analyse billions of data signals, including interactions across Spiceworks such as community discussions, technology how-tos, learning modules, product reviews and a suite of IT management tools. These information from these streams are then used to connect technology buyers and sellers as they’re searching for the people or information they need.

Examples of personalised experiences the platform is enabling today include new Fast Answer pages that use AI to group the best answers for frequently-asked technology questions in one place. The company says that Fast Answers allows IT professionals to more quickly find a solution to their technology challenge in any given moment by scanning hundreds of thousands of topic pages to identify the most helpful information across Spiceworks, including IT best practices, the aforementioned how-tos and pages showing product comparisons.

The Spiceworks’ platform is based on ‘purchase intent’ across 14 technology categories including security, cloud services, backup and recovery, networking and ten others.

As additional AI capabilities are applied to its platform, the company promises it will enable more personalised experiences and human connections that help technology buyers get their jobs done more efficiently while allowing technology vendors to engage buyers in a more ‘meaningful’ (or at least product-relevant) way.

Keynote noteworthies

VP of business operations Nicole Tanzillo spoke at the SpiceWorld keynote to explain why she thinks the ‘old way’ we used to buy and sell technology, which she says was indirect, inefficient and impersonal.

As the firm now looks to more firmly cement ‘IT marketplace’ message, Tanzillo says the focus is directed at becoming simple, smart and connected. She used the example of how we used to have to buy and sell houses in the pre-Zillo era, which involved so much legwork (driving around etc.) – a process that was equally painful for the estate agent (realtors) who had to put up with non-serious buyers who were just tyre kickers.

SVP of product & engineering Manish Dixit underlined Tanzillo’s points and explained how the product announcements tabled this week bring a new AI-driven approach to IT product procurement.

During the Spiceworks Spiceworld conference itself, one thing (okay several things, but one cool thing) stands out.

Spiceworks invites ‘bloggers’ to its technology event media programmes alongside the press. Now that’s not unusual in and of itself… but it’s who these bloggers are that matters.

Stopping and asking these bloggers what their ‘actual’ job title is, mostly they were systems architects, IT product managers and system administrators i.e. real world practitioners who actually touch enterprise software tools and applications every day. Surely there’s a lesson there for other tech vendors.

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