Spiceworks gets personal with IT pros

Spiceworks unveils data-driven approach to its technology platform at annual conference

Spiceworks has vowed to make its IT software platform “simpler, smarter and more connected” for its users.

Speaking at the firm’s annual user event, SpiceWorld 2017, in Austin, Texas this week, Spiceworks’ CEO Jay Hallberg announced a new data-driven strategy that will see the company use machine learning and data analytics to provide a more personalised service to its users.

Spiceworks said the revamped platform will be able to analyse and process billions of actions each week to understand users’ intent, anticipate their needs, and provide them with resources they need, all in one place.

“There’s no more one-size-fits-all,” Nicole Tanzillo, Spiceworks’ executive director of product operations, told Microscope.

Spiceworks Learn

Supporting this data-led approach, Spiceworks lifted the lid on a new crowdsourced resource, Spiceworks Learn. According to its own research, IT workers spend an average of 6.5 hours per week learning new skills and technologies. However, due to their workloads, they can only spare 30 to 40 minutes at a time for learning.

Spiceworks Learn, it said, would provide IT pros with content including how-to's, articles, webinars and videos, across a variety of tech topics. Over time, it said, the site will use machine learning and analytics to personalise the service to individuals’ needs.

“We are investing a lot in data science and machine learning to anticipate how we can help you,” Tanzillo told assembled customers at the event.

Spiceworks is also offering users a personal newsfeed based on their interests and the people, groups, and technology brands they follow. In addition, it said it is updating its IT management tools to help IT pros discover the technologies in their environment, understand the details and status of their devices, and support their end users.

“It’s how the company is evolving as an engineering organisation – we need to get more nimble, data driven; get features out faster than before,” said Tanzillo.

Elsewhere, Hallberg said the firm had been making improvements to its system based on user feedback that the company’s online offering was “too complex”.

“We realised we were adding a lot of features and people weren’t necessarily finding them,” Sanjay Castelino, Spiceworks’ VP of marketing commented. The exec said the company was working on making it easier to find specific functionality, rather than “putting it in six layers deep in the menu.”

“There’s so much cool stuff happening here, and no-one can find it,” said Nicole Tanzillo, Spiceworks’ executive director of product operations. “We are working on simplifying things, grouping things better, having things surfaced, and even making the navigation and user experience better.”

Third chapter

As a company, Spiceworks is split into two parts. One half is an online community of almost seven million monthly visitors, designed to help IT pros and managed service providers (MSPs) collaborate and get advice on technology-related issues and purchases.

The other offers free helpdesk software for users, and is unique in that it is funded solely by vendor advertising on the site.

Formed in 2006, the firm said it has now entered the “third chapter” of its evolution, which sees it shift away from software development to focusing more on its IT community offering.

“Users say, ‘I like your apps, but I love your community’,” said Hallberg, who reiterated the firm would “build a better experience” for customers by using machine learning and analytics to tailor content and experiences for users.

In addition, Castelino used the event to debut a new set of paid services that will include feature such as product trials, access to paid events, and premium support for members.

He said the first ‘premium’ service was still in development, but it was focused on project help, providing users with expert content, interactive guided workbooks, and auto-generated, customised deliverables like business cases or proposals.

Comparing it to analyst firm Gartner, he said: “We want to bring it to everyone for hundreds of dollars a year, rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

He said Spiceworks would open beta testing of the service in phases later this year and early next year.

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