Kimble launches A.I.-enabled PSA -- buzzwords or innovation?

A.I. is one of the premium buzzwords du jour. In Kimble’s case, is it justified?

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Credit: Nuance

Kimble first came to my attention awhile ago after I’d written a few commentaries about the broader professional services automation (PSA) space.

PSA is a space of huge growth as increasingly more organizations move to services-based models. Along with this customer growth, there is a corresponding increase in vendor activity. FinancialForce claims PSA dominance, at least when it comes to integrated financial/PSA offerings, and this dominance has been their main vector of attack against arch rival (and also a vendor offering a combined ERP/PSA product) NetSuite.

Kimble’s claim to fame, or at least its key point of differentiation from both FinancialForce and NetSuite, is that it is a pure play PSA vendor. That is, the only thing Kimble does is PSA.

It was actually set up by its three co-founders back in 2010, based on their experience running their own professional services business (in their case an Oracle consulting shop). These three had always built large enterprise solutions for other parties, and they wanted to do it for themselves. Post founding they raised some angel investment, appointed a chairman (who handily happens to be an ex-Salesforce EMEA chairman) and attracted support from the likes of Stephen Kelly, the CEO of Sage.

Fast forward to today and Kimble has 30,000 users, 170 customers and sells into 30 different countries. Interestingly, Kimble is built, like FinancialForce’s PSA product, on top of Force.com. Also unsurprisingly, they have deep hooks into Salesforce's CRM.

In terms of where it fits against the other players, during a conversation with Sean Hoban, CEO of Kimble, he told me that, in his view, competition between his company and FinancialForce is a good thing. The category of PSA has been around for a long time but only during the last five years has it has become essential due to margin pressure and, as a result, is now widely adopted. In his view FinancialForce is making the category better known. As for NetSuite, again in Hoban’s view, OpenAir is a very tired product, and NetSuite is actively pushing its SRP product. He suggests SRP is functionally not quite complete but works better that OpenAir, which is too tired for sales people to push. Hoban points to rankings in G2 crowd, a kind of crowd-sourced product evaluation site -- in which Kimble is winner for the best PSA in the mid-market -- which was aimed at 50-1000 person orgs.

Anyway, all of that is by way of introduction to Kimble, which announced today that it has launched a new version of its product that utilizes augmented intelligence to guide best practices and streamline project delivery in consulting organizations. According to Kimble, this is the first time a software company has introduced augmented intelligence into a PSA platform, and it will transform the professional services industry.

Kimble’s intelligent PSA solution surfaces patterns in data and feeds these into a range of “intelligent insights,” which illuminate the path ahead, suggesting to users what needs to be done next. For example, Kimble 1.25 will automatically calculate the average margin on past projects for a specific client and bring that up when a new proposal is being created.

“We are delighted to bring Kimble 1.25 to market as the first augmented intelligence feature in a PSA platform. Our dedicated team of software developers have been working hard to help our customers make the best use of the power of augmented intelligence,” said Hoban. “As a business, Kimble quite literally has hundreds of years of experience in running consulting organizations. That's where all that expertise has come from to inform how we are driving machine intelligence and what behavior we think is appropriate for people to adopt in consulting organizations. For the last seven years, we have been providing professional services automation to consulting organizations and we have seen many of our customers grow and scale faster than the industry average.”

Kimble’s augmented intelligence feature utilizes an organization’s data patterns to predict the next best action within a flexible best practice framework. It provides process hints, based on what was effective in the past, and what are the attributes of an ideal project.

On top of the A.I. aspects, Kimble 1.25 offers gamification elements that give goals and rewards to help drive the desired behavior and gives validation to users. Staff continuously check on the project progress against criteria such as milestone date and margin goals, so that they can notify a project manager or an executive if a project seems to be veering off the path.

MyPOV

We could argue for hours about the definition of artificial intelligence and whether a rules-based approaches meet those definitions. But I’d suggest that we should take Kimble’s news at face value -- a seemingly useful addition to a product from a small but plucky vendor who would seem to have gained happy and satisfied customers.

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