Just as I finished writing my last entry about how complicated it was to install my router I met with a company called Knoa that focuses on the customer experience. That got my attention.
The company was started by two engineers (Yee-Ping Wu and Dr. Philip Lui) in 2003 with experience in the consumer market. Clearly, the average consumer does not expect to require training to use products. In fact, the team’s last project before starting Knoa was creating a multimedia authoring tool for Microsoft Home project. A good background for tackling the customer experience in the enterprise application space. In essence, the company decided to follow the pain and has focused on customer experiences with SAP solutions and Oracle E-Business suite. I guess that if you are looking to solve customer problems you might as well start by focusing on real pain!
Knoa positions itself in the experience and performance management space. Big words that basically mean that the company focuses on how the end customer or user interacts with software. The software sits between the graphical interface of packaged software and the operation system. The software is intended to determine what is impacting the user’s ability to get their work done and is intended to pinpoint user adoption issues. There are some interesting distinctions. For example, there are mistakes that are user error such as inputting the wrong product code. This is a problem related to how that individual has been trained in their job. However, there are other errors that are related to a response time problems, poor navigation within the software, or problems related to the network or the operating system. Knoa’s focus is providing technology that monitors the behavior of the user as they are using these packaged applications.
The company uses a passive monitoring 864K agent that is implementing on each desktop. This agent intercepts any application that is running. The agent is mapped to a specific template designed to discover and monitor a core application from SAP or Oracle. In essence, these templates are intended to measure a specific set of metrics that are important to managing the end user experience. Knoa focuses on issues ranging from response time to what part of the application the user is actually using. What I thought was interesting is the type of metrics that the company focuses on. For example, the software can be used to track which parts of a CRM system a majority of the sales team is actually using. It could also be used to see where employees are having difficulty with a packaged application. Is the problem a bug in the software or is it that users do not understand how to use an application and therefore bypass it altogether. The application has obvious uses in support of call centers.
The company seems to be off to a good start. It’s 2007 revenues tripled from 2006. Knoa won’t state revenues, its revenue per customer ranges from $300,000 to several million dollars. It has an impressive customer list including brand names like BT, AstraZeneca, AOL, McKesson, Kimberly Clark, and Pfizer. In all the company has 50 customers and 50 employees.
I think that the company is in an interesting position in the market. It has wisely positioned itself as a packaged application in support of SAP and Oracle applications rather than a tool. Because of the design of the underlying engine, the company says that it can add support for a new packaged application in a few weeks. I like the fact that the company is not trying to be all things to all people in the application management space. It can integrate into an existing HP/Mercury dashboard and is planning to expand to support other vendors as well. The key question will be how well the company does in expanding its partner base. Clearly, customer experience management is an area that all of the major performance management/system management companies will like to have as a complementary capability. And Knoa is just scratching the surface of what is possible in this area.