In this DevOps Chat we speak with Cyara CEO and co-founder, Alok Kulkarni, about how DevOps is helping in the customer experience arena. Cyara has carved out a leadership role in bringing DevOps to CX. Alok is a delight to speak with and very wired into this space.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. Today’s DevOps Chat features Alok Kulkarni, CEO and Co-founder of Cyara. Alok, welcome to DevOps Chat.
Alok Kulkarni: Hey, Alan. Great to be here.
Shimel: It’s our pleasure to have you here. So, Alok, let’s—before we jump right into what I wanted to talk about today, I think the first thing we should do is a little level set. Maybe we have some folks who are familiar with Cyara, maybe we have some folks who are not. Why don’t you give us kind of a quick background on Cyara?
Kulkarni: Sure, Alan. So, Cyara is a customer experience assurance platform, which allows customers to accelerate their CX development right from the design through to testing and all the way through to customer experience monitoring for customers’ journeys end to end.
And so, what’s different about us is, we support the entire software development life cycle from the design through the functional integration testing right through to user acceptance testing, including load testing and production monitoring. And, in the CX world, we’re able to do this from an end customer perspective across all the different channels that the customer might be interacting with the organization. So, that’s just a brief summary of what we do.
Shimel: Sure. And you are the Co-founder and CEO.
Shimel: And just, while we’re here—
Kulkarni: Yes, and—
Shimel: —give us a little bit of your own personal journey. How did you come to be the co-founder and CEO at Cyara?
Kulkarni: Sorry, go ahead.
Shimel: Oh, I’m sorry. I was going to say, if you can give us a little bit of your own personal journey, how did you come to be the CEO and Co-founder of Cyara?
Kulkarni: Oh, great question, Alan. Sorry, I lost you there for a bit. I was working at another software company, which is currently the leader in customer experience management technology, and one of the things I found in those days—this was in the late 2000s—was, every time we put the technology in production, the customers, the end customers used to deal with this new technology and the enterprises would be sitting there with white knuckles hoping and praying that it would all work—because there was no platform in those days which would enable them to test and monitor the technology that they were putting in for the customers from the outside in. So, essentially, it was like playing Russian roulette.
So, I felt, being an architect at this company and managing the solutions engineering group at this technology company called Genesys that, there had to be a better way. And one of the—the idea came to me when we were rolling out a large implementation for an Australian government organization when it failed. I thought that there must be a better way of doing this.
So, hence, I felt—imagine if there was a cloud-based platform that was technology agnostic which enabled enterprises to just use and simulate customers from the outside in to be able to test and monitor, not only the infrastructure, but the applications from an end to end customer journey perspective. It would really take the risk out of deploying new and innovative solutions in the market. And so, that’s how it all happened. So, I got together with my buddies and we built Cyara.
Shimel: Excellent. So, you know, in so many ways, there’s so much DevOps there, if you will, Alok. And first of all, the idea of—and we see this in security, we’ve seen it with other forms of QA—the idea of waiting ‘til after something is deployed to see if it works or not, you know, that white knuckle moment? Why?
Shimel: I mean, why, in this day and age, do companies still want to do stuff like that, right? And this is, especially when we talk about sort of the modern software factory and CI/CD pipelines and so forth, right? We shouldn’t let software out there that hasn’t been fully vetted and tested. Why would we let software and things in the wild, where we haven’t already tested what our customer response, and our customer experiences are going to be and whether they will work?
It just seems like such a no-brainer. Why do you think it took so long for people to come to this realization?
Kulkarni: So, I think that’s a great question, Alan. And, you know, when we were sitting there noodling on whether we should start this, I remember going to my co-founder, Bonny, and asking him, “Hey”—because he wasn’t from the industry, and when we came up with this idea, he goes, “Surely, there’s somebody doing this.” Because it’s exactly what you said—it’s a no-brainer. And I said, “No, there’s actually no one doing this.”
And I think the reason for that is, one is, I don’t think people in the—if you’re not in the industry, you don’t even know that this is a problem, that’s one. Second thing is, even if you were in the industry, it is so complex. I mean, there are so many different moving parts, so many technologies. Then you have enterprise processes and systems and systems integrators and so forth.
So, by the time you’ve put that whole, all those components together, it becomes very difficult to build something simple that would solve these problems. So, when we did it, it just took off. And now, like you say, I think customers are realizing that there is a technology or a solution out there that can help them. So, we’ve had a tremendous, I guess, following of customers who actually just continue to expand what they do with Cyara and we’re signing new customers on as we go along.
So, just this last quarter, we signed about 25 Fortune 500 companies to our platform. So, I think it’s catching on, and now, what we’re seeing is the next wave, like you mentioned, this whole DevOps wave that’s really taking firm hold in the way that more and more organizations are putting out a software or capability. And I think in the CX world, that’s changing as well. So, I think, we’re also creating awareness that you can bring DevOps to CX and although the tool set might be a little different, you can actually do it. So, we’ve had a tremendous amount of traction in the market with that.
Alan Shimel: Absolutely. You know, Alok, it talks to something else that we’ve seen in DevOps. When we first started DevOps.com on March 11th of 2014, I think it was, so it’s almost five years now—the whole, “What is DevOps?” argument was raging. And there was a large percentage of the community that had a very orthodox view of DevOps, that if it wasn’t purely about software development and deployment in terms of operations and APM, it wasn’t DevOps, right? That’s what—there was a very narrow definition of DevOps.
We’ve seen that expand, right, to what I call DevXOps now.
Shimel: We’ve seen DevSecOps, we’ve seen DevBusOps, we’ve seen DevSalesOps. It’s really taking that DevOps mindset that DevOps can do and applying it to everything.
So, really, we’re almost seeing here DevCXOps, right, if you will.
Kulkarni: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I think we are in that era now of DevCXOps, just like you mentioned. Because, just like software organizations were putting out new capabilities in a rapid manner, I think customers were expecting customer facing technologies, and the way they’ve been—the way that they’re interacting with organizations to change rapidly as well. Because everyone’s time poor, they need the answers as soon as something goes wrong or if they want to buy something, they’re impatient, because we all have things to do and we’re on 24/7.
So, it’s imperative for companies providing customer experience to keep up with that. And I think DevOps provides a great framework to do that, and it’s aligned so, as you say, if you’re already in DevOps and the digital world, you can bring it to the CX world. And I think it’s really catching on.
Shimel: I don’t disagree. I think another thing, Alok, and you hit on it there, is customer expectations. You know, one of the sort of forgotten heroes or the forgotten catalyst behind all of the DevOps kind of movements is what really—people don’t go fast just to go fast. Well, maybe some do, right? There are speed freaks, right? [Laughter]
But, you know, people who adopt agile DevOps and these sorts of frameworks and methodologies do so to be more responsive to customers. And that’s really—and it’s nitty-gritty. That’s what it’s about. Because that’s why companies do things, to serve their customers better. And that’s really the guiding principle behind CX as well, right? How do I respond to customers better, especially in a world where customers demand more? They want 24/7 support and response, and they want it right away, and they want it now and they want it to work, right? There’s a low tolerance if your cellphone coverage is not good, or your internet—as we spoke about—your Internet at 30,000 feet on a plane is not working, and people get really upset about that now. And in so many other ways, customer demands are driving this. Correct?
Kulkarni: Yeah, totally. And you know, what’s sad is, we’re fickle. You know, we’ve been conditioned to now have choice. So, if we don’t like the service a particular company is offering, you know, we switch, and switching is so easy, because it’s very easy to find another provider who provides a similar service and offering and then if they have a better customer experience, you think when you actually have that moment of need where you actually need help and they’re providing it to you promptly and they’re resolving your issues quickly and they’re doing it how you want to be treated, maybe it’s a late night chat or a phone call because it’s super urgent or it’s complex. Or maybe it’s like, “I don’t want to talk to anyone today, but I need the information for my support, because one of these technologies that I’ve got isn’t working, so I need a knowledge base that I can refer to.”
Any of these customer-facing technologies play a very important part in customer loyalty and thereby, shareholder value for the company that they’re dealing with.
Shimel: Agreed, agreed. So, Alok, if you don’t mind, I want to talk a little Cyara—I’m sure you don’t mind. [Laughter]
Shimel: So, do you offer this as more of a Platform as a Service or as a SaaS based offering?
Kulkarni: Yeah, it’s a SaaS-based offering, so we have a cloud infrastructure environment which spans, which goes across the globe. Just last year, we placed 4.4 billion call seconds’ worth of synthetic interactions to assure customer experience around the world, and some of the largest brands of the world use it.
So, some customers, they use our platform to provide the whole design experience—like, the design, the customer experience in Cyara is able to, as a result, get a full automation and regression test suite that they can run as part of their DevOps factory, and then we have a real time customer experience monitoring platform.
So, for example, if you put something out in production, our platform actually is able to generate synthetic customer interactions from the outside in. So, we can actually emulate, Alan, contacting an organization on your behalf and actually see what experience you’re going to get, whether your interactions or your calls connected on time, whether the web chat gave you the right responses, whether the screen froze or not, and you can do this all in real time.
So, customers have a direct feedback loop that they can implement. So, as soon as something goes into production and it doesn’t work, before a real customer is able to have a poor experience, we’re able to detect it early on and the customers can then roll back the technology that they had implemented and then roll the previous last known good version out so that they maintain the sanctity of the customer experience.
So, it just—to me, that just goes hand in hand with the whole DevOps paradigm.
Shimel: I agree. It certainly does. So, Alok, if I ask you to kind of peer into your crystal ball of the future, where do you see this going now?
Kulkarni: So, as you mentioned, Alan, there’s a lot of companies out there who are not even aware that they can apply the whole DevOps—they can bring CX to DevOps and, as you call it, DevCXOps, and make it happen. So, I feel, over the next two years, we’re going to see a tremendous wave of customers adopting this framework, because they’ve already done it on the digital side and the CX side tends to be—I think they’re in an adjacent area and I think they are moving to this new model.
So, we’re going to see a lot of customers offering it, and I think we’re going to see a lot of new, innovative technologies coming out with integrated solutions for that. So, I think for Cyara, we want to support our customers as they go on this journey. So, we’re integrating with a number of platforms out there that enable the whole CX DevOps pipeline scenario. For example, we’ve just integrated with Splunk, we’ve integrated with ServiceNow. So, in Cyara, you can actually get real time incident notification of any technology that you’re implementing and automatically create service requests so that you’re able to keep ahead of the whole customer experience pipeline.
And the other thing that we’re doing is also investing heavily on the design aspect of it. So, we’re working with companies like Amazon and so forth to offer a platform that is able to take customers that are moving to the cloud or moving to cloud contact centers, which is becoming, which is a new wave that’s still catching on and enable them to essentially drive this whole assurance through to all their customers.
Shimel: Excellent, excellent, excellent. Well, Alok, as we—I think I told you before we started, the time goes really quick. We only have a few minutes left. I wanted, also, I’d like to finish up with kind of wrapping this whole thing back into the DevOps, back into what Cyara is seeing from customers.
Companies I’ve been involved in, and I’ve founded a few, you know, we had sort of a customer support, a customer help team. It was separate from developers, it was separate from Ops. It was part of the engineering team, but it was almost a red-headed stepchild within that engineering/IT team. Is that still the case? Is that a problem? Is that something Cyara runs into when you’re talking to folks? What’s the story?
Kulkarni: So, I think you, again, Alan, are right up there with it. So, I think one of the decisions organizations that we deal with are grappling with is, do they make engineers who understand software and make them CX developers, or do they make CX developers who have real code domain expertise and bring them onto the DevOps world?
And I think that’s a question a lot of companies are asking themselves—like, do we need to really understand this space from top to bottom, or do we get developers? Is it easier for developers to learn this versus the other way around?
And I think that’s currently in the experimentation stage. So, a lot of companies who have tried the old model feel that it’s just very hard to change the mindset of the old engineering folks to—you know, who’ve been traditionally used to waterfall and doing large scale implementations and using systems integrated to put those out to really just come onto this whole new, you know, go fast, break things mentality versus getting those guys to understand CX.
So, I think there are two horses running right now, and I think we’ll see the results of that in the next year or two. But what I am seeing is a lot of companies trying to get their developers onto the CX world, because they’re finding that that seems like a much easier path.
Shimel: I don’t disagree with you. Crazy. Interesting times.
Shimel: Anyway, Alok, I know we’re doing some other, you’ve published some more—well, not you, but Cyara has published some nice articles on DevOps.com lately, we’ve done some other activities.
Where else can people find out more information, though, about Cyara?
Kulkarni: Well, they can obviously come to our website, so Cyara.com, that’s C-Y-A-R-A dot com. And I think we have, we’ve built a huge library of resources thanks to our fantastic team that we have at Cyara, and they can also—I think over there, there’s a whole library of collateral that they can view. We’ve got a YouTube channel that they can subscribe to.
And we also have Cyara Academy. So, as part of that, they can go in and if they want to actually get trained on Cyara, we offer that on demand as well. And you don’t—I think there are some courses where you don’t have to pay. So, I think you can, if you’re new to this space, I think it’s a great place to get scaled up, because I think this is a very exciting space. Because, as you’ve said, Alan, every company, to be successful, needs to really deliver a superior customer experience to their end customers and I think it’s just the core of any fundamental for any company to get this right.
So, come on over to Cyara.com and get yourself educated.
Shimel: Cool. Well, Alok Kulkarni, CEO and Co-founder of Cyara, thanks for being our guest on this interview, on this episode of DevOps Chat, and we hope to have you back on again soon.
Kulkarni: Thanks, Alan. Would love to come back.
Shimel: Alrighty. Hey, this is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com, Security Boulevard, Container Journal. You’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat. Have a great day, everyone.