Israeli software and solutions provider NICE Systems (NASDAQ: NICE) has had a big year. Last November, the company paid $940 million USD to acquire InContact, a firm that specializes in cloud software and customer analytics for call centers.
That deal came on the heels of its acquisition of analytics firm Nexidia for $135 million USD, and the spending spree made it clear that NICE is looking to make big strides in its analytics and big data capabilities.
More than many others in the automation space, NICE is also prioritizing growth in Latin America. Raúl Rodriguez, vice president and head of the North Cone of Latin America for the company, is based in Mexico City and oversees development in the region, including Colombia.
We recently caught up with Rodríguez to talk about how companies in Latin America are embracing automation, how much the economic slowdown is impacting his optimism, and which companies in Colombia are looking to be the early adopters.
Jared Wade: In terms of Latin America, what have you seen as far as the uptake in the region when it comes to automation and just sales in general? Are you now seeing some of the Latin American players jump in? How is that progressing, in your experience?
Raúl Rodríguez: Well, you know, maybe some time ago — a few years ago — we could be saying that countries in Latin America were a little behind in terms of industry trends from Europe or the U.S., but I would say now that they are pretty much updated in terms of technology. There are companies that now have specific areas responsible for this type of technology, so their job and their sole responsibility is to automate or to look after what processes can be automated in the organization.
I would say that we are pretty much updated in Latin America in those terms. I would say that it’s a trending topic right now. This technology is acquiring a lot of popularity, and I would say that this will be exploding in the next couple of years, and I think that the strongest will be there to take the market.
Another thing that is important about our organization specifically is that we have a presence in Latin America. Pretty much most of our competitors have presence through resellers or through partners but don’t have direct involvement in the region. And that’s something that we have here, so we expect to have a big impact on these technologies in the next few years.
Jared Wade: Is there anything specific about Latin America that makes it a better market for this type of technology?
Raúl Rodríguez: I would say that it’s as interesting as any other market, but people are thirsty for this technology. So every time that we go to a customer or to a prospect and we show them this technology, they get pretty amazed. Every time we show these solutions to them, they get pretty excited. I think that the need is there.
They just need to become aware that they need this kind of technology, and these projects pretty much pay for themselves. The ROI is terrific. In some cases you can have a return on the investment probably in the first year. When we can show that to customers, it’s pretty much a no-brainer decision. I would say probably not all of Latin America, but in countries like Mexico and Colombia, for sure, there’s a tremendous awareness about this type of technology. People and companies are interested in what we can offer.
Jared Wade: Yes, it’s very interesting here. The Colombian economy has slowed down a little bit over the last few years. It’s the same for Mexico, with oil prices mainly being the culprit. So it’s a little harder to make major investments for some of these companie. But there seems to be a huge appetite for these tech-based solutions. It’s a big deal now. It seems to me to be really captivating the minds and attention of all the companies down here. Is that what you’re seeing?
Raúl Rodríguez: Yeah, right. I would say, for Colombia, yes, it’s true that it has slowed down. But companies and large organizations like the big banks are investing in technology.
Most of them are our customers, and we have some projects running in this type of technology, and I hope we can get them closed sooner. But they’re all aware that they need this. I hope the economy will speed up in the next few months and we can see results.
Jared Wade: Who are some of your clients in Colombia that you can tell us about? And what is your overall view of the market at this point?
Raúl Rodríguez: As I mentioned, pretty much most of the big banks there are our customers: Grupo Aval, Grupo Bolivar, and we have a specific sales representative in charge of Colombia. She is there once a month, and she spends probably two weeks there.
I know the market is slowed down, but we have a lot of noise in Colombia. I think it will explode in the next 24 months, and we will be seeing a lot of projects closing and companies investing.
You know, it can’t stop. It can slow down, but it can’t stop. It’s getting better. I see a lot of promising opportunities in Colombia for the next months. We’ve been doing some things in Medellín and, of course, in Bogotá. Those are our largest base areas. But companies like Telefónica or the big contact centers and, of course, the banks are already investing in technology. So this will expand probably in the next year.
Jared Wade: Great. Yeah, it’s relative, right? Colombia grew at 2% last year, and that was the worst in something like eight years, whereas you look at Argentina or Brazil and they had both been in recession. It has slowed down for Colombia, but there’s still a lot of activity going on.
Raúl Rodríguez: Yeah, I agree. We’re pretty excited. We will be doing some events in Colombia in the next few months. And actually, we have had some events already. Two or three months ago we talked about analytics and robotics, and the industry is very excited about this technology. So we hope to see a lot more of it in the upcoming months. We will be there, probably holding events, in the first quarter of 2018.
Another important thing is that we acquired a company with expertise in advanced analytics metrics and the technology is “voice of the customer,” so we are expecting to have this also having a huge impact on the market. I hope we can show our folks in Colombia about this technology and get a lot of input and a lot of projects from this.
We have a lot of solutions to make the customer’s journey a little bit better and create perfect experiences for our customers, and we expect to show all of this to our prospect customers in Colombia in the next few months. I’m sure that things will go great there in Colombia. It’s a great country.