Friday, February 23, 2024

AITech365 Interview with Syed Mohtashim Ahmed, SVP of Engineering & Operations at Act-On Software

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I focused on improving the user experience for our customers and data consumers within the organization.

Syed, could you elaborate on your achievements in spearheading significant big data transformations and effectively scaling technology to facilitate enterprise growth? Specifically, we are interested in understanding how you have leveraged your skills in identifying market opportunities, resolving challenges, and applying your expertise in engineering, product development, and user experience to drive success in these initiatives.

In data-driven organizations, data is treated as a strategic asset. Having a robust data foundation will enable you to have a customer-centric approach, leveraging data analytics to create audiences and gain deep insights into customer behavior, preferences, and needs, enabling personalized experiences and targeted marketing strategies. Most importantly, data is the foundation for AI.

To facilitate enterprise growth and innovation, I spearheaded initiatives to lay the right foundation. I’ve achieved several milestones leveraging my skills in identifying market opportunities, resolving challenges, and applying expertise in engineering, product development, and user experience. Those include:

  • Data Lake Creation and Data Warehouse Implementation: One of the key achievements was leading the creation of a robust Data Lake infrastructure, allowing the organization to break down silos, then consolidate and store vast amounts of structured and unstructured data efficiently. This initiative involved evaluating various technologies and ultimately selecting Snowflake as the data warehousing solution due to its scalability, performance, and flexibility and S3 for Data Lake.
  • Scalability and Performance Optimization: Scaling our technology infrastructure to accommodate exponential data growth while ensuring optimal performance and minimal latency was central to our growth. This involved implementing industry best practices and applying optimization techniques, resulting in improved performance and overall system efficiency.
  • Delivering Customer Value: I focused on improving the user experience for our customers and data consumers within the organization. This involved streamlining both data access and visualization processes, and implementing self-service analytics capabilities with easy access to insights by embedding a dashboarding technology within the platform.
  • Resolving Technical Challenges: Throughout our transformation journey, we encountered various technical challenges, ranging from data integration complexities to ensuring data security and compliance. By fostering a culture of innovation and continuous learning within the engineering team, we effectively addressed these challenges through a combination of strategic planning, experimentation, and collaboration with external partners and vendors when necessary.

Can you provide examples of how you’ve inspired cross-functional teams and delivered innovative products under your leadership, particularly in scaling and positioning engineering and technology organizations for rapid company growth?

By architecting an agile and scalable data foundation, we provided the necessary infrastructure to support enterprise growth initiatives. This involved collaborating closely with cross-functional teams to understand business requirements and align our technology solutions accordingly.

Working with the product team, we identified and embedded a dashboarding and analytics solution within the platform. We implemented the solution in a record time of 30 days. We accomplished this by identifying major risks and knocking them down methodically. This lead to:

  • 2x time spent on the page for Advanced Analytics users
  • 60% higher customer report usage compared to old reports

In another instance, working closely with our go-to-market team, we provided access to the data to the internal business intelligence tools, and empowered stakeholders across the organization to derive actionable insights from data, thus driving informed decision-making and facilitating business growth.

Syed, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Act-On Software. Also tell us how Act-On Software differentiates itself from other companies in the same space?

I am the current SVP of Engineering, AI & Operations at Act-On Software, which is a marketing automation provider helping marketers create dynamic automatic programs and campaigns that can effectively adapt to a prospect’s position in the marketing funnel. This makes marketers’ jobs easier while simultaneously elevating business successes through demand generation and sales conversion. Act-On stands out in the MA space by focusing on tools marketers actually want and need (our own marketing team members use our solution, and our development team takes feedback from them and customers to continuously improve our software in line with evolving marketing trends). We offer unparalleled customer support and product innovation, without locking customers into bloatware they don’t want. I lead the team on the tech side to make sure these innovations continue to move the needle for marketers and contribute to the responsible development of AI and data science technologies.

Prior to Act-On, I served as CTO & VP of Engineering at Contiq Inc., and VP of Engineering at TapClicks.

How does Act-On AI Create aim to revolutionize content creation within the Act-On platform, and what benefits does it offer to marketers in terms of ideation, creation, and optimization of email content and subject lines?

Act-On AI Create is an email content generation tool. Casual and professional users of generative AI will feel familiar with the integrated OpenAI feature. With a simple prompt, marketers can generate email content in seconds. Machine learning helps craft increasingly unique emails with each new prompt and revision. Act-On’s AI Create then plugs generated emails and optional subject lines directly into marketers’ templates, seamlessly integrating generative AI within Act-On. Marketers can adjust content according to length and desired tone to better resonate with specific audiences.

Also Read: AITech365 Interview with Sasha Gilenson, Founder And CEO at Evolven Software

What essential factors should be taken into account during the product development lifecycle to ensure the success of marketing automation software, and how does Act-On Software strike a balance between the imperative for swift development and the necessity of maintaining high standards of quality and reliability in its products?

It’s very important to have a solid mix of feature improvements and bug fixes when developing quality software at a swift cadence. Part of what we do best here at Act-On is to spend time up front planning long-term goals while building in flexibility for bug fixes along the way. This way, we can keep a good cadence while maintaining high quality.

What emerging technologies do you see as having a significant impact on the marketing automation industry, and how is Act-On Software staying ahead of these trends?

AI is of course the tech all industries are working to integrate more closely into their solutions. Act-On has a number of AI innovations that step beyond the hype to help marketers do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Those include AI Create for content generation; AI Audience Insights, a collaboration with Intel to optimize customer segmentation models; AI Predictive Lead Score to hone in on the strongest prospects; and Advanced Analytics with AI, which removes the need for marketers to lean on IT and data analysts to perform custom analytics on marketing campaigns, providing them with shareable reporting and dashboards.

I am beyond proud of my development team and everyone at Act-On who made all these innovations happen over the last year. They are really keeping up with the needs of marketers today.

What advice do you have for other leaders who are looking to drive growth for their brand?

First, Be bold and outspoken. You don’t have to be the loudest person on social media or have the most followers to be a thought leader in our industry. Putting yourself out there on LinkedIn, content contribution platforms, and tech forums can slowly help establish a bigger network of thought leaders interested in what you have to say.

Second, always be open to new ideas and knowledge. Tech is constantly changing, so it’s important to be curious. Reading about “what’s new” can inspire the next idea, even if those innovations aren’t ready for the market yet. I love how that mentality keeps my team sharp and excited to work together.

What is the biggest problem you or your team is solving this year?

Marketers invest time, effort, and resources into creating engaging email content and optimizing campaigns to drive genuine user engagement. However, bot engagement, like clicks and opens, does not represent genuine human interaction with the content, resulting in wasted resources and diminishing returns on marketing investments. Bots artificially inflate engagement metrics, making it challenging for marketers to accurately assess the true effectiveness of their email campaigns. This can lead to misleading insights and misguided decision-making regarding campaign optimization and resource allocation.

Leveraging our data foundation using AI/ML Models, we are working on identifying non-human activity. We have completed the POC, and the results are very encouraging. We are in the process of creating a scalable solution that we will be deploying in production to provide real-time detection.

Is there anything that you’re currently reading, or any favorite books that you’d  recommend?

“How the Mighty Fall” by Jim Collin has been a great read. It tackles the thorny topic of why companies fall. Collins outlines a five-step process to help leaders better recognize why their company is falling, and more importantly, how they can recover.

Thanks, Syed!

 

Syed Mohtashim Ahmed, is a seasoned strategic business leader and technology executive known for driving significant growth through innovative solutions. With expertise in big data transformations and technology scaling, he has led teams to solve complex challenges and modernize infrastructure. Syed’s approach fosters collaboration and customer focus, resulting in high-performing teams and impactful outcomes.

Act-On Software, provides solutions that empower marketers to engage targets at every step of the customer lifecycle. Act-On makes customer data actionable so marketers can dream big and build smart, effective marketing programs to grow their businesses and generate higher customer lifetime value – all with the fastest time-to-value.

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