HOW TO ADOPT THE NO-CODE APPROACH
A lot of our listeners have been asking a similar question, which is, tell us about how different organizations can adopt the no-code approach to achieve success. So, today we invited Butch Knowlton, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at Ringler Associates, to share a real-life success story of Ringler’s digital transformation using the power of no-code!
Would you like to find out more about the no-code approach? The No-code Playbook is available in audio format on Amazon!
JASON MILLER: Welcome everybody to the Creatio No-Code Playbook Podcast where we discuss insights, tips, and success stories on how to leverage the no-code approach to transform business and deliver applications of any complexity. I'm your host, Jason Miller, head of revenue operations and sales enablement here at Creatio. Today, I am joined by Butch Knowlton, CIO of Ringler Associates. Welcome, Butch.
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Hey, Jason, great to be here.
JASON MILLER: Great, and I appreciate you taking some time today. And as you know, we've been talking about the no-code approach. And with the No-Code Playbook, we've covered a lot of great topics so far. And a lot of our listeners have been asking a similar question, which is, tell us about how customers of Creatio and how different organizations can adopt this type of approach and this platform to achieve success. Now, I know that you've been at Ringler Associates for a while now and you came in as part of a transformation effort. What can you tell me about maybe some of the challenges that Ringler was having as you were coming in and getting started and how you've maybe been able to address it using the power of no-code?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Sure, Jason. I've been with the organization for just under three years. And as I came in, as you mentioned, it was for a focus on transformation. And our goal at that time was to eliminate or combine five legacy applications that were disparate. And our data was all over the place. And so, processes, consistency, all of the things associated with a single platform were the reason why we wanted to make the transformation. In addition, our technology was aging and it was time to make upgrades and investments in that technology. So, the timing worked out great so that we could look at a new solution for us. One of the things that was missing for our organization overall was a centralized CRM. Ringler Associates is run by individual brokerages who own their own offices. And so our home office acts as a centralized shared service organization to help them be successful. And so we have a business development team, we have a finance team, we have an IT team, all of those folks are there to help those individual offices be successful. And one of the challenges to do that is a lack of a centralized solution associated with CRM, customer relationship management. As well as case management within what we do in structured settlements, and then integration into our backend systems like our accounting systems and things like that related to commissions and other things that we'll do. And so that's really what we were trying to accomplish. When I joined, I also wanted to upgrade our technology into the cloud. And so we did cloud transformation all at the same time while we implemented elimination, I think, and aggregation of those five disparate systems.
JASON MILLER: Well, that sounds like a whole lot of work that needed to be taken on all at once. So as you started this journey and started this process, and I know you came in, they had already chosen Creatio's no-code platform. What are some of the things that you really wanted to focus on and really push forward using no-code technology?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Well, one of the things that Ringler believes as any other organization believes is that we have very special processes and it's very unique. And some of that is true for us when it comes to the way that we do rating. So we're able to customize with no-code, so customize but not customize, the experience for our end users for our case management. And so our case management flow and the way that we do our business from a workflow perspective a prospect and then a quote and then it turns into a case and then it turns into an actual commission. So we're able to combine that and recreate what is our best practice with the no-code platform. So that sort of online business process management capability that you guys have is exactly what we've utilized to be able to be successful within.
JASON MILLER: Now, so what I just heard, make sure I heard this right, is the ability to configure your way to a highly customized experience, number one, to be able to make that unique to your business, because obviously, and I know a little bit about your business as well because we had the opportunity to sit down there when you guys did your kickoff, to give those really highly developed processes that you guys use, the ability to define those and customize those. Because I even know that in a lot of cases, you went and expanded even past the power of the no-code platform. You've started to think about this as more of a fusion type of environment, because I think, correct me if I'm wrong, you've got a lot of other pieces that you've actually built into this no-code application like iFrames, and your quoting engines and stuff like that. So how has working with a no-code platform and trying to build some of these other fusion, call it the ProDev pieces, in with that as part of a Fusion team approach? How has that worked for you guys? What's your experience been? And what kind of success have you seen from that?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: I think the reason that we attacked it from that perspective and what you just said, Jason, is right on. It's exactly what we've done. You just said it better than I did. But the reason that we attacked or made the approach that we did was really because we wanted to move into the cloud and take advantage of the cloud security and the advantage of the costs within the cloud. versus having to maintain our own on-prem or even outsourced data center setup. Our strategy really is to become a platform as a service for our end users. What we've done is we've created an API-focused centralized bus within Azure where we integrate all of our different applications. as an API integration capability so that we can either integrate with our customers or integrate with internal applications into that internal bus. And that allows us to then share information across platforms. What we've decided to do in that process is to utilize the Creatio front end as the sort of centralized experience for our end users. So they may actually be... integrating or communicating with another application via Creatio, and then share that data back and forth so that they aren't having to move from application to application, things like that. And so on the front end, we have, as you mentioned, an iframe that integrates into our quoting capabilities, and that is some of our special sauce, where we're able to combine all of our life partner quoting capabilities and rates and... all the things associated with that into one area. And then we also have API integration on the backend for commissions and to our accounting software, as well as a homegrown capability for an internal portal where we do a lot of things like bill paying and reports and stuff like that. So all of that is integrated in the backend, but we have it configured in a way that it presents itself through Creatio.
JASON MILLER: No, that's amazing. So a couple of pieces that I'm going to take from that, and I want to make sure that we're staying in sync and keeping the listeners and the viewers informed. So what you've done is you've used Creatio in a couple of different ways. One, as a digital experience layer, helping to bring things into a consolidated view for the end user so that they don't have to do the swivel chair from application to application. Two is you've been able to define the various workflows for what sounds like extremely business-critical applications into a single platform so that not only can you visualize, execute, and manage, but also report on some of these things that you're doing. Did I understand you correctly?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Yeah, that's exactly right. And the reporting component that you brought up is that we've integrated on the back end into PowerBI so that we're able to consume and then present the data in a kind of any way we want to at that point.
JASON MILLER: Yeah, and I think it's neat. So you know, just having a little bit of first-hand knowledge of your deployment, you've got a great mix. Um, from an enterprise standpoint, you've got some of those real-time reports and dashboards right there for the end users, but you've got that massive power behind it to use PowerBI to do, you know, deeper analytics and actuarial-type stuff. So I think it's amazing. I think it's a great use case that shows the power of how no-code applications like ratio can, can build these very complex business-critical applications. using the power of no code, but still leveraging all of the other technologies that you've got around the organization and really streamline how you're doing operations. I want to shift topics really quickly. You've been live now, I think you did your beta launch about a month and a half, two months ago. How's the user feedback been as you've gone through this transformation, and I know it's always hard to move from maybe desktop-type systems to cloud-based systems or no-code applications. Barring that, how have things gone so far?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Well, everything's going pretty well. A lot of change management is always a challenge, especially when you're moving off of systems that have been around for quite some time. So we have some folks, a lot of folks in our organization, one who have historically done things focused in their specific office. They're not accustomed to having a centralized solution. So that's a change. In addition, they've had their own sort of workflow processes where they've done things. the way they've done things for whatever period of time. And we're moving them into more of a standard workflow. So there's some change there. The learning curve for them has been pretty steep. And so as a result, we've spent a lot of time on communications, training, change management, assurances that we're gonna work with you to make sure everybody's comfortable, all the things associated with that. But it's been a really big change for an organization who has been. very fragmented and historically from a technology perspective. And so a lot of change for folks and an exciting time. I think everyone's beginning to realize the opportunity of not only a consistent workflow, but our ability to train new individuals coming in our ability to, to, to mine data in ways that we have not here to for been able to do. So there's a lot of really great advantages that, that they're beginning to see now. So it's a pretty exciting time for us.
JASON MILLER: Now that's great. And I think knowing that you guys have been very good with your team and the implementation team collecting that user feedback. So Burley and Katherine in the No-Code Playbook talk about generating and collecting that continuous feedback loop. And I know you've been collecting a lot of this feedback. Are you already starting to plan how you're going to assimilate some of that feedback into your next releases?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Yeah, so our process within IT is to consume that feedback and then we follow a standard review of feedback from the users, prioritization. We have discussions across all of our business partners to determine what we feel are the most viable investments for us to make and then we'll continue to make those changes. So we have a whole backlog of items. We look at and continue to want to improve those either end-user experiences or outcomes, as well as look at expanding our technology and capabilities in addition to that. So, performance is always something we continuously look at, security obviously is the thing that keeps us up at night. All things that will continue to make investments in addition to enhancing our tech stack.
JASON MILLER: Now it's awesome to hear so you know you with the fact that you've just gone live and you're now starting to recognize some of the benefits and the power of the no-code platform that you've chosen and deployed. What are some of the tangibles, I'll call them measurables, that you guys are really hoping to achieve now that you've gone live?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: I think a lot of the focus for us on the business side is around our opportunities associated with the number of cases that we have coming in. What does our pipeline begin to look like? We've not had a very good, any really visibility into what our pipeline looks like. How do we help our clients understand the value of our product and using the data to associate with that? And so just the overall. input of new data and consistent data is probably the thing that we're the most excited about.
JASON MILLER: And I'm assuming that, you know, you now have visibility that where you didn't, you mentioned earlier, you've got some visibility into some things that you never had before. So now that you've, now that you've been able to drive some process change and, and, you know, for the good or for the bad, I think that's still to be determined. You're trying to figure that out as you collect this feedback. So as you, as you collect this feedback and as you go into this continuous improvement cycle and you start to measure some of these effective metrics that you've now got visibility to. What is it in your mind, call it two years, three years, or four years from now. What are, what is, what does this look like? If you can prognosticate out that far, how are you going to make that next level change considering the way you just made, how are you going to make that next step and what's that look like for you?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Well, we're in the process of discussing what a strategy begins to look like as a result of having the application suite there. And so a lot of focus for us around mobile technology. How can we enable our end users to be able to utilize a mobile capability within the structure of the business that we're in? Our industry is notoriously slow at adopting things like that. For example, we spend a lot of time in courthouses in the United States and some courthouses won't allow you to have a mobile device in their courthouse or they'll have sort of a Faraday cage where you know They limit signal in and out for reasons that are you know associated with security? So how do we overcome those kinds of things for our end users in addition? What are the opportunities we have online in ways that we can contact customers directly so that we can do business to customers? Capabilities there where we have opportunities where maybe we hadn't been able to mine those opportunities in the past. So a lot of thought around that kind of places where one of the things that we know is that a lot of startups and a lot of organizations are coming in to disrupt sort of a fintech setup. And so we want to try to stay in front of that and be more of the disruptor than the disruptee. And so having completed our application build-out, that enables us to be able to look forward rather than focusing on the improvements we need to make in the past.
JASON MILLER: You know, and I think when we were out there and had some discussions with you, one of the things that I heard from both you and your CEO is really that strategic view that having this power behind you now with the no-code applications and creation and having it tied to your business-critical functions, it allows you to erase some technology debt that you've had over the years, streamline business in a, in a more effective way. So as you said, you can be more strategic versus tactical. I know a lot of CIOs around the world struggle with that. Just like when we did when we migrated from on-prem to the cloud, there was a lot of technical debt that CIOs were trying to get rid of. I think we're in that next wave or that next era now. So Butch, I've got just one more question for you. And this is going to have to do with not only the no-code platforms, but then the way you've implemented, but where you see the future of technology as a whole. and how no code plays into that. So if you're, again, to put on that prognosticating hat, you've got decades of experience behind you. Where do you think that this world of no code is going to continue to go as we move into the future?
BUTCH KNOWLTON: I think one of the beautiful things about no-code is obviously the configurability. And so the more experience any organization like Creatio has, where their customers continue to provide feedback into the need to create configurations associated with customizations, what had historically been customizations, that experience for your clients turns out to be a much less expensive, easier to maintain. simpler to implement all the things that the no-code capability gives you. When you begin to think about all the recent news and information about the ChatGPT and the chatbots and everything else, man it's a little crazy if you start to really put, really start to think out there, right? You could with no code potentially have bots building technology for you. I mean you're looking at a 24-7 cycle. where you're constantly building new capabilities based on strategies that you have. And I think there's a whole heck of a lot that's going to happen with the chatbot capabilities in this AI that we're seeing there. That one's super interesting and top of mind right now just because of current events. But I really do think that the more knowledge base that organizations like Creatio have around the customizations and the needs of their clients and they turn that into a no-code solution and configuration, you know, the sky's kind of the limit. There's the amount of tech debt, and the amount of work that goes into building out applications is monumental and to turn around implementations as quickly as you can with no code is definitely the future.
JASON MILLER: I think that I think you absolutely nailed that. No, I'll tell the listeners and the viewers a little secret. At the No-Code Days in Florida, Creatio will announce the ability to build applications on the platform using chat GPT. It's a little spoiler for everybody. So all right. I greatly appreciate your time today, Butch. Thank you for joining us and sharing your insight as a CIO at an industry-leading company in your industry. We appreciate the time today. Thank you, sir.
BUTCH KNOWLTON: Yes, sir. And for your listeners, let them know I did not know about the AI piece. So that was not heat up one and two.
JASON MILLER: No, because we haven't announced that yet, so I know you didn't know about that.
So today, we talked a lot about the hype around no-code development and some of the benefits that you can achieve from it, just like Ringler Associates has. I want to thank Butch for joining us today.
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