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First Look – Portrait Software


Portrait Software, now part of Pitney Bowes Business Insight – has a tag line of “Make every interaction count” so, with my focus on micro decisions, I wanted to get an update. Since the early days of Quadstone (acquired by Portrait some years ago) the focus of this team has been to help people get value from analytics and so drive more intelligent customer interactions. They also have a focus on incremental Customer Interaction Management (CIM)/CRM value – offering an additive solution that can be installed one piece at a time. Portrait has customers in many industries, including some big names like Fiserv (who OEM the product), Nationwide, Tesco Bank, Merrill Lynch and others. Portrait added to this list and grew during the recent recession, as analytics became a hot topic.

Portrait is now part of Pitney Bowes Business Insight. PBBI has been growing its data portfolio and the integration of Portrait builds on this. Both companies are focused on allowing organizations to put customers at the center of their interactions – with data, insights and decisions. Portrait has added more advanced analytics to the PBBI data portfolio as well as an execution framework for customer decisions while PBBI has a wide range of data (i.e. geospatial, demographic, lifestyle, etc.), data management and document management capabilities which allow the results to be delivered effectively.

Portrait’s focus is on getting a clear view of a customer so that a business can treat each customer uniquely and individually – what Neil and I called micro-decisions in our book. Their typical client is a large B2C company with millions of customers focused on improving cross-sell, retention, renewal, segmentation and targeting – all the usual customer-centric decisions. While Portrait does deliver insight they have a focus on the decision you make with that insight – the decision is, after all, what matters.

In a typical company different channels are managed separately and deliver inconsistent interactions. Portrait’s objective is to help companies deliver a consistent inbound/outbound experience. For instance, when you onboard a new customer you might ask for their communication preferences, hand them off to a survey to collect details, communicate with them using their preferences and then deliver a customized offer when they come to the web while integrating outbound emails with these offers and also with the call center when they call in. Classic centralized customer treatment decisioning across channels. Their clients see improved customer experience, improve satisfaction and retention.

Portrait’s product portfolio divides into those that support insight and those supporting action:

  • Insight
    • Explore: Portrait Self-service analytics
      The Self-Service Analytics tool seems like a standard self-service analysis tool for business users. It is designed to support a certain amount of exploration (when the users don’t know the right question) while also allowing business users to answer their own questions without going to some central group. Thin-client, customer-centric reporting tools.
    • Understand: Portrait Customer Analytics
      An easy to use tool aimed at marketing analysts, for instance, but designed to produce predictive models. Lots of focus on assisting users with data mining tasks and on effective data visualization of all the available customer data. This generally doesn’t displace hard-core mining tools so much as increase the capacity for additional models for making it possible for non-modelers to build models. The results can be used ad-hoc but also pushed into action-taking elements of the system as rules or models.
    • Predict: Portrait Uplift
      A focus on persuadable customers – the ones who won’t buy if not treated (one of 7 innovative approaches discussed by Eric Siegel here) – using uplift modeling is key to Portrait’s approach. Of course this requires marketing departments to be measured on lift and incremental value, not on things like total number of mailers sent or gross responses. Interestingly Portrait sees a move towards this kind of more sophisticated measurement which is encouraging.
    • Optimize: Portrait Optimizer
      An optimization engine that weighs constraints and benefits, handles the trade-offs between possible actions and determines the right mix of offers and channels for the right customers.
  • Action
    • Orchestrate outbound: Portrait Dialogue
      Orchestrates outbound communications using the analytics and rules developed. Handles personal URLs, SMS, surveys, emails etc. It is not campaign-centric so much as conversation-centric and it is integrated with the inbound channel so that, for instance, offers made on the inbound channel can cause folks to be eliminated from an outbound conversation.
    • Recommendations: Portrait Interaction Optimizer
      Real-time decisioning / best next action engine that can be integrated with Portrait’s or someone else’s CRM system. Supports scoring but also a rich interface for marketers to write and manage rules about which scores to use, offers to make etc. For integration with third party systems this can work as a Decision Service to deliver decisions into the third party systems while new data from the UI can also be pushed in for real-time decisioning. The environment also has a simulation/impact analysis environment for seeing what the impact would be of a proposed change.
    • Fulfill: Portrait Foundation
      Portrait’s CRM platform. Some customers user it, others integrate the decisioning engine with their own CRM environment.

Portrait sees its customers moving up an analytic maturity model – from exploration to understanding, prediction and ultimately optimization.


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