‘Emergency tech’ firm ClickSoftware sells for nearly $500m

The biggest name in the workforce management technology space is being bought out by US investment company Francisco Partners

Snow blankets a Jerusalem street, February 20, 2015 (photo credit: Times of Israel/Lazar Berman)
Snow blankets a Jerusalem street, February 20, 2015 (photo credit: Times of Israel/Lazar Berman)

Israeli workforce management technology firm ClickSoftware is being acquired by California-based investment firm Francisco Partners Management. The all-cash transaction is valued at approximately $438 million.

Currently a NASDAQ publicly-traded firm, ClickSoftware will see its stockholders sell their holdings to Francisco Partners, with each outstanding share to be sold for $12.65 – 45% over the stock’s average closing over the previous 90 days. The deal must still be approved by stockholders, but ClickSoftware’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the sale in a recent meeting. Francisco Partners, which focuses strictly on technology investments, aims to buy all outstanding shares of the company, turning it into a private firm, and ClickSoftware will recommend that all shareholders sell.

With over 700 employees, the Petah Tikvah-based firm is the world’s largest service management company, with its software helping hundreds of utilities, police and fire departments, and emergency rescue organizations to help them prioritize work orders, repairs, and emergency responses, ClickSoftware CEO Moshe Ben-Bassat told The Times of Israel in an interview.

ClickSoftware’s system is especially useful in emergencies, said Ben-Bassat – like the snow emergencies that became a routine event in many US cities last winter. When such events take place, utilities, emergency services, police, fire, food delivery personnel, and many others need to be ready operate in crisis mode, said Ben-Bassat.

A “crisis” is not a big, amorphous thing; it’s made up of a lot of small crises that can quickly get out of control, he said. For a utility, “out of control” means getting behind on providing the basic repairs and service to ensure that clients get back services as quickly as possible. That means ensuring that the right personnel are available and on call, and even more important, can quickly get where they have to go.

Planning this is not a job for a human being, said Ben-Bassat. “If you ask managers how they would deal with this kind of scenario in theory they would come up with a plausible scenario, but once the emergency hits, they cannot deal with the events and issues that are thrown at them,” said Ben-Bassat. When inundated with information, the brain tends to filter out the overload – but in an emergency where lives, often thousands, are on the line, that’s not good enough.

Which is where ClickSoftware comes in. “We sit with managers and personnel in advance of emergencies and try to get a sense of what their priorities are,” said Ben-Bassat – such as in the case of a power company, which would want to restore power to a hospital first, then to substations serving thousands of residents, to specific neighborhoods, and only later to individual homes where repairs are still needed. All that information is programmed into ClickSoftware’s system, which uses artificial intelligence to evaluate incidents that flood a call center during an emergency, placing them in an action queue in the order of the utility’s policy priorities.

The system prioritizes service calls by levels of importance, in a triage system that sees the most important problems given priority. The system is based on big data algorithms that evaluate the service call, taking into account environmental and other factors, and weighing the importance of the call compared to others that are pending.

Ben-Bassat stressed that the computer is not the one making the decisions. “It’s true that the system is doing the ‘triage,’ based on need, but it is based on the parameters decided upon by the decision-makers for the organization,” he said. “There is no ‘independent thinking’ in this artificial intelligence system, just an execution of the orders the system was given when emergency scenarios were laid out,” with the priorities programmed into the system by managers. If any “moral judgments” are being made about what a priority is or isn’t, he added, it wasn’t ClickSoftware making them.

ClickSoftware isn’t used by just utilities, but by companies in a plethora of industries, including airlines, railroads, governments, hospitals, retail businesses, and many others. The company provides tools for all aspects of personnel and scheduling management, including enabling companies to set appointments for service personnel with customers, and helping managers to get out in the field by providing a full suite of apps for tablets and smartphones.

ClickSoftware, said Matt Spetzler, partner at Francisco Partners, is the best at what it does, and his firm “looks forward to combining our expertise with its talented team of professionals to further enhance its cloud solutions, grow its customer pipeline and further advance its strategic goals.”

“After a comprehensive evaluation and review of strategic alternatives designed to enhance shareholder value, we are confident this agreement represents a favorable outcome for our shareholders, providing them with immediate, substantial cash value,” said Ben-Bassat. “We are excited to partner with Francisco Partners, a firm with an established track record of working with companies transitioning to cloud and with companies in relevant verticals to ClickSoftware. The added flexibility we will have as a private company, combined with the benefit of Francisco Partners’ knowledge and domain expertise, will allow us to more effectively focus on our long-term investment and growth objectives, which will benefit our employees, customers and partners.”

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