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4 Tips to Supercharge Your Business Processes

If you’ve been in business for a decent amount of time, you already know how important it is to have processes in place. In the absence of these processes, operations become chaotic, inefficiency reigns and progress is stymied.

That being said, simply creating and implementing business processes isn’t always enough. In fact, there may be significant room for improvement in a variety of areas. If you haven’t visited your processes in some time or you’re already aware they could use some polishing, here are a few expert tips.

Begin with what’s most critical.

A lot can be gained from most any business process, but some will inevitably prove more immediately beneficial than others. If you are want to maximize their effectiveness and achieve some early, quantitative wins, focus your efforts first on:

  • Processes with highest potential ROI
  • Processes that recur most often
  • Processes that frequently encounter issues

The goal is to hone in on the workflows where you can generate results quickly while also making the most impactful improvements.

Develop a checklist.

You don’t have to dig into the minutiae of the process. Instead, focus on the key steps in the workflow, developing a sequential list of tasks which demonstrate how the process is supposed to flow. If the process is electronic, consider recording it as it’s being carried out. The resulting video can then be used to create the checklist of steps or events.

Start optimizing.

Once you’ve mapped out each business process, it’s time to start finding areas where improvements can and should be made. Are there any redundancies that could be eliminated to speed things up? Are there bottlenecks along the way that impede progress and should be addressed?

Go over the documented workflows with appropriate team members to get their feedback and input. The more you involve other people in the practice of evaluating and optimizing your business workflows, the more buy-in and support you’ll gain.

Automate whenever and wherever possible.

Last, but certainly not least, automation can improve efficiency exponentially while also reducing human error. By introducing intelligent automation into your business processes, you’ll ensure a smooth, sequential flow of events and reduce (and often eliminate) the need for human intervention in the process.

Let’s say the business workflow you’re currently focusing on is password resets. It may seem simple, but in some organizations, this task alone can consume up to 40% of IT support’s daily workload. What if, instead of manually carrying out each painstaking step of phone authentication, execution of reset, confirmation, and documenting the call closure, you automated the entire process? Not only would password resets be carried out much more quickly, improving end-user satisfaction, but your IT would be freed up to focus their valuable skills on other, more important business initiatives.

Having business processes is important, but often even those processes can be improved and optimized for better results. By following the four simple steps above and leveraging the power of intelligent automation to your advantage, you can supercharge your processes and reap the many rewards that will come as a result.

Get started today with a free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG and be up and running with intelligent automation in less than an hour!

Episode #43: How Automation, AI, & Other Technologies Are Advancing Post-Modern Enterprises In The Lands Of The Midnight Sun – TietoEVRY’s Himadri Das

July 27, 2020    Episodes

Episode #43: How Automation, AI, & Other Technologies Are Advancing Post-Modern Enterprises In The Lands Of The Midnight Sun

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast, we interview Himadri Das – Head of Automation at TietoEVRY. 

When you think of Scandinavia, what comes to mind?  If you’re like most, then fjords, saunas, ABBA, the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and LEGO’s are probably among your first thoughts.  What about Skype, Linux, Spotify, Nokia, SMS texting, and “Erwise” – the first GUI browser?  These innovations also emerged from the Nordic countries, who it turns out have a heritage of high tech innovation as rich & varied as a holiday smörgåsbord.  That tradition has led to a high level of digital maturity among Scandinavian enterprises, and a culture eager for digital transformation. 

To better understand the unique IT characteristics that differentiate this region of the world, we speak with Himadri Das, Head of Automation at TietoEVRY, Scandinavia’s biggest IT, business consulting, and outsourcing services provider.  Himadri shares with us how best to sell AI, ML, and other advanced technologies in Scandinavia, the 3 “buckets” Scandinavian C-suite executives want addressed when these technologies are proposed to them, and Himadri’s advice on moving forward with digital transformation based on his extensive experience with organizations in Nordic countries. 



Guy Nadivi:Welcome everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi, and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation Radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Himadri Das, Head of Automation at TietoEVRY, Scandinavia’s biggest IT, business consulting, and outsourcing services provider with over 24,000 employees. Himadri is TietoEVRY’s designated lead for its AIOps practice. As such, he focuses on driving end-to-end, full-stack automation solutions for TietoEVRY’s clients, and those solutions typically leverage cognitive, machine learning, and AI technologies. Since those are exactly the topics we cover on this podcast, and given the Nordic countries’ reputation as early adopters of innovative technologies, we were very eager to speak with Himadri and learn about digital transformation in Scandinavia. Himadri, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Himadri Das: Thanks Guy, for inviting me and providing me an opportunity to speak with your audiences, and I am happy to be participant on this conversation. Thank you so much.

Guy Nadivi: Himadri, let’s go right to a big question that’s on everybody’s mind these days. How is COVID-19 affecting MSPs like TietoEVRY, who provide IT services to enterprise clients?

Himadri Das: I think a very relevant question, Guy, and I will be kind of being more practical in my answers to all the questions that you will be asking me. I think typically we need to foresee the model that TietoEVRY is operating in Nordic or in Scandinavian countries. So, essentially it’s a typical model where you have verticals and horizontals. So, when you look into the verticals, we are catering to manufacturing, retail, logistics, financial services, mainly banking and insurance, public sector and the healthcare and the energy sector. I think, if you look into the horizontal services that is cutting across, it is mainly the application business, which is mainly catered by the digital consulting practice, which has bought some customer experience management, cost application, which is off-the-shelf, and the custom application. Then you have infrastructure component, which has all platform infrastructures, data center, and so on. Then Tieto also has the product. We are very strong, TietoEVRY, when it comes to the product business, combining other products within financial services, healthcare, and all the markets that I spoke about. And where we are operating today is essentially in three geographies. I mean we are very strong. It is our go-to market. It is in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and besides we have also operations in U.S., China, India, Ukraine, where we are leveraging our near shore and the offshore capability. Now, when I look, and the reason I’m explaining all this to you is so that we understand how these Nordic countries are operated. So if you look, Nordic countries, they are part of European Union, meaning they have a very strict GDPR and the data privacy policies. But what I have seen in this COVID-19 situation, many myths have been broken. I think we earlier have kind of rigid boundaries in our mind that only you can deliver once you are in office. No, I think now over 95% of population is working from home and I think they are able to deliver most of the services without any major business disruptions with the last two months. So in a way, Guy, I think I have seen this COVID-19 situation has broken a lot of myths. We are able to meet all the requirements that the customer need, yet we are compliant with the SLAs and the KPIs that we have. So, it is kind of a game changer in many ways, this COVID-19 situation.

Guy Nadivi: No question, the coronavirus has been very disruptive. Himadri, what’s been the pandemic’s effect on enterprise decisions about implementing automation, AI, and other digital transformation initiatives.

Himadri Das: I think typically, Guy, if you see this Nordic countries or the Nordic market, Scandinavian market, they’re very advanced when it comes to AI and machine learning or new initiatives, I would particularly say, and if you look back why they are so kind of forthcoming, it is kind of ingrained within the culture, the education system, the openness, the governance model that is within the Nordic countries. So it’s not a surprise that people are very free thinkers. They’re very innovative bent of mind. And what typically works in Nordic market quite efficiently and effective is this hackathon and design thinking way of working. So, meaning if you go to customer, I mean it’s very important that they see things which we are actually telling them, so they don’t believe in PowerPoint presentation. They really want to showcase credentials, references, and since this AI, ML are kind of more of a buzzword, it is very important that we scoop that out and be very clear to them that what we mean by that. So I can give you some examples. Like if you typically look into the healthcare sector or the telecommunication sector or the manufacturing sector that we have in Nordics, I think they are pretty advanced when it comes to the artificial intelligence and the ML capabilities that they are building up. So all healthcare systems are mostly automated and there are certain solutions that we are building up jointly with customers. Well, we want to make sure that the doctors are able to take decisions based on the historical patterns from the customer. So yes, in that manner, I would say Nordic market is quite advanced, quite demanding, quite challenging. So customer not only wants an automation solution on the run part, they really want to see how automation is going to impact on their business side of it and on their support function side of it. So that way it’s a learning market and it’s a challenging market.

Guy Nadivi: Now, you mentioned that Nordic countries are advanced and their culture favors free thinking, but I want to drill down a bit more granularly and ask you specifically, how do CIOs and CTOs in Nordic countries approach automation, AI, et cetera differently?

Himadri Das: Yeah, I think as you rightly asked, I mean, drilling it down basically under the hood, CIOs and CTOs want to understand. And what do you mean by, really, when you say machine learning or artificial intelligence or the automation component? So, I think typically how TietoEVRY has approached customer is bucketing this and simplifying this automation into three baskets. So one is the run basket where you need to keep lights on and you need to make sure that you are able to reduce your OPEX costs as much as possible. The second component is the support function automation. Now, when you talk about support function and the third way, which is a business function, automation part, these two typically caters to what is in it for customer side. So if I’m able to automate the business process of customer, making it more efficient, order-to-cash, pay-to-procure process, I think this is really helping them real-time in order to cut down those cycles and able to automate things right from the service center, till the field, till the operations, with the productions that are happening in the mills. But then on the run side of it, it is very essential that when they’re outsourcing a particular IT services to an IT service provider like TietoEVRY, they’re able to get the skill. They are also able to get the automation and efficiency benefits to them. So in that manner, I think in these three layers, it is very important to justify to customer how AI, ML they are working simultaneously, not in silo, in order to bring that big benefits for the customer.

Guy Nadivi: Now, Gartner reports that AI / ML is the most commonly named game-changing technology by Nordic CIOs. And that was followed by analytics, Internet of things, and automation. The top use cases for AI and automation are chatbots and process optimization. Himadri, what are some of the more interesting AI and automation use cases TietoEVRY has undertaken for its clients?

Himadri Das: It’s again, a very good question, Guy. I think, as I said, there is an ethical angle also, where Nordic countries are extremely strict and I think culturally, data privacy and the GDPR compliances are really, really followed very strictly out here. I mean, so that’s why we really need to see how this AI / ML really shapes up in future when it comes to the Nordic execution or European execution, because there is an ethical angle attached to it. But I can give you certain concrete example, like where we are able to assist other customers in terms of AI and machine learning capability. As I said, I think their healthcare system, if you look, Nordic customers or Nordic countries’ healthcare system or public system, they are among the best in the world. I mean, if you typically see healthcare, I think if you take Sweden, Norway, or Finland, they rank in top five or top ten most of the time, if you take 10 year historical data. Meaning that their healthcare system and public systems are so strong and they are so foolproof that… And it’s automated already. It’s a lot of data driven content in there, it’s not manual. So for example, take a typical Finnish healthcare system. In a Finnish healthcare system… I mean, when you go to a particular hospital, they have something called hospital management system, which is uniform across the country. So wherever you go, doctor has an application where they can feed in their data about the patient information and everything is kind of in the system. In the records. And any patient or any person who has access to healthcare system, he can see his or her records and can take decision any point of time. So he need not have to go and ask for a physical copy. Everything is kind of in the system, soft copies are delivered, meaning there is a tremendous tons of data, which is getting stored. What TietoEVRY has done in one of the assignment with the government healthcare system is, we have looked into that vast amount of data that is getting stored. And these are actually islands of data scattered along multiple municipalities that they have. Now, it’s really important that those data should be brought in, in a data link. Should be cleaned up. And then you can build machine learning and AI capabilities so that doctors are able to see, pause, record, then the historical record based on the patient’s relationship with their hierarchy and should be able to take certain decision. I think that is one pilot that we were able to successfully execute with one of the healthcare system and lot of good business intelligence-driven reports or recommendation. Now doctors are able to give to their patients because of that machine learning capability or AI capability that we have built for them. So similarly, we are building up certain solution for the automation of traffic system in the Nordic market. There are multiple examples that we have executed, Guy, in the Nordic market. But as I said, I think this is a bit advanced market, very demanding market. At the same time, you can have a real learning on the ground, when you are working in automation in the Nordic customs.

Guy Nadivi: Hmm. Interesting. Himadri, Gartner also reported that analytics and automation are the top two areas where Nordic organizations plan to increase investment as part of digital transformation. What do you think are some of the most unrealistic expectations currently plaguing the field of analytics and automation?

Himadri Das: I think, again, a very good question Guy, because at many times… I mean, these are more of hype than the reality. I think when you go and you really dig deep in the real world, I think the biggest challenge that I have foreseen with customers’ environment, and also with vendor’s capability, many a times, is the distributed architecture. I mean, they have data, which is scattered in multiple systems. So you can go and tell them that, okay, move to public cloud. And that is where the entire things will get orchestrated. No, they have a legacy of 40 years, 100 years. During that time, they have created mainframe applications, legacy application, and there is such a tight interconnection between legacy and the new world that it is not easy to kind of, just describe old, and just build something on the new. So what I have seen repeatedly is that a robust or a sound architecture is something where the APIs, SDKs are built on leverage, and you can actually connect between both the world. The legacy world and the modern world. And I think the first biggest challenge or unrealistic thing that we have seen many times, and we need to be very clear with customers so that they are onboarded is the cleaning of the data. Making sure that this data is coming to a common platform. The data is clean. There was junk in, is junk out. But if the data is not clean, if the connections are not proper, we will not get the desired report and the desired analytics that we want to build. So I think that’s one thing, very critical for the data analytics part. On the automation part, I think the biggest hurdle or the biggest roadblock that I have seen, again, this is the biggest opportunity, is how can you break silos and make automation as end-to-end orchestration? And this is easier said than done. Let me take an example. I mean, take this even run automation. Generally people are very much focused towards a specific automation part. Let me automate SAP. Let me automate a custom application. Yes, you will get automation benefit, but those automation benefits will be in small number. But if you are able to automate things from the self-service portal, from service desk, where you are actually getting the real tickets, the huge volume of tickets, then the automation potentials are much, much higher. Because monitoring systems how they are getting integrated with the event of, how they are getting integrated with the orchestration platform, how they are getting integrated with the device analytics. I think that full-stack automation has much higher impact and leverage then doing automation in silos. So I think these are the two things regarding analytics and automation. I think we need to be very mindful and make sure that we are orchestrating full-stack rather than working in silos.

Guy Nadivi: Automation and AI have many value propositions such as cost reduction, error reduction, risk mitigation, et cetera. In your experience Himadri, which value proposition has been most effective in persuading a CEO to overcome any hesitations they might have and move forward with automation and AI.

Himadri Das: I think, again, a very good question, because many times the moment you talk about automation, specifically, I mean, internal audiences within a vendor’s organization or a customer’s organization, has the first perception that, okay, automation means resource reduction. That’s the first mindset that comes and that gets triggered, which is actually wrong. Actually resource reduction is not the objective of automation at all. I think what automation brings in the order of priority in my mind, and I have seen that also with customers when talking to them in Nordics, the first and foremost is the efficiency improvement. Meaning you actually free up your resources because you have a fixed number of resources, because of the pressure that you have now from the downturn in business because of COVID-19 or different situation. So you have limited number of resources and you want them to focus on your business rather than working them on the operation, will then work. I think this is where your automation is very effective. Why to block those resources, just to do operational activity? Why don’t we focus them to push into the business activity of it? So, that’s priority number one. The second part, in my eyes, most important automation initiative has, is the business process effectiveness. So if my order to cash process, my field service, the real execution of that field service, for example, if I’m talking to a cargo company, and in a port they need to deliver something to cranes. And if the crane goes down, there is a direct impact on the revenues for that particular organization. Now, how can we make that process more effective? That the moment there is a breakdown and the moment a field engineer goes there and fixes that up, how can I improve that business process is more important. And that is where automation comes really effective if you are able to automate business process side of it. And then third is the cost reduction part. Again, cost reduction means how can you make your support function run more efficient? And that is not resource reduction. That means improvement on the quality, improvement on the SLA repeatedly, by doing things consistently. So I think that’s the order, I will put, Guy, in terms of automation benefit. So, that is my opinion out there.

Guy Nadivi: Very interesting. Himadri, I would also love to hear what you think are going to be some of the biggest disruptions we’ll see in the next three to five years, with respect to automation, AI, and other digitally transforming technologies.

Himadri Das: I think there multiple things, Guy, which comes to my mind. And I think as an organization, we are also gearing up ourselves into that direction. So if I can give you certain thought process or certain areas of which I truly believe, where the market is going to be in automation. First area is the post-modern enterprise area. So, meaning how the administrative and the operational side of ERP can be made more efficient. I mean, especially if you go to any manufacturing organization or, kind of, any service sector, they demand changes because of the nature of their job. So if I go to a hospitality service there, I don’t have a production unit. I have mainly services unit out there. But if I go to a manufacturing unit like pulp industry or retail industry, good, I need to make sure that I have both operations and the administrative part of it. So many times this post-modern enterprises, the concept that is emerging is very powerful. That how can you focus your ERP strategy based on the industry or the business that you’re operating in and bring automations out there. So I think that’s one area where I see automation will move down the line. I think second, very important, especially with the advent of 5G, which is going to come, is industry 4.0 concept. Meaning how are you able to orchestrate an integrated Internet of Things with the devices that are working on the production? With the devices that are working on the field? On the service side? And making that orchestrated with your IT platform so that business can leverage those functionality. And industry 4.0 is not a concept which is recent. I think this is going on for last 20, 30 years because you have sensors which are built in the manufacturing unit. But the demand will be more and more, especially with the 5G. And I think in this direction, automation will also get a lot of traction. So, that’s the secondary I see automation will move. Third, very interesting area, again at a very nascent stage. But I think that is going to be a disruption and people need to be gearing or organizations need to gear into that direction. It’s quantum computing because how we operate today will actually change totally tomorrow, when you have this quantum computing, which is from a binary, two bits or quantum, quanta, we will move into that direction. This change entire way we see things. Today, we are working on a linear operations in terms of algorithm. Tomorrow, we will be working on an exponential algorithm once this quantum computing comes into place. So I think that is third area where automation will get severely impacted or will change the way we see things. Fourth one, I think, again, that’s very much relevant today, but we need to build more and more traction around it, is artificial intelligence and machine learning, because how are you going to optimize a particular AI algorithm for a particular sector? I think that requires a historical data and that requires self-learning, supervised or unsupervised learning around it. So I think a lot of traction need to be built and it is still in the development phase. I won’t say it’s still in a mature phase. So, that is one side. And the last one I would like to emphasize about, is this distributed architecture. I think it’s very important that in the transformation journey, we don’t land up always telling customer that transform everything, move to SAP or move to Microsoft Dynamics, that will solve your problem. No, it is not, because 80% of their architecture is into legacy. So how are you going to connect that legacy with the new world with API’s, SDK’s, microservices architecture? I think that is very, very critical for good automation solution to be. So I think those are five, six areas where I see that automation is going to move there.

Guy Nadivi: Well, I definitely agree with you that quantum computing is going to be very disruptive. It’ll be very exciting actually to see how it affects automation and AI especially. Himadri for the CIOs, CTOs and other IT executives listening in, what is the one big must-have piece of advice you’d like them to take away from our discussion with regards to moving forward with digital transformation?

Himadri Das: I think there are a few points I would emphasize, Guy. Again, out of my experience and out of the Nordic market demand that we can see, the first and foremost I can see, they’re the KPIs. But the measuring parameters are moving away from operational KPIs over to business-led KPIs. For example, I think it’s very easy to say that, okay, I will keep my network up and running 99.99%. Okay, that’s fine. As a vendor, I’m managing that, but it’s still businesses red. This is called watermelon effect. Rather, I think more and more the direction in which organization will move, that, okay, Dear vendor, I want order-to-cash process to be automated. I want return in order-to-cash process to be automated. So I think those business KPIs will become more powerful demand from organization, especially to the service providers rather than operational-led KPIs. And this is actually moving out from the comfort zone. It means that different vendors need to work in the CR model with different other vendors to make sure that you deliver the business KPIs instead of your own operational KPIs or your own silos. That’s one thing I think more and more organizations need to move, and CIO need to focus on business KPIs. Second part, which I have emphasized multiple times is the integrated architecture. How can you leverage that using APIs and SDKs instead of doing a monolithic shift from a legacy to a new one? I think that’s the second one I would emphasize. Third one is, still keep a very tight focus on the operational efficiencies. I think run efficiencies is where you are going to free up money and you are going to invest into your capex pot, where new or innovative things need to be done. New developments need to be executed. So I think that focus should never go away. And for cognitive AI and ML, I would say, customer, CIOs, CEOs need to put their hands and keep their hands dirty because how can you shift it from a concept to a real execution? I think there I have seen many a times that management focus is not there because these are just jargons. So I think there, we need more and more organization to keep focus, have attention, have a dedication and make sure that it is happening top-down and bottom-up in both ways. So those will be my recommendation in short, Guy.

Guy Nadivi: Some very forthright advice. All right. Looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Himadri, you’re the first thought leader we’ve ever had on the show from Scandinavia and it’s been very interesting to get your perspective on the state of digital transformations in that part of the world. Thank you very much for coming on the show and sharing your insights with us.

Himadri Das: And Guy, thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you and share my thoughts. Thank you so much.

Guy Nadivi: Himadri Das, head of automation at TietoEVRY, Scandinavia’s biggest IT, business consulting and outsourcing service provider. Thank you for listening everyone. And remember, don’t hesitate, automate.



Himadri Das

Head of Automation at TietoEVRY. 

Himadri is leading automation initiatives in TietoEVRY as “Head of automation” within global business applications organization. His key focus includes driving end to end full stack automation solution covering business driven automation, RUN and Build automation as well as support function automation solutions leveraging AIOps though Cognitive, ML and AI technologies.  

Himadri’s career span through multiple multinational organizations with a rich experience from sales, application modernization and building next generation business driven solutions. TietoEVRY is THE leading Nordic IT firm with 3 billion € annual revenue turnover with 24000 strong professionals working from onshore, nearshore and offshore sites. 

Himadri can be reached at: 

LinkedIn:           https://www.linkedin.com/in/himadri-das-7b54963/ 

Article:              TietoEVRY Touts Lack of Lock-In From Third-Party Automation Tool 

White Paper:   Application Renewal 

Quotes

“I think now over 95% of population is working from home and I think they are able to deliver most of the services without any major business disruptions with the last two months. So in a way, Guy, I think I have seen this COVID-19 situation has broken a lot of myths. We are able to meet all the requirements that the customer need, yet we are compliant with the SLAs and the KPIs that we have. So, it is kind of a game changer in many ways, this COVID-19 situation.” 

“On the automation part, I think the biggest hurdle or the biggest roadblock that I have seen, again, this is the biggest opportunity, is how can you break silos and make automation as end-to-end orchestration?” 

"… if you are able to automate things from the self-service portal, from service desk, where you are actually getting the real tickets, the huge volume of tickets, then the automation potentials are much, much higher." 

About Ayehu

Ayehu’s IT automation and orchestration platform powered by AI is a force multiplier for IT and security operations, helping enterprises save time on manual and repetitive tasks, accelerate mean time to resolution, and maintain greater control over IT infrastructure. Trusted by hundreds of major enterprises and leading technology solution and service partners, Ayehu supports thousands of automated processes across the globe.

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Links

Episode #1: Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #2: Applying Agility to an Entire Enterprise
Episode #3: Enabling Positive Disruption with AI, Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #4: How to Manage the Increasingly Complicated Nature of IT Operations
Episode #5: Why your organization should aim to become a Digital Master (DTI) report
Episode #6: Insights from IBM: Digital Workforce and a Software-Based Labor Model
Episode #7: Developments Influencing the Automation Standards of the Future
Episode #8: A Critical Analysis of AI’s Future Potential & Current Breakthroughs
Episode #9: How Automation and AI are Disrupting Healthcare Information Technology
Episode #10: Key Findings From Researching the AI Market & How They Impact IT
Episode #11: Key Metrics that Justify Automation Projects & Win Budget Approvals
Episode #12: How Cognitive Digital Twins May Soon Impact Everything
Episode #13: The Gold Rush Being Created By Conversational AI
Episode #14: How Automation Can Reduce the Risks of Cyber Security Threats
Episode #15: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Transform IT from Reactive to Proactive
Episode #16: How the Coming Tsunami of AI & Automation Will Impact Every Aspect of Enterprise Operations
Episode #17: Back to the Future of AI & Machine Learning
Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective
Episode #19: Why Embracing Consumerization is Key To Delivering Enterprise-Scale Automation
Episode #20: Applying Ancient Greek Wisdom to 21st Century Emerging Technologies
Episode #21: Powering Up Energy & Utilities Providers’ Digital Transformation with Intelligent Automation & Ai
Episode #22: A Prominent VC’s Advice for AI & Automation Entrepreneurs
Episode #23: How Automation Digitally Transformed British Law Enforcement
Episode #24: Should Enterprises Use AI & Machine Learning Just Because They Can?
Episode #25: Why Being A Better Human Is The Best Skill to Have in the Age of AI & Automation
Episode #26: How To Run A Successful Digital Transformation
Episode #27: Why Enterprises Should Have A Chief Automation Officer
Episode #28: How AIOps Tames Systems Complexity & Overcomes Talent Shortages
Episode #29: How Applying Darwin’s Theories To Ai Could Give Enterprises The Ultimate Competitive Advantage
Episode #30: How AIOps Will Hasten The Digital Transformation Of Data Centers
Episode #31: Could Implementing New Learning Models Be Key To Sustaining Competitive Advantages Generated By Digital Transformation?
Episode #32: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #33: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #34: What Large Enterprises Can Learn From Automation In SMB’s
Episode #35: The Critical Steps You Must Take To Avoid The High Failure Rates Endemic To Digital Transformation
Episode #36: Why Baking Ethics Into An AI Project Isn't Just Good Practice, It's Good Business
Episode #37: From Witnessing Poland’s Transformation After Communism’s Collapse To Leading Digital Transformation For Global Enterprises
Episode #38: Why Mastering Automation Will Determine Which MSPs Succeed Or Disappear
Episode #39: Accelerating Enterprise Digital Transformation Could Be IT’s Best Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic
Episode #40: Key Insights Gained From Overseeing 1,200 Automation Projects That Saved Over $250 Million
Episode #41: How A Healthcare Organization Confronted COVID-19 With Automation & AI
Episode #42: Why Chatbot Conversation Architects Might Be The Unheralded Heroes Of Digital Transformation

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Disclaimer Note

Neither the Intelligent Automation Radio Podcast, Ayehu, nor the guest interviewed on the podcast are making any recommendations as to investing in this or any other automation technology. The information in this podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please do you own due diligence and consult with a professional adviser before making any investment

Episode #42: Why Chatbot Conversation Architects Might Be The Unheralded Heroes of Digital Transformation – Botco.ai’s Rebecca Clyde

July 16, 2020    Episodes

Episode #42: Why Chatbot Conversation Architects Might Be The Unheralded Heroes of Digital Transformation

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast, we interview Rebecca Clyde – CEO & Co-Founder of Botco.ai. 

Fans of “Westworld”, HBO’s dystopian science fiction drama, recognize the understated yet outsized role of Lee Sizemore’s character as crucial to the series plot.  As head of the Narrative and Design division of Westworld’s Mesa Hub, Lee is responsible for the storylines of the “hosts”.  The scripts he creates for them ultimately determine the experience of Westworld’s guests, and whether or not they’ll become repeat customers.  Lee Sizemore’s futuristic-sounding job is somewhat paralleled in the present-day by people who architect conversations for AI chatbots. It’s a field of growing importance that’s crucial to the outcomes generated by conversational AI, and ultimately, digital transformations.   

For insights on the current state of this craft, we turn to one of its more notable practitioners, Rebecca Clyde, CEO & Co-Founder of Botco.ai.  Rebecca shares many of her unique insights with us, and along the way we learn how early adopters of conversational AI are experiencing triple-digit percentage improvements in their sales conversion rates, how technology can make AI-driven chat conversations more engaging for people, and why taking the ontology learning approach to natural language processing might ultimately be better long term than machine learning. 



Guy Nadivi:Welcome, everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation Radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Rebecca Clyde, CEO and Co-Founder of Botco.ai, a conversational AI platform enabling meaningful and intelligent conversations between businesses and their customers. Prior to co-founding Botco.ai, Rebecca was with Intel for many years. In July of 2018, the Phoenix Business Journal chose her as one of that city’s most admired leaders, and in 2016, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce honored Rebecca as its Athena Businesswoman of the Year.

Guy Nadivi: Rebecca is not only very accomplished, but she also has a lot of insight to share about conversational AI, which is becoming increasingly important to organizations worldwide in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Rebecca is also the latest woman we’re featuring for our Women in Tech series, which profiles some of the outstanding women helping to shape the technology industry. Rebecca, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Rebecca Clyde: Thank you, Guy. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today and to participate on this podcast.

Guy Nadivi: Rebecca, at the Fuel conference in Belgium a couple of years ago, you gave a presentation listing some of the many advanced ways organizations were already using chatbots, automation, and AI, to empower their customers with an always-on channel for self-service, and a way for them to interface with the organization. For organizations that have already implemented conversational AI for their customers, how has that given them a competitive advantage today?

Rebecca Clyde: That’s a great question. Thank you, Guy. One of the things we’re seeing our customers benefiting from intelligent chat nurturing, is that they’re able to shorten their buying cycle, the buying cycle for their customers, because they’re cutting back this typical back and forth that goes on, phone tag, that is so common in the buying process. So by being able to eliminate that, our customers are noticing that they can close a sale much more quickly, they’re doing so in a much more effective manner, and they’re also converting more of their customers that either are coming to their website or coming to their different digital channels.

Rebecca Clyde: Our customers are reporting even 100 to 103% improvement in those conversion rates, which of course means that their top line is growing as a result. So that’s one of the biggest advantages that we’re seeing. Next, we’re also noticing that our customers using this technology, because they have analytics and they can dive into the types of questions that customers are asking directly on these chat channels. They’re able to glean really, really helpful insights that are useful to inform business strategy. And we’ve even had customers that have introduced entire new product lines based on that information. So not only are they helping customers faster and making them happier and selling more, but now they’re also understanding their customers better and knowing what those customers want to help them inform new products and new experiences but again, go back to driving that bottom line. And then the last thing, this one might sound a little bit more fun, but a lot of our customers are also getting awards and recognition from their peers and from their industry groups. And that’s also great for those businesses, right? So they’re doing good for their customers and they’re also helping to elevate their own brand and their companies within their industries.

Guy Nadivi: There are some concerns about biases creeping into the AI that powers things like chatbots. When you’re using content or some database to train the AI and machine learning that will power a chatbot, how can you ensure that biases don’t contaminate the curriculum, so to speak, and end up corrupting the chatbot?

Rebecca Clyde: Yeah, that’s a very common question and it’s definitely something that businesses should look at closely. We always recommend that our customers closely examine all of their content sources. So is this the latest information, is the data correct, and does it actually reflect the best foot forward that your business has? And then we also recommend testing. So when we have these inputs, what do the outputs look like, and is that really what you want? So this whole idea of just blindly throwing in data and then seeing what comes out on the other end, you really can’t do that. You have to test it and then if something is coming out on the other side that you don’t like, well maybe there was an incorrect piece of data or some source content or material that’s getting confused or creating this problem.

Rebecca Clyde: And so we always say look carefully at your content sources, look carefully at your data sources and bring in a lot of different points of view from the organization. So don’t just have marketing look at it. Have somebody that’s representing the customer look at it, have somebody that is representing the industry look at it, have somebody from legal. Have a lot of those different points of view. And I know that it takes a little bit longer to do that, but in the end the result is going to be better.

Rebecca Clyde: And this is also where organizations that have diversity built in to the team can also bring those diverse points of view to make sure that you’re not missing something important in this process. Yeah, so that’s really what we recommend. It’s like you have to be really crisp and clear and accurate in terms of what you’re putting in as your data sources, and if those are not right then you can’t possibly expect the output to be great.

Guy Nadivi: As sort of a reality check in order to root out bias, Rebecca, do you think AI algorithms should be audited the same way that financial statements are for publicly-traded firms?

Rebecca Clyde: Yeah. You know, it took us a while I think to get to that point in the accounting world, and in order for that to work you would need to have some kind of a standard that everybody is aware of and is compliant to. You would need some kind of standards body that enforces that standard. And part of the challenge we have right now is that no such standard exists and no such body exists. And so without that it becomes very difficult to audit in a way that’s consistent. I’m always a big fan of transparency for my own business, but not all companies operate from that point of view.

Rebecca Clyde: And then of course the other thing you’d have to think about is would Google and Facebook allow that auditing to take place? And I often think of, it would require Congressional regulation to get companies like that to comply with any kind of public auditing. So it’s a much bigger question that I think as an industry have to ask ourselves, and if we are all in agreement that this needs to happen then we need to get even the Googles, the Facebooks, the Amazons to agree and participate. Otherwise it’s not going to work.

Guy Nadivi: You’ve stated that in addition to computer scientists, programmers, and other technology people, the rush to build AI-driven chatbots requires poets, writers, artists, and others that can infuse a humanist element into the chatbots. Now, not to cast aspersions on people who majored in liberal arts degrees during college, but will the occupation of “Chatbot Conversational Architect” perhaps be a higher-paying career for them over the long run?

Rebecca Clyde: Yeah. Actually I do see a lot of job postings for that role nowadays and I’m sure they’re getting paid well. Writing a conversation for a virtual agent is a lot like writing a screenplay. You have to keep it interesting, you have to keep it engaging, and what makes the conversation really intelligent is not just the immediacy or the correctness of the answer, but it’s also the cleverness of the answer or the empathy that is conveyed in the response. That’s what keeps the conversation engaging. And so without humans to bring in that extra color or dimension, these conversations would just fall flat and be very quickly exited. So we do like to think about how we can introduce that human component to some degree in every conversational interaction.

Guy Nadivi: Now, speaking of that, you’ve talked about building emotional intelligence into chatbots, which of course will move them a step closer to being conversationally indistinguishable from humans. Do we really want that?

Rebecca Clyde: As long as we’re always disclosing to the parties involved that this conversation is being handled by a virtual agent, I think that’s fine. We always advise our customers to make that clear at the beginning of the conversation, in the middle, and at the end. So the person is always very aware of the fact that they are conversing with a virtual entity, not with another human. But as long as that’s happening, I mean, doesn’t everyone want to feel understood and listened to in a conversation? There’s some really great ways that technology can do this just as well or even in some cases better than a person. And that’s by using techniques like mirroring or contextual references, being able to reference something that had been mentioned previously and even providing an appropriate level of personalization. So those are the mix of things that you can introduce to an intelligent chat conversation that really make it more engaging, make it flow more nicely, and then ultimately are more helpful to getting the results that the person is wanting.

Guy Nadivi: Good point. In broad terms, what are some of the lowest-hanging fruit that are best suited for conversational AI applications within an organization?

Rebecca Clyde: I’m always a big proponent of customer engagement because I come from a marketing background, and so from my point of view the brand and that interaction with a new prospective customer is always one of the most important ones. So how can you use intelligent chat to really draw in a new customer, help them find what they’re needing quickly, answer their questions in a helpful manner, do all of those things? That’s always my favorite place to start. But there’s a lot of other low-hanging fruit opportunities out there, and some of those might be around handling questions about employee benefits for large companies or maybe, tech support is another really great one, whether it’s for internal IT support or for your product. So there’s a lot of different places where conversational agents can be very helpful. My favorites, of course, always have to do with engaging new customers, though.

Guy Nadivi: Rebecca, you argued that our on-demand economy has driven the shift towards customers wanting to use chatbots rather than go visit an organization’s website. Now in 2017, Gartner predicted that, “By 2020,” this year, “40% of all mobile interactions will be via virtual assistance.” I don’t think we’ve quite hit that forecast. So let me ask you, when do you predict we’ll reach peak app, as it were, and start transitioning to conversational AI as the predominant user interface going forward?

Rebecca Clyde: Well I can tell you that in my household it already is the predominant user interface, and it’s not just because of me. I’m actually not the one driving it, it’s my kids. So my children that are in their teens right now, that is their number one way of interacting. They’re more likely to ask Alexa or Siri or Google Home a question than to go to a website any day. And this generation, which we call Generation Z, they’re already starting to graduate from college, they’re entering the workforce, they’re becoming a legitimate part of the economy, and I really see this practice, this behavior coming with that wave. And as they emerge into the workforce and become a bigger part of the buying power of the economy, we will see businesses really start to adapt more to that favored way of interaction. And so it’s coming. This generation, within the next five years are going to be well into their twenties, making a decent amount of money and contributing in a big way to the economy. So we better be paying attention if we want to be selling them things like cars and homes and mortgages, all of those things. We better be paying attention.

Guy Nadivi: Interesting. Since you’ve got your crystal ball out, what are some of your predictions for conversational AI over the next three to five years?

Rebecca Clyde: I really see intelligent chat becoming essential to how businesses function. Just as websites became ubiquitous, social media became ubiquitous for businesses, we’ll really go from asking should I have this to why don’t we already have this?

Guy Nadivi: Rebecca, I’m sure many of our female listeners would love to hear from you about what your experience has been like as a woman and an executive in the technology field.

Rebecca Clyde: Yeah. So it’s brought its challenges with it. When I first entered the work force in the late, late nineties right before the dot-com boom there were a lot of women that were emerging in technology and so I had some role models during that time. But what I noticed is that it was kind of like there were a few at the top and then there was not a lot in the middle. Within a big company, it was often sometimes difficult to find female mentors that could really show me the way forward in this kind of new generation. They had older techniques that had worked for them, maybe when women were really trying to emulate men a lot more, but if you were a woman that didn’t want to emulate men but you still wanted to move ahead in your career, there weren’t a lot of acceptable ways to do that. And so I think for a lot of women in my generation kind of trying to navigate those waters has been challenging at times, but we have figured out our way and for many of us, including myself, it really meant leaving a lot of those corporate structures and starting our own businesses in order to create a workplace that really worked for us. I know that that happened to me and to a lot of women that are in my kind of age group.

Rebecca Clyde: And so now what I tell a lot of younger women that are graduating from college now is I say, “Look, go see if corporate America has the answers for you, and if they’re willing to support you the way that you need to, but if they don’t, don’t stay there. Go on your own journey because it’s not worth giving up your entire career if the corporate structure isn’t going to support you the way that you need to be supported.”

Guy Nadivi: Do you think there are any advantages to being a woman in the technology field?

Rebecca Clyde: Oh, huge advantages. Absolutely. I think the biggest one is just simply having a different point of view and a different perspective than everybody else in the room. I’ll often think about how a product would impact my children or would impact… Even form factor is important in technology. When I worked at Intel, I was always pushing for smaller devices or for mobile because women don’t like to carry heavy briefcases. We like to carry small purses or have things that fit in our back pocket. And so we’re always trying to drive the technology to be smaller because we have smaller things that we want to carry around. We don’t want to carry big bulky computers and big bulky phones around. So you have that point of view, you have kind of, I think we tend to think, at least I do, because I have kids, I always think about things in terms of how they would affect my own children or how they will affect even simple things like their developmental brain, their brain is currently developing.

Rebecca Clyde: So I might think about things differently and I also might think about it in terms of lifestyle. Like how does this affect a woman like me who maybe has a different schedule or a different kind of lifestyle that I’m balancing in terms of work and family and home and cooking? I’m just as likely to be on a conference call and running an investor meeting as I am making dinner and baking cookies. Those two things are not mutually exclusive in my life. And so I just think about things more holistically probably, and I think a lot of women are that way too. So yeah, for me it’s been a huge advantage and it allows me to fuse my projects and my work with a lot of creativity and the stuff of life, you know?

Guy Nadivi: Yeah. I like that, a more holistic approach. Very interesting. Rebecca, for enterprise IT managers who have never dealt with conversational AI, what should they know before deploying it?

Rebecca Clyde: So the first thing I always tell people is understand what is the business objective and what is the goal from an organizational standpoint? Because if that is not perfectly clear, then chasing a technology, no matter how great the technology is, won’t solve anything. So I always try to back up, because even my customers will come to me and say like, “Oh, this is so cool. We want to do this.” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s great, but help me understand what business challenge you’re solving. How is this going to help your business and what is really the measure of success here to your bottom line?” And if we can’t articulate that together, then I just say, “Don’t move this forward, because otherwise we’re all going to fail together.” So first and foremost, it’s that.

Rebecca Clyde: And then the second thing is I always find that a lot of organizations, they may not have the expertise internally for this technology, but they think that they should still build it themselves. And I always say that that’s a little bit of a mistake. So if you don’t already have expertise within your organization and it’s not core to your IP, then you shouldn’t be building it in-house. Really, partner with an expert, bring somebody from the outside in that can really show you the way you can bring you lessons learned from other projects and other failures. And that way you can build on what’s already been learned out there and not start from scratch. So those are two pieces of advice I would always give.

Guy Nadivi: And, Rebecca, for the CIOs, CTOs and other IT executives listening in, what is the one big must-have piece of advice you’d like them to take away from our discussion with regards to implementing conversational AI at their enterprise?

Rebecca Clyde: Yeah. So I would say spend some time with the people who actually understand this topic. I’m a big fan of the ontology natural language processing approach because it yields better, longer-term results. And that’s just not my own finding, it’s actually kind of widely accepted in the research and the academic community as well. We find that a lot of businesses will go down a more traditional kind of machine learning path, but that path has its limitations, and even though it’s easier to go down that path at the beginning, it also corners you into some tighter spaces at the end. And we see that a lot of businesses struggle to get long-term results that way. So from a purely technology point of view, I would say explore that ontology-based approach. There’s lots of really good literature on that. In fact, my Chief Science Advisor for our business, Deborah McGuinness, is one of the leading authors on this topic and she has a lot of great content that she’s produced that’s available online. She has a book out on this topic. You can actually learn about this from the experts, and I would say really evaluate that approach. At least give it some thought before moving forward, because I think it could save you a lot of headache in the end.

Guy Nadivi: Great advice. All right, looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Rebecca, there is so much going on in the world right now with the pandemic, the demand for conversational AI solutions, and of course you’re also still a wife and a busy mother and a homeschooling teacher now. So given all that, we greatly appreciate you coming onto the show and providing some really valuable insights for us.

Rebecca Clyde: Thanks, Guy, for having me. I really appreciate it and it’s been a great afternoon conversing with you. Thank you.

Guy Nadivi: Rebecca Clyde, CEO and Co-Founder of Botco.ai. Thank you for listening, everyone, and remember, don’t hesitate, automate.



Rebecca Clyde

CEO & Co-Founder of Botco.ai

Rebecca Clyde is the co-founder and CEO of Botco.ai, a startup offering intelligent chat nurturing solutions for enterprise customers. With more than 20 years in digital marketing in the technology industry, she is passionate about advancing women in tech and currently serves as the co-managing director for Girls in Tech Phoenix. Prior to Botco.ai, Rebecca founded a digital marketing agency, Ideas Collide, now in its 15th year serving global enterprise clients. She was previously a marketing manager at Intel and holds an MBA from Arizona State University. 

Rebecca can be reached at: 

LinkedIn:        https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccaclyde/ 

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/RebeccaClyde  

Quotes

“…we always say look carefully at your content sources, look carefully at your data sources and bring in a lot of different points of view from the organization. So don't just have marketing look at it.  Have somebody that's representing the customer look at it, have somebody that is representing the industry look at it, have somebody from legal. Have a lot of those different points of view. And I know that it takes a little bit longer to do that, but in the end the result is going to be better.” 

“Writing a conversation for a virtual agent is a lot like writing a screenplay. You have to keep it interesting, you have to keep it engaging, and what makes the conversation really intelligent is not just the immediacy or the correctness of the answer, but it's also the cleverness of the answer or the empathy that is conveyed in the response. That's what keeps the conversation engaging.” 

"So how can you use intelligent chat to really draw in a new customer, help them find what they're needing quickly, answer their questions in a helpful manner, do all of those things? That's always my favorite place to start." 

“I really see intelligent chat becoming essential to how businesses function. Just as websites became ubiquitous, social media became ubiquitous for businesses, we'll really go from asking should I have this to why don't we already have this?” 

“…what I tell a lot of younger women that are graduating from college now is I say, ‘Look, go see if corporate America has the answers for you, and if they're willing to support you the way that you need to, but if they don't, don't stay there. Go on your own journey because it's not worth giving up your entire career if the corporate structure isn't going to support you the way that you need to be supported’.” 

About Ayehu

Ayehu’s IT automation and orchestration platform powered by AI is a force multiplier for IT and security operations, helping enterprises save time on manual and repetitive tasks, accelerate mean time to resolution, and maintain greater control over IT infrastructure. Trusted by hundreds of major enterprises and leading technology solution and service partners, Ayehu supports thousands of automated processes across the globe.

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Links

Episode #1: Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #2: Applying Agility to an Entire Enterprise
Episode #3: Enabling Positive Disruption with AI, Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #4: How to Manage the Increasingly Complicated Nature of IT Operations
Episode #5: Why your organization should aim to become a Digital Master (DTI) report
Episode #6: Insights from IBM: Digital Workforce and a Software-Based Labor Model
Episode #7: Developments Influencing the Automation Standards of the Future
Episode #8: A Critical Analysis of AI’s Future Potential & Current Breakthroughs
Episode #9: How Automation and AI are Disrupting Healthcare Information Technology
Episode #10: Key Findings From Researching the AI Market & How They Impact IT
Episode #11: Key Metrics that Justify Automation Projects & Win Budget Approvals
Episode #12: How Cognitive Digital Twins May Soon Impact Everything
Episode #13: The Gold Rush Being Created By Conversational AI
Episode #14: How Automation Can Reduce the Risks of Cyber Security Threats
Episode #15: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Transform IT from Reactive to Proactive
Episode #16: How the Coming Tsunami of AI & Automation Will Impact Every Aspect of Enterprise Operations
Episode #17: Back to the Future of AI & Machine Learning
Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective
Episode #19: Why Embracing Consumerization is Key To Delivering Enterprise-Scale Automation
Episode #20: Applying Ancient Greek Wisdom to 21st Century Emerging Technologies
Episode #21: Powering Up Energy & Utilities Providers’ Digital Transformation with Intelligent Automation & Ai
Episode #22: A Prominent VC’s Advice for AI & Automation Entrepreneurs
Episode #23: How Automation Digitally Transformed British Law Enforcement
Episode #24: Should Enterprises Use AI & Machine Learning Just Because They Can?
Episode #25: Why Being A Better Human Is The Best Skill to Have in the Age of AI & Automation
Episode #26: How To Run A Successful Digital Transformation
Episode #27: Why Enterprises Should Have A Chief Automation Officer
Episode #28: How AIOps Tames Systems Complexity & Overcomes Talent Shortages
Episode #29: How Applying Darwin’s Theories To Ai Could Give Enterprises The Ultimate Competitive Advantage
Episode #30: How AIOps Will Hasten The Digital Transformation Of Data Centers
Episode #31: Could Implementing New Learning Models Be Key To Sustaining Competitive Advantages Generated By Digital Transformation?
Episode #32: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #33: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #34: What Large Enterprises Can Learn From Automation In SMB’s
Episode #35: The Critical Steps You Must Take To Avoid The High Failure Rates Endemic To Digital Transformation
Episode #36: Why Baking Ethics Into An AI Project Isn't Just Good Practice, It's Good Business
Episode #37: From Witnessing Poland’s Transformation After Communism’s Collapse To Leading Digital Transformation For Global Enterprises
Episode #38: Why Mastering Automation Will Determine Which MSPs Succeed Or Disappear
Episode #39: Accelerating Enterprise Digital Transformation Could Be IT’s Best Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic
Episode #40: Key Insights Gained From Overseeing 1,200 Automation Projects That Saved Over $250 Million
Episode #41: How A Healthcare Organization Confronted COVID-19 With Automation & AI

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Disclaimer Note

Neither the Intelligent Automation Radio Podcast, Ayehu, nor the guest interviewed on the podcast are making any recommendations as to investing in this or any other automation technology. The information in this podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please do you own due diligence and consult with a professional adviser before making any investment

Episode #41: How A Healthcare Organization Confronted COVID-19 With Automation & AI – OneShare Health’s Toby Buckalew

July 8, 2020    Episodes

Episode #41:  How A Healthcare Organization Confronted COVID-19 With Automation & AI

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast we interview Toby Buckalew – CIO of OneShare Health.

Much of the world was caught off-guard when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.  As governments began issuing stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow transmission of the virus that causes the disease, the corporate world struggled to redeploy their staff to remote work.  A notable organization that didn’t break stride during this upheaval was OneShare Health from Irving, TX, who leveraged automation and AI to execute a seamless transition to telecommuting for their workforce.  The result enabled their personnel to continue working at the same or higher levels of productivity as before the shutdown. 

The man behind this impressive feat was Toby Buckalew, OneShare Health’s CIO. As a veteran of digital transformations in healthcare, Toby had already laid the groundwork that would be crucial to OneShare Health continuing to offer uninterrupted services to its end users.  Toby joins us on this episode to share numerous insights, including why transforming people is the most important part of an enterprise digital transformation, why introverts may not be cut out for the job of CIO, and why road maps are better than detailed plans when it comes to transformation journeys. 



Guy Nadivi: Welcome, everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi, and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation Radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Toby Buckalew, CIO of OneShare Health, a faith-based nationwide healthcare sharing organization. At the time of this podcast’s recording, we find ourselves in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, we want to find out from a C-suite IT executive in the healthcare space how automation and AI are making a difference to IT operations during this crisis. Toby has a lot of firsthand knowledge to share with us about that topic, and we thought our audience would benefit greatly from hearing him share his insights and takeaways. Toby, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Toby Buckalew: Guy, thank you very much for having me here.

Guy Nadivi: Toby, your organization, like many others, had to transition its personnel to work remotely due to your state’s stay-at-home order, which I understand you were able to accomplish rapidly. What role did automation play in enabling that kind of agility?

Toby Buckalew: Well, Guy, automation was a key element that allowed this to happen. We implemented a cloud-first, cloud-only strategy for our technology infrastructure, which made this possible. Now we required the ability to manage and reconfigure and update several hundred workstations remotely as we redeployed people to work from home.

Toby Buckalew: Now, how do we accomplish this in less than a week without touching all that equipment? Well, cloud-based endpoint management was leveraged to make those needed updates. It’s actually really neat the way it worked out. We matched the serial number of the machine from our database with the user and created a profile for them that said what firewall settings, what software was installed, how it was configured, and what was removed. Then when that user went home and logged in, those updates took effect wherever they were. We did not have to touch all those machines.

Toby Buckalew: Security was a big consideration for us and anyone moving their staff offsite. How do you ensure the same levels of security when you take them out of the protection of that office environment? For us, we did that using AI endpoint security, in addition to the traditional anti-virus and anti-malware endpoint protection that’s out there. But it allows us to monitor the behavior of the machine, what’s happening with the CPU, the memory, the drive, and look at what’s going beyond normal and catch that, suspend that app and notify us, essentially. If we find that it’s suspicious, we can go ahead and block it, quarantine it, remove it, and share that information with the other workstations automatically. So we can have protection beyond the traditional definition file. Together all these tools and information allowed us to move 300 plus people remotely in just a few days.

Guy Nadivi: Wow, that’s impressive. Toby, you were profiled by CIO Magazine, not long ago, for a digital transformation you led at another healthcare organization, and I want to dive into that. But first, I want to ask you, how are digital transformations changing the role of the CIO?

Toby Buckalew: That’s a great question, Guy. The role of CIO is one that continues to evolve. The CIO was the technology guy. He was the enabler. He knew what was going on, what the technology was, what it could do, and how to put it in place and then build the teams to support those. But today, that CIO is not just leading technology drives in a company. That CIO is focused on the relationships in the business and the business itself. Now, as technology becomes more ingrained in all aspects of the business, the CIO’s vision has to change. The CIO themselves have to change. As technology and business is constantly evolving, that CIO has to evolve with it, and not just technology but the business itself.

Toby Buckalew: Now in the past, leading the change for technology change to improve operations was the way to go. But, well, the way to understand this is to look at how the CIO evolved in the first place. A lot of people get in technology because they’re introverts. They’re not comfortable around people. But as those people gain skills and experience and showed some aspects of leadership, they’re put in management roles. Now, that meant they had to work with people, which is often uncomfortable for an introvert. Some of these people, a lot of these people, led to the role of a CIO in some way, shape or form.

Toby Buckalew: But today they can’t just be those introverts. They have to expand and transform themselves to become a people person that understands the business, and not just technology. You used to always be asked, “Does a CIO have a role at the table?” The question was always up in the air, but today it’s almost always “yes”. The thing we need to be asking today is does the CIO understand what we do in the business? That’s a more important question.

Guy Nadivi: So let’s get back to digital transformation, which is a Herculean undertaking under the most favorable of circumstances. However, it must seem positively Sisyphean when trying to digitally transform a company like the one CIO Magazine profiled you for, and I’m going to quickly iterate through the constraints you had to deal with so the audience gets a sense of what you were facing.

Guy Nadivi: The company you digitally transformed was once publicly traded, but their stock had been delisted. Then they went bankrupt and couldn’t spend any money during the bankruptcy process. When you arrived, the facilities, hardware and software were not only out-of-date, but testing a system once caused an outage that left you without power for a week. Exacerbating all of that was the fact that the new owners wanted to change business models and turn the company into a service provider. The cherry on top of all this was that the embattled staff didn’t have a customer-focused mindset commensurate with being a service provider.

Guy Nadivi: Now of all the many things I could ask you about this experience, one in particular leaves me most intrigued. Many CIOs coming into such a dysfunctional situation where they owe no allegiance to the incumbent personnel would have just said, “We’re going to clean house. We’re going to let everyone go and outsource to an MSP.” Or, “We’re going to bring in consultants on site to take over,” or something along those lines. But instead you chose to keep everyone and transform them, so to speak, along with the technology. So I think other CIOs would love to hear from you, Toby, about what factors led you to take that route, and also how confident were you at the outset that the people you started your digital transformation journey with would survive and prove capable of accompanying you over the finish line?

Toby Buckalew: In the beginning, I didn’t know I’d be successful. I didn’t start with a confidence. In fact, it was a huge project to begin with and I knew it going into it. I could have easily gone in, ripped everything out top to bottom, as many do, but much would be lost and I needed to understand what I had to work with. I started down that path. Now, who did what? What was being done today? When would things be replaced, fixed, updated according to the current plan, and where were we in that plan? More importantly, why are things being done the way they are today?

Toby Buckalew: Now, ripping & replacing the people could have happened. The problem I had with that was when I started sitting down with all these people, I realized that they’re the ones who are making all this work. They’re holding all those band-aids and bailing wire together and making the business continue. Not very well, but it continued. So I realized if you don’t focus on the people, your transformation is going to fail. What’s also overlooked is within that group of people, there’s tribal knowledge and experience the business isn’t leveraging.

Toby Buckalew: So I ended up sitting down with everybody in the crew. I asked, “What do you like about what you do? What you dislike? What do you aspire to be doing? What would you do with a magic wand to fix what you do today to make it a better place?” What I discovered was there’s a huge amount of latent talent the company didn’t know it had. They had all the resources they need to fix the problems they had, they just didn’t know it. Not only that, but these people had some tremendous ideas of how to fix what was going on because they had that tribal knowledge and experience.

Toby Buckalew: So ripping all those people out would have jettisoned all that valuable information and experience. So what I realized was we need to bring these people along as part of this transformation, and that’s what made it successful. It wasn’t the technology. Anybody can rip out a system, put something new in. It’s the people that make it happen, people that make it work. Once I understood what I had, I had the confidence and the knowledge that we would be successful.

Guy Nadivi: Fascinating journey. Digital transformations are, as I think many people know, marathons, not sprints. The most commonly cited average duration for a digital transformation project is 5 years. Despite that, they still don’t have a very high rate of success. According to Korn Ferry, a well-known management consulting firm, the average tenure of a CIO is 4.3 years, with some variation based on industry. Toby, what’s the correlation between the high failure rates of digital transformation projects and the relatively brief duration of a CIO’s tenure?

Toby Buckalew: Well, I’m going to have to say to be honest, I think 4.3 years seems a little long for a CIO these days, to be honest. But no, a full true digital transformation involves change of the company culture and use of technology and not simply replacing hardware and software. It’s not a change. That’s a key driver for transformation failures is they just replaced the equipment without looking at the big picture. Now, the expectations are never met when that’s happened and those transformations usually fail when they only focus on technology. I like to say that a transformation is a metamorphosis and not simply a change or a new system.

Toby Buckalew: Now, you combine that with the length of time it takes to implement new systems and services from end-to-end, and you find that the continued spending and time on these projects and subprojects become too much, and people forget the importance and even what they started off to do in the first place. Over time, that fading memory and that continuing increased cost and all that pain leads to a limit in which people say, “Enough is enough.”

Toby Buckalew: Now the pain experienced with that change is long lived systems around which the company culture and business was built can be real anything, let alone a massive transformation. The way around that is to really identify who can help and who’s going to hinder it, who can champion the project and make them all part of it, make them all stakeholders. Find a place for them on the team. But for the CIO, you really have to focus on the relationships inside the executive team and keep them onboard in the transformation in addition to people at all layers of the organization. Make sure you communicate and keep them excited throughout the process. Celebrate the wins.

Toby Buckalew: Now, for the CIO, this is where it can get really draining. If you’re not the people person, you’re the introvert, you’re really stretching yourself to be a people person, that is emotionally draining. You can only go so far before you just had enough, you need a break. That’s where a lot cut the cord.

Toby Buckalew: Others simply move past the technology management elements, other routes, and they failed to embrace the business aspects of today’s CIO, and that creates friction with the rest of the management team. Eventually, there comes a point where it can’t be tolerated anymore. Now, others have narrowed skill sets and they simply implement past what they know and they don’t know where to go next, and so they leave before anything else happens. But it simply highlights the fact that today’s CIO really needs to evolve beyond technology.

Guy Nadivi: Let’s switch gears for a moment. At our company, we have a number of customers in financial services. Two months ago, if you had asked me whether they would be open to having their IT staff work from home on sensitive systems while letting automation do a lot of critical tasks on premise in their absence, I would have told you that a marshmallow probably has a better chance of surviving a campfire. Now, today, however, that taboo has been largely vanquished because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which has kind of forced the issue for a lot of companies. Your industry, healthcare, is just like financial services in that it’s subject to a very strict regulatory regime. So Toby, I’m curious, has the pandemic changed things enough in healthcare that more IT operations work is being deferred to automation, artificial intelligence, et cetera, so IT workers can remain at home, and if so, will that new norm remain after the pandemic ends?

Toby Buckalew: Well, I think the short answer is yes there, but in my opinion there’s three main elements involved with the pushback against people working from home, in the first place. The first is culture. If you think about it, most of today’s managers are raised in an environment in which workers and their work was always visible, and that’s how you knew how work was being done. In order to do that, they had to be right in front of you. Working from home changes that mindset. You can’t see their work directly. You can’t see the workers directly.

Toby Buckalew: The second part of that is fear and the fear of loss over control of data, sensitive data more specifically. In financial services and healthcare, these are areas in which we have federal regulation that controls what we do with that data.

Toby Buckalew: Now, technology is a third element here. For the most part, today’s workers and the managers’ lives, technology to safely and securely allow and manage remote workforces simply didn’t exist as it does today, but they still hold on to that fear and that culture of the past and the memory of technology of the past. Today’s technology workers still have access to all that same information services they did years ago, but now today it’s much easier to safely and securely store that data, manage that data, and access that data thanks to cloud services and connectors.

Toby Buckalew: The next step in that is simply we have artificial intelligence services that can help monitor and control the movement of that data and dramatically improve our ability to secure it and maintain a PCI, PII, HIPAA security needs. Now these tools help address some of the fear and cultural concerns many companies have or many managers have, but the cloud-based technologies today provide those platforms to let us do it. Today, many of those systems are superior in security when compared to your legacy systems and Co-Los and server closets and data centers of even people today.

Toby Buckalew: Now, what we did is our entire team is now working remote, and we have managers with some of those same mindsets because they’re people, and that’s a thing of all people. Our entire team is now remote, but they’re doing the same things as they did before at the same or better service levels that we previously offered. There’s some social engineering there. It’s going to be interesting to study. But we also leveraged those AI tools to help our service desk platform give our users submitting tickets remotely a chance themselves. If it’s an issue that the AI found a solution for or closely matching a solution for, that allowed us to take care of those issues quickly and focus on those that it couldn’t help. We also leveraged data management AI tools for content identification and blocking, especially related to healthcare information. I already mentioned earlier, AI tools for our endpoint protection. But together these tools in security gave our management team enough confidence that this is working well. This can happen.

Toby Buckalew: As for the future, for everybody else, as they say, the cat’s out of the bag, Pandora’s box has been opened. It’s going to be difficult to reverse these trends that have these new norms that have emerged from the pandemic, but not only are companies seeing improved productivity in many cases with their workers and teams, they’re finding that there are savings to be had in operational costs and facilities costs by not having to house all these people in a single location. It also plays well with the changing lifestyles and expectations of Gen Y and Gen Z today. But when all of this is over, there’ll be some semblance of familiarity, there’ll still be a need for people in an office, but there’s going to be a larger percentage of a work from home force just because this whole pandemic has forced us to embrace it and see that it really can work if done properly.

Guy Nadivi: Now, since you’re the CIO of a healthcare organization, Toby, I’m very curious, what role do you envision automation, artificial intelligence, and other digitally transformative technology is playing in the future of healthcare IT?

Toby Buckalew: Well, AI and digital transformation are key to the future of healthcare in this country. The always increasing costs, the over-testing out of the fear of liability, not understanding disease correlations, the high tech fraud that takes place, they’re all common elements in our healthcare environment today. They’re driving up costs and making it more difficult. I believe much of that can be addressed through digital transformation, automation and AI. We amass a tremendous amount of data as part of anyone’s healthcare journey, and the dream of all that data was to leverage it to improve the outcome of that person’s healthcare journey.

Toby Buckalew: Now that dream was never fully realized simply because of the limitations of technology. We are dreaming before the technology was there. But today, if we can go ahead and successfully transform healthcare to control where our data resides, how it’s stored, how it’s secured, how it can be leveraged in a safe and compliant manner, we can address all those problems of the past, and even those that linger here today. Once we have a handle on that data, we can then leverage AI to find possible correlations and indicators resulting in specific healthcare events so we can address them proactively and help someone before they get sick and lower the cost of their treatment.

Toby Buckalew: These tools can even find issues with billing resulting from fraudulent charges, overcharges, and misuse to better control costs on the fraud side. Thinking beyond that, these tools can evolve to help find cures for diseases, and by pointing researchers to potential solutions in those data sets. So the future of transformation and AI in healthcare is really exciting.

Guy Nadivi: Can you tell us about some use cases you’re implementing to incorporate automation and AI into further improving OneShare Health’s operations?

Toby Buckalew: Oh, yeah, sure. Now, our whole existence is about servicing our members and taking care of them. Today, we leverage data automation analytics tools to evaluate our population’s health as a whole, and see those specific events in the population so we can decide what we can do to change our programs to better meet their needs. It doesn’t make sense to offer them something they’re not using. It’s a waste of energy. It’s a waste of money. That money can be used to better help them in other ways. We’re also using those data automation tools to help filter billing information to find, like I mentioned, duplicate bills, overbilling, and other indicators that might show some potential fraud.

Toby Buckalew: Additionally, we’re leveraging AI platforms to help assist our members in finding medical services and identifying quality providers for those services at reasonable prices, which helps improve the quality of their healthcare while controlling costs, which means for us that’s more sharing fund that can go back to help our member population. We bring all this back together. As we build our data warehouse in the backend, we’re going to continue these efforts while leveraging predictive analytics and those AI tools to help identify individual members that are at risk to help guide them to better solutions and, hopefully, prevent them from experiencing a serious illness or other event or better manage their existing condition. So we’re trying to live the future today.

Guy Nadivi: Toby, for the CIOs, CTOs, and other IT executives listening in, especially in healthcare, what is the one big, must-have piece of advice you’d like them to take away from our discussion with regards to leading successful digital transformation projects at their organizations?

Toby Buckalew: One word: people. No matter how large or small the transformation, gaining and retaining the support of others in the organization is paramount to success. For those that say it’s not important, get rid of your customers, get rid of your staff, and see what’s left of the business. There is no business without people. So the people really are your most valuable asset. It’s not that computer; it’s not that software; it’s not that system. It’s the people that make it all work. No matter how much you automate, you’re still going to need them.

Toby Buckalew: Finally, always be willing and able to pivot. Technology is going to continue to evolve at an exponential rate, meaning your transformation will look differently at the end than where you envision it at the beginning. Transformation’s original plans should be more of a roadmap to help guide you along the journey of that transformation and not a step by step detailed plan over four to five years. So always evaluate technology along the way for where it will take you on that journey and not just what it can do for you today, and never forget that people make it all happen. Respect them, take care of them, train them, support them, and get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

Guy Nadivi: Great insight. All right, looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Toby, thanks for coming on to our show during these extraordinary times and sharing your successes with our audience, which I think will be especially encouraging for healthcare IT executives to hear.

Toby Buckalew: Well, Guy, thank you for having me. It was great being here with you today.

Guy Nadivi: Toby Buckalew, CIO at OneShare Health, a faith-based nationwide healthcare sharing organization based out of Irving, Texas. Thank you for listening everyone, and remember, don’t hesitate, automate.



Toby Buckalew

CIO of OneShare Health 

As the CIO of OneShare Health, Toby oversees, develops, and leads their technology strategy and growth. He is an accomplished CIO with more than 30 years of experience and success in multiple industries – four healthcare segments, military retail, and mortgage banking financial service. Starting his career on US military bases in Germany and Italy, he rapidly grasped the importance of having solid strategies to bridge the technology and operations environments.  

Toby's accomplishments span a variety of experiences; from creating applications and systems for HP/Compaq to meet the unique needs of the military retail market to integrating healthcare clinics after acquisition to evaluating potential acquisitions for investors, turning around a healthcare company emerging from bankruptcy, and crafting technology strategies for businesses to overcome their growth hurdles. Having lead sales/marketing, infrastructure, development, application, networking, and customer service teams, his wide breadth of leadership experience brings a full understanding of business to the technology environment. Toby holds a degree in technical management – logistics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.   

Toby can be reached at: 

LinkedIn:                                 https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobybuckalew/ 

OneShare Health:                 https://www.onesharehealth.com/en/ 

OneShare Health Blog:        https://blog.onesharehealth.com/ 

Quotes

“The role of CIO is one that continues to evolve. The CIO was the technology guy. He was the enabler. He knew what was going on, what the technology was, what it could do, and how to put it in place and then build the teams to support those. But today, that CIO is not just leading technology drives in a company. That CIO is focused on the relationships in the business and the business itself. Now, as technology becomes more ingrained in all aspects of the business, the CIO's vision has to change. The CIO themselves have to change. As technology and business is constantly evolving, that CIO has to evolve with it, and not just technology but the business itself.”

“You used to always be asked, "Does a CIO have a role at the table?" The question was always up in the air, but today it's almost always “yes”. The thing we need to be asking today is does the CIO understand what we do in the business? That's a more important question.”

"…a full true digital transformation involves change of the company culture and use of technology and not simply replacing hardware and software." 

“It's going to be difficult to reverse these trends that have these new norms that have emerged from the pandemic, but not only are companies seeing improved productivity in many cases with their workers and teams, they're finding that there are savings to be had in operational costs and facilities costs by not having to house all these people in a single location. It also plays well with the changing lifestyles and expectations of Gen Y and Gen Z today.” 

“…AI and digital transformation are key to the future of healthcare in this country. The always increasing costs, the over-testing out of the fear of liability, not understanding disease correlations, the high tech fraud that takes place, they're all common elements in our healthcare environment today. They're driving up costs and making it more difficult. I believe much of that can be addressed through digital transformation, automation and AI.” 

“…if we can go ahead and successfully transform healthcare to control where our data resides, how it's stored, how it's secured, how it can be leveraged in a safe and compliant manner, we can address all those problems of the past, and even those that linger here today. Once we have a handle on that data, we can then leverage AI to find possible correlations and indicators resulting in specific healthcare events so we can address them proactively and help someone before they get sick and lower the cost of their treatment.” 

About Ayehu

Ayehu’s IT automation and orchestration platform powered by AI is a force multiplier for IT and security operations, helping enterprises save time on manual and repetitive tasks, accelerate mean time to resolution, and maintain greater control over IT infrastructure. Trusted by hundreds of major enterprises and leading technology solution and service partners, Ayehu supports thousands of automated processes across the globe.

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Links

Episode #1: Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #2: Applying Agility to an Entire Enterprise
Episode #3: Enabling Positive Disruption with AI, Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #4: How to Manage the Increasingly Complicated Nature of IT Operations
Episode #5: Why your organization should aim to become a Digital Master (DTI) report
Episode #6: Insights from IBM: Digital Workforce and a Software-Based Labor Model
Episode #7: Developments Influencing the Automation Standards of the Future
Episode #8: A Critical Analysis of AI’s Future Potential & Current Breakthroughs
Episode #9: How Automation and AI are Disrupting Healthcare Information Technology
Episode #10: Key Findings From Researching the AI Market & How They Impact IT
Episode #11: Key Metrics that Justify Automation Projects & Win Budget Approvals
Episode #12: How Cognitive Digital Twins May Soon Impact Everything
Episode #13: The Gold Rush Being Created By Conversational AI
Episode #14: How Automation Can Reduce the Risks of Cyber Security Threats
Episode #15: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Transform IT from Reactive to Proactive
Episode #16: How the Coming Tsunami of AI & Automation Will Impact Every Aspect of Enterprise Operations
Episode #17: Back to the Future of AI & Machine Learning
Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective
Episode #19: Why Embracing Consumerization is Key To Delivering Enterprise-Scale Automation
Episode #20: Applying Ancient Greek Wisdom to 21st Century Emerging Technologies
Episode #21: Powering Up Energy & Utilities Providers’ Digital Transformation with Intelligent Automation & Ai
Episode #22: A Prominent VC’s Advice for AI & Automation Entrepreneurs
Episode #23: How Automation Digitally Transformed British Law Enforcement
Episode #24: Should Enterprises Use AI & Machine Learning Just Because They Can?
Episode #25: Why Being A Better Human Is The Best Skill to Have in the Age of AI & Automation
Episode #26: How To Run A Successful Digital Transformation
Episode #27: Why Enterprises Should Have A Chief Automation Officer
Episode #28: How AIOps Tames Systems Complexity & Overcomes Talent Shortages
Episode #29: How Applying Darwin’s Theories To Ai Could Give Enterprises The Ultimate Competitive Advantage
Episode #30: How AIOps Will Hasten The Digital Transformation Of Data Centers
Episode #31: Could Implementing New Learning Models Be Key To Sustaining Competitive Advantages Generated By Digital Transformation?
Episode #32: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #33: How To Upscale Automation, And Leave Your Competition Behind
Episode #34: What Large Enterprises Can Learn From Automation In SMB’s
Episode #35: The Critical Steps You Must Take To Avoid The High Failure Rates Endemic To Digital Transformation
Episode #36: Why Baking Ethics Into An AI Project Isn't Just Good Practice, It's Good Business
Episode #37: From Witnessing Poland’s Transformation After Communism’s Collapse To Leading Digital Transformation For Global Enterprises
Episode #38: Why Mastering Automation Will Determine Which MSPs Succeed Or Disappear
Episode #39: Accelerating Enterprise Digital Transformation Could Be IT’s Best Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic
Episode #40: Key Insights Gained From Overseeing 1,200 Automation Projects That Saved Over $250 Million

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Disclaimer Note

Neither the Intelligent Automation Radio Podcast, Ayehu, nor the guest interviewed on the podcast are making any recommendations as to investing in this or any other automation technology. The information in this podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please do you own due diligence and consult with a professional adviser before making any investment

3 Steps to Get Your Organization Intelligent-Automation-Ready

Over the past several years, intelligent automation has begun to revolutionize the workplace, facilitating digital transformation and enabling forward-thinking organizations to position themselves on the right side of the future of work. Getting to this point, however, isn’t something that happens overnight. Without the right approach, companies could easily be missing out on the tremendous advantages intelligent automation has in store. So, what’s holding other companies back?

Relatively speaking, the primary obstacle is simple. Many IT decision-makers approach implementation by attempting to merely automate existing processes. What they should be doing instead is changing their entire mindset. In order to do this, there are three key things that must be done, as follows.

Reconsider processes and workflows from start to finish.

Understand that deploying intelligent automation isn’t just a one-off project for the IT department. Rather, it should be an aggregate change that occurs across and throughout the entire enterprise. In order to implement automation at scale, buy-in is needed in every facet of the business.

Incorporating intelligent automation presents an opportunity for leaders and teams to reimagine what they’re trying to accomplish and completely redesign their workflows and processes. Only by starting from the foundation and working automation into each step of the process will the optimal level of efficiency be achieved.

We’d even go so far as to recommend building automated processes first and then working humans into the mix as needed. The actual need for human intervention – or lack thereof – will be quite surprising.

Pose the right questions, right from the beginning.

The right questions can help guide and facilitate the development of a strong, effective and long-term intelligent automation strategy. The problem is, many leaders simply don’t know what those “right questions” happen to be.

If you are among them, we suggest you start by thinking critically about which workflows and processes you currently have in place, and – more importantly – which of those processes and workflows would be best suited for artificial intelligence.

Still having trouble? Flip the switch and instead, start by asking what tasks are intelligent bots not capable of doing? This may help you more clearly pinpoint which processes still require some level of human mediation. The tasks remaining can then be shifted to automation.

It’s also pivotal to keep specific goals in mind when incorporating intelligent automation into the fold. Specifically, asking what you want this technology to help you accomplish should help you identify which pain points for which an automated solution could provide the most value.

Seek opportunities to meld the digital and human elements of your workforce.

At the end of the day, intelligent automation is most successful when it’s implemented with the goal of creating the best possible experience for everyone. Again – it’s imperative that the mindset evolve from automation being an “IT project” to something that permeates the entire organization.

This begins with culture, and changing a company’s culture starts at the top. Not only must the “powers that be” be fully committed to intelligent automation adoption, but they must proactively and consistently send the message that both humans and robots can cohesively work together in a connected ecosystem that benefits both the employee as well as the organization as a whole.

Conclusion

Successful digital transformation occurs when an organization is able to strengthen and grow by empowering its workforce to trust and depend on advanced technology. Without question, intelligent automation is poised to become the foundation of this digitized future. By rethinking how automation fits into the big picture, posing the right questions and merging the digital/human experience, you’ll dramatically improve the chances of a smooth and profitable transition.

Ready to jump in and test the waters? Get up to speed with intelligent automation within minutes by taking Ayehu for a free, 30-day test drive.

Transform Your Organization with AI in 5 Steps

According to IDG’s 2018 State of the CIO report, 73% of IT executives struggle with striking a balance between the need to innovate and the demand to achieve operational excellence. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that IT frequently gets bogged down with a growing list of tools and competing priorities, all of which chip away at precious time and available resources. As a result, more organizations are turning to artificial intelligence as a way to bring technology, data and people together to drive digital transformation. Here’s how you can use AI to do the same in five easy steps.

Step 1: Understand what you can and cannot solve.

While AI has the potential to transform an entire organization, machine learning technology is not yet capable of fully replacing the experience of skilled professionals. Instead, IT teams can leverage automation powered by artificial intelligence to free up skilled workers to do what they do best: apply their expertise to develop solutions for highly prioritized issues.

Machine learning algorithms can sift through mountains of data to spot trends, deliver insights and identify potential solutions. Automation can assist in resolving certain issues. But it’s up to the IT department to apply the deep analysis necessary to achieve business goals.

Step 2: Identify and prioritize problems to address.

Artificial intelligence can help address the two biggest IT challenges: maximizing operational efficiency and improving the customer experience. The role of CIO has taken on much greater importance, with 80% of businesses viewing IT managers as strategic advisors for the business. As such, these individuals, along with others in IT, are responsible for defining key areas of focus for new technology, such as AI solutions. In order to achieve buy-in, new solutions should be presented in a way that closely aligns with broader organization-wide goals.

Step 3: Pinpoint gaps in technology and skills.

The IT skills gap is an ever-present problem, and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time in the near future. In addition to the talent shortage, IT budgets are stagnating. AI solutions can help to mitigate both of these issues by empowering IT teams to do more with less, and at a much faster rate than they could on their own.

Keep in mind, of course, that key skills are still necessary in order to drive these solutions. To address this, many organizations are looking to reskill existing staff. Thankfully, today’s automation tools do not require a PhD to operate them. Regardless, decision-makers should look for a data-based platform that features AI-powered technology.

Step 4: Develop your strategy.

Once you’ve identified which problems AI is capable of solving for your organization, defined the specific challenges you’d like to overcome, achieved buy-in for adoption and assessed what resources you have to work with, the four step is to develop your strategy for deployment. This strategy should include the following main segments:

  • Roadmap – from proof of concept to continuous process improvement
  • Testing Plan – defining what you want to accomplish and what metrics will indicate progress
  • Team – investing in and arranging training for IT staff

Step 5: Prepare for scale.

Any broader AI strategy should involve mapping out data across all systems, services, apps and infrastructure. This includes both structured and unstructured data as well as data in a variety of different formats. It’s essential to select a solution that is capable of ingesting, normalizing and formatting all data sources for analysis.

Further, it’s critical to choose a platform that offers room to mature and scale. And keep in mind, also, that while the “land and expand” concept may work for some companies, others – particularly those with a higher risk tolerance – may be better off to push transformation across the entire organization at once. Generally speaking, however, stable and sustainable change begins by starting small and building on early successes. The key is leaving enough room to grow.

Want to experience some of those early successes now? Launch your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG and put the power of AI and intelligent automation to work for your organization today!