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Episode #49: How One Man’s Automation Journey Took Him From Accidental CIO to Unconventional VC – Ridge Ventures’ Yousuf Khan

September 24, 2020    Episodes

Episode #49: How One Man’s Automation Journey Took Him From Accidental CIO to Unconventional VC

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast, we interview Yousuf Khan – Partner at Ridge Ventures

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others”. Our guest on this episode has gone far, but he’s also gone pretty fast. Yousuf Khan has been CIO for a number of high-profile startups, a couple of them quite notable in the automation space.  His talent and vision led him to those roles, but his networking and outreach allowed him to excel.  Now as Partner with an early stage venture capital fund, he advises both CIOs and startups on how they can work together to bring next generation innovations to market. 

We learn quite a few insights from Yousuf in this discussion, including when it’s better to use artificial intelligence versus automation, how IT executives can prepare themselves to become CIOs, and why the CIO Group Therapy Dinners he started have not only led to better CIO decision-making, but better features in technology products. 



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 Yousuf Khan, Partner at Ridge Ventures an early stage venture capital fund. Yousuf is also a former five-time CIO, most recently at Automation Anywhere and Moveworks, two well-known and high-profile automation providers. Yousuf’s unique perspective as both investor and practitioner in the automation space, makes him a highly coveted thought leader. And given the stepped-up adoption of automation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to tap into his considerable insights and gain a better understanding of what senior IT executives should be aware of as digital transformations are accelerated for business resiliency, as well as competitive advantage. Yousuf welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Yousuf Khan: I thank you so much for having me here. I’m really excited to talk to you. I know you had 17 other people that you wanted to have on this slot, but when you call me up at 2am in the morning and say you’re exceptionally desperate and you need that extra guest, I’m your man. So I appreciate being over here and thank you for having me.

Guy Nadivi: You were the first one to say yes, and we’re happy to have you.

Yousuf Khan: I don’t want to brag, but that’s how I roll. But thank you.

Guy Nadivi: So Yousuf tell us about your background and how you became a CIO in the field of automation?

Yousuf Khan: So first of all, you’ve made a very generous introduction. I think the long short summary is I’ve been a CIO and the first CIO of five companies. And that gave me the exposure to have a very broad mandate, especially if you’re the first technology leader for a company. When you’re looking at internal functions, you can look at it very broadly. And that allowed me to look at everything for business applications and cyber security, of course build out an automation strategy, look at data management and then also advise on go to market. And so my CIO experiences have really looked at those sort of functions and a little bit more. And after two decades of plans and operating, I decided that it was time for me to be able to aid the next generation of startups in enterprise software in my little way that I can having advised companies in the past. And so I decided to join a great firm in Ridge Ventures and looking to invest between three and 7 million into late seed and series A enterprise companies. And hopefully that will aid the next generation of companies, and hopefully I can be helpful in their journey.

Guy Nadivi: Something very interesting is that you founded a group called the CIO Group Therapy Dinner. I know that therapy sessions are always supposed to remain confidential, but can you share some details about any breakthroughs made by participating CIOs at these dinners?

Yousuf Khan: Very interesting question. And yeah, it was kind of a little bit of a joke, but it, as I like to say, I was the CIO of several companies and the chief dinner organizer for a number of CIOs in what I termed as group therapy. And that’s been going on for several years. It started on the back of me joining a company where I was having a real tough time with a specific initiative, which was pretty highly visible and highly critical. And candidly speaking, I felt a little bit out of my depth and wanted to connect with other peers. And I felt that going to large events was probably not the most useful way, at least for me at the time. And when I set up a dinner between two CIOs, myself and one other, 12 people showed up and discovered that a lot of us were having the same issues and we wanted to have those discussions. So over the years I organized those dinners now ranging in the several hundred, which were either sponsored by a VC or a startup. And the objective of those dinners was really to give candid feedback and have a candid discussion. And a lot of really interesting insights. I think first and foremost, I got to understand personally how to make better decisions as a CIO when it comes to specific initiatives, because I was able to learn the lessons from my peers. Second, I think a lot of the startups which wanted feedback. It wasn’t a pitching session. There was no PowerPoint. There was no presentations or even demos. It was a candid conversation between the founding team and the group of CIOs. Product feedback and I think some of the output and some of the features you’ve seen in some of the products that go out there was directly driven from some of those dinners. And I think probably the most important piece was there was a sense of pretty great camaraderie. I’ve been a big advocate for the CIO role, advising CEOs on their first CIO hire as well as being able to, and so part of that is also about sharing the lessons and being able to create a community. And I think those were some of the benefits that sort of came out of that. It largely was just a lot of fun. I continue to organize dinners even virtually now. And I think one of the things that I’ve learned is that you learn a lot from your community around you, and I think it’s something that we can all benefit from.

Guy Nadivi: Since you’re now on the investment side, let’s talk a bit about startups. The vast majority of innovation in automation, AI, and other digitally transformative technologies comes from startups, which can be challenging for enterprises accustomed to working with larger players. Yousuf, how should CIOs work with startups?

Yousuf Khan: One of the things that I’ve found in talking with CIOs has been that they are risk averse in some cases about talking to startups. They’ll happily take a meeting. In some cases, some will not take a meeting, but very few really want to engage at the early stage. I think I’ve definitely been on the opposite side of that having been a design partner of a number of startups. I’ve been early advisor, I’ve been an informal advisor to a number of companies. And so what the way I think CIOs should think about this is as follows. I think if you want to innovate at scale fundamentally and you’re trying to solve a problem in a very creative way, the high chance is that there’s a startup that is focusing on the exact same problem to a certain degree. And so therefore tapping into that with a very focused effort and collaborating and partnering on that is really beneficial for you, number one. Number two is by engaging with startups, it’s a very good development opportunity and professional opportunity for each of your teams and your direct reports. IT teams don’t get enough credit, and that’s why I’ve been such an advocate for the CIO role and mentor IT directors and IT managers. Being able to help even in the infancy of building out a product at an early stage and being able to say that, it’s a great exercise for professional growth. It’s a great opportunity for that. And it allows people to figure out and discover different skills. I think the third piece is that, I would go on to say make a resolution that you want to engage with one startup or two startups a year that you can choose. And that basically means that you need to basically spend a little bit of time connecting with VCs. And sure, I can say that from a vested interest standpoint and hopefully I can be helpful to my CIO peers, but I think being able to say, “Here are the one or two problems that I care about most, and I want to be able to talk to companies in this space,” and you’d be very surprised that you’d actually be able to see some very creative approaches. You haven’t got much to lose by being able to engage. And I think it’s a very, very good use of time. So that’s my recommendation typically.

Guy Nadivi: Interesting. Given your extensive experience Yousuf, where can automation be most useful to an organization and how can a CIO best lead that automation journey?

Yousuf Khan: So the most key thing that you’ve pointed out in your question is that it’s a journey. Automation is a journey in a company and people need to start that journey for a very good reason. Number one is the compute power is now available for us to be able to really be able to drive automation into our businesses. Number two, the data sets are now there. And number three, the innovation and the thinking is there, both internally and externally with companies like Moveworks and Automation Anywhere, which I’ve had the honor to work with in the past. And so understanding that is a journey is the first step. The second part is to be able to think about where you can get a very clear visible win, and that requires you to be able to spend time being able to think about your processes just a little bit more, and then being able to drive that further forward. Third, and probably most important piece is, when you think about RPA, you think about repetitive work and you’ve seen companies, and that’s why companies like Automation Anywhere have been successful, because they’ve been able to drive and deliver customer value consistently by being able to take repetitive processes and being able to completely reduce the human effort of them and automate them entirely. Moveworks has fundamentally been able to understand that you can apply powerful techniques, like natural language understanding and machine learning to be able to resolve IT support issues and IT operational issues in a very, very great user experience using messaging systems like Slack and Teams. And they’ve done that super well. And so, all of those started off in a journey by being able to understand a problem and framing that. Number two, being able to understand that you can do it differently. And number three, understanding that this is the start of the journey that it could basically lead on to. And that’s been pretty consistent with a lot of the CIOs I’ve spoken to as well as being able to look at the number of different solutions.

Guy Nadivi: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more common in enterprises, especially with all the digital transformation initiatives out there. Yousuf, where is it best to use artificial intelligence and machine learning and where is it best to use automation?

Yousuf Khan: Well, that’s an excellent question. I think it’s really important that we take a little bit of a step back, because the buzzwords have been out there for a little while and I think a lot of people get enamored by them. And so, my biggest advice is when you think about use cases, I would break it down into a couple of things. Number one is, are you solving the business problem first and foremost? And what that business problem is will help you try to figure out whether it’s a problem of manual repetitive work for which automation is a very good use case, versus one which requires more automation using more creative techniques, such as NLU and machine learning or otherwise. And so I think framing that problem is probably the most important first step. Second is thinking about use cases from an industry standpoint, which could be beneficial. So if you think about things like fraud prevention, fraud prevention that’s been very common for people to look at statistical processes and techniques and pattern matching to combat fraud prevention for large say telcos or retailers, because that’s a use case that has been sort of beneficial, versus something which is overly creative where the data sets are too varied, machine learning becomes a huge problem. If you think about companies like Moveworks, Moveworks was successful because it understood the business outcome which was being able to resolve IT support tickets. It understood the goal of being able to do that across some very specific areas and then grow it its impact. Automation Anywhere looked at repetitive processes and then built onto intelligent automation. And I think that was important to be able to think about from a use case standpoint. The use cases for each varied, right? If you think about automation, well there’s a lot of repetitive process. So use cases that are typical for automation can range from data entry where you are, I was experienced, for example, migrating one system to another. And the data structures for those were completely varied. And so rather than having to convert them through human effort, being able to do that through a bot designed by Automation Anywhere was great. If you think about a contract order process, which runs in the back end between connecting two systems, you could use automation for things like that. Whereas if you think about chat bots, and if you think about being able to have user experience, then solutions like Moveworks are a great outcome and they’re focused on an end goal, which applies across the entire company. Everyone needs IT support, and so that’s where ML and techniques like NLU become really beneficial. I think the important thing to think about is, one, think about the clear outcome that you’re trying to solve. Number two, the method that you’re basically using, and probably number three is, what is the incremental journey that you’re on being able to continue to add value by using either one of machine learning or automation techniques?

Guy Nadivi: Specifically with regards to automating processes like some of the ones you just listed, how do you think CIOs can best manage teams for automation?

Yousuf Khan: I think probably the most important thing is to actually have that as a focus area. And I do think that there’s a function within companies that should be focused on automation and automation teams should be created. Number one, I think it’s a huge opportunity for professional growth and development. Number two, I think it’s a huge business need, and number three I think it requires dedicated focus. And I think one thing people have not really appreciated, the benefit of automation is it empowers people. It’s much better for morale in a lot of cases where you’re able to take away manual repetitive tasks. And it’s a great sign of innovation for IT teams. And so definitively they should be thinking about building an entire function for that. And that’s one aspect. The second is you’ve got to re-think differently about your processes. I said that earlier, I think it’s important to not be able to migrate. That requires a fresh set of thinking. Companies expand, they grow. In some cases they contract, they take on more technology than they’ve ever done before. Companies are now becoming more technology-driven companies. Software is not just driving companies. It is being embedded in companies. And so therefore you can’t just simply take your old process and put them into this new way of thinking. And probably the third thing is they’ve got to be very focused on goals and put kind of measurements around success. And I think that’s important to do. I think you can be in a journey and it could be a very long journey unfortunately, and you’ve got to be able to iterate along the way. And I think that’s very, very important as well.

Guy Nadivi: Having worked for some automation vendors Yousuf, you’ve seen a lot of automation deployments. I’m curious, which industries did you see that had particularly successful results from deploying automation?

Yousuf Khan: It’s important to basically point out that the opportunity for automation exists across multiple verticals, I think number one. Number two is in terms of the functions, there are some that do really, really well. And some that require a little bit more effort and a little bit more thinking. Let me give you some examples. If I think about customer service, well the opportunity for automation there has really been when you have a high level of demand and you’re not able to, for example, scale-up your customer service center like an airline, for example, may have done over the last several months or a hotel chain. You can’t hire people fast enough, but their processes are very much specifically the same. Refunds, cancellations, otherwise. Could that process be automated? And so definitively the answer to that is yes. And that’s been proven, that’s been done. In some cases in financial services I’ve seen those verticals work well. We’ve experienced that myself. If you want to basically, you’ve gone away from being having to call and actually speak to someone about a lost or stolen credit card. You’re able to fundamentally run through that function through a combination of voice commands, but also candidly speaking through text and be able to basically get a new card ordered without any friction in the process whatsoever. And so I think those things, again, fundamentally if it’s repetitive that’s going to be easy to do, and it’s going to apply across a number of different verticals. I think it’s important to think about the fact that there’s a lot of opportunities which automation is not just about a customer experience. It’s really just about being able to get the work done. That’s a simple way of basically saying is, if you think about a data entry work across different systems, being able to just eradicate that because you understand the type of data going from one system to the other and being able to convert that could be easily done simply because you’re able to train a bot to do it. That’s a definitive value. And that applies across any company because systems are being changed and upgraded all the time. If you are looking at supply chain and inventory management, being able to track those and being able to not just automate the reordering of something, but also to be able to send out warnings and notifications is definitively of value. All of these fundamentally say that automation is a very, very big opportunity for enterprises and companies, and they should be thinking about very deeply about how to be able to benefit from that.

Guy Nadivi: Let’s talk about cybersecurity, which is always a topic of paramount importance to CIOs. And you’ve been CIO of some cybersecurity companies as well as automation vendors. Yousuf, what should CIOs be aware of and concerned about when it comes to the security of their automation initiatives?

Yousuf Khan: I think there’s a couple of things here. First of all, I think, cybersecurity is gone from being kind of something to be discussed, which is something that people will get round to talking about to now being very much in the mainstream and being discussed at boardrooms on a regular basis as an agenda item. Right, so it’s evolved over time. And so I don’t think it’s as specific as saying, “Well, should we think about security in the automation space?” Fundamentally you are buying software or you’re building software from leading vendors. I think that the vantage point that you would apply is really about what are the key areas that that automation is touching. Number one, it’s having access to your systems and being able to touch a number of different systems. So being able to make sure that the APIs are secure and robust. Second, if it’s touching sensitive data, then you’ve got to be very diligent about figuring out how that actually is happening and how you’re able to test that out. Number three, probably most importantly is to really think about the testing that goes into it. Automation use cases can vary from as simple as an email notification to data migration, to financial transactions happening. And it’s really, really important to be able to make sure that you understand that there’s going to be regulations around that, and you have to provide that vantage point as well. So I don’t think it’s massively different to what a CIO would look at when they look to buy a software solution. I think the difference is because this is something that you’re more deeply involved in from a creative standpoint, it’s important to take that extra step to be able to understand what parts of your infrastructure the automation is actually touching and how is that basically protected. And of course, how you’re avoiding making misfires by basically being able to send data out accidentally because you’re in control of that.

Guy Nadivi: Yousuf, for the IT executives and others listening in, what advice would you give them if they’re looking to move into a CIO role?

Yousuf Khan: I’m very grateful to have learned from a number of CIOs. I’ve also taken the objective to learn from different members of the C-suite, of what they expect from CIOs. And so with that in mind, I think I would probably give some key piece of advice. Advice number one is fundamentally the CIO role is a leadership role. And so you have to ask yourself a very honest question, which is, what type of leader do you actually want to be? And I think that’s important because people in IT teams are looking for more leadership, for guidance, both in their careers, but also in terms of direction. I think the second is, how do you navigate complex decision-making and prioritization of work? There’s no shortage of work for the IT organizations, the very hardworking IT organizations that I’ve worked with and I’ve met. And I think it’s really important that CIOs understand how they’re able to, if you want to be a CIO, how you are able to prioritize and how you’re able to basically make decisions. I think the third thing is probably, figure out how you’re able to communicate more effectively across, not just your team, but also across the C-suite and other executive leaders and across the company. I think the CIOs who are most effective in their roles are ones who are able to communicate with customers and partners as well as internal to their teams, as well as the company. Because change management enablement is very, very hard. And I think technological change is something which is really happening more and more in companies. And that’s being driven by CIOs and being able to explain that change, being able to drive that change, being able to see the success of it is a CIO’s responsibility. And so being able to do that, communication is one of the key things that they need to be able to focus on. So that would be my other piece of advice.

Guy Nadivi: Great words of advice from a former five time CIO.

Yousuf Khan: Well, yeah, I would say former is good and a want-to-be VC. I’m the accidental CIO and definitely the unconventional VC as I’ve said a couple of times, but I hope it’s been a benefit to many of my CIO peers.

Guy Nadivi: All right.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Guy Nadivi: Well, it looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Yousuf, It’s always great hearing from an investor in the automation space, but especially someone like yourself, who’s got hands on background that affords him a bit of an advantaged viewpoint. I’m sure our listeners found great value in hearing your perspective today. Thank you very much for coming on the show.

Yousuf Khan: Thank you. Thank you very much Guy. And one thing I do want to say is I do want to thank you for all that you’re doing for the community. I think these conversations are important, not just because I’m having them, but I think you’ve done a great portfolio of work, and I think we could all benefit from that. So thank you for all your work in this community.

Guy Nadivi:I appreciate that. Thank you very much. Yousuf Khan, partner at Ridge Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund. Thank you for listening everyone. And remember, don’t hesitate, automate.



Yousuf Khan

Partner at Ridge Ventures

Yousuf Khan is a Partner at Ridge Ventures and technology leader. Prior to Ridge Ventures he spent several years in executive leadership roles as the CIO at Automation Anywhere, Moveworks, Pure Storage and Qualys. He has been the first CIO at these companies where he led teams covering intelligent automation, IT operations, business applications,  cloud operations to information security. In each of these roles, he has held a broad executive ownership of functions ranging from driving cyber security to executive go to market programs as well as customer success.  

He has been an active member of the CIO community as someone who drives collaboration in the community as well as advising CEO’s of fast growth companies about their technology operations strategy. Yousuf has also been involved in advising early stage founding teams on product and go to market strategy.   

Yousuf can be reached at: 

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

Ridge Ventures:        https://ridge.vc/ 

Quotes

“I think if you want to innovate at scale fundamentally and you're trying to solve a problem in a very creative way, the high chance is that there's a startup that is focusing on the exact same problem to a certain degree. And so therefore tapping into that with a very focused effort and collaborating and partnering on that is really beneficial for you…” 

“…I think one thing people have not really appreciated, the benefit of automation is it empowers people. It's much better for morale in a lot of cases where you're able to take away manual repetitive tasks. And it's a great sign of innovation for IT teams.” 

"Companies are now becoming more technology-driven companies. Software is not just driving companies. It is being embedded in companies. And so therefore you can't just simply take your old process and put them into this new way of thinking." 

“I think it's important to think about the fact that there's a lot of opportunities which automation is not just about a customer experience. It's really just about being able to get the work done.” 

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
Episode #43: How Automation, AI, & Other Technologies Are Advancing Post-Modern Enterprises In The Lands Of The Midnight Sun
Episode #44: Sifting Facts From Hype About Actual AIOps Capabilities Today & Future Potential Tomorrow
Episode #45: Why Focusing On Trust Is Key To Delivering Successful AI
Episode #46: Why Chatbots Are Critical For Tapping Into The Most Lucrative Demographics
Episode #47: Telling It Like It Is: A 7-Time Silicon Valley CIO Explains How IT’s Role Will Radically Change Over The Next Decade
Episode #48: How Microsoft Will Change The World (Again) Via Automation

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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 #48: How Microsoft Will Change The World (Again) Via Automation – Microsoft’s Charles Lamanna

September 16, 2020    Episodes

Episode #48:  How Microsoft Will Change The World (Again) Via Automation

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast, we interview Charles Lamanna – Corporate Vice President, Low Code Application Platform at Microsoft

“To me, Microsoft is about empowerment… we are the original democratizing force, putting a PC in every home and every desk.” That quote by CEO Satya Nadella, of course, reflects the ubiquity achieved by the Windows operating system. His company’s feat of democratization however, is just prologue to the coming revolution Microsoft foresees in automation. An upheaval expected to be so disruptive to the status quo, it will empower the information worker masses to finally overthrow the oppressive yoke of robotic tasks smothering their productivity.  With newfound freedom to unleash their ingenuity, they’ll not only enrich their own lives, but add greater value to the organizations employing them. 

The Microsoft executive charged with redressing the imbalance between toil & talent plaguing white collar wage earners is Charles Lamanna.  As Corporate Vice President, Low Code Application Platform, his portfolio of responsibility encompasses all the critical assets needed to bring Microsoft’s lofty vision to life.  In this wide-ranging discussion, we get first-hand insight from a senior executive on the vital role automation plays in the software giant’s Cloud-First, Mobile-First strategy.  Along the way we’ll also learn why the shifting ratio of repetition to creativity within a given task will determine which automation type it’s best suited for; the automation skills one should master to position themselves for success in the future; and what the single biggest disruptor for automation will be over the next few years. 



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 Charles Lamanna, Corporate Vice President, Low Code Application Platform at Microsoft. Now, there are many products at Microsoft that Charles is responsible for which I’m sure our audience members are very familiar with, including the Dynamics 365 platform, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agent, AI Builder, and the Common Data Service products. And as everybody in IT knows, Microsoft almost always becomes a major player in any market they enter. The automation and AI markets which we focus on, are unlikely to be exceptions to that. So given the strategic automation and AI assets Microsoft has entrusted Charles with overseeing, he’s someone we absolutely had to have on this podcast. And we’re thrilled, he’s taken time out of his very busy schedule to join us today. Charles, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Charles Lamanna: Thank you for having me on the show today, Guy. I’m super excited to get into the thick of automation with you. I know I’ve been a listener recently, so really excited to get into the dialogue.

Guy Nadivi: So let’s start with that, Charles, please tell us a bit about your role at Microsoft and the types of automation you’re focused on.

Charles Lamanna: Sure thing. So as you mentioned, I’m the Corporate Vice President of Low Code Platforms at Microsoft. So I’m on the R&D side, engineering and product management, lead those teams related to the Power Platform and Dynamics 365. The most relevant products that I oversee when it comes to automation and AI is Power Automate, which is our robotic process automation offering at Microsoft. Power Virtual Agent, which is our low code chatbot experience, and AI Builder, which is our low code AI and machine learning tool for business users and business developers. And those three things really together combine to create what we call our automation platform.

Guy Nadivi: So earlier this year, Microsoft made a big splash in the automation market by acquiring Softomotive, an automation vendor with 9,000 global customers. And that capped off a sequence of high-profile transactions in the automation space, which made it clear this is going to be a market of intense focus for some very significant players. Charles, how does Microsoft’s automation fit into its Cloud-First, Mobile-First strategy?

Charles Lamanna: That’s a great question. The first thing I’d say is that we’re super and incredibly excited about the Softomotive acquisition within Microsoft. We think it really is a great compliment to Power Automate, Power Virtual Agent, AI Builder. To really kind of map back what we were thinking around Softomotive in our general automation strategy, I do want to spend a second just talking about the overall automation vision at Microsoft, because that I think helps paint a really good picture for it. When we talk about that vision, there’s really four main pillars to it. The first one is that automation is more than just UI Automation. One of the big trends recently in automation technology has been robotic process automation or RPA. But RPA historically is incredibly centered and focused on UI Automation and more specifically Windows-based automation. And it’s our view that that UI Automation is necessary, but insufficient to really enable interesting automation scenarios and really transform every aspect of every company in every country around the world. So things like API connectivity or API-based automation or AI capabilities like natural language understanding or NLU or a whole bunch of other exciting AI technologies, those are also key ingredients. So just being more than UI Automation is really important. The second is being cloud first. We think there’s I’d say a legacy of automation being very PC-centric, very on-premise centric, and there’s some real potential to reimagine what automation looks like in a cloud native, cloud first way. So that’s really important to our vision. Number three is that automation has to be generated and supported by AI. Has to be enabled by AI capabilities in terms of identifying what can be automated and the best way to automate it. As well as when those bots run, use AI to go make them better over time. And last but not least, by far my favorite aspect of our vision is low code. And this permeates really a lot of work we’re doing at Microsoft these days. But low code is a whole idea that you want to make it so anybody and everybody can be a developer, can build bots, can contribute to the automation revolution. That’s not just constrained to a small group of experts or developers. So those are the four aspects more than UI Automation, cloud first, generated & supported by AI, and low code. But getting back to the Softomotive acquisition, the WinAutomation desktop app was really in our view the leading low code RPA tool out there, has a huge fan base, very frequently adopted virally and by business users. So people just going to a .com, downloading it, and starting to automate. Additionally, WinAutomation was built in such a way as well as with the new open source Robin programming language for easy accessibility into the cloud. So it can very easily integrate with a cloud provider. So that combination of that low code desktop application, as well as the cloud integration and cloud readiness made Softomotive a great fit for the Power Automate vision and the Power Automate offering, and therefore a really great fit for the broader and mobile centric cloud first approach that Microsoft is taking these days.

Guy Nadivi: Interesting strategy. So there are many professionals today Charles, that can be categorized as information workers and maybe eventually some of them will also become app developers in the sense that you were talking about. How do you envision automation changing the jobs of information workers, and which roles or positions do you think will be the most difficult to automate?

Charles Lamanna: Yeah, I would say, we think that automation will be an important part of really any modern information worker job in the future. But the importance and the criticality will be a spectrum from say, somewhat impactful to very impactful, but really all information workers will feel that impact, will feel the responsibilities change and evolve over the next five years or so. And a major reason for that is the advancements in artificial intelligence to understand unstructured content like voice, video, text, as well as the fact that basically all the information worker’s job is captured digitally, is running on a PC or on a mobile device or mirrored in the cloud. So you can really start to enhance and automate almost any profession. However, I’d say that this transformation isn’t, I’d say all or nothing. There’s actually two really different ways that we look at what automation will do. The first is what I would call human assisted automation. And the second is autonomous automation. When we talk about human assisted automation, the idea is it’s all about helping a human do their job better, be faster, reclaim time, spend more energy on creativity and high value, high cognitive tasks. Less on doing data movement or simple rote activities. And autonomous automation is automation happens in the background. Does things without interacting with the human, pulling work off a queue or responding to events. And there are two fairly different approaches in terms of how automation can impact an information worker. And we think that some jobs will be heavily impacted by autonomous automation while others will be impacted primarily by the human assisted automation. And the difference between the two is really going to depend on how much repetition and how much creativity happens as part of the job. There’s more repetition and less creativity, there’s going to be more autonomous automation. If there’s less repetition and more creation, there’s going to be more human assisted automation. And that human assistant automation can sometimes be really subtle. If you imagine, in Outlook these days there’s suggested responses to emails, right? That’s automation. That helps me respond to emails more quickly, things like that. So we’re really going to see this permeation of applications, whether they’re integrated with the standard SaaS apps, standard OS’s or custom bespoke automation built for a company, we’re really going to see an emergence across both those front, the human assisted and autonomous-based automation.

Guy Nadivi: Okay. Let’s expand a bit on what you said and assume that automation will be part of the role for all or most information workers in the future. If I’m a college graduate entering the IT job market, or a seasoned IT professional looking to change specialties and interested in automation either way, what skills should I focus on acquiring to accelerate my career?

Charles Lamanna: Yeah, the first thing I’d say is automation is a fairly broad ecosystem. So if you want to be part of the automation revolution in terms of contribute to building out these different automations within the enterprise, you have to I think go to a few different places. The first one I would say is UI Automation, RPA is a really key aspect of it. And that’s because there’s a whole lot of systems which can only be reached via UI Automation. Like I said earlier, it’s necessary but insufficient, but you definitely want to go out and get familiar with RPA tools and UI-based automation. The second thing is get a good view of APIs, and what enterprise application integration looks like, whether that’s APIs or event-driven architecture, because that’s the more future-looking way that automation will be built and created in the enterprise. And having a good view of service-oriented architecture, microservice, API catalog, event catalog, things like that will be very useful. The third is interesting because I’d say it’s not really related to technology at all. And that’s understanding business processes and designing business processes. Because automation is all about improving a business process. So knowing the language, the terminology, and the aspects you want to optimize when it comes to business process engineering is a really great tool. The fourth thing would be just a standard software development life cycle. If we go look at what it looks like to build out these automations, there is a design phase, there’s a planning phase, there’s development, there’s deployment. And the automation tools out there are compressing these cycles to be just hours or days long as opposed to weeks or months. But you still should know that cycle because that’s important to be successful in the enterprise. And the fifth, which I would say is the extra credit, but it’s going to really separate the good from great is going to be AI and ML understanding. And you don’t have to be a deep learning expert, doing super 40 megawatt AI model training like GPT-3 or something. We should feel comfortable around the … At least the high level concepts of machine learning. So things like reinforcement learning or transfer learning, which are going to be really important in the future when it comes to building durable, reusable, high value automation, at least from Microsoft’s perspective. So those are kind of the five things. Four, I’d say standard, and one, a little bit extra credit that would be important to really be successful in the IT space when it comes to building automation and the enterprise.

Guy Nadivi: Let’s talk about one form of durable automation that you’re referencing. In the form of AI-driven assistance or bots, which are growing in prevalence for a lot of customer-facing applications. Gartner believes there are as many as 1,500 chatbot vendors worldwide. And I quote, “The majority of these conversational platform vendors offer very simple platforms using modified open source components to deliver simple question and answer chatbots.” Now I think it’s safe to assume the market doesn’t need 1,500 vendors in this space and an inevitable shakeout is coming. Charles, what kinds of things do you think will differentiate the survivors in this market space from the vendors who will fall by the wayside?

Charles Lamanna: Yeah, I think like any kind of technology market, as it becomes more mainstream, you start to see more consolidation and all-in-one offerings start to emerge as opposed to lots of little point solutions. And folks that know me well, I love my numbered lists. So I’d say there’s probably four different aspects that will really define what chatbots in the future will look like, that at least map into our strategy at Microsoft. The first is omni-channel, and what we mean by that is a chatbot that only works in a web-based chat experience is going to be insufficient in the future. You’re going to need to support I’d say WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook, voice, things like Alexa. There’s really going to be a need to support all kinds of different form factors to be successful. And you need to abstract away those channels from the bot authors and bot developers. So the ability to go reach into tons of different channels will be absolutely essential. The second is really being deeply, deeply AI-enabled. Chatbots are probably one of the best places where we see amazing return on advanced AI right now. Things like reinforcement learning, where you actually improve the control flow in your chatbots based on experiments and the results, and improve your models basically for matching entities are intense. For the bots that have used that for our technology at Microsoft, that significantly improves the success rate of sessions. And that’s pretty sophisticated AI capabilities. The third is really integrating with broader business processes, because what we see is no bot is an island, right? No man is an island, no bot’s an Island. No bot just exists on its own. It has to integrate with other systems in the enterprise to take actions, to fulfill returns, to help a customer purchase something. That requires integrating with other workflow systems, other databases, and really kind of running the end to end workflow. So really that integration to a broader ecosystem is going to be key. And the fourth one, the last one I think is not always super obvious, but it’s the ability that go hand off to a human, to work with a human, to have a chatbot and humans work side by side. And this, the reality is that there is no general artificial intelligence. There is no chatbot that you can run that can answer any question of a customer with anything. So any chatbot will always run against its limit – the limit of its abilities. And in those cases, you can’t churn the customer out or push them to a dead end, or say “We’ll call you back.” Instead, you need a seamless amnesia-free handoff to a human agent that can continue the conversation and grind it out. And what we’re finding is that this is what allows the usage of chatbots as a main line dependency in mission critical enterprise defining business processes, because you can cover the 75% with the chatbot and then you can cover the 25% with the human. And this is a great example of that human assisted bot versus human assisted automation I was talking about earlier. And one of the great examples of this at Microsoft internally, we have a chatbot which we use for our support experiences at support.microsoft.com. There’s over a million support cases that run through it every month. And the chatbots and human agents work hand in hand to address the needs of our customers. This produced, when we rolled it out, demonstrably, better customer satisfaction. We improve the customer experience and at a much lower cost. So that last one we think is going to be key. And if you do just a chatbot and don’t have a story for human agents behind the scenes, you’re really going to be leaving a bunch of use cases on the table. Because when a customer runs up against those dead ends, they’re going to go bail on the chatbot entirely. So I think those are the four main things that we really think are going to be defining for the space over the next few years and therefore be defining for the vendors in the space over the next few years.

Guy Nadivi: Speaking of humans, when you talk with your customers, what are they telling you are some of the biggest challenges they’re experiencing in deploying automation within their organization?

Charles Lamanna: Yeah, I’d say the biggest thing we hear really with everybody is finding the right skills, finding employees and experts with the right skills. And when I talk about skills, it’s not just related to the technology. It’s also about how do you understand the problem, how do you understand business process engineering. How do you understand the business needs, where automation will provide value. And that combination of being able to understand the business process, understand the business needs, in addition to understanding the automation technology, whether it’s RPA, AI, or DPA – that combination is really what we see a lot of organizations struggle with, and things like creating automation centers of excellence or doing internal skilling and training programs. The combination of those things is really what customers are trying to do today to go respond to this challenge. I mean, there’s probably a tale that’s been around for quite some time for disruptive or interesting technologies, which is just that change management skilling and mapping into the business need is what’s really slowing down adoption in most cases. So I’d say having a good strategy for skilling and training is a really important aspect for a lot of the customers that we work with to go make them be successful with the technology that they have.

Guy Nadivi: We’re hearing more and more about process mining and other AI-based discovery platforms being deployed as part of digital transformations. Charles, how do you think these tools are impacting adoption rates for automation?

Charles Lamanna: They’re accelerating them. Massively accelerating them. And I think process mining and the AI discovery capabilities is probably the most interesting thing that we’re watching at Microsoft when it comes to automation over the next couple of years. And the reason is because it’s still early days today, of course, but these tools help you very quickly identify processes that are ripe for automation. And even more interestingly is they actually help with the calculation of the ROI for an automation project. And this really is the dream of most IT transformation projects. Before you invest in building out the bots, before you invest in building out the AI, you can quantitatively analyze your workforce, understand where there’s inefficiencies, and then project the actual efficiency gains and customer experience gains once you roll out automation. And once you have this kind of closed loop of mine the processes that are happening, identify the upside, address the automation need, then confirm that you saw the results you expected. This is going to create a very virtuous cycle of building bot after bot, after bot, after bot, that will really start to change the landscape in IT and for information workers. So we think this is really going to help just accelerate it, but it all goes back to just helping understand the economics, understanding the ROI, and understanding whether or not you were successful with a IT or automation project. It all goes back to those basic principles which every IT manager is always worried about. It makes that be much less of a guessing game. And if I were to make a comparison, it reminds me of the shift in marketing, from broadcast marketing, where it’s very hard to understand the impact of a marketing campaign, because you didn’t know how many people actually went to go purchase something as a result of a commercial or something in a newspaper. When you went to digital marketing, for the first time you could know for every ad, how many people actually purchased the good that you were advertising, because you have tracking and things like that. That is – and that actually drove a ton more adoption, a ton more digitalization of advertising. We think a similar phenomenon is going to occur because you are going to be able to go track from ideation of an automation project, to the ROI of the automation project end to end. So that is what I would say is the acceleration we’re seeing and the why, and how we really imagine it shifting over the next couple of years, going forward.

Guy Nadivi: Some organizations have really embraced automation, at least partially because they understand the ROI potential you just spoke about, and they’ve made it a core part of their IT operations. Other organizations have more of a wait and see attitude. Regardless of where an enterprise falls on the automation maturity spectrum, what do you think are the key factors they should consider when formulating their automation strategy?

Charles Lamanna: I’d say the most important thing to consider is that any automation project or automation transformation, is recognizing that it’s going to help your business processes go faster and be more efficient where it doesn’t inherently reimagine or transform your business process. And the reality is that automation is just like any other tool in the tool chain in IT. Whether it’s like cloud or mobile machine learning, event driven architecture, things like that. It’s going to help accelerate and reimagine your business process, but it’s not something you can really adopt in a vacuum and it’s not going to solve all of your problems. You frequently need to go look at the business process that you actually want to automate to make sure that you’re reimagining it, updating it, making it more modern in the process, because if all you do is automate every process exactly as it is, you may get some gains, but you’re really not going to be transformational. And that’s kind of a … Just one of the most important things that we really work through in terms of being successful with your automation strategy. And whenever I talk about this with customers, it always reminds me of a great quote from a football coach, Lou Holtz. He had a quote which was something like, “You’d rather have a slow guy moving in the right direction than a fast guy moving in the wrong direction.” Automation is kind of like that in that if you roll out automation for the wrong project, you’re just going to have the wrong business process go a heck of a lot faster in the wrong direction. So you really want to make sure you’re building your automation, you’re reimagining the business processes along the overall strategy and direction of the company, which maximizes for your business, as opposed to just taking what’s already there and making it go faster.

Guy Nadivi: There’s a variation on that Lou Holtz quote that I personally love, which is, “To err is human, but to truly screw up requires a computer.”

Charles Lamanna: Yes, too true.

Guy Nadivi: Charles, you’re certainly in a position to know. So I’d love to hear what you think are going to be some of the biggest disruptions we’ll see in the next one to three years, with respect to automation, AI, and other digitally transforming technologies.

Charles Lamanna: So I can only answer this in one way and with one thing. I’m a little bit biased about what I work on, but I have to say the single biggest disruptor for automation is going to be the low code development of automation. And the main reason we see this being the case is because of, I’d say four big shifts, four big changes that are happening in IT development today. The first is a workforce shift. 35% of the workforce today are millennials or 75% of the workforce will be millennials by 2025. This audience has incredibly high expectations for modern digital experiences at work. And they aren’t the folks that like to copy-paste data between 17 different systems or in green screen terminal applications and things like that. They really want modern, not rote, creative and innovative experiences at work. So the workforce is shifting. The second thing is because of the shift in workforce and because of these expectations and in general push. And that every company everywhere is that there’s a huge surge in demand and the need to digitally support and enable your employees. We can see this in really unprecedented demand in terms of the acceleration of digital projects. We project over the next five years, there’ll be as many digital solutions built in the enterprise as were built over the last 40 years. Just huge, huge demand. So a new workforce with high expectations and huge demand. But there’s a third problem, which is an incredible, a staggering shortage of professional developers and coders. In the United States alone, we’re going to be short a million developers over the next decade. There just aren’t enough developers out there to go solve and address this growing demand. And then to kind of top it all off is a fourth thing, with COVID-19 the associated recession, which we’re calling the great lockdown, we’re going to be in a period of time where IT is going to need to do more with less, or do more with your existing resources and your existing technology. So all of these things are kind of mixing together right now. These four things. And what we’re seeing is that low code is really going to be, I think, emergent as a result of these changes. Because low code automation technology, which make it possible for everyone to be an automation specialist, a business user, an IT professional, or a coder can all start to automate tasks is what low code is all about. This completely changes the calculus of automation projects, completely solves the problem that I’ve talked about throughout the discussion of, do you understand the business need as well as the automation need? It actually makes, so the people who understand the business need in the business can solve the automation problems with these low code automation tools. And this starts to change just what the IT landscape looks like, drives more collaboration between business users and IT, and the end result is a heck of a lot more automation being built in a fairly short period of time. So really over the next one to three years, we see that low code is going to be one of the most disruptive forces and in particular, low code automation tools, which have visual authoring environments, visual debugging environments, as well as easy to understand concepts and management configuration is going to be one of the most disruptive aspects. And that really is the heart of our thesis at Microsoft of where automation is heading over the next three years.

Guy Nadivi: I think you’re absolutely right about low code because the history of technology is that it gets easier to use over time, which democratizes its abilities for the masses. So history would seem to agree with you. Charles, 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 automation.

Charles Lamanna: This may be obvious to some of your listeners, but I’ll repeat it because it bears repeating. Which would be the best time to start building out your automation strategy and getting serious about automation for all functions of your company was probably three years ago. The second best time is now as the saying goes. And just the reason is that the return on the ROI on projects in the automation space really is phenomenal. There’s a huge amount of digital processes that have been accumulated over the last two decades that are just waiting to be enhanced and improved through automation. You can improve the employee experience, make your employees happier, keep them working at high cognitive high value tasks. You can improve customer experience, solve the customer’s problems faster and more efficiently than ever before. And you can do all of this with relatively minimal budget, but large outsize return. These things all just make it easy and straightforward to go build the case, to go build … To create an automation strategy, and to go chart what automation is going to need over the next few years. So if anything, I would just say now is the time to really make sure that you’re getting serious, that you’re looking at how automation can reach all parts of your company. And I think just speed and moving quickly is going to be key because as we go look out over the next couple of years, which are going to be a little bit challenging, macro economically speaking, automation is going to be key to being efficient, being lean, and building a great customer experience during those times. So I will say, move, move fast, move now, if you haven’t already, when it comes to automation, that would be the biggest takeaway.

Guy Nadivi: I think that’s very prudent advice because if you don’t, your competitors certainly will.

Charles Lamanna: Absolutely.

Guy Nadivi: All right. Looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Charles, it’s been fantastic having you here today and learning about your perspective on the automation and AI space. I think everyone is going to keep a keen eye on what you and your team at Microsoft will be doing to shape the future of this market and continue moving it forward. Thank you very much for joining us.

Charles Lamanna: And thank you for having me, Guy.

Guy Nadivi: Charles Lamanna, Corporate Vice President, Low Code Application Platform at Microsoft. Thank you for listening everyone. And remember don’t hesitate, automate.



Charles Lamanna

Corporate Vice President, Low Code Application Platform at Microsoft.

Charles leads the Engineering teams for the Low Code Application Platform (LCAP) in the Business Applications Group at Microsoft. The LCAP team includes the Dynamics 365 platform, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agent, AI Builder and the Common Data Service products.  

Under his leadership, the Dynamics 365 service moved to Azure and evolved into a fully managed SaaS–on a single version, with regular updates. The Dynamics 365 platform is now one of the largest fully Azure hosted SaaS products in the world, deployed to over 30 datacenters and supporting the entire Dynamics 365 business. 

Before that, Charles worked in Azure for 4 years, leading the engineering teams that created Azure Resource Manager, Azure Autoscale, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Activity Logs and several other management related capabilities. Before Azure, Charles founded MetricsHub, one of the first offerings for public cloud cost management and service health monitoring. MetricsHub was acquired by Microsoft in 2013. 

Charles can be reached at: 

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

Twitter:                  @clamanna  

Try it out:               Power Automate 

Quotes

“…RPA historically is incredibly centered and focused on UI Automation and more specifically Windows-based automation. And it's our view that that UI Automation is necessary, but insufficient to really enable interesting automation scenarios and really transform every aspect of every company in every country around the world.” 

“We think there's I'd say a legacy of automation being very PC-centric, very on-premise centric, and there's some real potential to reimagine what automation looks like in a cloud native, cloud first way. So that's really important to our vision.” 

"…low code is a whole idea that you want to make it so anybody and everybody can be a developer, can build bots, can contribute to the automation revolution." 

“…we think that automation will be an important part of really any modern information worker job in the future. But the importance and the criticality will be a spectrum from say, somewhat impactful to very impactful, but really all information workers will feel that impact, will feel the responsibilities change and evolve over the next five years or so.” 

“I think process mining and the AI discovery capabilities is probably the most interesting thing that we're watching at Microsoft when it comes to automation over the next couple of years. And the reason is because it's still early days today, of course, but these tools help you very quickly identify processes that are ripe for automation. And even more interestingly is they actually help with the calculation of the ROI for an automation project. And this really is the dream of most IT transformation projects.” 

“35% of the workforce today are millennials or 75% of the workforce will be millennials by 2025. This audience has incredibly high expectations for modern digital experiences at work. And they aren't the folks that like to copy-paste data between 17 different systems or in green screen terminal applications and things like that. They really want modern, not rote, creative and innovative experiences at work. So the workforce is shifting.” 

“…there's a huge surge in demand and the need to digitally support and enable your employees. We can see this in really unprecedented demand in terms of the acceleration of digital projects. We project over the next five years, there'll be as many digital solutions built in the enterprise as were built over the last 40 years. Just huge, huge demand.” 

“…the best time to start building out your automation strategy and getting serious about automation for all functions of your company was probably three years ago. The second best time is now as the saying goes. And just the reason is that the return on the ROI on projects in the automation space really is phenomenal. There's a huge amount of digital processes that have been accumulated over the last two decades that are just waiting to be enhanced and improved through automation. You can improve the employee experience, make your employees happier, keep them working at high cognitive high value tasks. You can improve customer experience, solve the customer's problems faster and more efficiently than ever before. And you can do all of this with relatively minimal budget, but large outsize return.” 

About Ayehu

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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
Episode #43: How Automation, AI, & Other Technologies Are Advancing Post-Modern Enterprises In The Lands Of The Midnight Sun
Episode #44: Sifting Facts From Hype About Actual AIOps Capabilities Today & Future Potential Tomorrow
Episode #45: Why Focusing On Trust Is Key To Delivering Successful AI
Episode #46: Why Chatbots Are Critical For Tapping Into The Most Lucrative Demographics
Episode #47: Telling It Like It Is: A 7-Time Silicon Valley CIO Explains How IT’s Role Will Radically Change Over The Next Decade

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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

Augmenting Your Human Workforce with Intelligent Automation

Augmenting Your Human Workforce with Intelligent AutomationWith global technology spending at an all-time high, more organizations are looking to technology to augment their human workers. But convincing humans to work alongside robots is still a challenge for many, particularly those who view AI as a threat to their livelihood. According to many experts, including Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder, intelligent automation will create new jobs and also transform existing ones.

The Forrester report predicts that over the course of this year alone, “bots” will impact approximately 311,000 administrative roles and 260,000 sales jobs, either replacing them altogether or augmenting them in some way. Those remaining human workers will find their capabilities enhanced by these bots. For instance, more and more employees will begin to shift their rote, repetitive tasks and workflows on to intelligent automation, enabling them to become more strategic in their roles.

As Gownder also pointed out in his report, the key to implementing intelligent automation as a tool to augment human workers is to start with focused business problems. Let’s take a look at how to accomplish this in a three step process.

Segment the workforce to target specific roles and/or workflows.

Decision-makers should evaluate their workforce and divide it into segments to identify which business problems could be most easily solved with intelligent automation. It’s true that AI can be leveraged across the entire organization to some degree, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be implemented everywhere right from the get-go. Instead, it should be strategically applied where it will quickly produce the highest returns. Then it can be rolled out more extensively.

Develop and nurture solutions in a piloting environment.

Augmenting human workers with intelligent automation technology requires a very structured approach. Utilizing an innovation lab or other type of test environment will enable new solutions to be designed and tested before they are implemented. Start with small pilots and iterate at every step, tweaking the process as needed until a realistic, feasible solution is reached. Once the most effective solution is determined, it can then be introduced into the live environment.

Add robotic coworkers with specific competencies to the team.

While bots are beginning to augment human work, they are still best used in very narrow, specific contexts, the Forrester report noted. As intelligent automation is introduced into human teams, it’s best to focus on employee experience. It’s also important to recognize that a certain investment in upgrading, improving and reskilling human workers will likely be necessary in order to facilitate a cohesive environment in which both people and robots can work side-by-side and complement one another.

Ultimately, the way human workers perceive their role and impact within an organization will affect their engagement and productivity. As they begin to view intelligent automation as a tool to help them be more productive and engage in more meaningful work, they will begin to recognize the value that AI brings to their lives.

See intelligent automation in action. Schedule a live, personalized demo of Ayehu today!

The Role of Robotic Process Automation in Big Data Analytics

Without a doubt, we are living in an age when information is always available at our fingertips. Sometimes it seems as though we are practically drowning in the data that’s available to us. In fact, according to IBM, there are some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every single day, and an estimated 90% of all the data in the world today was created in the last two years alone. And while much of this “Big Data” may seem irrelevant to you, organizations around the world are taking it very seriously. So much so that many are now employing the use of robotic process automation to help harness, analyze and leverage it.

The Role of Robotic Process Automation in Big Data AnalyticsWhat’s the connection? Well, for starters, using robots to automate business processes can simultaneously result in the retrieval of all kinds of information about how those particular processes are carried out. In this sense, robotic process automation is much more informative than even the best human analyst could ever be. In addition to extracting data, robots can also record everything and pull it together to become much more useful to key decision makers, helping to discover bottlenecks and other problems and identify opportunities where processes could be better optimized.

Data analytics can transform an astronomical amount of information into patterns that are logical and easy to understand. In fact, it’s pretty commonplace for advanced analytics to be built right into many of the software products that are on the market today (Google Analytics, anyone?). Robotic process automation solutions are similar in that they are capable of gathering data and reporting analytics for any given time duration.

You can use RPA to gain insight into any of the following (just as a few examples):

  • Total number of completed transactions
  • Average time each transaction (or workflow) takes
  • Number of business and/or application exceptions generated
  • Estimated time until task/process/workflow completion

Ultimately for Big Data to be useful, it must be properly vetted, thoroughly analyzed and appropriately organized into something that makes sense to someone who doesn’t necessarily have a background in advanced analytics. Delivering this valuable end result is another key benefit that robotic process automation has to offer. So now, not only can robotic process automation help create a more efficient, productive work environment, but it can also help identify problems and opportunities for improvement.

Could your business benefit from using robotic process automation, for Big Data or any of the countless other advantages it affords? Why not find out today for free? Download your own copy of Ayehu automation platform and start experiencing for yourself how powerful the right RPA solution can truly be.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate




Reducing Complaints with Robotic Process Automation

Reducing Complaints with Robotic Process AutomationCould robots help you reduce the amount of complaints for your operation? The answer is yes. Well, robotic process automation, that is. By implementing RPA within your organization, you can dramatically reduce the number of human errors that occur from manual processes while also improving the speed with which you are able to deliver service. Fewer errors and faster results mean end users and customers alike will be more satisfied. Let’s take a look at exactly how this all works.

Firstly, robotic technology delivers productivity levels that are multiple times greater than that of human workers. When’s the last time your IT team was able to work round the clock without ever taking a single break? In fact, the only time RPA is inoperable is during system down-time, which is typically planned for and scheduled in advance. Using robots to complete most back-office processing tasks alone can result in an improvement of efficiency levels of upwards of 90%.

In addition to creating a more efficient, productive work environment, robotic process automation also provides a much greater degree of flexibility and scalability. Most businesses experience certain peak times during which the workload and subsequent demand on human workers fluctuates up. Previously when this occurred, organizations were faced with the limited options of asking existing employees to work more or hiring additional workers to compensate for the increased need. Robots have revolutionized how these peaks and valleys are handled, allowing businesses to scale up or down at the veritable click of a button.

Because robotic process automation technology facilitates greater productivity and efficiency and delivers the ability to seamlessly adapt to changing workload demands, it naturally helps to reduce many of the costs associated with the traditional non-automated workplace. Furthermore, by shifting many of the highly repetitive, mundane tasks from humans to robots, morale and employee satisfaction subsequently improves as well. Talented personnel is freed up to focus their skills and attention on other, more worthwhile and fulfilling activities, which benefits employees as well as the company as a whole.

Regardless of which industry or sector your organization happens to operate, without question robotic process automation could deliver a whole host of benefits, not limited to the ones listed above. The better your company operates within, the greater degree of satisfaction you will achieve, both internally as well as with your customers. Happier employees and clients mean fewer incoming complaints, which is music to the ears of almost any executive.

If you haven’t yet begun reaping the benefits of RPA for your company, the time to do so is now. Download a free 30 day trial of eyeShare today to get started and experience for yourself how powerful having an army of robots at your disposal truly can be.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate




Could Your Best Employee Be a Robot?

Could Your Best Employee Be a RobotImagine for a moment that you’re attending an important business meeting and the CEO makes an announcement about which employee has been the most productive over the past month. Now, imagine if that statement is concluded – not with the name of you or any of your colleagues – but instead with the word…robot. More specifically, robotic process automation.

Could a machine actually take the place of employee of the month? The overall answer is yes. Here’s why.

It’s no secret that IT professionals are continually being asked to do more with less. That is, to be as efficient and productive as possible while simultaneously reducing the number of resources being used. As a result, IT leaders have to find a way to maximize output while also minimizing the time and costs associated with producing that maximum output. With human workers, this simply isn’t possible without either increasing the number of hours worked or hiring additional staff, neither of which are cost-effective.

Another area where IT departments experience a great deal of pressure is that of service levels. The expectations of delivering services and resolving issues quickly are increasing at a tremendous rate, and if those demands can’t effectively be met, the department and the organization as a whole could potentially lose its competitive edge. Yet again, in order for human employees to achieve these goals, they would either need to work more or hire additional staff.

Enter robotic process automation, or the software that can basically take on all the time consuming day to day tasks that the help desk currently handles. Whether it’s password resets, system monitoring, incident management or some other simple or complex workflow, robotic process automation can be leveraged for all of it. As a result, work is completed at a much faster rate, with fewer mistakes, driving productivity and efficiency up while also bringing costs down.

Many IT professionals are under the mistaken impression that RPA is somehow a threat to their livelihood. After all, if a robot can be used to do all these tasks, what’s the point of employing human workers? Why not automate the entire operation?

Well, for starters, many automated processes still require some human oversight of input. Secondly, while robotic process automation may take some of the work away from humans, it will inevitably free up skilled workers, enabling them to apply their skills to more complex and mission-critical business matters. So, in reality, RPA isn’t a replacement for humans, but rather a shift in responsibility. To that end, it should be embraced rather than feared and resisted.

So, at the next company meeting, when the big boss stands up and hails RPA as the company’s best employee, that doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for the people who work there. As long as robotic process automation is leveraged properly and viewed as the powerful and innovative tool it truly is, its role as employee of the month (or decade) is something that will make the jobs of human workers much easier and ultimately drive the ongoing success of the company as a whole.

To learn more about how you can make robotic process automation your best employee, check out this brief video or click here to start your free trial today.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate