Podcast

Episode: 154 |
Kevin Stoneham:
Robotic Process Automation:
Episode
154

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Kevin Stoneham

Robotic Process Automation

Show Notes

Our guest today is Kevin Stoneham, an independent consultant who is the former COO of PwC IT Services.

Kevin’s current focus, DigiServ LLC, focuses on digital transformation, and we discuss in particular Kevin’s experience with robotic process automation.

Learn more about Kevin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinstoneham/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

00:00
Hello, Kevin, welcome to the show. Well, it’s a real pleasure to be here. I’ve been a big fan of Unleashed and happy to be on the show. Ted’s very corny to say. So, robotic process automation. It’s a phrase I hear a lot these days, you’ve done a lot of this. And it makes me think of one of these car factories with all these robots, machines, welding some, you know, sedan, but I understand from you. That’s not what robotic Process Automation is all about. Tell me a little bit. What is robotic Process Automation? What what’s that term mean? Yeah, thanks. Well, so it is a bit of a strange term. It’s a mouthful, and it needs a bit of unpacking, because when we do think about robotics, I think of shiny white plastic robots that do cute things, or the machines that you might see on an automotive assembly line, that are doing the heavy lifting the repeatable precision type work. And this robotics Process Automation area is an emerging area of technology that is doing something a bit different. There. There are some similar similarities, however. But maybe even before we go there, exactly. Let me just take a moment. And let’s think about the nature of work in the United States today. McKinsey, your alma mater, published a great study around summer of 2016. And they looked at, you know, what, what type of activities are involved in today’s occupations. And the type of physical activities that we see on an assembly line or the like, where these traditional robots are, are in play, that’s about 30% of today’s occupational work. And obviously, a large portion of that can be automated through physical robots. Well, there’s another third, outside of that, that’s in the areas that they call data collection and data processing. And so if we think about knowledge workers, they’re involved all day long, and bringing in data, analyzing it, making decisions, and then furthering the transactions, right? Sure. So robotic Process Automation is, is really the analogy to the physical world, the physical robot world, taking a look at what’s happening on a knowledge workers computer, and giving them a robotic aide to to help get that work done. It specializes as the physical robots do, it specializes in things that are highly standardized, very predictable, their routine and their high frequency. So you can get a lot of value out of a robot. So the robotic Process Automation concept in analogy is a robot sitting alongside you on your computer. And it’s been programmed to take on certain transactions, it could also be sitting on a cloud server, for example, and taking on numerous transactions on behalf of an entire company. But the types of things that it can do are very similar to the types of things that a human can do on a computer, it can, it can read, I can click type, enter information, bring information from one program or application or website to another. So a common example here is a an order comes in via a web form, it needs to get inputted into the order processing fulfillment system, and then into the accounting system so that we go for the work. And so that data replication transfer can be done by this robotic Process Automation concept. Okay, so let’s talk about a few different uses of this. And then we can dive into them in a little bit more detail. So so that would be one. So in one case, someone puts an order form in on the web. And I don’t know how that would come in on the other side, maybe just as an email or comes into some kind of system as an order. And what you’re saying is that the robot would then go and launch something happening in several other programs at that company into their order entry system into their accounting system. Can you give some other examples of where you typically think about robotic Process Automation being used? Yeah, so the the origin of that, or the example that I talked about, there was the, you know, the order entry, let’s, let’s look at some back office processes. So finance Account Reconciliation, we need to look in the financial system, gather a value, we need to look on the bank side, gather other values, do calculations and comparisons. And so that’s something that happens on a high frequency, maybe a daily basis within a lot of organizations, maybe across a number of accounts. So that’s something that is highly standardized, and could be, could be robotized, if you will, through the software robots. Again, you don’t you don’t see these, these are just software installed, you know, on computer somewhere. Another example is in human resources. So there’s a whole number of steps you need to do to onboard employees, get them a computer order, bring on a new email account, get their badge initiated, notify the facilities folks of what day they’re going to show up and when they need to work.

05:00
Based on like, you know, that’s another area. When you move outside of the back office, there are a few industry specific examples. In insurance, for example, you’ve got claim analysis, there’s a lot of data that data that needs to be gathered before working on a claim. For 1999, Honda Civic, for example, we need to go gather the value of that car, and you know, what is the one of the bumper cost to repair typically, that probably needs to be brought into a central claim, file and report, those kinds of things could be standard routines, the Honda Civic, the year, the bumper piece, those details can be variables, if you will, in the way the robot looks at the work. And those as those things change case file the case file, we can just repeat the logic and bring that information back.

05:51
Another example is compliance reporting, there’s a lot of times where you have to look at the activities that are underway in the business and make sure that those are properly reported for internal and sometimes external compliance, you know, type of responsibilities that might be to an external website, for example, to the you know, to whatever compliance regulatory agency you have, that’s another thing that that is occurs on a regular basis and can be automated. What would an example of that kind of just an example of compliance reporting?

06:23
Well, I give you one example is,

06:26
and actually, this is, as I’ve gotten into this area, I’ve had to had an opportunity to automate some things that are relevant for me in my life. So I’m, what they call a beneficiary pay for a special needs young adult. And so in that case, they have certain benefits through social security for their disability. But they this individual also works. So we have to report every single month, the exact dollars down to the sense of how much they earned in their part time job. And then that’s offset against the benefits that they received. So we need to look up in that case, from the payroll site, how much did the individual run, and then report that into the beneficiary site? That’s more, that’s not something that would necessarily hit the ROI for automation. But that’s one, one example. You know, I think another is, I’ve worked overseas a number of times, and there’s a lot of Import Export type of compliance responsibilities. So a company may need to report on a monthly basis, the total amount of certain types of goods that they’ve they’ve imported, whether that be goods to add value to and resell, ultimately, in their own processes, or just goods that they’re bringing in to run their business, like buying a laptop or something. So the, the accounting system may store the information for that compliance reporting, they have to do the report once a month and upload that to the local tax collectors into the Import Export authorities website. So that might be another example. Okay, great. So I’d love to hear some about how this kind of robots get deployed in an enterprise and the type of project that you might do. So let’s maybe walk through a case example. And maybe one place to start would be to say, what’s the magnitude that you need to be at, to sort of start thinking it’s going to make sense to, to use a robot. So if one person is doing one transaction per month, that probably is, you know, more cost than consulting time, then you’re saving and the five minutes to do it? So like what, you know, sort of what typically would be a threshold? Do you need to have, you know, is it just one employee spending, you know, two hours a month? Or? Or do we only start making sense if you have 10 employees who spend half their time doing something like, give me some sense of scale of when it makes sense to start thinking about it? Yeah, great question will. And I think I tell you, the client scenarios that we like the best is organizations that are on a growth path themselves, and are having trouble keeping up with the work with the right people they’ve already got. So one of the scenarios that we will look at is, what is the percentage of work that the individuals are doing that we might be able to recapture that capacity, and redeploy that to higher value type activities.

09:25
So, you know, if, if you’re in the, the ROI range of we can recapture a third of a person, but that those differs, the next hire that you need to make and you can reach, redeploy that person to help grow the business and in terms of the higher value stuff that’s coming in the door, then that starts to make sense. That at the low end, and that’s actually one of the things that I really like about this technology, not only its transformative nature and in the way that work is done, but it’s highly accessible for even a smaller

10:00
A business or a smaller business unit within a larger enterprise

10:04
is sort of the upfront investment can be as little as a couple of days of, of consulting to get the solution up and running and get it configured for a, you know, a fairly straightforward process, but one that’s turned, you know, a decent amount of capacity to your workforce, that might be 30% of a person’s time, for example. So that that initial setup can, like I said, can just be two, three days consulting. And then in terms of the operating costs, it can be as little as $1,000 a month. So annual operating around $12,000 a year, compare that to, it’s really a fraction of what your next hire might be even down in the administrative range, if you will, in terms of the total cost. And by the way, these robots are working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they don’t take coffee breaks, or get sick.

10:55
So that’s kind of the whirlwind. What we see on the upper end, there are organizations that have deployed 1000s of these robots that are automating massive amounts of work. You know, these are not in that at that kind of scale. It’s seldom the type of robot that’s on just a person’s desk. But it’s more robots that are running in the cloud that are serving the entire enterprise. And we’re seeing that those kind of scale implementations in financial services, insurance, banking, and the like,

11:30
what are the names of like, the main software companies or software platforms that, you know,

11:40
look reasonably intelligent and said, Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of it. Like, what are the is there just sort of one or two, or are there dozens, tell me a little bit about the kind of tools that are out there.

11:51
There are quite a few. I mean, as we see in emerging technology, there’s there’s just a ton of innovation going on. And this is a market and a solution set that’s really only been on the market for a few years now. There are three, what I would call an end, what the kind of the analyst groups, if you will, the gardeners and foresters in the like,

12:11
three are regularly identified as the market leaders. And those names are UiPath, blue prism, and automation anywhere. And so among those, most of my focus has been with UiPath. And in fact, the, my firm digit serve has recently signed a business partner agreement with UiPath. And I really focused on UiPath, because I, I felt it has a fairly unique position in the market of being very open and accessible. So the scalability that I talked about from being able to enter the solution space, for a company being able to enter that at a at the cost level of a fraction of the next assistant you might hire, all the way up to 1000s of robots running across the financial services enterprise are a high volume, transactional business, they’re fairly unique in being able to cover that entire gamut. And they also do a lot of things to make the solution accessible in the sense of learning, being able to go to free online training, download the software for free, if you want to get your hands on it while you’re doing that training, and the like. Okay, so at the kind of really, enterprise scale, like, I don’t know, if Bank of America or something is doing this, would they be using one of these kind of systems? Or at some point, do companies just sort of program at their own program it? Do it in house development, or these sort of these three kind of enterprise scale? You know, fortune 50 kind of solutions? Yeah, I’m seeing within the fortune 50, even the fortune 500, I would say most organizations are experimenting with this, at least using one of those big three, there may be a couple of others in in the market,

14:03
that are specialty, if you will, specialty business process or business function oriented. And so there, there are certainly going to be others in that mix. But I think just about any of the Fortune 500 you would find some activity underway with the with those big three. Okay, this is great. So walk me through, like a sample engagement. Maybe there’s no typical engagement, but a sample engagement to give me a sense of accompany maybe senses. You know, they’ve read about robotic process automation. So they know hey, we could probably be automating this we’re growing so fast. We instead of hiring more people, we’d like to have this team member not have to be doing the copy and pasting all day long. So they sense a need, and they call someone like you like what would the sort of process look like walk me through from just you getting that call to. They now freed up that person’s time and that they have the robot

15:00
You installed and working away? Yeah, sounds good. Well, and actually, if they’re that far along, that’s great. Because very often, the conversations start more on the what is it type type of angle. But once we have a general awareness, and we’ve talked through a few examples of how robotic Process Automation is making companies more efficient with their work, but also improving quality, that work process, these robots tend not to make typos. So you see a quality of response time and obviously a resource, resource redeployment, opportunity and cost savings associated with that, then one of the things that we want to do first is look at what is the nature of work within that organization. You know, I mentioned this McKinsey study, where we see about a third of the work within the US occupational activity is in data collection, data processing. So we want to talk about what kind of data collection data processing is happening within that organization, where the highest volumes of it are, and therefore where the where the opportunities are, and then start to look at that against, you know, again, another metric that came from that McKinsey report is the an estimate of about 65 to 70% of that work, can be automated using technologies that are available today, like the RPA tools that we’ve talked about.

16:18
In the case of the particular company, once we have an understanding of kind of where work is occurring, and how much of that is of the data collection and data processing nature, then we want to start to look at a few other attributes to select the initial processes that are candidates for automation.

16:36
Some of these things are how standardized is the is the work, do we always do step ABC, no matter what the nature of the transaction is? Or is there a an expert in this process, that is actually applying a tremendous amount of judgment day to day in how they process each individual transaction. And if it’s the latter, if there’s a if there’s a significant amount of judgment that’s stored in just one or a few persons minds, that’s probably not one of something that we want to start with, because we’re gonna have a high exception rate. And so the robots kind of tend to fail, unless we can really deduce that judgment into into a automated rule set. But if we find the opportunities where the work is highly standardized, the there’s a clear initiation of the work. So does an email arrive, does something get added to a work queue? Does a transaction occur or is is sent in, you know, say, a via a web form or a website or something like that, then, then we start to look at the, you know, as those types of highly standardized high quality Trent transactions and processes as the earliest candidates, on a real practical level, Kevin, how do you actually do that discovery? Do you typically kind of just sit down one on one with a dozen different kind of frontline employees? Or do like to have a big, you know, workshop where, you know, sort of like, practically, how do you actually run that discovery session of finding out what processes are happening? And how do those processes get kicked off? And who’s doing it? Because often, the, the head of the group might not know, right, so how do you do that discovery? Yeah, well, that’s a critical point, because a lot of this work really need does need to happen with those who are executing the process day to day and really know it inside now. So the discovery across the enterprise, often what we’ll see is there might be a, you know, weed sponsor, you know, interested executive, that’s, that’s getting this discussion initiated. And they’ll often have an area of work in mind. So we might explore that first.

18:49
I think a really important component of this early phase is also starting the change management. So executive needs to be talking with their staff, with the, you know, the employees of the company, about what’s happening, and about what the intentions are, because there can be a lot of fear related to robotics. And, you know, ideally, again, we have this scenario where the, the capability that we’re talking about is going to allow for the company to continue to grow, serve new clients serve new volumes, enter new markets and the like, you know, but there can be a fear of, maybe there’s a few people who aren’t going to need to do

19:25
what they’ve done in the past. And we want to talk about retraining, redeploying and the like, as we then expand from that initial, that initial phase, that initial domain within the company, then we’ve got other techniques, like a simple form that just about anybody could fill out to recommend a process for consideration and that’s that form is going to capture things like how many people were doing this, how standardizes that what what is the initiation point to trigger the work? How many steps are involved, if you will, or how

20:00
different applications, software programs are involved. And then things like, what are the things that who should be notified when something goes wrong, if the robot encounters a an unexpected event or transaction doesn’t complete properly, we want to make sure that somebody is notified of that, and they can follow up on it. So we have a fairly simple thing. And that’s actually one of the most exciting things is to see an organization approach the initiative approach the opportunity in such a way that the employees across the board get excited about this potential, and they start recommending new things to be automated. And then we have a, you know, a bit of a filtering and analysis to find out the next great opportunities for automation using that. Okay, yeah, I can see that, looking for recommendations I, I can imagine in some scenarios, there might be something where, rather than kind of relying on ad hoc people recommending something, you’d maybe there’s something where you sit down with with the whole team and say, Okay, let’s walk through your whole day. Like, give me kind of a diary of yesterday, write down like you tell every single different process that you did, and try to almost get it get a complete inventory or census of all these different, you know, manual processes that are that are happening. Yeah, reminds me of the movie office space when the consultants come in and meet with everybody.

21:26
Yes, exactly.

21:28
Exactly. So I think,

21:32
you know, I think a lot of it is finding the initial processes that can test the idea, test the ROI, and build the example, then that creates the opportunity, I think, to bring in the rest of the executive team, the middle management team and talk about where where other opportunities are, across the enterprise. Got it. So let’s, let’s, let’s fast forward a little bit. I’m sorry. So. So let’s say we’ve done the inventory, we maybe we prioritize we, how many times do you do this? How many minutes? Does it take? You know, is it standardized, and we sort of filter through and we find the first one that we want to work on? So now talk to me about? How does it actually work? to, you know, get one of these things automated and to have the robot start working? Is it like, kind of programming it? Or do you just sort of do the process and the robot follows your actions? And then it can like replicate it? Or

22:26
how do you test it and put it in place? And then, you know, what, if there’s variations of things, how does it you know, know, so just walk me through the practical piece of actually implementing the automation on on one particular process that you’ve identified? Yeah, perfect. And let me kind of start to weave in, you know, one of the real examples that we’ve worked on, so great, and this is a, it’s a fairly simple one, I think that everybody will be able to follow along with so in this case, there’s a law firm. For every active case that they’ve got, they receive a number of routine court notices, these could be for hearings that gets scheduled or steps within the case management, and that the court administrator is either recording that have occurred or is notifying will occur. So these are things that come out through you know, throughout the day from the court administrator, they’re often distribute, distribute almost always distributed via email, and as a PDF attachment as a formal court notice. And so as the law office law firm is receiving all of these notices throughout the day, they need to then file those into the appropriate case file under the client and the the actual case matter. And then any other professionals working on the case, the attorneys paralegals in the like, need to be notified that the notice has been received, maybe a few summary attributes about the notice, right. So we may have an administrator in the office that’s typically doing this stuff throughout the day, they might be doing some other administrative tasks and the like. So one of the things that we want to do, of course, as I mentioned before, is make sure that that person that’s running the process day to day is involved right from the front and documenting the existing process, how it works today, the as is. And then we’re going to look for improvement opportunities that are available in combination with the automation that we’ll do. The tool itself, when we talk about the type of RPA tools that that we named a few minutes ago, there’s a there’s a starting point called a recorder. And that’s where within the software and this is kind of the design software, we’re going to build the robotic routine. We’re going to hit record, we’re going to go do a few things on the computer. We’re gonna come back and press stop, okay. And while we’re doing these things, we may be interacting with five or six different applications, different websites, they could be internal tools to the law firm, they could be external tools that are with the court that could be like the email program and the like. So as the software records each step that gets gets built into a script

25:00
Well, the script actually looks like almost like a Visio diagram of the process as the recorder sees you doing the work. And this is one of the really cool things that it, it’s not a done product at this point, but it’s a starting point. And so it’s recorded the different applications that you’ve used the sequence areas that you’ve typed something in, where you’ve downloaded an attachment, how you’ve changed the file name, and where you stored the file in the notices directory of the client file. Okay,

25:32
so you’ve got this sort of outline, to start with, that is the robotic process. And then, as we finalize this, that’s what the robot will actually be running. Again, we’re not ready yet, what we need to do next is go in and sort of clean that up. And we want to look at that point for where are the variables, where are the things that are going to change notice by notice, or transaction by transaction, of course, the case number, the client name, the, you know, the file name, for the attachment, the date, all of those things might be things that are going to change, and we want to recognize those as variables. And, and that’s where the, these these solutions, I would call them low code, you’ve heard of no code and low code and the like, of these different software tools. And so you’ve got a combination of drag and drop workflow outline, that looks very much like a Visio. And then you can drill into each of those steps and manage the variables that are related there. So we’re gonna have a variable around date, we’re gonna have a variable client name, and then case number, for example. You sort of polish that up by configuring those variables, and then you have a, if you will you have a working prototype of what your robotic automation needs to do.

26:52
Once you’ve done that, we want to test that again with the the experts, the clients and make sure that it’s actually performing the steps, as expected, and that the result is good. And then once we’ve done that, so that’s the other. And how does that testing work? So would you kind of have the robot maybe, like, step by step through it? So you click Next Next, instead of just whap? It’s all done? Let the robot sort of just step through it maybe one thing at a time? Or how does the testing work? Yeah, so in the ideal case you’re working with if you have, you know, some dummy data, okay, so you might have, you might have set up a dummy client file, and you’re going to, you’re going to send the inbox in this case, the the email inbox that typically received these notices, you’re going to send it some some dummy information with with a typical file attachments that it would see. So we can have the robot go step by step. And we will also have a conversation with the client about how each step has been configured and what it’s intended to do. And we’ll make sure that it works as you know, as intended. So we can, we can really drill down granularly into what’s happening. We can also look in each case at, again, what what happens if something goes wrong. So we don’t want the professionals to accidentally wake up one morning and get 500 emails saying the same notices going in, right. So we think about, let’s make sure that this process can’t automatically repeat itself.

28:27
In infinite overnight, and the robots just working all night long, redoing the same thing, right, we’ll make sure that we have the right checks and balances in place within that and make sure that the client is happy with the way you know, the way the routine has been programmed, the way the processes has been automated.

28:44
From there, then we do a little bit more polishing in the background. And this is more what I’d call the you know, kind of the technical

28:52
code hardening or,

28:55
you know, just really making sure that it’s bulletproof. And, and that that involves other areas of

29:03
making sure that the routine is ready, if let’s say the browser just crashes midway through. So it has restart capabilities to be able to go and, and retry a process step. And then it’s gonna, we’re also going to add additional failure type routines to make sure that all the right folks are notified if something’s going wrong. Once that’s done, then you know you have a final final product, we can then begin to put it into what I call production or put it into working on live transactions. And we provide a level of hypercare during that so depending on the complexity of the application, and how frequently it’s running that that hypercare period will will handle a good representative number of transactions so we we make sure that it’s working properly in the wild. And then if if we have a client that subscribing to our managed service,

30:00
For us around this couple of things that we do once that initial automation pieces put in has been put into place, we go back in a three or six month increment to do some fine tuning. So often, we find that coins need to live with the the automation for what a while before, they really know, a couple of other features that they might like to have it do or, you know, maybe some fine tuning in exactly how the automation is being being run. And so we do that as part of our managed services subscription.

30:36
The other thing that we that we find, and again, when we talk about an operating cost for an initial robot as a fraction of the next administrative hire, that’s the, that’s the cost for a capacity of a robot that’s working 24 hours a day. And it’s quite awesome that the initial process to be automated, it may occur frequently, but it may, let’s say it runs every hour on the hour, it may only need to run for five or 10 minutes to process that last hours transaction. So the great thing about that is that operating costs has the capacity quite often to bring on even additional additional processes, without increases to the operating cost.

31:16
Okay, I guess.

31:18
So these individual robots can kind of reach their capacity, I guess I would have thought, you know, I don’t know, computers are so fast that you could have one robot doing a lot of different things. But tell me a little bit about that. What What is it this sort of chews up the capacity? Yeah, in fact, they most often are quite faster than than the human. So the example that I talked about in terms of this notice processing, like I said, a lot of them come through a law firm any given day, but they don’t take a long time to process and certainly not if you automate it. So we estimated each one of those might take three to five minutes for a person to do if they’re not interrupted, or you know, if this might be an admin, they may also be covering the phones or something like that, we saw the automated solution, do that transaction in 18 seconds. So we saw roughly a 90% reduction in the cycle time, per per notice or per transaction. So in 18 seconds, of course, you know, if you run the thing, for five minutes, even, you can imagine that, you know, typical small to medium firm is going to be able to process every notice that it’s received in the last hour. So you’ve got you know, another 55 minutes the capacity there to do other work. So the things that tend to take a robot, you know, a long time to do are where, where there’s, you know, the same kind of thing where the computer itself is, you know, churning through a tremendous amount of text to do, you know, a text analysis, or just needs to download a lot of stuff, it’s the same kind of things an individual would see its computer go. But But often the, the level of automation, and the efficiency of the robot puts it at,

33:05
you know, very much a positive factor against what an individual take. Okay. So the, the additional capacity that I described there, the nice thing about that is the initial investment in the robot itself, you know, the roughly 12,000 a year, you can very quickly go and put the second, the third, the fourth process into that robot, it doesn’t even have to necessarily be a highly related thing. The robot can finish processing these court notices, and then go on to doing legal research for you. You know, and,

33:39
you know, any other processes that we could think about? It could be doing accounts payable or expense management or, you know, practice reporting, type activities? capacity constraint, is it like you sort of pay for, you know, one seat or one robot? And then if you need more, you’d pay the, the UI path? or whichever company you’d pay for another one or a third one? Is that kind of works? Yeah, that’s right. And you can, there are a couple of different deployment models, the one that I’ve been describing is a bit more of the nature where you might install the robot on one paralegals machine, in this particular example, or one one person’s machine within a company.

34:22
If you want multiple people to be able to access that, and we can’t do it through that initial machine, then you could replicate that. And you could put it on several people’s PCs, and that robot could be available to work alongside them. Once you get to a couple of few of those. However, it probably makes sense to look at what I would call cloud based robots. So rather than being encumbered by and perhaps constrained by what’s happening on an individual’s PC, the robot would run on a cloud server and, you know, could be working, maybe with a bit more, more, you know, high powered computing capacity, and the like.

35:00
but can also be, you know, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether the computers are you know, whether the things that the office are on or not are in like.

35:10
Okay, so tell me a little bit about how complicated these are to do. So let’s say you work with a client and help them get the software installed and sort of walk them through the process for several several of these prices to be automated. Is this something that requires like a lot of technical training or new sort of an ordinary, reasonably smart person if they’ve been walked through it a few times, but then they be able to take over and, you know, automate the other dozen processes that they’re doing?

35:44
Yeah, that’s a great question. And a number of organizations on on the larger scale of these deployments have enabled what I would call the citizen developer, the citizen Automator. And that’s putting the toolset that we talked about, into the hands of anybody within the organization that’s interested, and once wants to take that up. In order to get started with it, it’s probably about a week of training and what I would call the fundamentals, so it’s not necessarily something you’re going to do casually after watching a YouTube video after you know, for an hour. So if you want the, you know, the capabilities across the robotic space, there’s a bit of a course that you need to take. And I may have mentioned earlier, that’s online, and it’s free. So it’s very accessible. But it does require a bit of time, I would not describe it as something that you need to be highly technical for the, you know, the individual that understands process and is, you know, is friendly with technology, but maybe not expert in it would, I think would do fine in this kind of a kind of an endeavor. So you could do some of these, without knowing how to say program in Python, or something that you could still kind of use the drag and drop type tools to automate some of the processes at your company. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. The probably the technical skill set, the analogy that would be best for what I’ve seen is, like, you know, advanced excel programming using Visual Basic. So for somebody that’s going to that length, for example, within the Microsoft Office Space, they’re going to see a lot of the programming aspects within this what I call low code environment. So the low code is what’s most often when you’re, let’s say, you’re grabbing a large chunk of text, and you want to parse that out to get a particular value. Or if you have a data table, and you want to be able to sort and filter and, and make calculations within that data set. Those are the types of areas where you’re going to you’re going to type a few characters, and that’s going to look like code. But a lot of the rest of it is drag and drop and configure type things in an environment that looks very much like an Excel workflow, or I’m sorry, a Visio workflow. Well, a lot of the manufacturing in the US has gone through sort of waves of, you know, lean operations, lean manufacturing, Toyota Production System type of transformations. And, you know, certainly McKinsey has done a lot of that work. There’s a lot of lean practitioners out there, it seems to me, from what you’re describing that a lot of office work is going to be going through waves of this sort of robotic process automation, because companies that IT companies that don’t are just going to fall behind and get get out competed. I would fully agree with that. Well, and I think, you know, again, there’s a tremendous opportunity here to, to, you know, to take resource that’s really underutilized. In one of my prior roles, I had a team of folks that they were heavily focused on a whole variety of transactions occurring all across the world. And I, from the leader of that group, I would frequently hear that they were so so underwater from just keeping up with the transactions, that they really were not able to apply the higher level skill set that they brought to work. And that was being able to analyze, improved and optimize. And so there’s simple simply doing processing type activities. And so I think this is allowing organizations to with, with what’s available today, to really look at redeploying assets, you know, human capital assets to higher value activities. And I think we’re going to see it continue to grow.

39:35
The robots that I’ve talked about on today’s discussion, they’re frankly, they’re, they’re fairly dumb. They’re going to do what we’ve configured or programmed them to do.

39:44
But this is only the starting point. So in the not very distant future at all, I think we’re going to see these robots, frequently looking at other things that are happening within the environment and making recommendations about how the process can be improved.

40:00
And, you know, the other forms of what we would call artificial intelligence and machine learning, are going to come into play with these technologies. And I think that we’ll continue to work up the stack. You know, when you look at the macro implications of this, I’m, I’m more of the glass half full type of view that, you know, as we, as we take out these more mundane routine activities from what the workforce needs to focus on, we’re going to find the higher value and more innovative ways to bring our tremendous human capital to bear across the country, across the world, you know, to really do cool stuff from that. So. So Kevin, you mentioned earlier that your firm has established a partnership with UiPath. And you’re an independent professional. Could you talk about what that means? And what that’s like? What does it mean to that you’ve established a partnership with them. Yeah. And it’s actually been a pleasure so far to work with UiPath in this regard. So in one part of the partnership, I have access now to sort of the inside track on product development and go to market strategies. And the like, in terms of how you UiPath is approaching, you know, approaching their market, they have a strong view that in order for clients to be successful, they need a good product like UiPath provides, but they need a good partner ecosystem, to help clients understand how to deploy these tools and how to make them successful. So it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where we help the mutual clients of UiPath and digicert become successful through these deployments and achieve the benefits that we’ve been talking about. In terms of the the substance of the the agreement in terms of how that works. The part of the business partner agreement that we’ve recently undertaken, gives us the opportunity and the right to resell the product. So if a client wants to buy it directly from us, they can if they want to buy it from UiPath, directly, that’s fine, too. But the even more interestingly, in terms of the way I’m thinking about my business, it offers us the opportunity to liver robots as a managed service. So this is where we see the on ramp to RPA for organizations or, or business units that want to get started in this space. But don’t want to make a multimillion dollar investment without having seen the the proof in the pudding, if you will. So the managed services arrangement allows us to offer this robot as a service and bundle the right to use the solution, the licensing with the the initial consulting for deployment and the ongoing support to to help make sure the robot continues to run properly. Great. So then a company could come to you and they don’t actually have to buy the licenses or whatever, internally, they can pay you more of a monthly fee to get it as a cloud service. Yeah, that’s right, we will bundle in the the licensing the implementation and the and the ongoing service and support. And and we find that that’s a great way for mid to larger size companies or business units to get started. Or it’s a great way for small to midsize firms to achieve the benefits without having to make a you know, huge investment in robotics. Got it? Okay, and then does like the UI path would you know, when they get direct inquiries? Do they kind of make those clients sort of give them a, you know, a list of all here’s some certified providers that that you might want to work with as you implement our solution? Yeah, that’s right. They I mean, they look at it on a couple of different angles, and we’ll make those referrals. Given that my arrangement is so new, I’m just a few weeks in and, and a couple of those weeks cross the holidays here. So I’ve not seen a tremendous amount of that quite yet. But there’s

43:55
they will get both geographic and also sort of industry sector specialties among their partner group. And we’ll make those recommendations. So looking forward to that opportunity. And what’s the certification process? Like do you have to kind of dim I mean, imagine you have to demonstrate to them that you’re an expert at the software. Yeah, and they were, I mentioned their online training earlier, it’s, it’s quite innovative. Everything’s on the UiPath website. And you start with a what they call foundations course and work your way up to the certified expert level, through a number of courses. During that course, where they they mix in, you know, the conceptual topic, along with hands on exercises that you do so at points during the training, you’re actually turning in working, working robotic code, or working robot automations. You know, as an assignment to do as you work your way through that, that online training, the sort of the ultimate Pinnacle is the UI path certified, professional, and that’s someone that knows all elements of the software knows

45:00
How to Apply it within the business context and knows how to run it at scale. One of the things we didn’t talk about is there’s a, there’s a component of the UiPath solution, which is they call the orchestrator. And that’s kind of the way you would manage a whole workforce of multiple robots across an enterprise. And so that’s part of the curriculum as well. So shifting over to personal productivity, you once mentioned to me that you have a approach that you refer to as the time cube. Talk to me about that a little bit. Yeah, you know, the. So I think like everybody, I find that that concentrating on something without interruption is, is one of the one of the tougher things in life these days, in particular, when you want to, you know, be successful at work. So it’s a very simple solution, a guy ordered on Amazon for six or seven bucks, but it’s a little cube that that sits on my desk, and it has increments from five minutes to 60 minutes. And you simply flip it to the amount of time that you want to concentrate on something, and the little, little buzzer goes off at the end of that period. And so one of the things that I tried to do to maintain productivity is structured my day in a way where I’ve got specific objectives in mind. And then I allocate the time to be able to concentrate just on that without, without allowing, you know, the emails or the distracting things that pop up all over your computer these days too. distracting. So it’s sort of a commitment to myself that, that I’ll spend those 30 or 60 minutes or 15 minutes or whatever, working on that task. Okay. Any books that you found particularly helpful that that you’d like to recommend? Yeah, I mean, one of the ones that I read earlier this year, actually, before going down, the independent route was hit refreshed by Satya Nadella, the new CEO of Microsoft. And, obviously, coming from a technology background, Microsoft has been an organization that I’ve kept track track of, for quite a while, I think under satty, as leadership, they have drastically reposition themselves in the market, they’ve challenged if you will, some old sacred sacred beliefs,

47:14
about their position in their marketplace, in the marketplace and their position, you know, kind of in the technology ecosystem. And so they, they took a few decisions, which Sathya personally champion to become a much more open technology provider, where, you know, the concepts like open source and the like, that have emerged in recent years, you know, we’re almost like, you know, completely against the Microsoft ethos for a while, those kinds of things are now embraced. He’s done a number of other things, you know, moving the entire focus of the organization to the cloud, and the Azure Stack and the cloud services that Microsoft is providing has been a major shift in their focus. And you see, the results have been nothing but positive in terms of how they’ve performed and how the markets reacted. So, sadly, his book is

48:08
a very interesting reflection on how an organization challenges its beliefs, and, you know, and evolves with the changing environment. He also talks about, you know, his own personal life and, and how he’s done that as an individual, as well as, as a corporate leader. One of my old favorites will is one called Parkinson’s Law, the pursuit of progress is by see Northcote Parkinson, and it’s a quote that’s been up on my wall for for quite a while now.

48:41
That came from there, it’s called Parkinson’s Law, his

48:45
work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. And so on my career, I’ve been sort of a student of personal and organizational productivity and effectiveness. And that’s one of the ones that’s quite interesting. So in the book, he, this comes from 1958, he examined the, the way bureaucracies tend to grow at a certain rate, and the incentives that individuals, particularly those in leadership position, have to grow their subordinates and the size of their organization, regardless of the volume of work that’s being done or not. So

49:20
it’s an interesting one to think about, in the context of what we speak about is the opportunity for robotics these days. Yeah, you know, and that, that kind of makes me think that if you’re gonna go through one of these exercises, have you, you know, instilling robots or putting them in place, you need to have a plan of what you want that person to do with the time that you free up, because,

49:42
you know, the corollary of Parkinson’s Law is probably, you know, my, my ability to spend time reading the news or goofing off, expands to fill the time available. So if you know if we just free up all this time using robots, we want to make sure that we have new more productive uses for people’s time.

50:00
So, Kevin, this has been really a fantastic discussion. I learned so much about robotic process automation. I feel a lot smarter about it. Thank you very much for being on the show. Thank you all for having me. It’s been a real pleasure and an honor

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