Five Dimensions of RPA Evolution Part 1
Part 1 of the interview with Anoop Tripathi, VP of Engineering and Cloud at Automation Anywhere, a global enterprise that brings robotic process automation to industries worldwide.
Anoop, you have a strong technology background from working for over two decades at different IT and technology companies. How did you end up in your current position today?
I have been lucky to be part of the software industry during a time when there is a lot of explosive growth happening. Different inflection points in the industry, my natural curiosity and desire to look for new things, chanced me to work on various innovative projects for different products, whether it was chasing up the higher connectivity speeds or going thru the entire transition from packet switch to Internet telephony, cloud security and remote access and now cloud RPA.
Today we may take for granted how easily we can make a call on Zoom or Skype. But innovation is not easy, it also takes time to evolve and mature. I particularly enjoyed being a part of that journey as it was a great time of innovation.
Throughout my career, I have relied on automation to increase innovation bandwidth in teams, so when I joined the RPA industry, I felt that was the place of natural fit where I can make an impact. This is a logical progression for my journey. I am enjoying it, and I look forward to continuing to work in the cloud software industry.
VP of Engineering and Cloud
What have you learned about your management style while navigating the transition to your current role?
My style has evolved with my roles over time. You have to look at what your environment is and then adapt your management style. However, there are core things in the style that don’t change much. For instance, some people are born leaders, while others may be good at management skills or soft skills. I feel my strengths are in my coaching style. I thrive the most when I’m working with the team as a coach, as opposed to giving them directions. This also enables us to create more leaders in the organization.
Over the years, I have come down to three things that are crucial when I’m looking to hire whether it is for an individual contributor or a leadership position in the organization.
First, you must be a strong team player. Innovation is getting more complex, and to support it you have to work and collaborate closely and often with cross-company teams.
The second thing is the capability to disrupt yourself and the industry. Don’t be afraid to be a disruptor, whether you’re disrupting your work and saying, ‘I’m going to see how I can do it better or how I can do things differently.’ The same approach applies to the company where we should be challenging everything even if it has made us successful in the past.
The third and the most important thing you need to have is a CHIP on your shoulders. This CHIP is Curiosity, Hunger, Integrity, and Passion. Those are the core four things in the CHIP and as long as those are in place, you will be successful in any role.
Also, I believe failure is a part of the journey to success. It is a great way to learn how to do better next time. You should not be afraid to bring up fresh ideas or point out potential issues if solving them could benefit the company and the innovation process regardless of how radical they are. Because if we had known the nature of success before we started, then everyone would be able to achieve it. Ours is a team of risk-takers. We just make sure that we are taking calculated risks.
AI talents are scarce resources. Do you offer any Data Science / AI education at Automation Anywhere?
That is an interesting question. There is a lot of talent available in the market, but it’s very hard to find good professionals with deep relevant expertise. Due to the hype in the industry, many individuals would take some courses, read a few books, and start their AI professional journey. And that is fine. But to deliver on the promise of what AI can do, you need advanced skills and a much higher level of depth and knowledge of AI in the specific domain. And that is hard to find.
At Automation Anywhere we have recognized the situation and have taken several steps to improve it. Firstly, long before the crisis hit, we had started “Lunch and Learn Sessions” where employees could exchange knowledge, share case studies. This was a good space to create and explore but the COVID lockdown disrupted that.
We tried to restart the initiative after we stabilized but it didn’t work out that well. Now with people and their families at home, they have more family responsibilities to take care of. And as part of the company culture, we try not to have a meeting half an hour before and half an hour after lunch, including the lunch hour. “Lunch and Learn” is hard to operate in that environment.
Then aside from meetings to discuss ideas, we have also identified several good books in the industry and have given them to the team to read and learn from them. Moreover, we encourage employees to learn from a wide range of e-courses available.
Finally, another effective way to bring the best talent to the company is through partnerships. At Automation Anywhere, we are working with several industry partners to augment our AI capabilities. AI is an area where I see us growing more as we are looking for talents all over the world. We can’t be fixed to a particular geography, simply because if we want to work with the stars, we need to go wherever they are.
How do you see RPA will evolve in the future?
Our industry is still very nascent, it is just starting up. Growth is happening in multi-dimensions. We started our work with structured data, with a well-defined set of rules that you can look into and automate. Excel operations were good candidates for automation as we could fetch, sort, and analyze data. Then we evolved from structured data to semi-structured and unstructured data. That is one dimension of growth for the industry.
Another dimension of growth is on decision-making logic, also called intelligent RPA. We have made progress from automating processes with fixed logic to fuzzy logic to learning and evolving the logic itself in decision-making. To widen the scope and deliver even more productivity and acceleration to business we are now leveraging machine learning techniques.
And then there is predictive analytics – we want to use AI technology to tackle difficult tasks and challenges, to map the potential outcome for a particular case, and ultimately improve that outcome. That is the technology perspective of where the RPA industry can grow.
The other area for industry growth is by providing an extensible architecture for bringing multiple applications together to automate not only legacy processes but also complex processes in future applications, as RPA enables a common effective infrastructure, where it is much easier to add numerous applications. Automation Anywhere has invested a lot in that area to create a scalable extensible architecture.
Low code/no-code has the potential to disrupt the industry. This is about reaching out to more people, enabling them to program bots without the extensive coding experience. It’s not just about having a Center of Excellence but more about how you can make the technology more pervasive across the industries so that more people can benefit from using it.
There is a relative immaturity of the automation market and often it is taking time for large organizations to learn about RPA. What steps enterprises can take to adopt RPA at scale?
This used to be the case but is changing fast.
From my perspective, we can accelerate the RPA tools adoption at scale by enabling the identification of more use cases using tools like Discovery Bot. Also, tools such as a web-based bot creator make adoption easier because you don’t need big software downloads and install to start building a bot.
The cloud has been an enabler for the RPA adoption as well. Today you can buy a cloud solution from Automation Anywhere and within less than an hour, you are up and in production with a bot.
To me, it is remarkable that most enterprises are doing some kind of RPA already, knowingly or unknowingly. Thus, what we have to do is to give them a platform that is much more organized and more comprehensive. To do that the industry is coming up with two terms, I call them “citizen-user” and a “citizen-developer”.
Enabling more “citizen-users” means that more people are now interacting with bots – Automation Anywhere’s AARI enables that. That is the first step in the journey. And the next step is “citizen-developer”, where a vast majority in the company should be able to go and create a bot that works with numerous systems and applications – web-based bot creator with intuitive drag and drop interfaces removes significant barriers. To create wider awareness for the RPA, we offer courses at Automation Anywhere University. We also do events to promote the industry.
I see there is a lot of focus on making Bots smart via combining RPA and cognitive platforms, like IQ Bot. Do you rely on AI from large players like Google, Microsoft, IBM Watson, or do you develop the AI in-house?
AI is a vast field. There can’t be a single winner that has supremacy in the space. There will be a lot of niche players. There will be a lot of big players. Some will do a better job with speech recognition. Some will do a better job with object detection while others will do a better job with documents or emotions, motion, you name it. The same applies to industries – some are performing better in the legal industry, and some in finance, and so on.
At Automation Anywhere we are constantly looking for key partners and already have strong partnerships in the space. But in addition to partnerships, we have to innovate too and find our unique area where we can be disruptive. So, it is a combination of both – effective partnerships and in-house innovation, as we have committed to creating products that best meet customers’ needs.
Anoop, thank you for the in-depth conversation about building automation tools that cut out the burdensome processes, optimize work, and create massive value for enterprises around the globe.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview with Anoop Tripathi!
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