Magic of Intelligent Automation Systems Part 1
Part 1 of the interview Chieng Moua, Vice President of Innovation at Blue Prism, a company that provides Intelligent RPA solutions to accelerate automation at enterprises across the globe.
Chieng, please tell us about your career and what you are currently doing.
I have been in the software industry for the past twenty-plus years, and my career spanned and has changed multiple times. I started my career as an implementation consultant for many ERP systems like PeopleSoft at Oracle. After Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, I would transition my career to being more of a data scientist and then transition from that to being more of an integration specialist.
Currently, I am the Global Vice President of Innovation at Blue Prism. We are in 170 different countries and over seventy different industries from banking, finance, manufacturing, logistics, and entertainment.
When I joined Blue Prism four years ago, I was employee number eighty-one. Now we have over a thousand employees globally. We have a hyper-growth type of organization and will continue to grow very quickly.
I have been fortunate to be leading the Innovation Center here with a team of about a dozen specialists that work with me, solving some very difficult problems. Our tag line here in the Innovation Center focuses on solving billion-dollar problems using intelligent automation.
VP of Innovations
What business value does RPA add to enterprises?
Unlike what we have done in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, where we have offshore labor to cheaper workforces around the world, the idea now is to outsource it to the digital shore.
It is like you hired Superman or Wonder Woman to come work for you.
You have software robots, for lack of a better word, software employees working inside core systems like an Oracle, and these massive, well-established ERP systems facilitate business processes.
On what is Innovation Center at Blue Prism working?
The Innovation Center is learning how people learn, learning how people run their business, and trying to find better and more efficient ways to augment humans to avoid costly mistakes.
We look at innovation beyond humans, enabling humans and protecting humans from bad things that could happen. An example is a situation with money laundering in financial institutions. With our systems, we know how to trace such things happening, identify them, and stop them immediately.
What are the main challenges at Blue Prism?
A major challenge that we are trying to address is changing the way people think. My analogy is in the early nineteen hundreds when everybody is familiar with riding a horse, farming with a horse, and all of a sudden, you hear a very loud mechanized machine coming down the road scaring everybody. The machine makes a lot of noise as it runs by itself. There are no horses, and it almost seems like magic. A bit of the challenge comes into play when we talk about intelligent automation systems doing things by themselves.
There is a lot of fear around what happens to my job when a digital worker comes to work.
So what we do is education. I would say seventy to eighty percent of our time, we are helping customers and partners to understand better what intelligent automation means and how to deploy it. That is our biggest challenge.
The second thing that we do specifically in the Innovation Center is to provide a focus on the vision. That is exciting because if you get past the fear, you start to understand how to deploy that scary loud machine that is coming down the street. Then it quickly evolves into what we have today, a very quiet, very efficient, battery-operated car. So this is where we are.
Off the top of my head, the biggest challenge is managing fear and uncertainty and providing a vision of focus to help understand how to leverage intelligent automation.
So by educating your potential customers, you are driving demand for your products and services?
Absolutely. To add to the way we drive demand for our product, we work with our customers, partners, and prospects to solve really hard problems. It could be an integration issue, or this could be a scenario where it takes too long to deploy a new business model.
A perfect example could be one of our customers that is going through a system migration. The migration is touching fifteen hundred different systems, and they have been quoted over a billion dollars and almost twelve years. When we look at this situation, we dare ask why it takes so long and so much money with so many resources? Why does it take two to three thousand consultants to come and make this work happen if the functionality they want is ready, all they need is to recreate it in the new system that does not exist yet? Many of the business executives are asking the same question.
How do you think RPA is going to evolve in the future?
When I look inside my crystal ball, I see different things are going to happen. The first thing, we are going to start to learn about RPA not as everybody understands what it means now. Blue Prism has over twenty-one hundred customers globally, and we operate hundreds in different countries, but it is still fairly early in the adoption cycle.
If you were to ask me what RPA means five years ago, the answer would have been “we are here to solve the problems that people don’t want to do. We are here to replace the work that people do not want to do.” You know, you do not want to spend all day every day working on spreadsheets, and you do not want to do a bunch of copy and paste. That would have been an appropriate answer five years ago.
Today we are addressing the problems that are very hard for people to solve, not just time-consuming.
For example, we are working with some of the largest research R&D facilities in Europe to find the cause of COVID 19. And that in itself, it’s unique because you would need a lot of people and a lot of data to run all kinds of simulations and models to be able to find a vaccine. If this were done five to ten years ago, you would need thousands of researchers and many systems talking to each other. We are doing today to connect all the pieces between the researchers, the data, and the pharmaceutical companies creating the vaccine through Blue Prism. Now it takes a smaller footprint to innovate.
We are positioning ourselves to be an innovative agent. That means that if you have an idea and want to try a new machine-learning algorithm model to do a customer survey, but you need a way to touch all your customers all at once. Would you hire a bunch of developers and create a web site and create a survey? Do the Survey Monkey all these different things? Or could you hire a digital workforce to facilitate touching a person’s mobile device? That is a very different model because you are having the digital workforce function as an extension of your business. It is an extension of your human talent to create, to innovate. New ideas and creativity are what fuels your company. Not so much data.
To answer your question directly, innovation is the fuel for creativity. Data is the engine per se. The digital worker connects the fuel to the engine and has the speed and accuracy of the digital worker to test the ideas and find ways to operationalize. That is the Holy Grail.
Do you think there will be resistance from human forces when introducing good use of the robotic workforce?
There are going to be people who are afraid of change. When you look at history, the printing press, the automobiles, literally anything new meets pushback.
The changes happening in the past ten years taught us that people would become more efficient and more productive.
As brick and mortar stores are going out of business that is what you are seeing with the Barnes Noble situation or Toys R Us. At the same time, you see the growth of Amazon. You see the online presence, which integrates IoT devices into systems directly with cashless transactions at a store. Those types of things are providing more place for productivity, for human beings to be more human.
Do you envision the boost of interest in Blue Prism’s solutions in the post-COVID world?
There are three scenarios. Some companies are still holding on to their current business model, hoping that everything will settle back down, that everything will go back to normal. I would say those companies will suffer the most.
Fortunately, we have other organizations that are trying to adapt and change their business models. They know they need a change, but they are fighting internal governance and processes internally. They are going through growing pains, and many of them are experimenting with emerging technologies. Many are spending a lot of money on consultants, on new technologies, in essence, playing with it to see what happens, to see the benefits. And those might make the transition. I would say it is 50/50 for those.
The third scenario is companies embracing new technologies, new ideas, and spinning off and creating a new business entity to promote those technologies. Zoom is a perfect example. Their stock price has grown exponentially. I think Walmart will make that transition because they understand that they need to have a very integrated online presence with their supply chain. That is what is going to happen when we start to look at the post-COVID 19 world.
I think the human touch in engagements will be reserved for very important meetings or very important relationships. I have a 10-year-old daughter, and she is no longer going to school; she is doing remote learning. I think the COVID-19 crisis is going to impact how we run a business every day. I think we are going to have to engage more virtually like you and I are now. Before COVID-19, we would be sitting in a room talking to each other and have cameras around us versus a remote interview on a computer screen. And so we will have to make human immersion into technology, and a human touch being more closely aligned. One of the ways we can do that is through intelligent machines.
Chieng, thank you for taking the time to talk with The Prime View and sharing your thoughts on innovation and the future trends in Robotic Process Automation.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview with Chieng Moua!