Re-Envision Future Workforce Part 2
Welcome back to Part 2 of the interview with Anoop Tripathi, VP of Engineering and Cloud at Automation Anywhere, a global enterprise for robotic process automation.
Anoop, what are the advantages of being cloud-native compared to the traditional approach?
First of all, being in the cloud itself has tremendous benefits from being on-prem software. If you build a cloud-native product, you are offering a better service to your customers and they can be more confident that the dollars they are investing in the product are being invested in building newer features that will take them further along the journey, as opposed to just trying to keep the infrastructure somehow running in the cloud. That’s where I see the difference between the cloud product and the cloud-native product. And we have built a cloud-native product that is also much easier to go through compliance and certifications, it meets all the legal requirements that you have in different verticals or geos such as GDPR. SOC2 or ISO27001 etc.
What is the innovation frontier at Automation Anywhere?
Originally, when I was hired in the company, my objective was to look into solutions, products, and technologies and identify ones that will help us grow faster in the industry. We now have enabled innovations in multiple ways across the organization. We have Innovation Days, we have Hackathons, and Science Fairs. We have Ideation Forums where anybody can submit their ideas and validate them. We believe innovation will happen throughout the company and at all levels if you have a mindset for innovation. Even for existing products, we approach with an innovative mindset.
For instance, when we looked at human-bot collaboration, we took a different approach that helps customers create their processes and enables them to work from anywhere, using a web-based interface, interactive bots, and standing-up infrastructure with zero local footprints. That has resonated well with the customers. For a technology company like us to be successful, innovation has to be in its DNA.
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. Also, 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.
There was an outcry over potential job losses as machines would be replacing human workers. Do you envision people resisting bots?
No, not really. Humans are evolving species and will continue to evolve. And maybe one day we’ll have bigger thumbs because of too much typing on phones. Jokes aside, we will have more jobs but it’s just that the nature of the jobs will change. In fact, job automation creates more opportunities compared to what it takes and history has proven it time and again from the Industrial revolution 1.0 to 4.0. As humans, we don’t like menial tasks where you do the same thing over and over throughout the day. That is a point where you start looking for ways to automate your job, make it more efficient and free up to do meaningful things at work. Automation is something you can’t stop. It’s second nature to us humans.
COVID-19 has put digital transformation on the front burner of executives’ priority lists. Do you see that the pandemic has opened up an opportunity for technology companies to drive automation?
Prior to the COVID crisis, some companies were operating in a way where you cannot work on a desktop or a laptop, you were working on a virtual desktop, and you were coming to work to do the work. What COVID did was challenge them completely – it’s not only that you cannot come to work but you make the employee do the work from their machine simply because you cannot procure and distribute fifty thousand machines, in short order.
On top of it, customer needs have not changed and also the industry regulations did not change overnight. As a result, many have been forced to innovate. That’s where RPA came into play and helped meet the challenge.
I don’t think we are seeing a higher demand for RPA, I think we are seeing a higher need for RPA.
It’s not that people want RPA, they need it to continue doing their work efficiently. The crisis has created the acceleration for technology improvements and organizations in general, and the RPA industry in particular.
How companies not only can be productive but also resilient during crises?
From my perspective and conversation with my peers, here in the Valley, productivity has gone up during the COVID times. And if you look at it from a macro level, lots of people, including myself, are skipping or taking much shorter vacations because there are not too many places you can go these days. So, what do you do? You work more. That has created a higher level of productivity that is benefiting the industry. Unfortunately, this productivity is more applicable to projects that were already in flight or were well-defined and had a crisply articulated set of features.
What is suffering the most is innovation. Can you create a place where an engineer is talking to a salesperson, marketing person, or finance while everyone is working from home? No, not really. When people go to the office they come for inspiration. Now, if they have a particular need, they will make a conference call or chat. But the environment that used to help create new ideations is lost.
I believe resilient companies are ones that continuously innovate.
Companies that will succeed are those companies that are able to recreate the magic of impromptu interpersonal communication during crisis times or post-crisis as quickly as possible. At Automation Anywhere we have created the seating arrangements in the office so that there is no isolated one place where a particular team sits. We want to make sure that people move, exchange ideas, discuss, and innovate. We are now working on recreating it in pro-longed work from home scenarios to keep innovation going.
Anoop, thank you for your insights and for enabling the ongoing workforce transformation.
Stay tuned for the next interviews!