In this Digital CxO Insights Leadership Series video, Mike Vizard talks with Beth Homer, general manager for the Americas for SS&C Blue Prism, about how necessity has become the mother of automation innovation in the wake of the economic downturn.
Mike Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest condition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insights series. We’re here with Beth Homer, who is general manager for the Americas for SS&C BluePrism. That’s quite a mouthful, but we’ll get there. Beth, welcome to the show.
Beth Homer: Thanks, Mike. And I appreciate you having me on. Really appreciate the time.
Mike Vizard: When you’re talking about automation, and of course there’s been general progress on automation, but sometimes, necessity being the mother of automation, challenging times lead to an acceleration of adoption of things. So will we see more automation as we make our digital business transformation journeys in a downturn, and mining just proved to be counter cyclical?
Beth Homer: That’s right, it actually is very interesting to see how, sometimes, you know, some things in a downturn make you focus on some of the basics and what you really need to focus on – to make sure that you can be successful in your business, right? In terms of making sure you can get through the hard times, but continue to grow, and accelerate that growth through this hard time to come up much better on the other side.
Mike Vizard: You guys just conducted a survey along this path. So what did that survey find? And what if anything in there surprised?
Beth Homer: Yeah. So we just conducted a survey. And we conducted this survey with many, many business leaders – I think over 1000 business leaders and decision makers in the technology industry. And what we really found is that it really is looking at an underlying view of how technology is really driving the future of industry, particularly around automation. We also see that, as you talked about, going through a downturn and getting past that downturn, it’s not only about achieving the competitive edge in that downturn, but it’s also the long term viability of many of the businesses and industries that we interviewed about talking about how automating where people are, and where they’re looking to really go and understanding how they can get past, and understanding how they can achieve those goals to deliver the best results for their employees and customers, and for their partners and stakeholders of their businesses. So it was actually really interesting to see how over 1000 people came out with a very focused understanding of how they’re going to get past and utilize technology and automation to get there.
Mike Vizard: Do you think the rest of their organizations are aligned with that? Are the business leaders ahead of everybody else a little bit, or at least maybe engaging in a certain amount of wishful thinking? Because they see the value, but it’s how do you get there as the journey in between is anybody’s guess.
Beth Homer: Yeah, you’re right. And so I do think that if you look at the evolution of the technology evolution, you really do see many of the business leaders, either taking the technology dealers with them, or vice versa. This is the time I think that we’re starting to see a convergence of the two. And you start to see that really the business leaders are turning to technology, like advanced technologies like AI and ML, and many of the technology leaders who have been focused on technology like AI and ML for years. But I do think you’re starting to see the convergence of the two happening together.
Mike Vizard: Does that mean we’ll see a lot more AI? Or will we just call it automation, because we’re gonna be past the point where we think AI is a thing, and we’re just recognizing that it’s a tool that’s part of a suite of automation of things, including robotic process automation, and all kinds of just traditional static analytics?
Beth Homer: And it’s a great point. You know, I think that it’s a combination of the two. But what we’re really seeing is really the business impact of what automation is really driving for businesses alike across many industries. And we’re looking to see how industries are reshaping their art or their overall operations and looking for alternatives to protect, not only their future revenue, but those of their employees and their customers. We’re seeing, you know, really a drastic reduction in the face of drastic reduction in margins. And like we started talking about going through hard times, many of the business leaders are turning to these technologies like AI and ML to really see how they can reduce the rising costs of operations and keep and retain their employees during these economic hard times.
Mike Vizard: Is it too late to get started right now? Because it seems like a lot of organizations have already been down the path and it takes a while to ramp up something like this. So, what would be the impact if I didn’t get started, if any? Can I make up some ground?
Beth Homer: Yeah, I don’t think it’s ever too late. You know, I think many of our customers, over all the market, are always looking to reduce costs. And I do think that it’s never too late to look to how we can drive productivity. And driving productivity can really mean anything from something small and automating an administrative task, right? So something that you and I do every day, and automating something very simple can drive a significant reduction in cost. And many businesses, regardless if you’re a bank, or if you’re an insurance company or a health care organization. So I think that it’s really never too late to get started. And it’s never – it’s not something that you have to start really big; you can start small and grow as well. So I don’t think that should be a roadblock for anyone to to get started in automation of any sort.
Mike Vizard: Do you think sometimes we start out with too big a plan, and we have these grandiose notions trying to boil the ocean when maybe you should just focus on those small wins?
Beth Homer: Yeah, you know, I do think that there’s an evolution and a model to really drive the future of what many call that digital transformation, and driving that digital transformation means something different to everyone, right? I do think that you can start small and go big or start big, but making sure that there’s a plan to get there. So, many organizations start with something that’s going to drive significant business value. And if that’s big or small, I mean, that really depends upon the impact of what they’re looking to achieve. And I do think that sometimes you can look at something too big, but there’s a lot of different ways that organizations can look to model that to really start incrementally to get to that end goal. And typically, you know, we start to see that; companies focusing on digital transformation to really derive the market value that they’re looking to achieve for their customers.
Mike Vizard: And kind of sounding like the Goldilocks; in between has to be big enough to make a difference, but small enough to be achievable.
Beth Homer: You know, I do think it’s funny, because you say that, because I do think that there’s ways to get started as long as it means it’s meaningful to that business or to that individual. We can actually get started in a way that is meaningful for cost savings or productivity gains within that particular business model, or, you know, it could be like I said, a large company or small company, but it’s focused on what they’re trying to achieve is really what we want to get to – not really focus on how big or small it really is.
Mike Vizard: A lot of people seem to be stuck between trying to figure out whether or not they just need to upgrade their packaged application switch to some SaaS platform use – something like Salesforce. Or do they need to invest in writing custom code that really provides some differentiated value? Maybe it’s a mix of all these things, but what’s your sense of what people should be doing? Or how should they approach it from a technology perspective? What is the right mindset?
Beth Homer: Yeah, you know, many have been taking experience for many, many years. Being in technology, there’s so many ways to look at where to get started and what technologies to use. I think that what we’re finding is, there’s not a there’s a lot of companies that have invested many years in those technologies, and that’s fine. I think it’s a way to help automate what some companies have – that they may already have invested a significant amount, and technologies but they just need to make it better. And you know, trying to make that better is not a bad thing. It’s nothing about a rip and replace and must start with a certain type of technology. I always say let’s start with the end in mind and work backwards from then. And what you want to do is start with that, you know, if it’s a year – if it’s five years down the road, and work backwards for where you want to be and then what do you have in your bag today, right? So it doesn’t mean that it’s always a you know, rip and replace a certain tech – a certain set of technologies. But what we’re finding is that automation can really help drive many organizations to get there faster. So it’s just a matter of seeing what they have in place today and just seeing how they can get to their own goal.
Mike Vizard: Over in DevOps, they have this notion that automation should be embraced in a ruthless fashion; everything that can be automated should be automated. Then should that be our operating procedure for business as well? And just look at it from that perspective? And maybe we need to be on a path of continuous automation.
Beth Homer: You know, I think that it’s a great point. I do think continuous automation is absolutely very valid, and a really great way to find, you know, gains in the businesses in that particular – in the DevOps world. I mean, DevOps has, when it came into play, and it has gone through its own evolution as well, in terms of finding ways to accelerate company’s goals as well. I do think that there’s not a one size fits all; I think that there’s ways to actually look at DevOps and how you can actually utilize automation within DevOps. But also, many businesses aren’t there yet, right? They might be immature, not even utilizing continuous integration, but there’s other ways that they can utilize automation and see the benefit. I do think that there’s so many different ways to get started. And DevOps is a great way to look at how to drive automation into the business, if you’re utilizing.
Mike Vizard: One of the challenges people talk about all the time is that the data, and it’s not really something they feel like they can trust, and if I’m going to aggregate processes based on the data, but I don’t trust the data, and then I’m not going to trust the outcome of the automation. So it seems like there’s a lot of hard work around cleaning up the data and data management that needs to be done before we’re gonna get to any kind of automated process that people actually are going to trust, because they’re gonna worry about the, if the data is bad, the process is going to be worse.
Beth Homer: You’re right, I think that many companies are already looking at their data debt, right? And I think that they’re looking to make sure, and I have come from a world that, you know, data and analytics has been really strong. And in many different organizations, regardless of its in the analytics world, or just the pure data. I do think that, you know, automation, like you could automate something, and you can automate it quickly. It’s really about where to focus and what is going to drive the productivity or cost savings that the company is looking for. And then you have to make sure that you’re utilizing the right data to do that. I think that’s a really valid point, though, you know, just to make sure that organizations are looking to automate in areas that are really going to drive their end goal. And you know, many organizations are already looking at data quality. And I think that that’s a really valid point.
Mike Vizard: I think you need to start with the fundamentals. Because if you can get the fundamentals right, then you’re going to be in the right position to take advantage of whatever automation comes along, but don’t just automate for the sake of automation. Hey, Beth, thanks for being on the show.
Beth Homer: Thanks Mike. Really appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Mike Vizard: All right, you can find this episode on digitalcxo.com. We invite you to check out all the other episodes that are there as well. And once again, thank you all for watching.