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Voice Prompt: This is RPA Nation, the world’s first robotics process automation podcast.

 

Host: Hello, everybody. Welcome to RPA Nation, I’m here with Alex Zarate of ZERO B.S. How are you doing there, Alex?

 

Alex Zarate: Good, mate. How are you?

 

Host: Not too bad. Alex, what I’m going to ask first is, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what your company does?

 

Alex: Sure. Thanks for having me. My name is Alex Zarate. I run a company called ZERO B.S. My background is primarily operations and technologies. I grew up in banking. I’m a jack of all trades, I’ve got a range of experiences ranging from designing operating models to building analytics and on-boarding tools you name it. I was even an auditor for a year, and unfortunately I had to leave because no one was buying me beers anymore.

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: But it’s all been great. It’s been an awesome journey. But we started ZERO B.S. in March 2018, so it’s been now a couple of months that we’re both up and running.

 

Host: That’s a very young company.

 

Alex: Extremely young, extremely young. So, a long road ahead.

 

Host: A long road ahead. Exciting times.

 

Alex: Indeed. Indeed, it is.

 

Host: Marvelous. Yes, so Alex what range of companies, are you presently servicing?

 

Alex: It depends. We mainly focus on mid-sized companies, wanting to streamline processes and embark on digital transformations but, we also work with select smaller companies that are really looking to make a difference in their strategy.

 

Host: Interesting. So it’s a range of companies probably– I imagine serving tens of people to hundreds of people maybe?

 

Alex: Yes. Yes, I mean, it’s funny. There’s a lot of smaller companies that are really trying to take advantage of technology and use it to its fullest in order to be able to scale quicker, and those companies are really exciting to work with because they have bright ideas. They’re really energetic. But, there’s also the companies that have 50-60 people, and they’re reaching a critical mass at a point where they need to start scaling and they’re trying to find out how to take that next step. They may have a range of processes or range of technologies that are preventing them to actually meet that next milestone, and so that’s where we actually step into help.

 

Host: Interesting. Yes, so what should C-level executives and company owners know before they implement BPM into the company?

 

Alex: When I talk to C-level executives with regard to BPM and also RPA with context to RPA Nation, I see both those technologies as really complementary to each other. Especially nowadays as you may have heard there’s a lot more strategic alliances between BPM and RPA companies and they’re providing a lot more value with respect to digital transformation journeys for customers. But if there’s one thing I need to tell C-level executives and one thing I do tell my clients is start with strategy. If you don’t start with strategy and you don’t know what your end-goal is and what you want to achieve, the how which is a BPM or an RPA or whatever technology you implement is almost irrelevant because you can go left, you can go right, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know when you’re going to get there. Start with strategy. Understand where you’re going. Reverse engineer that.

 

Host: So Alex, why is BPM so important?

 

Alex: BPM– and I will bring in RPA into this conversation again. They’re really important for a digital transformation journey because it allows you to achieve two different things. RPA is something that gives you very quick returns on investments. It allows you to scale very quickly–

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: –and it gives you bring to breathe as an owner of the company. BPM allows you to innovate. It allows you to experiment to evolve your processes, to optimize, to evolve your company towards innovation. So using those two things together, I think it’s really powerful. Driven by a proper strategy, you’ll know where you need breathing room versus where you need to start developing innovation.

 

Host: Interesting. Interesting. Alex, what are some common myths and what are the common assumptions that clients have but get wrong?

 

Alex: So, I see a lot of assumptions around the capabilities that are required, the number of developers, and the expensive sort of implementations, and I think that’s a bit of a myth and there’s a lot of assumptions around having to outlay, a lot of test to implement digital transformation journeys and the reality is you can start small and evolve it. You can start lean and organically grow your capability to a point where you’ve reached your strategy. But you don’t need a multimillion-dollar project to get started with digital transformation.

 

Host: So, how will it cost if clients could sort of almost get away with tens of thousands? Or even less or more?

 

Alex: Yes, tens of thousands. I mean, usually, that’s more than enough to get the right help, get the right advise, and get some early wins and that’s the key. It’s implementing something that allows you to get some early wins not only to achieve those that return an investment but also to make sure that your company is engaged in your projects. Show them the success. Show them that you can actually change the culture, you can actually change the process, and create an innovative culture.

 

Host: Cool. So, how do your client companies come to learn about BPM and make the decision to implement it?

 

Alex: [laughs] Most of the time at least the companies that I engage and I speak to, they don’t really know that they need it yet and some do. Some already, have it in mind and say, “Well, we need to go on a digital transformation.” The reality is, a lot of the time just like when you are sick, you don’t know what kind of medicine you need. You don’t know the remedies. You go to a doctor and you say, “Hey look, I feel this and I need to feel better.” The doctor will say, “Okay, cool. You need to take some Panadol, or you need to take some antibiotics or whatever it is.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: I see myself that same way. So, I approach companies from a different perspective. I say, “Cool. Let’s understand what symptoms you’re feeling.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: My usual engagement starts with either an operational assessment or risk assessment for companies that have high-risk profiles. We can start with customer journey mapping or perhaps an actual strategic planning exercise. So, those are usually diagnostic engagements and it allows us to understand where the company needs work. Where do we need to implement certain strategies, certain technologies and certain process changes? At that point, the client would usually be, the light bulb ticks on and they go, “Ah! So all right. So I need to achieve X, Y, and Z and these are the tools I have to achieve that with.”

 

Host: Right. Yes.

 

Alex: Instead of actually saying, “No, I’m a BPM company or I’m an RPA company and these are the services I have to offer.” We partner with your clients to make sure that we understand where they want to go, so we can reverse engineer that again from a strategy perspective.

 

Host: Right. Right. So, what were the easiest things to automate?

 

Alex: The easiest things to automate are usually discrete processes. Those are processes that are repeatable, that are predictable, and so those are really easy things to put into an automation tool and do away with. However, from my perspective, I’d like to do away with processes. We like to make sure that we design the end to end such that we remove all redundancies. So, I wouldn’t help a client automate a process that is poorly designed because that can introduce a different set of side effects. So risks, you know, just because the process is automated doesn’t mean that the process is not happening or the processes doesn’t need the process owner. We need all of that and having a poorly designed process automated actually could be a double-edged sword.

 

Host: Right. So, how do you go about to explaining that to the client?

 

Alex: Just exactly what I’m saying now. We explain it in a way usually on a drawing board. We map out the process and say, “See process A, process B, process C shouldn’t be there because they are redundant. If you do something further up front or in the back, you can do away with these processes altogether.” So usually the quiet ones stand out very easily, once they see it visually. And that’s fine. I think that we see that as our job. Our job is not just to go away and do automation for all types of processes. We look at optimization first and then we automate.

 

Host: Right. And the discovery phase?

 

Alex: Yes, I mean usually a lot of things happen in the discovery phase where we do the high-level sort of process universe, and we start focusing on the areas where the company feels the most pain in be it through lack of efficiencies or customer complaints or whatever it is and we deep dive on some of those things during discovery. But at least, what that gives us is, we’ve identified the focus areas so that in further workshops or further engagements, we can actually go into detail, we can do interviews, we can start looking at the process with a fine-tooth comb.

 

Host: Alex, okay so what are the things that are proving difficult to automate?

 

Alex: That’s a good question. So, I think usually is process that unpredictable that requires too much human engagement or decision making. So you see a lot of this with, either legal practices or document negotiations or things like that were it’s very difficult to anticipate what’s going to happen next. So you can’t necessarily automate really complex processes successfully without incurring a lot of risks.

 

Host: Right. That’s fair enough, I guess. I think I’ve seen some interesting things happening in the machine learning space, which is dealing with legal documents and maybe there’ll be some progression with that at some point?

 

Alex: I’ve been to a number of conferences and there’s tons of evolving technologies with machine learning, and I think that’s definitely an area where you’re going to see a boom in new types of automation and new types of, I guess, human augmentation as they call it, but at the moment from what I see in the SME spaces is just those types of processes are just not worth it at the moment.

 

Host: Right. Fair enough.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: So Alex, which BPM platforms do you favor?

 

Alex: You know what? I don’t necessarily favor platform per se. I’m almost platform agnostic. I have my preferences with regard to different areas and different capabilities.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: But I usually start with the client requirement first and what the client preferences and what they’re looking for and the total cost of ownership. It really needs to cater to what the clients’ wants and needs, and there’s tons of really good tools out there and they have strengths and their weaknesses so, we tailor those strengths and weaknesses too to make sure that they suit the client first.

 

Host: Right. Yes.

 

Alex: But having said that, for smaller clients, you don’t want a really big implementation. You don’t want to have huge outlying cache. You start with a lot of the SaaS BPM tools that are out there, for example.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: Things like KiSSFLOW. Things like Flokzu. Podio is fantastic so, there’s tons of tools out there that clients can start on their own. They can start using them very quickly in implementing workflow and automation themselves. In those cases with the smaller clients, they call us in not because they want us to necessarily configure the tool. They want to understand how to best restructure their operations and their target operating model with the use of the tool overlaying that strategy. So, we come in and do an operational assessment and make sure that we design sort of their target’s date in a way that best uses the tool and best changes the way they work.

 

Host: Right, so model the business and then, figure out the best tool for the new situation.

 

Alex: Absolutely! I mean and as I said I think organizations can start small, can start small specific. If there’s a discrete area which they want to use the tool in, they go in and use it. Usually by the time that we get called in, it’s because, “Hey, we started using this tool, but we don’t know to actually make real good use of it and we want to, you know, we’ve got multiple business areas. We’ve got 20-30 staff that wants to start using it and really we don’t want to create a mess and we need someone to come in and give us a hand.” At that point, we do a bit of an assessment. We talk to them. We talk to the staff. We understand how to best design the end to end and not just the discrete process.

 

Host: Right. So what are the processes for companies who have been around for a long time? Is it difficult for them to engage in these new structures and new processes or for those typical companies, can you suggest like a different line of products which better suit that situation?

 

Alex: No. It is difficult in the sense that for a company that’s been around for long they already have tools and practices they have in place.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: I’ve always said that the most difficult aspect to any project in the implementation that involves technology is the people and the technical implementation anyone would tell you is usually the easiest best. You know, building something to specification is really not the challenge. The challenge is making sure that what you build is in line with what the people expect to see and making everyone happy with what they have and making sure that they use it going forward because if you built something and people don’t like it and people don’t use it and then they continue to do what they were doing before, now you actually have a bigger problem.

 

Host: Right. So how do you go about to educating the users?

 

Alex: You engage them from the get-go. One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen made in big and small organizations is, “Oh no, no. We know what we want. We will design it, and people will follow.” Having two or three SMEs in the room defining, what our process is going to look like and how it’s going to work for the rest of the organization is the formula for loss.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: You can’t please everyone but you need to understand what people don’t like and like about processes, so you can make an educated decision about how you’re going to design the workflow on automation or process to understand nuances and variations. All of that needs to come from the people. So you engage them early and you iterate.

 

Host: Right. So you’re talking about the C-levels and also the end users as well on the same room and then finding out —

 

Alex: Yes, I mean, so just to give you an idea, so engage the C-level and the senior management team to understand what the project is going to be about, what are the benefits, how it’s going to be structured, where are going to be the areas of focus, the strategy and all that sort of stuff. Come implementation, it’s imperative that you actually bring the real users, the people that are actually doing the work into the room. You start mapping out their experiences. You start understanding and deep diving into processes. You ask them what they like and what they don’t like. You ask them about the exceptions and variations to their processes and how they deal with it. All of that cannot come from one SME, and that is a huge mistake is that assumption that one SME or two SMEs are going to be able to tell you on behalf of everyone else exactly what goes on.

 

Host: So Alex, how was it impacted your business so far?

 

Alex: Well, for us, it’s great. It’s been a positive impact because our message to our clients, you know, our narrative is, “We’re going to partner up with you. We want to be part of your organization during the project implementation. We want to impart skills. We want to impart knowledge, and our approach is that we engage not only the SMEs and the leaders upfront, but we also engage the people that area actually doing those jobs early on in the workshops when it’s time to actually design things, so that we don’t have surprises later on.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: So, we also have a specific approach for change management, communication strategies, governance, so all of these things put together to make sure that, “Yes,” we remain lean and intuitive but we remain in control with regards to how we implement change across organization and across people, which as I said before is the toughest thing to do.

 

Host: Yes. Yes. So Alex, how smooth was the implementation?

 

Alex: Implementations– I’m not going to B.S. you in anyway because —

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: — the name of my company is ZERO B.S. You know, we have hiccups. With any projects, there is hiccups. There’s surprises with regard to variations or integrations that we were not aware of or whatever it is. There’s usually something that pops up. That’s fine. We expect it. The fact that we expect it means that we can deal with it relatively easily and quickly, and we’re fully transparent with the people that we work with, so I think dealing with hiccups is just a part of the job.

 

Host: Right and the client is expecting that as well.

 

Alex: They expect you to deal with it properly.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: So if you don’t deal with it properly or you hide it or it becomes a surprise by the time the milestones too, then they’re not happy.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: But I think any client that engages us will be told upfront, “Look, we may have hiccups. We don’t know what we don’t know.” So when we find out, you will know we will implement a strategy to overcome that [crosstalk].

 

Host: So imagine the expectations straight from the get go.

 

Alex: As soon as it comes up.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: So Alex, how have frontline workers reacted to the implementation?

 

Alex: It’s– for us usually very positively because we engage them early on and the times where I’ve seen hesitation and where I’ve seen resistance is where we have not communicated properly or where the client has wanted to have a different communication approach or wanted to have a more conservative way of releasing information to its staff community. So, my big advise for anyone trying to implement these transformation strategies or any type of automation be it BPM or RPA, you want to be able to communicate on a regular basis as soon as you can engage them early so that the change in management process is easier. Also, tell people what they can expect. Tell people they can expect a more interesting environment to work. Tell people, you know, if there is going to be cuts and if there’s going to be redundancies, which sometimes we see that, there needs to be a specific way to treat that but communicate it. Don’t hide it and don’t spring it up on people at the last minute because that doesn’t just impact the morale of the people that are impacted, but those other people that are standing next to them. So communication and change managements’ activities, if they’re handled well, usually the effect is very positive.

 

Host: Do the frontlines get proactive in the responses? Do they contribute in your experiences so far?

 

Alex: They do and we are always very aware that they have day jobs and they don’t want to impact day jobs, you know, we are running a project. We have different agendas. They will be running BAU, and they will be running frontline activities so they have again a different agenda. So there is a positive engagement. You just need to manage their time carefully not waste it and we do that with all our clients.

 

Host: So Alex, what have you done to quell fears?

 

Alex: Quell fears? I have to go back to communication and change management activities. Right? So when we say fear, is the fear of the employers or the employees fearing of what’s going to happen if you automate all of their jobs?

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: The reality is, a lot of the time automation projects kick off not because they want to per se and even though that’s a major benefit it’s not really it. Most of the time what I see is, that companies automate so that they can re-invest those the capacity in other areas. So the organization that is rolling out these types of programs usually will have a plan on how to retrain staff and how to reinvest their capacity into other areas where it can create innovation where it creates additional product lines or additional types of service that will help the company grow. If the company’s strategy is purely to downsize—

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: — which I haven’t really seen for a medium-sized company, then you just need to tread that carefully and manage it and if you have a really a good way of managing that communication, your employees and your staff will be thankful for it.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: But I haven’t come across that yet.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: So would you imagine that would be the job of ZERO B.S. or the actual client’s job to be doing that?

 

Alex: Look, I think it’s our client’s job to manage that communication. We can’t, you know, deliver that news to the staff. What we do is we help our clients manage their community strategy. We help them develop it.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: We help them implement governance structures into their organizations so that we manage deliverables properly and also change management activities so that they can manage those change management activities, but we don’t drive all of it ourselves because people won’t be receptive to us being there managing those activities for them.

 

Host: Yes, Alex. Do you recognize more businesses could implement BPM?

 

Alex: The answer is yes. I mean, in short, there’s lots of opportunities for a small business to take advantage of BPM solutions that are out there. There’s tons of SaaS and very low-cost solutions that they can use to put in workflows, put in automation, to streamline their processes, and they could do themselves. Most of the time, these are things that they can start small, iterate, do that themselves and if they get stuck they call in someone but yes you don’t need a huge outlay. You can start small at $9 a month until it gets, very easy to do.

 

Host: Really? So even a single-person business can get started?

 

Alex: Yes. Yes. I mean, we have solutions right now for our content production, for example. I put that on BPM and we obviously use people to produce our content and to write it. We have graphic designers that are doing stuff separately. So we issue tasks and automate a lot of the notifications and emails and loading of content into different places through this workflow. So we’re not big.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: We have a couple of people in the company, but we benefit from great solutions that are there.

 

Host: Yes, I suppose at least it leaves the question, what things can you automate?

 

Alex: So I was talking about things like content creation and I will go use that as an example. So we come up with a content plan and we say, “Okay, we want the full articles written across the month.” And so that kicks off. That’s the case initiation that kicks off the process, sends a notification over to the writer or to the marketing coordinator and say, “Hey, there’s a new article that needs to be written.” Along with that, there’s a bunch of other things. So the marketing coordinator needs to do a certain step in there, maybe enrich it with additional information, and then once that step is complete, there is the case or a task gets allocated to the writer and another task to a graphic designer and they need to produce I guess the creative form for the content, and the writer produces the actual content itself that goes back to the coordinator who does proofreading. Once all of that’s put together, it goes back to myself for approval. All of this is being done through a single platform without the need of emails or anything else.

 

Host: Right. So imagine there’s a really good signaling system for every platform.

 

Alex: Yes, I mean you think you can configure that as you need so, we use a stream within the platform that ensures what’s happening and the notification system so you can see how many tasks are assigned to you and what workflow. So it’s usually quite easy to see when you actually have something to do versus tasks or cases that are open. That’s only for case management. You can have things in the CRM space. You can have things in expense management or claims management– there’s tons of opportunities for small clients.

 

Host: Right. So let’s say for financing and for email sending and —

 

Alex: Yes, yes. I mean, these tools all integrate with a bunch of other great tools and so you can integrate it with your Gmail or your Google for Work and your Google Docs. You have Zapier on the back of it, which you know you can do all sorts of funky stuff. So populating spreadsheets with emails that are coming through your inbox for example easy thing to do, or moving attachment into certain folders easy thing to do. Those are all discrete single processes but, your imagination is your limit. You can start building things that are tailored to you and that’s fantastic, right? For a small shop.

 

Host: Right. So is there any problem domain that people are not thinking about? Like that they could be doing and could be including?

 

Alex: For a small business? My advice is start with all of the things that are holding you back from focusing on revenue-generating activities. So if you’re spending a bunch of time, like in my case, looking at different articles and different pieces of content or expense management or whatever it is. Focus on streamlining those areas, and you’re going to have people helping you along the way, be it your virtual assistant or your marketing coordinator or whatever.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: But if they’re on a streamline platform, the amount of work that you do is a lot less instead of you receiving, tens and dozens of emails. Please check this. Please escape that, and you’re having to write back and then finding that the attachment– All of those things add-on and as a small business, every few minutes count.

 

Host: Of course. [laughs] Absolutely. Yes so, Alex, what have been the challenging aspects to implementation?

 

Alex: So generally, it’s been education and making sure that our clients understand the end to end and what their journey is about. Sometimes I, some of the conversations I have are, “Okay, can you please automate, process X?” At that point, the short answer is most likely, “Yes,” but how does that fit in with the rest of the things that you need to do? Is it the right thing to do to automate that first versus automating process Z? Or process B. Should we be automating process B, then we should maybe looking at optimizing and doing away with process B? Is it going to help you achieve your goals and visions? So all those questions, for me come first so that I can help my client achieve what they want. Sometimes that’s difficult. In helping clients’ understand, let’s talk about strategy first before we start talking about a solution. Let’s talk about what you want to achieve before we talk about how we’re going to achieve it. Because it helps me and it also helps me, help them.

 

Host: Yes. So what are some of the specific roadblocks to look out for?

 

Alex: Some roadblocks to look out for are conflicting practice between business units and typically this is for medium-sized clients where you have different heads of businesses with different agendas and different objectives and different KPIs. If so, when we come into the picture specifically to help the business unit B but there’s a relationship with business unit C and D, then those can create some friction, some roadblocks. So, what we like to do is during an inception workshop or a discovery workshop is, bring everyone in. Bring everyone in to talk about, “Hey, this is what we’re here for. This is what we want to do. This is how it impacts business units A, B, C, D, E, F and are we all aligned with it? If we’re not aligned with it, let’s talk about it. Let’s make sure that all our cards are on the table.”

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Figure out what we can do versus what we can’t do and focus on the areas where we can have nice early wins so that we can move ahead and maybe that just the roadmap changes and it just needs to be tailored to their organization and maybe their priorities need to change. But you don’t know this until everyone is talking about it.

 

Host: Right. That’s a really cool thing about your business because you’re approaching companies with a small number of people. You have the opportunity to bring everybody into the one room and be able to do that, and I think that’s really good and I guess the advantage over the bigger companies for sure.

 

Alex: Yes and I think our approach is not just technology and not just operations and we’d like to think ourselves as a bit of a hybrid because it allows us to approach both things in harmony. We go in thinking about your strategy, thinking about the customers’ technology platforms and their landscape. We think about how their operations and structures and designs and the current operating model. We put all of those things together to actually come up with a solution that helps them achieve goals and visions. Not to deliver a technical solution.

 

Host: Yes so, Alex, what is it usually like at the start of an implementation?

 

Alex: For us, it’s usually very exciting. We’re in a new environment with new people. Some of it can be overwhelming. Clients are looking for direction from us to see, “Okay, what do we do now? How do we do it? We already have a plan in place.” So it really is, “Okay, well now we need to get our hands dirty.” That’s usually very exciting, and what we really look forward to is that first milestone because what we tried to do is have a milestone as early as possible where we can demonstrate a quick win.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Something that allows not just the senior managers and executive team to see, “Hey, actually, we can delivery.” But for us more importantly is to show the staff is that, “Hey guys, look we have now a quick win. Can we test that? Can we see how it works with you guys?” With us, our goal is to make sure that they’re super happy because they’re going to be our evangelists.

 

Host: Right. So a quick win. Do you usually go for like a low hanging fruit or just whatever the client feels is something that you need to do quite quickly?

 

Alex: Usually, we try and balance something high impact, low effort, or low timelines right? So something that will definitely show value and will definitely be able to be noticed by the people that are executing these processes but also something that we can do as quickly as possible.

 

Host: Yes Alex, so what is the best business book you’ve read so far and can recommend to our audience?

 

Alex: Oh geez, I don’t read a lot of business books in the BPM space or RPA space. I have read a really good book recently. It was Platform Revolution, and this was mainly around how really great apps like Uber or otherwise have or Facebook have taken off and what are they key factors that allowed them to be so popular. Platform Revolution went into a lot of details to what are the factors that had a good part to play and that was awesome. I really enjoyed it.

 

Host: Really? So lots that you’re learning from that as well and —

 

Alex: Yes. You know what, I think in terms of designing solutions or creating an app or from that perspective there was a lot, lot of insights and really practical ones as well.

 

Host: Nice. Nice. Alex, what would you say is your favorite success quote?

 

Alex: I actually saw this one recently and actually became my favorite. It’s by Will Smith.

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: Believe it or not it’s actually quite deep.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: [inaudible]

 

Alex: He quote is. “Discipline is the center of all material success.”

 

Host: “Discipline is the center of all material success.”

 

[laughter]

 

Host: That’s brilliant. I like that.

 

Alex: Yes, I like it too.

 

Host: [laughs] Yes. What lessons have you learned some from your journey so far?

 

Alex: I guess for me is that your destination is your journey, and I’ve learned to really enjoy the journey.

 

Host: Enjoy the journey, and I think some people are forgetting to that.

 

Alex: Yes, I mean, when I talk about strategies, we need to know where we go and we need to know our goals and objectives and I have those as well, both personally and professionally but they change. They may change a year down the line, and my personal goals and aspirations may evolve and may become bigger and so I just want to enjoy the journey. I think the key learning for me at least in the last 12 to 24 months have been enjoy what you’re going through, learn from your mistakes, and learn from what you’re going through as much as you can because it just helps you grow.

 

Host: I like that. Yes, because if you are in a situation as you’re saying that the business could change if you are trying to live your life from point to point and you don’t know what the next point’s going to be and the next point could change on you or just give you extra stress, extra worry, and —

 

Alex: Absolutely, yes. Things always come up.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: I’ve seen this from an early age, life has an easy way of teaching whose boss.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: Oh that’s brilliant! Yes. So what’s one thing that’s really exciting you in your business today?

 

Alex: I think for me is the fact that it’s an even playing field today and I mentioned this in an earlier discussion. 

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: You know, technology itself is and isn’t the differentiator, and I say that because it isn’t in a way that everyone has access to amazing technology. It is, because not everyone knows how to use it. I think knowing how to use it and knowing where to apply it and how to apply it is now the differentiator but, everyone has access to it. So it’s what you do and not what tool you used to do it.

 

Host: Oh yes, now. [laughs] What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?

 

Alex: Yes, that’s a good one. For me, it’s do what you love. Do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Using your strengths is really key when you’re building a business or you’re thinking about something to do is leverage off your strengths.

 

Host: Leverage off your strengths.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Use your passion and it’s not specifically something that you love. Focus on the areas that you’re really good at and then you will find it a lot easier to keep on going because it is a marathon.

 

Host: Yes. Yes.

 

Alex: The business is a marathon. It’s not you have to last.

 

Host: Right. So it’s almost like the 80-20 rule. It’s you focus on your strengths and maybe you reduce the other 80% [crosstalk].

 

Alex: As much as you can.

 

Host: As much as you can.

 

Alex: As much as you can. I mean, starting a business is a bit glorified nowadays and you learn this only once you have started and realize how many challenges you have and at one point you need to be a jack of all trades. Like I’m not a salesman or a marketing person natively, but I’ve had to learn aspects of it. That’s like with any business owner. You just need to start thinking about things that you probably haven’t had to in the past and you focus on the stuff that you’re really good at.

 

Host: Of course, yes.

 

Alex: So, there is an aspect of that. It’s true that statement, “Do what you love and what you’re passionate about, but you do need to widen your expertise a little bit when you’re starting a business and until you can afford to hire people and start outsourcing and start leveraging purely on your strengths.”

 

Host: Of course, and just to end the show, do you have any last pieces of advice for our listeners?

 

Alex: Yes, I do. So, I would go back to figure out where you’re going and why you’re going and reverse engineer that.

 

Host: Excellent. Now that’s brilliant. I love that. I thank you very much, Alex. That’s the end of today’s show. I hope you all enjoyed it. I think it was great. I had lots of fun with you, Alex.

 

Alex: That was lots of fun. Lots of fun. Thank you.

 

Host: That’s brilliant. Thank you so much. Cheers.

 

Alex: Cheers.

 

Voice Prompt: See you again next time, for the next episode of RPA Nation.

 

[end]

Voice Prompt: This is RPA Nation, the world’s first robotics process automation podcast.

 

Host: Hello, everybody. Welcome to RPA Nation, I’m here with Alex Zarate of ZERO B.S. How are you doing there, Alex?

 

Alex Zarate: Good, mate. How are you?

 

Host: Not too bad. Alex, what I’m going to ask first is, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what your company does?

 

Alex: Sure. Thanks for having me. My name is Alex Zarate. I run a company called ZERO B.S. My background is primarily operations and technologies. I grew up in banking. I’m a jack of all trades, I’ve got a range of experiences ranging from designing operating models to building analytics and on-boarding tools you name it. I was even an auditor for a year, and unfortunately I had to leave because no one was buying me beers anymore.

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: But it’s all been great. It’s been an awesome journey. But we started ZERO B.S. in March 2018, so it’s been now a couple of months that we’re both up and running.

 

Host: That’s a very young company.

 

Alex: Extremely young, extremely young. So, a long road ahead.

 

Host: A long road ahead. Exciting times.

 

Alex: Indeed. Indeed, it is.

 

Host: Marvelous. Yes, so Alex what range of companies, are you presently servicing?

 

Alex: It depends. We mainly focus on mid-sized companies, wanting to streamline processes and embark on digital transformations but, we also work with select smaller companies that are really looking to make a difference in their strategy.

 

Host: Interesting. So it’s a range of companies probably– I imagine serving tens of people to hundreds of people maybe?

 

Alex: Yes. Yes, I mean, it’s funny. There’s a lot of smaller companies that are really trying to take advantage of technology and use it to its fullest in order to be able to scale quicker, and those companies are really exciting to work with because they have bright ideas. They’re really energetic. But, there’s also the companies that have 50-60 people, and they’re reaching a critical mass at a point where they need to start scaling and they’re trying to find out how to take that next step. They may have a range of processes or range of technologies that are preventing them to actually meet that next milestone, and so that’s where we actually step into help.

 

Host: Interesting. Yes, so what should C-level executives and company owners know before they implement BPM into the company?

 

Alex: When I talk to C-level executives with regard to BPM and also RPA with context to RPA Nation, I see both those technologies as really complementary to each other. Especially nowadays as you may have heard there’s a lot more strategic alliances between BPM and RPA companies and they’re providing a lot more value with respect to digital transformation journeys for customers. But if there’s one thing I need to tell C-level executives and one thing I do tell my clients is start with strategy. If you don’t start with strategy and you don’t know what your end-goal is and what you want to achieve, the how which is a BPM or an RPA or whatever technology you implement is almost irrelevant because you can go left, you can go right, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know when you’re going to get there. Start with strategy. Understand where you’re going. Reverse engineer that.

 

Host: So Alex, why is BPM so important?

 

Alex: BPM– and I will bring in RPA into this conversation again. They’re really important for a digital transformation journey because it allows you to achieve two different things. RPA is something that gives you very quick returns on investments. It allows you to scale very quickly–

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: –and it gives you bring to breathe as an owner of the company. BPM allows you to innovate. It allows you to experiment to evolve your processes, to optimize, to evolve your company towards innovation. So using those two things together, I think it’s really powerful. Driven by a proper strategy, you’ll know where you need breathing room versus where you need to start developing innovation.

 

Host: Interesting. Interesting. Alex, what are some common myths and what are the common assumptions that clients have but get wrong?

 

Alex: So, I see a lot of assumptions around the capabilities that are required, the number of developers, and the expensive sort of implementations, and I think that’s a bit of a myth and there’s a lot of assumptions around having to outlay, a lot of test to implement digital transformation journeys and the reality is you can start small and evolve it. You can start lean and organically grow your capability to a point where you’ve reached your strategy. But you don’t need a multimillion-dollar project to get started with digital transformation.

 

Host: So, how will it cost if clients could sort of almost get away with tens of thousands? Or even less or more?

 

Alex: Yes, tens of thousands. I mean, usually, that’s more than enough to get the right help, get the right advise, and get some early wins and that’s the key. It’s implementing something that allows you to get some early wins not only to achieve those that return an investment but also to make sure that your company is engaged in your projects. Show them the success. Show them that you can actually change the culture, you can actually change the process, and create an innovative culture.

 

Host: Cool. So, how do your client companies come to learn about BPM and make the decision to implement it?

 

Alex: [laughs] Most of the time at least the companies that I engage and I speak to, they don’t really know that they need it yet and some do. Some already, have it in mind and say, “Well, we need to go on a digital transformation.” The reality is, a lot of the time just like when you are sick, you don’t know what kind of medicine you need. You don’t know the remedies. You go to a doctor and you say, “Hey look, I feel this and I need to feel better.” The doctor will say, “Okay, cool. You need to take some Panadol, or you need to take some antibiotics or whatever it is.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: I see myself that same way. So, I approach companies from a different perspective. I say, “Cool. Let’s understand what symptoms you’re feeling.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: My usual engagement starts with either an operational assessment or risk assessment for companies that have high-risk profiles. We can start with customer journey mapping or perhaps an actual strategic planning exercise. So, those are usually diagnostic engagements and it allows us to understand where the company needs work. Where do we need to implement certain strategies, certain technologies and certain process changes? At that point, the client would usually be, the light bulb ticks on and they go, “Ah! So all right. So I need to achieve X, Y, and Z and these are the tools I have to achieve that with.”

 

Host: Right. Yes.

 

Alex: Instead of actually saying, “No, I’m a BPM company or I’m an RPA company and these are the services I have to offer.” We partner with your clients to make sure that we understand where they want to go, so we can reverse engineer that again from a strategy perspective.

 

Host: Right. Right. So, what were the easiest things to automate?

 

Alex: The easiest things to automate are usually discrete processes. Those are processes that are repeatable, that are predictable, and so those are really easy things to put into an automation tool and do away with. However, from my perspective, I’d like to do away with processes. We like to make sure that we design the end to end such that we remove all redundancies. So, I wouldn’t help a client automate a process that is poorly designed because that can introduce a different set of side effects. So risks, you know, just because the process is automated doesn’t mean that the process is not happening or the processes doesn’t need the process owner. We need all of that and having a poorly designed process automated actually could be a double-edged sword.

 

Host: Right. So, how do you go about to explaining that to the client?

 

Alex: Just exactly what I’m saying now. We explain it in a way usually on a drawing board. We map out the process and say, “See process A, process B, process C shouldn’t be there because they are redundant. If you do something further up front or in the back, you can do away with these processes altogether.” So usually the quiet ones stand out very easily, once they see it visually. And that’s fine. I think that we see that as our job. Our job is not just to go away and do automation for all types of processes. We look at optimization first and then we automate.

 

Host: Right. And the discovery phase?

 

Alex: Yes, I mean usually a lot of things happen in the discovery phase where we do the high-level sort of process universe, and we start focusing on the areas where the company feels the most pain in be it through lack of efficiencies or customer complaints or whatever it is and we deep dive on some of those things during discovery. But at least, what that gives us is, we’ve identified the focus areas so that in further workshops or further engagements, we can actually go into detail, we can do interviews, we can start looking at the process with a fine-tooth comb.

 

Host: Alex, okay so what are the things that are proving difficult to automate?

 

Alex: That’s a good question. So, I think usually is process that unpredictable that requires too much human engagement or decision making. So you see a lot of this with, either legal practices or document negotiations or things like that were it’s very difficult to anticipate what’s going to happen next. So you can’t necessarily automate really complex processes successfully without incurring a lot of risks.

 

Host: Right. That’s fair enough, I guess. I think I’ve seen some interesting things happening in the machine learning space, which is dealing with legal documents and maybe there’ll be some progression with that at some point?

 

Alex: I’ve been to a number of conferences and there’s tons of evolving technologies with machine learning, and I think that’s definitely an area where you’re going to see a boom in new types of automation and new types of, I guess, human augmentation as they call it, but at the moment from what I see in the SME spaces is just those types of processes are just not worth it at the moment.

 

Host: Right. Fair enough.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: So Alex, which BPM platforms do you favor?

 

Alex: You know what? I don’t necessarily favor platform per se. I’m almost platform agnostic. I have my preferences with regard to different areas and different capabilities.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: But I usually start with the client requirement first and what the client preferences and what they’re looking for and the total cost of ownership. It really needs to cater to what the clients’ wants and needs, and there’s tons of really good tools out there and they have strengths and their weaknesses so, we tailor those strengths and weaknesses too to make sure that they suit the client first.

 

Host: Right. Yes.

 

Alex: But having said that, for smaller clients, you don’t want a really big implementation. You don’t want to have huge outlying cache. You start with a lot of the SaaS BPM tools that are out there, for example.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: Things like KiSSFLOW. Things like Flokzu. Podio is fantastic so, there’s tons of tools out there that clients can start on their own. They can start using them very quickly in implementing workflow and automation themselves. In those cases with the smaller clients, they call us in not because they want us to necessarily configure the tool. They want to understand how to best restructure their operations and their target operating model with the use of the tool overlaying that strategy. So, we come in and do an operational assessment and make sure that we design sort of their target’s date in a way that best uses the tool and best changes the way they work.

 

Host: Right, so model the business and then, figure out the best tool for the new situation.

 

Alex: Absolutely! I mean and as I said I think organizations can start small, can start small specific. If there’s a discrete area which they want to use the tool in, they go in and use it. Usually by the time that we get called in, it’s because, “Hey, we started using this tool, but we don’t know to actually make real good use of it and we want to, you know, we’ve got multiple business areas. We’ve got 20-30 staff that wants to start using it and really we don’t want to create a mess and we need someone to come in and give us a hand.” At that point, we do a bit of an assessment. We talk to them. We talk to the staff. We understand how to best design the end to end and not just the discrete process.

 

Host: Right. So what are the processes for companies who have been around for a long time? Is it difficult for them to engage in these new structures and new processes or for those typical companies, can you suggest like a different line of products which better suit that situation?

 

Alex: No. It is difficult in the sense that for a company that’s been around for long they already have tools and practices they have in place.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: I’ve always said that the most difficult aspect to any project in the implementation that involves technology is the people and the technical implementation anyone would tell you is usually the easiest best. You know, building something to specification is really not the challenge. The challenge is making sure that what you build is in line with what the people expect to see and making everyone happy with what they have and making sure that they use it going forward because if you built something and people don’t like it and people don’t use it and then they continue to do what they were doing before, now you actually have a bigger problem.

 

Host: Right. So how do you go about to educating the users?

 

Alex: You engage them from the get-go. One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen made in big and small organizations is, “Oh no, no. We know what we want. We will design it, and people will follow.” Having two or three SMEs in the room defining, what our process is going to look like and how it’s going to work for the rest of the organization is the formula for loss.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: You can’t please everyone but you need to understand what people don’t like and like about processes, so you can make an educated decision about how you’re going to design the workflow on automation or process to understand nuances and variations. All of that needs to come from the people. So you engage them early and you iterate.

 

Host: Right. So you’re talking about the C-levels and also the end users as well on the same room and then finding out —

 

Alex: Yes, I mean, so just to give you an idea, so engage the C-level and the senior management team to understand what the project is going to be about, what are the benefits, how it’s going to be structured, where are going to be the areas of focus, the strategy and all that sort of stuff. Come implementation, it’s imperative that you actually bring the real users, the people that are actually doing the work into the room. You start mapping out their experiences. You start understanding and deep diving into processes. You ask them what they like and what they don’t like. You ask them about the exceptions and variations to their processes and how they deal with it. All of that cannot come from one SME, and that is a huge mistake is that assumption that one SME or two SMEs are going to be able to tell you on behalf of everyone else exactly what goes on.

 

Host: So Alex, how was it impacted your business so far?

 

Alex: Well, for us, it’s great. It’s been a positive impact because our message to our clients, you know, our narrative is, “We’re going to partner up with you. We want to be part of your organization during the project implementation. We want to impart skills. We want to impart knowledge, and our approach is that we engage not only the SMEs and the leaders upfront, but we also engage the people that area actually doing those jobs early on in the workshops when it’s time to actually design things, so that we don’t have surprises later on.”

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: So, we also have a specific approach for change management, communication strategies, governance, so all of these things put together to make sure that, “Yes,” we remain lean and intuitive but we remain in control with regards to how we implement change across organization and across people, which as I said before is the toughest thing to do.

 

Host: Yes. Yes. So Alex, how smooth was the implementation?

 

Alex: Implementations– I’m not going to B.S. you in anyway because —

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: — the name of my company is ZERO B.S. You know, we have hiccups. With any projects, there is hiccups. There’s surprises with regard to variations or integrations that we were not aware of or whatever it is. There’s usually something that pops up. That’s fine. We expect it. The fact that we expect it means that we can deal with it relatively easily and quickly, and we’re fully transparent with the people that we work with, so I think dealing with hiccups is just a part of the job.

 

Host: Right and the client is expecting that as well.

 

Alex: They expect you to deal with it properly.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: So if you don’t deal with it properly or you hide it or it becomes a surprise by the time the milestones too, then they’re not happy.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: But I think any client that engages us will be told upfront, “Look, we may have hiccups. We don’t know what we don’t know.” So when we find out, you will know we will implement a strategy to overcome that [crosstalk].

 

Host: So imagine the expectations straight from the get go.

 

Alex: As soon as it comes up.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: So Alex, how have frontline workers reacted to the implementation?

 

Alex: It’s– for us usually very positively because we engage them early on and the times where I’ve seen hesitation and where I’ve seen resistance is where we have not communicated properly or where the client has wanted to have a different communication approach or wanted to have a more conservative way of releasing information to its staff community. So, my big advise for anyone trying to implement these transformation strategies or any type of automation be it BPM or RPA, you want to be able to communicate on a regular basis as soon as you can engage them early so that the change in management process is easier. Also, tell people what they can expect. Tell people they can expect a more interesting environment to work. Tell people, you know, if there is going to be cuts and if there’s going to be redundancies, which sometimes we see that, there needs to be a specific way to treat that but communicate it. Don’t hide it and don’t spring it up on people at the last minute because that doesn’t just impact the morale of the people that are impacted, but those other people that are standing next to them. So communication and change managements’ activities, if they’re handled well, usually the effect is very positive.

 

Host: Do the frontlines get proactive in the responses? Do they contribute in your experiences so far?

 

Alex: They do and we are always very aware that they have day jobs and they don’t want to impact day jobs, you know, we are running a project. We have different agendas. They will be running BAU, and they will be running frontline activities so they have again a different agenda. So there is a positive engagement. You just need to manage their time carefully not waste it and we do that with all our clients.

 

Host: So Alex, what have you done to quell fears?

 

Alex: Quell fears? I have to go back to communication and change management activities. Right? So when we say fear, is the fear of the employers or the employees fearing of what’s going to happen if you automate all of their jobs?

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: The reality is, a lot of the time automation projects kick off not because they want to per se and even though that’s a major benefit it’s not really it. Most of the time what I see is, that companies automate so that they can re-invest those the capacity in other areas. So the organization that is rolling out these types of programs usually will have a plan on how to retrain staff and how to reinvest their capacity into other areas where it can create innovation where it creates additional product lines or additional types of service that will help the company grow. If the company’s strategy is purely to downsize—

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: — which I haven’t really seen for a medium-sized company, then you just need to tread that carefully and manage it and if you have a really a good way of managing that communication, your employees and your staff will be thankful for it.

 

Host: Right.

 

Alex: But I haven’t come across that yet.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: So would you imagine that would be the job of ZERO B.S. or the actual client’s job to be doing that?

 

Alex: Look, I think it’s our client’s job to manage that communication. We can’t, you know, deliver that news to the staff. What we do is we help our clients manage their community strategy. We help them develop it.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: We help them implement governance structures into their organizations so that we manage deliverables properly and also change management activities so that they can manage those change management activities, but we don’t drive all of it ourselves because people won’t be receptive to us being there managing those activities for them.

 

Host: Yes, Alex. Do you recognize more businesses could implement BPM?

 

Alex: The answer is yes. I mean, in short, there’s lots of opportunities for a small business to take advantage of BPM solutions that are out there. There’s tons of SaaS and very low-cost solutions that they can use to put in workflows, put in automation, to streamline their processes, and they could do themselves. Most of the time, these are things that they can start small, iterate, do that themselves and if they get stuck they call in someone but yes you don’t need a huge outlay. You can start small at $9 a month until it gets, very easy to do.

 

Host: Really? So even a single-person business can get started?

 

Alex: Yes. Yes. I mean, we have solutions right now for our content production, for example. I put that on BPM and we obviously use people to produce our content and to write it. We have graphic designers that are doing stuff separately. So we issue tasks and automate a lot of the notifications and emails and loading of content into different places through this workflow. So we’re not big.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: We have a couple of people in the company, but we benefit from great solutions that are there.

 

Host: Yes, I suppose at least it leaves the question, what things can you automate?

 

Alex: So I was talking about things like content creation and I will go use that as an example. So we come up with a content plan and we say, “Okay, we want the full articles written across the month.” And so that kicks off. That’s the case initiation that kicks off the process, sends a notification over to the writer or to the marketing coordinator and say, “Hey, there’s a new article that needs to be written.” Along with that, there’s a bunch of other things. So the marketing coordinator needs to do a certain step in there, maybe enrich it with additional information, and then once that step is complete, there is the case or a task gets allocated to the writer and another task to a graphic designer and they need to produce I guess the creative form for the content, and the writer produces the actual content itself that goes back to the coordinator who does proofreading. Once all of that’s put together, it goes back to myself for approval. All of this is being done through a single platform without the need of emails or anything else.

 

Host: Right. So imagine there’s a really good signaling system for every platform.

 

Alex: Yes, I mean you think you can configure that as you need so, we use a stream within the platform that ensures what’s happening and the notification system so you can see how many tasks are assigned to you and what workflow. So it’s usually quite easy to see when you actually have something to do versus tasks or cases that are open. That’s only for case management. You can have things in the CRM space. You can have things in expense management or claims management– there’s tons of opportunities for small clients.

 

Host: Right. So let’s say for financing and for email sending and —

 

Alex: Yes, yes. I mean, these tools all integrate with a bunch of other great tools and so you can integrate it with your Gmail or your Google for Work and your Google Docs. You have Zapier on the back of it, which you know you can do all sorts of funky stuff. So populating spreadsheets with emails that are coming through your inbox for example easy thing to do, or moving attachment into certain folders easy thing to do. Those are all discrete single processes but, your imagination is your limit. You can start building things that are tailored to you and that’s fantastic, right? For a small shop.

 

Host: Right. So is there any problem domain that people are not thinking about? Like that they could be doing and could be including?

 

Alex: For a small business? My advice is start with all of the things that are holding you back from focusing on revenue-generating activities. So if you’re spending a bunch of time, like in my case, looking at different articles and different pieces of content or expense management or whatever it is. Focus on streamlining those areas, and you’re going to have people helping you along the way, be it your virtual assistant or your marketing coordinator or whatever.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: But if they’re on a streamline platform, the amount of work that you do is a lot less instead of you receiving, tens and dozens of emails. Please check this. Please escape that, and you’re having to write back and then finding that the attachment– All of those things add-on and as a small business, every few minutes count.

 

Host: Of course. [laughs] Absolutely. Yes so, Alex, what have been the challenging aspects to implementation?

 

Alex: So generally, it’s been education and making sure that our clients understand the end to end and what their journey is about. Sometimes I, some of the conversations I have are, “Okay, can you please automate, process X?” At that point, the short answer is most likely, “Yes,” but how does that fit in with the rest of the things that you need to do? Is it the right thing to do to automate that first versus automating process Z? Or process B. Should we be automating process B, then we should maybe looking at optimizing and doing away with process B? Is it going to help you achieve your goals and visions? So all those questions, for me come first so that I can help my client achieve what they want. Sometimes that’s difficult. In helping clients’ understand, let’s talk about strategy first before we start talking about a solution. Let’s talk about what you want to achieve before we talk about how we’re going to achieve it. Because it helps me and it also helps me, help them.

 

Host: Yes. So what are some of the specific roadblocks to look out for?

 

Alex: Some roadblocks to look out for are conflicting practice between business units and typically this is for medium-sized clients where you have different heads of businesses with different agendas and different objectives and different KPIs. If so, when we come into the picture specifically to help the business unit B but there’s a relationship with business unit C and D, then those can create some friction, some roadblocks. So, what we like to do is during an inception workshop or a discovery workshop is, bring everyone in. Bring everyone in to talk about, “Hey, this is what we’re here for. This is what we want to do. This is how it impacts business units A, B, C, D, E, F and are we all aligned with it? If we’re not aligned with it, let’s talk about it. Let’s make sure that all our cards are on the table.”

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Figure out what we can do versus what we can’t do and focus on the areas where we can have nice early wins so that we can move ahead and maybe that just the roadmap changes and it just needs to be tailored to their organization and maybe their priorities need to change. But you don’t know this until everyone is talking about it.

 

Host: Right. That’s a really cool thing about your business because you’re approaching companies with a small number of people. You have the opportunity to bring everybody into the one room and be able to do that, and I think that’s really good and I guess the advantage over the bigger companies for sure.

 

Alex: Yes and I think our approach is not just technology and not just operations and we’d like to think ourselves as a bit of a hybrid because it allows us to approach both things in harmony. We go in thinking about your strategy, thinking about the customers’ technology platforms and their landscape. We think about how their operations and structures and designs and the current operating model. We put all of those things together to actually come up with a solution that helps them achieve goals and visions. Not to deliver a technical solution.

 

Host: Yes so, Alex, what is it usually like at the start of an implementation?

 

Alex: For us, it’s usually very exciting. We’re in a new environment with new people. Some of it can be overwhelming. Clients are looking for direction from us to see, “Okay, what do we do now? How do we do it? We already have a plan in place.” So it really is, “Okay, well now we need to get our hands dirty.” That’s usually very exciting, and what we really look forward to is that first milestone because what we tried to do is have a milestone as early as possible where we can demonstrate a quick win.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Something that allows not just the senior managers and executive team to see, “Hey, actually, we can delivery.” But for us more importantly is to show the staff is that, “Hey guys, look we have now a quick win. Can we test that? Can we see how it works with you guys?” With us, our goal is to make sure that they’re super happy because they’re going to be our evangelists.

 

Host: Right. So a quick win. Do you usually go for like a low hanging fruit or just whatever the client feels is something that you need to do quite quickly?

 

Alex: Usually, we try and balance something high impact, low effort, or low timelines right? So something that will definitely show value and will definitely be able to be noticed by the people that are executing these processes but also something that we can do as quickly as possible.

 

Host: Yes Alex, so what is the best business book you’ve read so far and can recommend to our audience?

 

Alex: Oh geez, I don’t read a lot of business books in the BPM space or RPA space. I have read a really good book recently. It was Platform Revolution, and this was mainly around how really great apps like Uber or otherwise have or Facebook have taken off and what are they key factors that allowed them to be so popular. Platform Revolution went into a lot of details to what are the factors that had a good part to play and that was awesome. I really enjoyed it.

 

Host: Really? So lots that you’re learning from that as well and —

 

Alex: Yes. You know what, I think in terms of designing solutions or creating an app or from that perspective there was a lot, lot of insights and really practical ones as well.

 

Host: Nice. Nice. Alex, what would you say is your favorite success quote?

 

Alex: I actually saw this one recently and actually became my favorite. It’s by Will Smith.

 

[laughter]

 

Alex: Believe it or not it’s actually quite deep.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: [inaudible]

 

Alex: He quote is. “Discipline is the center of all material success.”

 

Host: “Discipline is the center of all material success.”

 

[laughter]

 

Host: That’s brilliant. I like that.

 

Alex: Yes, I like it too.

 

Host: [laughs] Yes. What lessons have you learned some from your journey so far?

 

Alex: I guess for me is that your destination is your journey, and I’ve learned to really enjoy the journey.

 

Host: Enjoy the journey, and I think some people are forgetting to that.

 

Alex: Yes, I mean, when I talk about strategies, we need to know where we go and we need to know our goals and objectives and I have those as well, both personally and professionally but they change. They may change a year down the line, and my personal goals and aspirations may evolve and may become bigger and so I just want to enjoy the journey. I think the key learning for me at least in the last 12 to 24 months have been enjoy what you’re going through, learn from your mistakes, and learn from what you’re going through as much as you can because it just helps you grow.

 

Host: I like that. Yes, because if you are in a situation as you’re saying that the business could change if you are trying to live your life from point to point and you don’t know what the next point’s going to be and the next point could change on you or just give you extra stress, extra worry, and —

 

Alex: Absolutely, yes. Things always come up.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: I’ve seen this from an early age, life has an easy way of teaching whose boss.

 

[laughter]

 

Host: Oh that’s brilliant! Yes. So what’s one thing that’s really exciting you in your business today?

 

Alex: I think for me is the fact that it’s an even playing field today and I mentioned this in an earlier discussion. 

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: You know, technology itself is and isn’t the differentiator, and I say that because it isn’t in a way that everyone has access to amazing technology. It is, because not everyone knows how to use it. I think knowing how to use it and knowing where to apply it and how to apply it is now the differentiator but, everyone has access to it. So it’s what you do and not what tool you used to do it.

 

Host: Oh yes, now. [laughs] What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?

 

Alex: Yes, that’s a good one. For me, it’s do what you love. Do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Using your strengths is really key when you’re building a business or you’re thinking about something to do is leverage off your strengths.

 

Host: Leverage off your strengths.

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Host: Yes.

 

Alex: Use your passion and it’s not specifically something that you love. Focus on the areas that you’re really good at and then you will find it a lot easier to keep on going because it is a marathon.

 

Host: Yes. Yes.

 

Alex: The business is a marathon. It’s not you have to last.

 

Host: Right. So it’s almost like the 80-20 rule. It’s you focus on your strengths and maybe you reduce the other 80% [crosstalk].

 

Alex: As much as you can.

 

Host: As much as you can.

 

Alex: As much as you can. I mean, starting a business is a bit glorified nowadays and you learn this only once you have started and realize how many challenges you have and at one point you need to be a jack of all trades. Like I’m not a salesman or a marketing person natively, but I’ve had to learn aspects of it. That’s like with any business owner. You just need to start thinking about things that you probably haven’t had to in the past and you focus on the stuff that you’re really good at.

 

Host: Of course, yes.

 

Alex: So, there is an aspect of that. It’s true that statement, “Do what you love and what you’re passionate about, but you do need to widen your expertise a little bit when you’re starting a business and until you can afford to hire people and start outsourcing and start leveraging purely on your strengths.”

 

Host: Of course, and just to end the show, do you have any last pieces of advice for our listeners?

 

Alex: Yes, I do. So, I would go back to figure out where you’re going and why you’re going and reverse engineer that.

 

Host: Excellent. Now that’s brilliant. I love that. I thank you very much, Alex. That’s the end of today’s show. I hope you all enjoyed it. I think it was great. I had lots of fun with you, Alex.

 

Alex: That was lots of fun. Lots of fun. Thank you.

 

Host: That’s brilliant. Thank you so much. Cheers.

 

Alex: Cheers.

 

Voice Prompt: See you again next time, for the next episode of RPA Nation.

 

[end]

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