Leadership Insights podcast | episode 6
Total automation’s limitless potential
Leadership Insights podcast
Senior Analyst at 451 Research, Carl Lehmann joins Nintex CEO Eric Johnson for the sixth episode of the Leadership Insights podcast. The two discuss Carl’s latest research about the four essential technologies that enterprises need to run a modern business, and share their thoughts on the most automated processes of 2022.
Senior Analyst at 451 Research
00:04 | With me on the podcast today, I have Carl Lehmann, who is a senior research analyst at 451. Carl leads 451’s coverage of process automation and integration in hybrid IT, along with Cloud architectures, as well as how hybrid it affects business strategy and operations. We’re super excited to have Carl, join us for this sixth episode of The Nintex Leadership Insights podcast. Last month, Carl shared his latest research with our extended Nintex leadership team. And I believe there’s a ton of value in sharing these informative market insights with our listeners today. Carl, thanks for joining the show.
00:44 | Eric, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
00:47 | I want to get everyone on the same page here. So we’re first going to talk about essential technologies for the business, and 451 structures these technologies within four categories. Carl, can you share the four segments and a brief description of each?
1:02 | Sure. So for those of you unfamiliar with 451 research, we’re your global research IT advisory firm, we’re part of S&P global market intelligence. We’ve been around for 20 years of helping enterprises use new and emerging technologies to run their business better. We help the investment community with understanding how the market is trending so they can place good bets. And we help IT vendors with product strategy and go-to-market positioning. I’m part of 451 Research’s infrastructure DevOps team and cloud native team and I focus on process automation and integration across Hybrid IT architectures. So when I speak to enterprises and our clients, one of their priorities and how they pursuing digital transformation and their IT strategies going forward, I see them investing in a series of four essential technologies that they need to run their emerging and transformative digital businesses.
1:58 | So they include things like digital automation platforms, this is next-generation business process management suites. They’ve evolved over the years to enable a greater level of low code application development capabilities, and use analytics and AI to enable intelligent design of processes (and execution of processes). It includes RPA robotic process automation to automate workforce tasks and activities. Those two markets are pushing together, vendors in each are investing in one another. And so we’re seeing those kind of converge as more uniform automation platforms.
02:35 | Another core technology essential set of technologies are process discovery technologies. These are tools that you use to examine how execution really works in your current operations. They can examine business processes as they execute in and across applications. You can visualize these designs and then use that to redesign or improve process automations. They also include device or task mining technologies that examine workforce behavior, so you understand how they do their day to day activities to improve it through automation, by creating software robots to act as assistance in their efforts. So process discovery technologies help automate processes using digital automation platforms, workforce activity or device or task-mining technologies, help companies understand workforce behavior. So you can create software robots to assist in their day to day tasks. And then finally, I look at integration technology: next-generation enterprise and cloud integration technologies and services have been converging into what is being referred to as hybrid integration platforms. These are integration platform as a service API management, event-driven integration technologies that are used to link Hybrid IT architecture, on-premises infrastructure, various cloud services–and are becoming core staples, if you will, in the development of cloud native application development. So those are the four core essential technologies that we’re seeing enterprises invest in to run their digital businesses.
4:03 | Wow, there’s certainly a lot going on there, Carl, and I would say out in the market, you know, I personally see a very aligned scenario with what you’ve just walked through a lot of great companies and every one of those categories. Now, there are also some companies that you know, maybe offer technology and one or more of those essential categories like here at Nintex, you know, we happen to offer a digital automation platform. We’ve got RPA technology, we’ve got process mapping capabilities. Carl, are you aware of an organization that offers all four of these essential technologies bundled into one platform?
4:34 | Well, certainly the very large what I call you know, IT leviathans have tooling in each of these categories. Some of those categories are integrated like digital automation platforms and RPA and a little bit of process discovery or digital automation platforms RPA and integration. From the IT leviathans, they have well pieces and parts if you want to assemble it though. It’s going to require some assembly. So it’s not all a uniform platform, but they have the pieces and parts. Other vendors have that, you know, specialize in one of those markets. That’s digital automation platforms like Nintex, you know that have invested in RPA, and integration technologies and process discovery technologies. No vendor in any of those categories really has everything as a uniform platform. But that’s okay. Because, you know, three out of four is a big bet. Process discovery technology is kind of a unique animal, it has some unique engineering challenges and technical skill requirements that are likely to make that kind of an independent platform in the market for some time. Nevertheless, that’s not going to prohibit vendors in the digital innovation platform markets or the RPA markets to pursue it. In fact, many RPA vendors have some level of tasking device mining capabilities, or recording technologies to be able to visualize processes. Some larger digital automation platforms have invested in or merged or acquired with other vendors or partnered with partners that do more sophisticated business process discovery and analysis. But overall, while the markets are converging, you can’t really get all four of those things from a single vendor. It’s likely that depending on your use case, depending on your business need, you’ll choose one vendor to prioritize either an RPA or automation and then determine whether the priority then becomes an integration challenge or a discovery challenge, and then select vendors with the right combination of strengths.
6:33 | Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it’s clearly a lot going on each of those categories. Different players have different strengths. Some of the bigger players have a simple technology and multiple, but they really do have some distinction to what each of those areas are. So that makes a lot of sense. And then I guess, Carl, you know, all this research led you to an emerging market called Enterprise Performance Intelligence. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about this segment?
6:54 |Sure. So when you examine the evolution of the products in each of these categories, digital automation platforms, for example, they’ve evolved to include low code, no code capabilities, as I mentioned, to make them more comprehensive or easy to use, if you will, process oriented application development platforms. They also though, add a variety of analytics and some cases, artificial intelligence/machine learning so that you can understand how processes execute so that you can perform a better once you realize or analyze how they’re actually operating in in that digital automation platform environment. Process discovery technologies, though, kind of change the game a little bit. The way price discovery technologies work is you you add them to your infrastructure, your applications, your databases. So in case of process discovery, you would add agent technology, if you will, to that, it would extract the data from log files, and maybe operating systems to expose transaction execution of processes, and then enable you to visualize how these processes actually run to discover bottlenecks or opportunities for improvement. So to our device mining or task mining that allows you to understand how the workforce behaves in terms of interacting with applications and transacting, and executing business processes.
8:15 | The technology inherent in both those platforms (and indeed in RPA technology, to some extent) enable you to get data about not only just process performance, but potentially business operations and outcomes in a more broad based way and at a more granular level. So what it allows you to do is capture data that you can tie to the key performance indicators you use to measure your business to measure your execution of your business to performance of your business and outcomes. So in effect these technologies once in place simply to discover how things work. They also become data capture mechanisms to be able to analyze how well things work. And this could be used to manage almost in real time, a variety of key performance indicators not only tied to the operations of a unique line of business, but also can be linked at a higher level to the execution of your income statement, for example, or the all the variables associated with the income statement. So it can give enterprises at the C-level real-time data that they need to run their business. And so when you use these technologies and implement them first, maybe to improve process performance and execution, they can play a secondary role down the line to be able to extract the data to measure enterprise performance. And I think that’s a very valuable future evolution of these platforms. And it’s something that companies should keep their eye on when they implement these technologies to run their digital business.
9:44 | Carl, that makes total sense. And I know it’s something that you know, we’re certainly investing in here and looking to do more for our customers. You know, one of the things that we see when we’re out and about in the field with our with our various customers across the globe, is that a lot of these efforts are you know, they’re managed through a an organization Center of Excellence, you know, the COE and whether they call it a cloud COE, process COE, automation COE. Maybe it’s not even called a COE, but the idea is the same. And that’s that there’s a centralized unit of experts covering one or more areas where there’s technology, automation or infrastructure, and that they’re really trying to holistically look at what’s happening. And they’re often the folks you know, that we’re seeing, harness these technologies, and bring that intelligence back to those that are making decisions. And that is having a pretty profound impact on organizations. You know, there’s another emerging trend that we’re also seeing, which is really that concept of the citizen developer. Someone who builds business solutions with no code and low code technology. You know, Carl, what do you predict will become a relationship between a citizen developer and the Centers of Excellence?
10:46 | Well, a lot of our enterprise clients have established Centers of Excellence for a lot of different things, as you said. Most notable of which, though, our Center of Excellence for robotic process automation, a lot of enterprises have been experimenting with RPA in various way, shape, or forms, because many of their workers have been inundated with recent years with an overwhelming number of applications they need to use to do their job. As we’re all well aware SaaS software as a service applications have proliferated, and many enterprises have, you know, several, if not dozens of SaaS services, in addition to the business applications that they use for things like ERP, or supply chain management or, you know, other unique homegrown business applications. So workforces have been overwhelmed. And so ITorganizations have created centers of excellence around robotic process automation opportunities to determine how can they reduce the burden on their workforce. And so we’re seeing a lot of this and, and initially, it gets involved with low hanging fruit, like there’s a lot of data manipulation that needs to exist between various applications, like the most common integration on the planet is an ERP system to a CRM system, for example, to exchange data about customer information orders, and processing them. And so these types of integrations have traditionally caused the workforce to have to cut data one and put it in another — integration technologies have helped. But there’s so many different tasks and activities that a worker can perform, that they need some help and RPA is an approach by many enterprises to automate a lot of their tasks. They set up a center of excellence trying to find the low hanging fruit, one of the most repetitive tasks, and then get the workforce involved. And once the workforce start seeing this, and they said, hey, you know, a software robot is built to automate a certain set of tasks, word starts to spread, they recognize that RPA has helped them ease their burden. So they can do other things. Or in more sophisticated use cases. It’s given them skills that they ordinarily wouldn’t have to produce more work outside their line of business domain.
13:02 | So these RPA Center of Excellence are driving a great deal of interest in the workforce. And once a couple of workers benefit from the outcome or the use of a software robot as developed by RPA for example, word starts to spread in an enterprise. And others want to get involved because hey, I’ve got similar burdens. If I can create a bot to solve a couple of my problems, I want to do that. So word starts to spread through the Center of Excellence into other lines of business. And then the organization, depending on the platform can expose the RPA tool, or parts of it to workers so that they can use it to create their own automation or software robot. And so we’re starting to see that. I spoke with an enterprise recently that started this process with a handful of people. And then after the first year, roughly 200, so-called citizen developers, were using RPA to ease the burden of their enterprise. And all that is driven, I believe, by a well-structured center of excellence that focuses on specific opportunities, and then spreads the word to socialize the benefit throughout the enterprise.
14:14 | Oh, that’s really encouraging Carl, and we see something very similar, whether it’s the RPA, or some of the digital process automation capabilities, and low code, no code tooling. More and more citizen developers, you know, driving their own destiny, helping their organizations, transforming the way that they’re working, often in concert with that center of excellence. So that’s absolutely great. One thing I want to switch gears and touch on here, something you talked about with our team when we recently got together, and that’s your perspective around the definition of intelligent process automation. And why does it differ from say traditional business process automation?
14:48 | Okay, so the phrase intelligent process automation has been bandied about for the last couple of years. And unfortunately, I think it’s kind of become a vapid phrase because it’s never really discussed in context – or defined very well. So to me intelligent process automation is two sides of the same coin. It’s two different things. One, it uses data to intelligently redesign processes. And two, it uses data to make processes smarter as they execute. So in terms of the redesign process, process discovery technologies, as I mentioned earlier, tap into your infrastructure, tap into your IT systems and applications and devices, and expose the reality of process execution, visually represents that and gives you an opportunity to see where the problems are using analytics and AI to reveal patterns of new opportunity. When you start using those tools, you now have a data driven approach based on reality, that allows you to do a better job of redesigning or re automating a business process.
15:54 | In the past, traditional business process automation (BPM) didn’t really have the benefit or couldn’t benefit from process discovery technologies, because they really didn’t exist to any extent they were not mature enough that. Or they were pragmatic and unreasonable to use. That’s changed now that process discovery technologies exist. But in in the older BPA and BPM model, you would use, you know, Visio, diagrams and workflows, interview subject matter experts, and you’d kind of capture what the perception of reality is from a variety of different process stakeholders. And while that was useful, it really didn’t accurately reflect reality. And it was an it was a labor intensive exercise. Process discovery technology automates that, visualizes it and analyzes that. So it enables intelligent redesign based on data of existing processes. And then it can also enable processes to become smarter as they execute, using feedback loops and analytics and machine learning technologies. So that processes that can then, you know, by smarter, I mean, they can make recommendations to users on how that process executes or developers on how to design the process. It can make predictions on what’s going to happen next, potentially, with a with deterministic probabilities of each prediction. And it potentially can assist in automating decisions based on the worlds of the enterprise. So intelligent process automation, is that two sided coin — it uses, you know, the modern discovery technologies now tools to use a data driven approach to process redesign automation, and make process smarter as they execute to make predictions, recommendations and decisions.
17:38 | You know, Carl, it’s so great to see how over the last few years, we went from a concept to it really becoming real. And you know, whether it’s some of the things we do here at Nintex, or some of the other leaders in the market, the intersection helping data drive better decision making, and and these processes getting smarter. The fact that this is really real, like we’re seeing tons of customers benefit from it. And that’s really a good thing when you move from a great concept to reality in the market. Now that evolution of automation, you know, it just never stops.
18:09 | We’re excited to continue watching the automation market evolve. This leads me to my next question, in your opinion, throughout the next year, you know, Google Calendar 2022, upon us, which processes will be automated the most and which processes need to be automated the most? I suspect these could be very different processes?
18:30 | Obviously, it’s going to vary greatly by industry and company, the competitive rivalry in industry, the needs of customers, etc. So the best way to boil down that answer though, is to examine processes which are of high value or risk to the enterprise and or have great frequency. So in terms of value or risk, the processes that do the most to convey or deliver your value proposition, you know, in an e-commerce world, it might be order management and manufacturing and operation, it might be production in a financial institution, it might be you know, transaction processing, etc. And so the greatest value to deliver your value proposition or greatest importance to deliver your value proposition and the greatest risk that it poses if it were to fail or degrade. Those are the processes you want to examine very closely using the essential technologies I discussed earlier, to be able to, you know, re-automate them intelligently or make them smarter as they execute. The other side of coin is, you know, one of the processes that are most frequent that might be inefficient if your enterprise runs the same process hundreds of thousands, or tens of thousands times a day, and it hasn’t been sufficiently examined for using continuous improvement methodologies, or examined for efficiency improvement, then it should be so I mean, that’s the way I would answer that question is value, risk, and then frequency and those are the ones that I would target most.
20:04 | Carl, that makes perfect sense. And, you know, fortunately I think there’s a lot of folks out there can help and you know, we want to do our part in the market here at Nintex. Well, Carl, thank you so much for joining and sharing your knowledge with us on the Leadership Insights podcast today. I know all of us at Nintex greatly appreciate the market research you’re doing.
20:32 | Eric, thank you for your time, greatly appreciate it. Happy to join you any other time you like in the future.
20:36 | Awesome. Well, thank you and everyone, we just want to thank all of our listeners for their time as well. We hope you found this useful and if so, please follow, subscribe and like the Nintex Leadership Insights podcast series, to be the first to know when the next episode is available. Thanks for listening, and we wish you all a prosperous 2022.