Leadership Insights podcast | episode 2
The future of process automation
Leadership Insights podcast
In this episode of Leadership Insights, Nintex CEO Eric Johnson is joined by Bob Evans, founder of Cloud Wars and the two discuss the future of process automation.
Founder Cloud Wars
00:04 | Hi everyone, Welcome to Leadership Insights from Nintex. I’m Eric Johnson, CEO of Nintex. We are a leading process management and automation provider with over 10,000 customers and 800+ team members around the globe.
00:20 | Leadership Insights came about when we recognized the need for more thought-leadership expertise around automation investments. Before becoming the CEO at Nintex, I was previously serving as our CFO and regularly witnessed the headache that many leaders suffered after investing in automation software—or really any technology—that didn’t provide profitable returns that they were expecting for their business. I want to help change this pattern by offering insights for leadership professionals or anyone who is making large technology investments. In each episode, I’ll share experiences from my leadership career along with knowledge from my peers who are proven leaders in their space.
01:00 | Today I’m joined by special guest, Bob Evans. Bob has been in the enterprise software industry for decades, including serving as the chief communications officer at Oracle. And over the past few years, he has been spending his time deeply analyzing software solutions in the cloud. And following the biggest SaaS providers like SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft, ServiceNow, Oracle, Google and more.
01:28 | Bob has authored 1000s of industry articles and columns about business innovation, strategy, leadership, disruptive technology, digital transformation, and cloud computing. We follow Bob’s work closely, and gain great value from his cloud wars, knowledge and industry perspectives. Before I say too much, I will let Bob introduce himself.
01:45 | Hey, Eric, great to be with you. And thank you for having me. You set it all that Jeez, that is very, very generous, that introduction. And I just think it’s fascinating to watch the stuff that Nintex and some of the other companies you mentioned, just changing every facet of our lives. It’s a great time to be alive. And it’s a really, really fun industry to be involved in. And Eric, you know, speaking of that, it sounds like there’s some incredible news, you know, this week our of Nintex. So what’s going on there?
02:19 | Yeah, no, this is a big, big week, I have to say, you know, it’s been so exciting and so much going on, I’m actually probably starting to get even a hair tired. It’s just been a lot. And that’s hard for me to do. Yeah, so the thing I’m excited to let everybody know about is that we announced that we signed an agreement with TPG Capital. Which is, you know, one of the largest, most preeminent, well-respected private equity firms in the world. They’re going to become our new majority investor with our current lead investor Thoma Bravo, actually putting in some new money and maintaining a significant minority share in our company. You know, if you look at the history around TPG, they’ve literally been one of the very best, most respected private equity leaders, since even the early 90s.
3:02 | A whole bunch of different great companies have been in the portfolio across many different sectors, including software. And even if you look at some of the names, you know, companies like an Uber, and a Lenovo, so there’s a lot of variety. But we’re talking about really good companies that were in large categories, and, you know, got to great positions. In fact, recently, they made a big investment to become the majority owner of Boomi—a carve out from Dell—Boomi obviously is a really big integration provider in the automation space. So you know, when you think about the future, we got here at Nintex, it’s extremely bright. This opportunity to partner up with TPG fits right into what we’re trying to do, you know, we want to talk about automation. And one of the things we really loved about TPG is they looked at the market, they looked at the possibilities around automation, they looked at what was happening in the enterprise, and how much of enterprises still were not automated or poorly automated. And they think there’s a 15+ year opportunity to build, you know, giant company in this space, and really do a ton for customers. And so when they looked at Nintex, and they, they actually did a bunch of third party, very expensive market research. And it literally came back that we had the top NPS score in the entire broader market of all the leading providers. And you might imagine what some of those names are. Our customers really appreciate what we are doing and where we’re going. And then, you know, we were one of the top companies in almost every buying indicator of whether it was the technical capabilities, the customer experience, the price value equation.
04:32 | Folks need what we do, and they’re really liking the way we do it. And so the whole, you know, opportunity here is to go even faster. And so, you know, I will say today, this episode is going to be slightly different than last to Bob and I were actually going to go back and forth. Let’s ask some questions of each other. We know each other pretty well. You’ve asked me a few things over the years, I asked you a few. So let’s get some of that online here.
04:53 | You know, from a listener perspective, I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation between the two of us. And then you know, when I looked at the history we have, I think, between Bob and I, we both been in like five different chief CXO leadership style roles. So I think there’s a lot of evolution that’s been happening in the world, I guess that maybe means Bob, maybe both of us are getting kind of older, I guess is what that might say.
05:10 | Well I am, Eric? I’m not sure about you, but you hide it well.
05:14 | Well, thank you. So Bob, I’ll let you go first. Well, how about you kick us off with a question?
05:23 | Yeah, Eric, you know, I think one of the things that is just changing so quickly—it’s so interesting—and it has such an impact not only on businesses, but you know, then from businesses out to the individual lives of millions or perhaps billions of people around the world is what is this big automation thing that clearly Nintex has played a big role in and now with TPG the new endorsement from them? What is the automation thing all about? Why is it drawing so much interest and why is it you know, one of the hottest topics in the tech business today?
05:53 | Yeah, I mean, I think a few things have come together when I look at how the world’s evolved in the last 20 to 25 years that I’ve been working, I think the combination of computing power bandwidth cloud. That’s made a lot of things possible that I don’t think were previously possible that were easy to do as cost efficiently. And then I think with COVID and the whole pandemic, businesses got very introspective around the way they were running. The level of efficiency in their processes. The customer experiences that they’re providing. And it created even an additional catalyst and pressure for businesses to really optimize their processes. And I think as businesses have tried to do that, what they’ve realized is a lot of their process is poorly understood. And it is either not automated or poorly automated. And so we are seeing, you know, a tremendous interest right now in automation, and really, reimagining process. And whether it’s to get greater efficiency, and to be able to give their workforce more time to add more value, or it’s directly affecting the customer experience. Probably never been a more important time in the world.
07:06 | This is where this opportunity to partner up with TPG. And to continue to have Thoma Bravo involved was critical, you know, TPG, very growth oriented, massive scale, and reach and resources. And when I look at what we’re going to do together, you know, it’s all about accelerating the pace of innovation. So internally, you know, applying some more resources, so we can accelerate our roadmap and our product vision even faster. It’s about showing up more, you know, there’s so many customers in need, what we can do, the part that makes me frustrated, or bothers me sometimes they just don’t know who we are, right? They’re not aware of us. So we need to increase our awareness, and we need to show up more often.
07:42 | And then we need to continue to do really aggressive acquisitions, and both be a consolidator in this market, and also, you know, bring in some of these innovative things so that we can have a faster time to market, I think the more we do those things, the more we are going to be able to solve those challenges, those automation opportunities for our customers, not a ton of value. So I’m just super excited about it. Now flipping this around a bit, you know, obviously, you’ve been out and doing some great things with your Cloud Wars operation. So what does the future look like for cloud wars?
08:12 | Well, Eric, you know, it’s not quite the big news is Nintex and what’s going on with you, but I agreed for cloud wars to be acquired. And this was about six weeks ago. It’s a private equity-backed firm to enable us to move into things like events. We’re starting an analyst network together.
08:27 | And Eric, I want to tie back to what you said a minute ago about, you know, the opportunity here for Nintex to help companies really accelerate the pace of innovation. So one of the things we’re going to be doing with cloud wars in its new home is my business partner, their CEO of dynamic communities, John Siefert and I have been working on in the last several months, this concept of what we call the acceleration economy. So I think you’re right on the mark there by what every business is trying to do now: how can it move more quickly to almost have the pace of business and business innovation and business change map to how quickly we as individuals expect things in our private lives and as well as in our business lives? So we are digging into this pretty quickly. And there’s an interesting new website that we built called the accelerationeconomy.com. So Cloud Wars will remain Cloud Wars, but within this larger context, I’m like you, Eric, I’m extremely excited about the opportunities here to try to dig in and, you know, be a small part of this incredible world that’s touching everybody’s lives in so many ways. It’s really a remarkable community.
09:30 | Well, congratulations, Bob, it’s great to hear that you’ve been able to do that. I mean, you know, we’ve always got to keep changing, right? When all these opportunities out there, that sounds like a really good opportunity for Cloud Wars. And you’re right, I mean, this innovation economy, and where the future is going, Man, it’s easy to get out of bed in the morning.
09:48 | It is and Eric, you know, I was going back to what you were talking about rate. And everything you said about this thing of automation, the power of it with cloud with edge with IoT, AI – all these good things coming together but it’s still probably a challenge. Because most companies haven’t put this effort or emphasis or energy into it. They have the right intention, but they don’t always know where to go. So how do you try to get the leadership of some of your customers going in the right direction? And thinking about how do we really get started on this? And where can we get the biggest impact as quickly as possible?
10:25 | Yeah, I think that’s a great question, Bob, because I think what happens in some organizations is they intuitively know they need automation, they want to do digital transformation. But in some cases, they just run right out to action, without a lot of thought and planning and prioritization. And so what we see pretty consistently is that the organizations who do the best, they actually take a step higher first, and what they really try to do is almost taken inventory of their processes. So what is really happening in their business? They will spend time understanding, discovering, mapping and starting to manage their process portfolio. And when they do that, they’ll often then find where these opportunities are. And they’ll see where processes are not, you know, optimized, where they’re either un-automated or poorly automated. And they identify and can then prioritize where the greatest impact is. And so what we’re seeing is the digital transformation and automation efforts that do the best – they typically have like a Process Center of Excellence. They’ll do a lot of that planning and centralized thinking, working with different business owners, and they’ll do it in a very collaborative fashion. That then allows them to prioritize areas with the biggest impact to measure return. And then start to, you know, just iteratively go through constantly reimagining constantly improving and constantly optimizing process.
11:50 | You know, that’s perfectly said, you know, because sometimes in our eagerness to rush forward, maybe the best first step is you said a step back a little take a higher level view. And Eric, as I was listening to there, I was thinking that end to end thing and strategic view, get the efficiencies, but the efficiencies lead actually, then to the higher-level capabilities, dazzle your customers really start to be able to move into new markets use speed as a competitive advantage. But it seems like Eric, there’s still a fair number of companies where they’re old, or not old, but just sort of their traditional org structure is the enemy of that sort of process optimization approach, right? Because while the HR team does things this way, finance does it this way, it’s like this over here sales. So are you seeing in the minds of your customers a willingness to say, look, we can have these internal silos anymore, we’ve all got to be able to get on the same page to realize the benefits of what you’re talking about here with process optimization.
12:49 | No, you’re exactly right, Bob, I mean, the the organizations where they’re just completely siloed, they don’t get the best outcomes because everybody’s just working in their own world. They’re not thinking of the whole end to end in, you know, enterprise business processes, enterprise processes, whether commercial or governmental, they tend to cross silos. And so a lot of where things have gone wrong over time is that these processes do cross a silo. And when they do, they get dropped, and then you’ve got a very poorly optimized end to end process. So what we’re seeing is why these process centers of excellence and in different people call them different things. Some of them will call them the, you know, Office of Digital Transformation, but they’re centralized teams of teams. And so they’ll have a leader could be a Chief Digital Officer, it could be a VP of Process Excellence, but then the people in the team, they’re from the different areas of the business, and they’re coordinating, they’re working together, they’re proactively communicating, you know, they have technologies that help them then see and do that together. I mean, we happen to have one called Nintex Promapp®. But it’s really a kind of a centralized repository of these processes that allow these teams of teams then to see across the organization.
13:55 | So I think that practice structure, the intent around teams of teams, the intent around breaking down silos, that’s what we’re seeing the businesses who make the most progress and go the fastest. That’s what they look like.
14:10 | And Eric, is you’re saying that, again. It made me think of, I cringe every time I hear a CEO, talk about his or her firm being front office and back office, because I think that’s exactly those sort of silos. I don’t think there’s a customer in the world who looks at a company. He or she’s buying something from and says, Well, I only want to deal with the front office people, I don’t want to deal with the backup, right? Who’s going to get that you know, special new bike on time? Or what about if you want to go in and you know, co-design the new shoes you’re going to buy or you know, some new device for your business, you want to touch the people in product design, product development, engineering, you know, all up and down the line. So I don’t know, Eric, I just think that in some ways, language shapes, our thinking shapes, our concepts, and these things like front office and back office, I think it’s going to be dangerous for companies trying to move into the high speed digital revolution, especially if they want to gain the full advantage of some of the types of you know, process optimization that Nintex can do.
15:08 | I would totally agree with you. And I think that it also hits at an important thing. I mean, think about the whole situation we are in from an economy perspective right now, right? We have a shortage of workers across almost every different type of role in every different segment, right? And this whole notion of the great resignation, and the amount of turnover, I think it’s really, really important now more than ever, that you know, we have respect for all types of the business in all parts of the business.
15:30 | You know, one of the things we talk a lot about internally we have three core tenants. Our third one is operate with respect and consideration. One of the things we often talk about, and when we’re giving credit for like a great quarter or some great initiative, we have to give credit to the whole team. And you know, we don’t think of it as front office and back office. We don’t think of it is this part of the company is more important than this other part of the company. The truth of it is is that I think one of the reasons we’ve got a lot of Success and other companies we see that have a lot of success. When you have respect for all of the people and the value that the different roles bring, you tend to get a lot better teamwork. And then when you think about something like the customer experience, you then get a much better end to end experience. Because yes, there are people who build the product. And there’s maybe people who sell a product, there’s people who implement the product. But then there’s also people who are going to, you know, make sure that that everything is provisioned the way it should be, and they’re going to make sure your licensing works. And there’s people that are going to make sure that you’re invoiced appropriately. We want every one of those steps to be done really, really, really well. And if the people involved in those teams feel respected and valued. Then we have the entire organization functioning well. It’s just like a football team, right? Or an international spec of a soccer team. Everybody’s doing their role. great outcome. If some people don’t feel valued, and they’re not doing their roll out, well, bad outcome. So that’s a big thing for us here in the in the business, Bob. And I think that every business should try to strive for.
17:00 | Eric one this thing that I wanted to be sure to ask you about too. So you know, very exciting ideas here and possibilities that you’re describing, cutting across organization that the surge of these new technologies, a lot of which Nintex is pioneering here are, you know, so vital, but at the same time, they’re extending digitization and digital capabilities into the organization, there’s also the potential for them to create exposure, you know, especially as you know, the bad guys seem to be getting more sophisticated, more aggressive in some way. So, Eric, what’s your sense of the state of security these days within the automation business?
17:37 | Yeah, so security: critical. we certainly see a lot of requests from our customers and new prospects around, you know, very specific questions around security, you know, data protection, data, sovereignty, the whole bunch of things that all come down to protecting the integrity of their information, right, and protecting their systems and making sure that they don’t have anything, you know, coming in through ours into one of theirs and cause of problems. So I’d say security has never been more important. I also think security is one of the reasons it’s really important to have some amount of centralization in the effort and to have teaming.
18:10 |One of the areas I think a lot of businesses that experience challenges is when a line of business goes off and buy something without the some of the centralized help from some of the other experts and whether the experts are sitting in it or procurement. But the folks who are thinking about security and know the questions to ask and know the considerations. Sometimes businesses are acquiring these technologies – they’re not leveraging all the right resources. And then they ultimately end up with a really serious security breach and a you know, super damaging outcome. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important that in organizations as they’re acquiring technology that they do look at as a team effort, especially for important technology. Automation and process management: these technologies are critical to the success of a business, and you have to make sure that they’re secure. It’s I really think that’s where that partnership between line of business it procurement really comes together. And it’s one of the things we try to encourage in our customers is that practice nature, we try to make it easy. And so I think the automation firms that do this best. They’re very proactive. They’re very visible, that prioritize security. And I think that Bob, you know, that’s going to continue to be very important in the world. You know, Bob, I know we’ve had a great discussion today. I know these podcasts, we can only have them so long you and I could probably sit here for three hours, and we could go back and forth. But I just want to say thank you for joining us today. Thank you for the work you’re doing and continue to do in our industry and you know, the great perspective that you’ve provided us over the years. I really, really appreciate it. You know, the things we’re doing in the world are great, and we appreciate your time, you know at Nintex. Our mission is to transform the way work gets done with process automation and management. We do that by listening to our customers, our community. And by building the technology you need to do your best work. To learn more about this leadership insights podcast series, please visit Nintex.com/leadership-insights
20:08 | Thank you. Great to be with you. Thank you so much for having me.
20:09 | Thank you, Bob. Have a great rest your day.
20:10 | Terrific. You too.