Interview with Jenna Schnizlein and Scott Sanders From Sikich

On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Jenna Schnizlein and Scott Sanders of Sikich. Sikich specializes in accounting, advisory technology and managed services. We talk to Jenna and Scott about the rundown of what Sikich is, its background, the genesis, where the company is headed and how they got into the automation industry.

On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Jenna Schnizlein and Scott Sanders of Sikich.

Interview with Jenna Schnizlein and Scott Sanders From Sikich

• 42:57

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

rpa, automation, automate, bot, people, process, client, platform, case, jenna, work, system, prism, implementing, finance department, internally, big, posting, billing, built

SPEAKERS

Jenna Schnizlein, Scott Sanders, Brent Sanders, Mark Percival

 

Brent Sanders  00:06

So today we have Jenna Schnizlein and Scott Sanders from Sikich, you guys could maybe give us a rundown of what is Sikich?

 

Scott Sanders  00:14

Certainly, we are a technology enabled professional services firm. And really what we specialize in is accounting, advisory technology and managed services. And, you know, the key word there is technologies is at the heart of everything that we do. And obviously, we're going to talk a little bit about that here today. On the CPA side, Sikich is one of the 30 largest CPA firms in the country. We've got about we're also in the top 1% of all eirp planning solution partners in the world. We've got 16 offices, we've been waiting around for about 35 years now. And we've got about 1000 professionals currently, and growing it at a pretty good pace.

 

Brent Sander  01:05

Excellent. And maybe you guys could give us a brief introduction to your stories, how you got into the industry, and then what got you into automation, specifically?

 

Scott Sanders  01:15

Absolutely. And I'll start. I was a natural into the industry, because technology has kind of been what I've wanted to do my entire career. So I was, you know, my schooling is in technology, and my entire career has been technology. I have been with the firm going on 21 years now. Oh, wow. Sick, it was my my first dive into the professional services role. And you know, it's a, it's a different animal, but it's fun, and it's exciting. And every day is a new day, speaking specifically about automation, and you know, two or three years ago, when RPA first really started to take off and, you know, attending conferences, looking at various vendors, and just looking at the power of what it can do, and what it can bring to an organization as far as you know, having the ability to to elevate your people take off administrative burden, you know, off of off of your staff, you know, positioning you to be more agile as you move forward, you know, not having to add additional back office people and that one to one relationship as you continue to grow and thrive. So, I mean, when RPA kind of surfaced, it really intrigued me from day one. And I'm like, wow, ha, how can we make this fit here? How can we make it fit for our clients, and it's really started to just take off from there.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  02:34

And I'm, I'm completely on the other side, right. So my background is not on the tech side, I'm more on the professional services side. So I'm actually a CPA, all my training was in the business side of things, I've done my MBA as well. And so I worked in public accounting, I worked in the private sector, and then came back to Sikich and actually just worked in their finance department. And so I didn't make that transition over into the RPA thing until then, um, maybe about a year and a half now. And so that was, that was completely new. But at the same time, kind of like Scott was saying, I saw what RPA could do for us, I saw that there was definitely the need there in the areas that I was working in, the people that I was working with, would definitely be able to use it to make their life easier across the board. And so that's kind of how I came into once we'd already made the decision that this was the way that we were going to go. We needed, you know, people to be on board and spearheaded and really get in the weeds. And, and yeah, so I jumped all in.

 

Brent Sanders  03:45

That's great.

 

Scott Sanders  03:46

And Jenna has an interesting story. And when we're sick, it's you know, from the internal side, when we first wanted to start getting our feet wet in RPA. You know, so we had selected a platform, and we're like, Okay, well, we've got to find somebody to manage this platform and learn how to be, you know, a bot specialist. And we actually call Jenna our bot ninja as what we call, you know, so looking around and you know, we could have gone two ways, like, Okay, do we do we? Do we try to find a technical resource to do this and teach them the business side? Or do we find somebody that knows the business side and try to teach them the platform, and we opted to go, you know, find somebody that was very process oriented? That already understood some of our business and business in general, right? Because she's a non technical mind and run with it that way. You know, we can dive in a little a little bit later. And Janet can tell you about the pros and cons there. But it was an interesting direction for us. And really, ultimately I think we made the right decision and it paid off.

 

Brent Sanders  04:43

That's really interesting. Yeah, I mean, so we talk to a variety of professionals in this field. And, you know, there's always this conversation that we have in the podcast, every single podcast has it around this idea of a citizen developer and, you know, in this case, it sounds like You know, there's always this balance of process and technology. And that's, I think one of the things that interests me specifically around the industry is it's not just technology. I mean, Mark and I both come from the software background and, you know, see and have run projects where it's all tech and you're getting requirements. And it's very one way street. And in a lot of ways where, with automation, it's the businesses first and the process is always first, right. And so it's really interesting to see, I'm curious to hear, like, Jenna, when you first you know, the first project you worked on first time, you get a sense for how automation could work, what was what was the use case, like what was like the the lightbulb moment for you?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  05:43

it was actually a lot more. So the first thing we automated was posting of time within our time accounting system for the CPA, folks. And it's something that the finance department did, it was something that was very, it seemed very rudimentary, right? So you go in, you lack the time, so nobody can release their time. You select all the people, you print the PDF, you save it to the file, you post it, and you move on. So it seems on paper really easy, you know, five, seven steps. But once you actually get into the automation part of it, you realize that there are a lot of other things to it, that you kind of take for granted as a person doing it. Like, what if this pop up comes up? Now you have to address that, and what if this error message comes up, or what if you know, you're getting all these different things that as a person, just be like, okay, just ignore it, right, just click through it till you get to what you need to get to. But it wasn't, it wasn't that simple. When you went to the automated looking back now what I did to get through that, I wouldn't have done it obviously the same way. Now, it's very messy, it works. But it's that learning curve, right, trying to stumble through how to do things, and then figure out how to do them best, at the same time was, was probably the biggest hurdle. And the hardest part for me was that I didn't have anyone to go to write, I didn't have anybody else to to ask those questions to to bounce the ideas off to work through the best way. So that was unbelievably frustrating. Like I knew what I wanted it to do. I was like, This shouldn't be so simple. But but it really was a struggle. And it was just learning the platform, and more of what it could do beyond just that, you know, the initial training that they give you.

 

Mark Percival  07:37

what is the platform that they could just kind of, you know, gone with, because I've seen you Sikich has some good content around the Microsoft platform that you guys have created is that where you're sort of spending most of your time.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  07:50

So all of my what I work in is Blueprism cloud, okay, so that's where my stuff is doing. But we do other things that you can, you can explain that more with the other link there.

 

Scott Sanders  08:02

So internally for our automations, we're kind of multifaceted there. From Jenna's perspective, she deals primarily with the blue prism cloud platform, and that RPA RPA tool. On the flip side of that, we also do automations, you know, with various integrations, and then on the on our client facing side, where we're pushing that is, you know, we have the ability to sell and lease our bonds from the blue prism cloud aspect of it, we also will, you know, perform integration for them. And then we also use, you know, independent software vendors that tie directly into the platforms that we sell, whether it's NetSuite, Microsoft or Salesforce, so so we've got a wide gamut of, you know, toolset here that that we can use to, to do automations for our client base as well.

 

Mark Percival  08:48

That makes sense. Yeah, this is something that I feel like everybody goes through a journey, you brought this, going to the three getting up to speed on the platform. That's so challenging, is there some, at least for me, I found it extremely. There's that moment where it kind of clicks and you say, Oh, I kind of see where this is going. Or I see what they're trying to get me to do the proper way to build this, but what is one of the ways that you find those best practices if you're coming out? Because I think a lot of people come at it from the angle of I'm not an expert in this. I'm doing this because I see this opportunity.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  09:19

Yeah, I mean, really, the big thing that got me through it is we have a senior developer at Blue prism cloud that I work with, on a weekly basis. Now. It was just part of our arrangement. And so that's been the most useful tool for me personally, because I can ask specific questions. It's another person to bounce ideas off of, right? I'll try to do something one way and he'll be like, Well, what about trying this or he'll be like, Well, can you do it that way? Maybe, like, why wouldn't I just do it this way? You know, and so it's, it's that dialogue is where there's a lot of value, because obviously there's more than one way to do any of this stuff. I mean, there's absolutely countless ways And so that's been really great. The other thing that blue prism has offered now that they didn't have when I first started is a much better discussion community, you know, where people can go to with their questions and get answers from other people, maybe not blue prism people, but other people in the RPA community that are using blue prism that have seen it before or have suggestions or things like that. So those that again, that community, just that being able to have those types of discussions with other people and, and brainstorm things is vital.

 

Scott Sanders  10:35

And Mark, one thing I can I can add there, which has been kind of an interesting journey for Jen on it's been, you know, fun for me to watch. It is the growth in her mindset around RPA. You know, like, she spoke a little bit about her first automation, and it was clunky. And she struggled a little bit. What I'm noticing is obviously, the more that she's in Trenton, the more automations that she does, you know, the learning curve is continuing right where she was 18 months ago. And where she is today is it's almost like it's not the same person to me. I mean, her, you know, her, her RPA is it's more, she, Natalie, she's doing them quicker, but the way that she's automating processes is becoming much, much more efficient.

 

Mark Percival  11:11

Yeah, I mean, it's like anything within the kind of the developing developer space, it's you, once you've seen how you know, you can paint yourself into a corner, you very quickly figure out how not to do it. And yeah.

 

Scott Sanders  11:22

And you look and you look back, you're like, why did I write?

 

Brent Sanders  11:28

What's interesting is, it sounds like there's an active sort of internal initiative to apply automation that sounds like that may have started first. And I really like to hear that. I mean, that's always a good sign when you're sort of eating your own dog food, so to speak. I mean, that sounds kind of gnarly. But, you know, basically using the processes internally, kind of seeing the output, seeing the gains internally first, and then going in and turning outwards and offering them and I really liked that concept. I mean, I've heard of people doing this, but you know, build first for yourself and then lease these things out, hey, we built this specific process. So it sounds like there are a couple of purpose built, or Hey, we have this specific process on blue prism that's already automated, we could just give it to you guys. And you guys can lease it from us and use it and you're off and running. What are some of those processes, like I'm just trying to, one of the things that I would love to get at is like, and we'd love to hear about or more of the use cases. And, you know, I want to be respectful of you know, what's confidential, and obviously, what's internal. But I think one of the things that our audience doesn't hear enough about are like, what are the tangible use cases? That's the conversation I think I've been having the most lately, which is, people don't really get what RPA can do, especially even in a financial context, which is largely where the industry started, or it's been getting the most traction.

 

Scott Sanders  12:52

Yep. Now, Brent, that's I'm glad you brought that up. And I'm actually gonna let Jenna Jenna run the test from the use case, but we are a firm believer in eating or eating your own dog food. So you know who better to have the guinea pig over our RPA? And they should have been us, right? So there's been some pain around that. But you're right. I mean, we took that. And we said, you know, we got a back office, our clients have back offices, what, you know, let's let's work through what we're doing now. And then we also took that and Jenna can talk a little bit too, as we started pushing it down into our service line. So you know, some of our folks in our various service lines that are servicing clients, there's actually RPA behind the scenes, kind of propping them up and helping them as well. So I'll hand it over to Jenna. But I'm glad you brought that up. We're a firm believer in eating dog food and trying it on ourselves first.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  13:38

So some of the use cases, we've tried to run the gamut and kind of touch in a bunch of different departments. Like I said, we kind of started in the finance department because that's where I came from. And those were the processes that I lived and breathed every day. I know those forward and backwards. So there we were, we did things like I said, posting the time, but other basic things like posting payments to client accounts, creating receivable statements that needed to go out in the mail, each time posting month ended adjustments, things like that. I was also working on a process that would pull data from the file to prepare it for them to do their month end reconciliations, things like that. And one of the biggest pains there is creating licenses for new employees new accounts. So we picked one of the systems there that is the most time consuming and so now we'll oh that's our that's our batch. She does all those whenever we have batches of people, they fill out a thing. These are all the things she needs and then we'll go through create all those accounts for them. And some of the other sites more recently what we've done for service lines is for accounting services group we did. We created all the 1099 for all of our clients in the month of January. So I don't know if you guys know about 1099. So basically any client that has a vendor that they paid over $600, during the year, they have to issue them a 1099. And so we ran those. And I think by the end of that, we were close to, like 3000 clients that we had run all these 1099 for. And so all they had to do is fill out this template, they drop it in a folder, we'll go through there, she'd run them, you know, once an hour, she'd be running through them and just dump all the PDFs in a file, they can move them in their folders and send them out to the client, and then just filed with the IRS. And they were done with it. And right now I'm working on budgets, they fill out again, they have these budgets, they were always filling them out, they weren't all getting entered into the system, willows doing that now she's pulling all the information in entering into the system, sending them reports that they can use, and then that's also integrated with the rest of our DevOps team that's updating those budgets in real time. So people have better data to work with, in the midst of working on that project, I got a request from our admin department to move a bunch of files from different places on the network to another folder on the network, it was a time sensitive thing, luckily, I was able to kind of put that together in a couple hours for them. So that was, that was a huge thing for them, just being able to reorganize all the files structures and consolidate them, which I think is gonna probably come into play a lot, you know, with just data cleanup in general, is going to be a huge thing, because we've got, you know, stuff kind of all over the place. So those are some of the recent big ones on top of just, you know, sending out reports, another big one I'm going to work on for the finance department is working on the bank rec, things like that are first.

 

Brent Sanders  16:51

that's fantastic.

 

Scott Sanders  16:53

And if I could add something in here, and it really kind of dates back to when we first started dipping our toes in our pay, you know, we really thought about how are we going to get our people excited about this, you know, are they even going to know what it is, and what we found. And, you know, I hope this will be helpful for your listeners, because it really helped us know their RPA pipeline. And that was when we presented what RPA was to various teams within seconds, you know, kind of talking about, you know, what it was, how it worked, how to identify what processes were potentially bottled, you know, battable. And through that, you know, we basically said, okay, think about something that you do every day that you know, a task you do every day, that is that is very repeatable, that you would rather not do. And that's kind of how we positioned it. And before we knew it, we had tasks coming in faster than the agenda could, you know, look at look at the files that were coming out of the request coming in. Because when you when you put it into into language that somebody's doing the task and understand and then the flip side of that helped them understand that your job is not to take that your goal is not to take everything off of them so that they're out of a job, but to elevate them from doing these mundane tasks, that those floodgates really start to open up. And you really understand that you've got a lot more processes that are eligible for RPA than you probably think you knew.

 

Brent Sanders  18:19

That's Wow, that's really great to hear. I mean, so going through all these use cases, essentially realizing these benefits firsthand seems like a great way to then yeah, go out to the rest of the organization and then even further go out to your client base and say, hey, these are the things that we're doing internally. And it's a really good sort of organic embrace of automation. It's really cool to hear. Jenna, one of the things I was curious about as you're walking through some of these use cases, what, what role and how do you coordinate with, you know, in the IT department, like how involved are they obviously there's, you know, the lot of the activities you're doing, it's on infrastructure, it's on a managed system that, you know, there there's rights and permissions and passwords and things like that. Like, how do you recommend and do you have any lessons learned and working with it on being successful?

 

Scott Sanders  19:16

Besides, be nice to them?

 

Brent Sanders  19:17

Yeah.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  19:21

I bet that I know because I am not an IT person. I've always been technologically challenged my first people like I mingle with a new role or it because I know that I need them. But I don't really know how to answer that. Um, because I.

 

Brent Sanders  19:43

Let me phrase it in a different way. You know, how do you essentially like things like getting access to, you know, blue prism getting access to your network and things like that was, was that something that blue prism, they were able to work with it too. Or was that something you had to step in and say, Hey, I'm doing this thing called automation. And I need, you know, I need a hand, essentially, we need to create accounts where it's gonna use my account. I mean, how involved were they in the implementation of automation?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  20:15

Scott, I'm gonna have to defer that one to you, because I really don't know.

 

Scott Sanders  20:17

Sure. So we work directly with Blueprism on that side of it during the initial implementation, and we vetted them thoroughly from a security perspective. And then as we started to look at, look into the processes and the tests that we were going to automate, we kind of took it on a case by case basis, you know, at the, at the process level, okay. So, like Jenna mentioned with, you know, bahding, some of the processes within finance, we'd have to say, Okay, what, you know, it was risk versus reward. Okay, so what systems is our bot going to need access to, in order to perform this task? Can we isolate, you know, the, the RPA process to only to only have access to what you need, and we really just took that case by case. And, you know, knowing that the that the platform is secure, the connections into our infrastructure are secure, you know, everything that we've got built around our, our automation and security, you know, that there's a level of trust that has to go into it, because obviously, if the, the RPA tool is, is working like any other user on your network, so they have to have the same permissions. So you know, really vetting that security upfront and making sure you understand, you know, where it's going, what it's doing, I mean, the bot can only do what it's programmed to do, so it can't go rogue. Right. So you know, having all of that up front and understanding that the security model, the access controls, and just having some checks and balances in place, you know, really allows us to, to, to spread the wings of our RPA platform a little bit, but we do really take that case by case on, you know, who, what, why, you know, and weigh those benefits.

 

Brent Sanders  21:57

Interesting. Yeah. So I think you nailed it with the way I always try to explain it to people in pitch. It is, you know, this is a user account, it's just like, you're gonna have an employee. So Willow has an employee count, or, you know, a way to sort of reckon with how they can access things and what they cannot do and what they can't do. And it's one of the advantages of automation. RPA is that you can sort of fall in line to a normal way for an IT department to reason with, which makes it you know, we've heard of in, we've stepped into environments where, you know, the finance department goes off, buys, UiPath buys blue prism, and then the IT department doesn't really find out about it until things are going live or until they need access. And so it's great to hear it sounds like your IT staff is sort of integrated in making that sort of vendor decision. And it's always a case by case thing we get, we always see different things. I'm curious as you're going in and selling or working with your clientele, like how do you work with their IT teams? Or have you had experiences when you come in to do that vetting? Like how do you pitch this to them in a way that they aren't like, you know, this sounds risky? Or this sounds like you said they're afraid it's gonna go rogue or afraid it's gonna, you know, overwhelm a system? I mean, some of the common things I hear is like, how do we keep the bot from, from, you know, working, it's gonna work very, very fast. How do we keep it from overwhelming systems? or things like that? I mean, how do you, you pitch that externally?

 

Scott Sanders  23:29

Yeah, and it's kind of twofold. There is typically we're already in the door, and there's already a level of trust that's built, right. Um, you know, on our on our tech practice, you know, we're really, we could already be in the door, doing some sort of an implementation for them, right? Whether it's NetSuite, Microsoft, Salesforce, whatever it is. And we've already built that level of trust. So and we're already into their systems, and we're already understanding, you know, what's going on, we're already understanding their processes, and where some of these automations webmail work, may work. So it's really about, you know, us, you know, the client building trust with with us and then and then us letting them know that we also trust these same platforms that we're providing to you. And they also have access to, to the platforms that we use. And that's really where we approach it. But you're right. I mean, when Lisa first started looking into us and me being in the IT background and and heavily relying on security of our infrastructure in our firm, that was the first question in my mind is, you know, there's no way I'm going to trust this not ever, right, but the more you dig into it, and the more that you really understand how it works and how it ties in, and that it really is no different than any other user except you can actually put more controls and more parameters around it, then it's, it's easy to start to talk on that technical level to our clients, you know, with the security concerns and try to put their mind at ease. But you know, that always comes up and it's always a pain point. And really, it's just about talking them through it. You know, And building that level of trust and explain to them from a technical sense, what it looks like and how it's going to work and how it's going to act and how it's going to be monitored.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  25:10

And I know from my side, because we do focus a lot more on the mid market, like I'm especially like the CPA side. So they the people that I'm talking to that I've talked through some of these things they are more concerned with, with, with the help, right, they're reaching out to us because there's a need, and we can fill that need. And so they might not have as much of that, you know, the technical it background to even think that far ahead. They're, they're trusting us because like Scott said, you know, they've worked with us they know, as the, you know, we've got the proof of concept, we've done it ourselves sort of thing. So really, that hasn't been brought to me as much as like, this is the problem, this is what we need this to do. Is this something that that's, you know, we could use RPA for?

 

Scott Sanders  25:55

Yeah. And ultimately, you know, what it comes down to, it gets back to that, you know, the bot is really acting like any other human beings. So any controls, and any monitoring that you already have in place is also watching what this bot is doing. So you always have some sort of insight, but it's not like the RPA tool becomes invisible to any other security protocols that you have in place.

 

Brent Sanders  26:17

Right? Yeah, yeah, that's a good point. You know, when you're talking to these external companies, we Jenna, you were mentioning people reaching out, they're looking for help, do they? Are they fairly educated? By the time they reach you like, Hey, I think Jenna has a bot or something, are they coming to you with like, hey, as a CPA, I have this problem. And I've got a we got to do 1099? or, or, you know, maybe a different use case for one of the external cases? Like, how do they get educated about bots? Or do they not really know until you present the solution?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  26:49

By the time they reach to me, somebody already brought it up to them? A lot of the time, it is just kind of like fact finding some if they're introduced to me through someone that, you know, internally, like it's a current client that they've already expressed, then there, you know, obviously, they're coming to me with like, a specific project. But when it's people that we don't know yet, I've had, you know, quite a few people reach out that way. And it's more like, how are you using it? You know, what system are you using? Which, how much are you able to do with it? What more could we do with it, more of things like that, and then kind of getting into from there, seeing if it's something that you know, would work for them that, you know, we would be able to do for them? The good thing is that the system that we use on the CPA side, is one of the most popular ones used by CPA firms right now. So the fact that we can do billing and project management and some sort of things within that system that are things that everybody has to do that uses it is definitely a draw.

 

Brent Sanders  27:56

That's great. If you don't mind me asking what is the system? I'm, I'm curious.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  28:00

So it's cc Ah, practice management. Is that Wolters Kluwer Scott or that Thomson Reuters.

 

Scott Sanders  28:06

No, it's a parent company Walters.

 

Brent Sanders  28:10

Yeah, yeah, I'm, I think I'm familiar. I think they're based in Riverwoods. Illinois, where I'm actually from.

 

Scott Sanders  28:20

Yeah, I think to know, are you dealing? Are you still here? Are you dealing with this cold shoe?

 

Brent Sanders  28:23

I actually moved recently to Cleveland, where it is just as cold and Okay, a little bit more drain right? My favorite thing about Cleveland for all your wildest dreams come true.

 

Scott Sanders  28:33

Yeah, and really what we know what we've done it ticket just to talk a little bit more about what Jenna was saying there is we've really built a culture of automation. And I hear it just, you know, day in and day out with automations, where we'll be talking about a new process or even talking about an old process and you know, somebody outside of it somebody in our administration area, or in our service, I just say, Well, I wonder if Willow can do that, you know, and willows are Willow was one of our bots. And, I mean, it makes me smile, that they're thinking about that they're like, Why do I have to do this? Why? Why can't we have a bot do it and it's really become part of our culture now.

 

Brent Sanders  29:07

That's great. That's great. I mean, so that's, it sounds like you know, the messaging, getting that messaging out getting the, the mission and what the automation can do it that's like the vanguard, right is like getting the the sort of war of ideas out there and, and sort of the viral the viral nature of ideas out there, and then people can start thinking about it, and then they're reaching out to you when they're kind of already wrap their head around, hey, what we might be able to do. So, you know, when it comes to that, where somebody reaches out and says, Hey, I need you to automate something. I mean, are there cases when, you know, it's not a good fit? Are there cases like how do you guys evaluate what you should or should not automate?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  29:48

So there's definitely cases where it's not a good fit for a number of reasons. The number one reason it's probably because the process that's currently in place is not is not consistent enough. It's not a good process. In terms of evaluation, it's really down to the ROI, right? So who do we have? Do we have one person doing this and their staff and they do it, you know, once a year, or do we have, you know, partners are doing this weekly, and they're taking up so much time, then that's where we kind of went into the billing and we focused on the billing because we're the highest paid individuals doing spending the most amount of time on something that could very easily be automated for the most part. So that part is easy. The evaluation and the explanation of why we're not doing certain things isn't always as easy. One of the first things we looked at in the text group was something was at 79, which should be relatively easy to automate. Again, it's high dollar people working on things like high volume, high dollars. But the process when I dove into it was so scattered, it was haphazard, every office was doing their own thing. And so I kind of laid it out for them, I was like, these are the reasons why we can't do this. If you fix X, Y and Z, then we can reevaluate. And then I've got something to work with. But I'm not going to automate a bad process. The whole point to me of RPA is to be able to empower people to do more, and not necessarily enable them to continue doing bad processes. And so that's, I mean, that's kind of how I look at it. And, you know, when you explain it to them that way, they understand, right. And so that's a big part of my thing, too, a lot of what I do is the RPA. But it's also finding those efficiencies. And a lot of time and money can be saved just by fixing some of these bad processes, which then opens the door to allow RPA in.

 

Mark Percival  31:58

So that's a really interesting point . In software, I like to think, you know, when you talk about automating our testing software, a lot of times it changes the way you write the software. Is that something you find something similar and automating? Is it making you not just go in and fix the process, but actually change the process the way you would normally do it versus how you would do it? If you thought about it from the automation standpoint?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  32:20

Oh, absolutely. Because you, you do think of things a different way. And you see other opportunities. And so I make the suggestions to people like, Hey, have you thought about doing this way, this might be better. And we've, in some places where we haven't been able to automate thing, we've still been able to see those savings, just by making those little changes, using other tools that we have, or just little things that people didn't think about, like one of the biggest things was, again, in billing, there was something wrong with the format within the system. So it was always creating two pages. So people were spending every invoice that we do like 3000 4000 invoices a month, every single one day, we're going in and deleting a bunch of lines, so that it would all be on one page. Are you serious, right? I mean, it's like something that is just so simple. It seems so obvious. But you know, you don't realize like, Oh, it's just a couple seconds. Yeah, a couple seconds, or 3000 times a month, you know what I mean? It adds up. So I changed the format and don't have a problem. You know, I mean, like simple little things like that. And that's not even like a process change. But again, it's something in the system that just needed to be tweaked. So, yeah, that definitely, definitely happens a lot.

 

Scott Sanders  33:34

And I think the other thing, too, that we learned early on was, you know, don't don't let a non perfect process from start to end get in the way of doing some sort of automation, right. So if if the process you want to automate is is five steps long, and you know, the front end and the back end are, you know, maybe need tweak or they need refined, or we you know, we have to kick that back out for them to look at that process, but we can still automate what's in the middle, right, go ahead and automate what's in the middle, get some ROI. Let the process owners, you know, refine the front and back end, and then automate the rest of it. If you find that you're waiting for that entire process to be perfect, right, you'll get you're gonna keep delaying your automation.

 

Mark Percival  34:15

That's a really good point. Yeah, I mean, I think you see that in software too, right, which is let's build the entire thing versus less button. Let's bite off a chunk. Right. Exactly. Right. And that can just delay you for you know, forever, basically, and really put the stop on things.

 

Brent Sanders  34:30

Yeah. Is there anything in, I'm curious? Beyond Blueprism, and I know you guys have a similar as Mark said, a significant Microsoft consultancy. Have you looked at some of the other tools in the space, you know, especially when they're their external client facing if they're like a big Microsoft shop or you're already have, you know, dynamics in house if you guys looked at like power automate or Power Apps, those things come up, as you've kind of introduced the concept of automation to different organizations.

 

Scott Sanders  34:58

Yep, absolutely. And we actually use those platforms a lot, you know, especially in our, in our client facing world where, if we're already in the client, and we're already implementing, you know, Alicia, say, a new Dynamics product from Microsoft, you know, from Microsoft, the because the power, the power automate and power platform are, you know, inherent to that to that, you know, that would be a natural step for us to use that, in the automation process for our clients, if we're already implementing something like a dynamics, you know, even outside of the Microsoft world, you know, with Salesforce and NetSuite. We also have a large number of independent software vendors that have built automation specifically for those tool sets. So if we're implementing NetSuite for a client and understand their process, we can also start to identify areas where we can automate using other other plugins, I guess, if you want to call them for those platforms as well. So yeah, we we absolutely have a wide gamut of, of tools that we use in it, we really like to tailor it to what we're doing at the client, if we're not doing you know, anything, but maybe bookkeeping, maybe blue prism cloud is is the right way to go. If we're implementing Microsoft, maybe, you know, power automate, and power platform is the way to go. If we're doing something else they know, maybe there's another tool we have in our arsenal that somebody else has built that we can lay on top of that solution. So yeah, we're always just tailoring that to that to fit the best need of the client. Hmm, yeah. And even internally, you know, I mean, internally, we're a blue prism cloud shop on the RPS by side specifically there. But outside of that, we also do a lot of automations. And we're actually working on right now for some of our COVID protocol. areas where we're using the power automate platform to do some automation. So it just made more sense in that case, because we were able to leverage our, you know, our office 365 environment.

 

Brent Sanders  36:45

Right. Interesting. When you're doing external work, what model like, is typical for, for sketches? Is it you come in, you implement and you hand off? Or you come in your implement? And you own it? Or is it like a blend of the two, what models have worked for the company?

 

Scott Sanders  37:03

Yes, certainly a blend of the two. And it really, what we're finding is it really depends on the size and the needs of our client, where, you know, the smaller and mid size market may want us to come in and do it and manage it. And you know, they want no part of it, they just want to say, you know, here's the money, I need to take care of this for me, on the flip side of that, as we start to scale up to conduct the larger side, you know, the the enterprise side, where we're using some of these ISVs and power platform, what we may do is, you know, it would be part of the bundle, why would that we implement during the implementation process, and then we would maybe go into more of a support role or hand that off to maybe their internal technical staff that they have one to support manage going forward. So it really varies and kind of the scope of what we're doing for the client and then the size of the client as well.

 

Brent Sanders  37:53

Sure, sure. And, you know, on that, when you, let's say, You You're in charge of, you know, managing your vessels, or whatever it is, you know, some sort of agreement of managing an automation practice. And are there any tips that you might have for our listeners for, you know, once the bots are live, once they're there in production, like tips for making sure they keep running, managing them, keeping them up? And, understanding if they're still delivering value? Are there any thoughts you have around sort of post launch? Or sort of what to expect? When, what is it what to expect when expecting bots? After whatever things are live?

 

Scott Sanders  38:31

Yeah. And Jen I'll let you take this because you're, you're kind of our bartender and you and you see what happens after an automation is done. So you want to run with this?

 

Jenna Schnizlein  38:38

Yeah. So I mean, the biggest surprise to me, it was really, that once automation is done, it doesn't mean that it's done. Like it's it's never done, there's always a certain level of monitoring, and updating that has to be done. And so that's probably the biggest thing that, you know, and it's really a tip, but definitely something to consider that there has to be. There's just more work for it. Right. So in terms of tips, I mean, like really just trying to be proactive about things because it's a regular worker, you know, passwords expire, and things need to get updated. I mean, there's other types of keep that sometimes people forget about if for some reason, you know, at least for us, willows under different group policies, then other people, so her schedule is a little bit different. So, things like that are really just maintenance types of things are probably the biggest thing, if the, if the process changes, making sure that those things are considered or if it's working. Well, you know, when you're seeing that there's value and you want to change something or change the frequency of how often something runs, or you want it to add something to the process like Well, okay, you ran this, can you also Then run this report and send it to somebody. So those types of things like it's never, it's never set in stone, it's never done, you can always make it better, but you always have to, like, stay on top of it too, or just just things to kind of know, plan for.

 

Scott Sanders  40:15

And I guess, you know, we were talking a lot about, you know, the body and RPA working a lot like a, you know, like a human. But the the big benefit to bots is where they don't require restroom breaks, they don't go, they don't go to lunch, they don't take holiday and they don't want vacation. You know, they're there, they're able to work basically 24 by seven 365. So, you know, where maybe, you know, traditionally, our billing and our invoicing might stop on Friday, you know, Friday at five o'clock, but we can we can have our bot running, you know, Friday night, Saturday, Sunday. And you know, you come in Monday, and all your invoicing and billing for the prior week is done, because your bot worked all weekend long.

 

Brent Sanders  40:51

Yeah, that's fantastic. Yeah, I mean, it's similar to any software feels like, you know, it's, it's a living thing to a certain extent, right. It is software, it is, you know, it has those advantages of speed and accuracy and not taking vacations. But as you point out, yeah, it's gonna be something that, you know, the footing under it, the environment around it will sometimes change and causing Sprake passwords, whatever else, you know, normal changes to infrastructure. So those are great, great tips. Mark, anything else you wanted to throw out there before we wrap up?

 

Mark Percival  41:25

No, this is really helpful. I mean, this was super interesting to hear about, I think we, you know, typically get a broad mix of different implementers. Here are people implementing RPA, or building on the RPA system. But it's always great to hear midmarket I think it's something that a lot of times people kind of Yeah, ignore, but it's a huge I mean, obviously, it's a huge opportunity there.

 

Brent Sanders  41:47

Scott and Jenna anything you guys want to mention anything you guys hiring anything guys want to promote a ticket?

 

Scott Sanders  41:53

How about automation? Let's promote automation? Fair enough, you know, that that's what we're here for. And, and, and again, you know, we can, we can read, we can reach down small, we can go up to the middle market, you know, all the way all the way up to enterprise. And, you know, we're, we're here to assist, we're here, we're here to help and, you know, absolutely reach out if there's any, any use we can be to anybody.

 

Brent Sanders  42:18

Excellent. Well, thank you guys, both for coming on and telling us your story. This has been, I think, some really good insights in actual use cases. And again, as Mark said, and sort of this mid market stage, and we just don't get enough of these stories. And we're hoping to have more on the podcast like this. So thank you both for the time and for coming on and sharing your stories.

 

Jenna Schnizlein  42:39

Absolutely. Thanks for having us.

 

Scott Sanders  42:41

Absolutely. Thank you very much.


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