On this episode of the podcast we talk with Kieran Gilmurray, who has been in the automation space for almost 25 years.
Interview with Kieran Gilmurray
people, organization, rpa, technology, automation, business, bit, years, developer, project, work, customers, citizen, piece, deliver, hr, executives, productive, build, starting
Kieran Gilmurray, Mark Percival, Brent Sanders
Brent Sanders 00:06
So, Kieren, thanks for joining us on the podcast. Why don't we start out? Give us a brief intro to yourself, tell us a little bit about yourself how you got into the automation space? And yeah, what was the impetus for you to start with automation?
Kieran Gilmurray 00:23
Maybe ... curiosity. I've been in automation for 20-25 years. It's interesting, Brent, we only really talk about it now over the last couple of years, and folks tend to assume RPA as automation, but I've been an IT in business for 25 years, I had my first robot in the year 2000. But for many, many years, I've been trying to automate business processes and business flows, to try and digitally transform organizations to make things a little bit easier for employees. Number one, stash number two, and then generate some cash number three, so a lot of funding, anybody goes into the text base as a problem solver in some shape or another. So I've been doing it, joined it, stayed in it and have stayed in and ever since.
Mark Percival 01:07
It's an interesting point, I feel like that's one of the pieces that's so attractive about this is it actually does solve a problem. It's easy in a lot of its roles to feel like I think you're creating something new, but maybe creating new problems. Makes sense?
Kieran Gilmurray 01:21
I would think that but remember, a lot of it is you do a piece of code, you're part of the machinery. Yeah, not to mention you're sitting on the surface, you can see the outcome of your work straightaway.
Mark Percival 01:29
Yeah, very satisfying, right?
Kieran Gilmurray 01:30
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I need to see the outcome. Anytime I've looked at bets, it's of no interest, you know, what am I doing? I don't know, I could have done anything, it wouldn't really matter.
Brent Sanders 01:40
Tell me back in 2000. What did it? What did automation look like? What was the landscape that, like the tooling you were working with? I mean, how are you automating them?
Kieran Gilmurray 01:49
I don't know if it was that much different today. You know, everybody talks about all the amazing tools that we've got. But I was working in a law firm, we are trying to improve productivity. And we're trying to improve client service. So we use case management systems and built into the case management systems automation. Or if it wasn't built in, we tended to wrap it around by just putting on Windows scheduler and getting coder on every so often lifting data out of databases. But we were sending out text messages and email updates to clients who had legal cases to let them know the status of the legal matter, or when to call in, or say that everything's just on track to avoid calls coming into contact centers and into solicitors, who obviously earned a lot of money per hour, and therefore were more productive, doing new work than existing work, we were, you know, right, as way back as then maybe a couple of years after that, you know, online booking sites, which everybody does know, you know, we're doing that we're logging into your legal case. So you could track it again, you know, almost say, sometimes there's nothing new in the world, it just appears to be more tools. But it was pretty sophisticated, then maybe some stages, we were too ahead of our times, I remember we had done document shops, and we were offering the will for 1999 pound sterling, and no one would buy it. Oh, my goodness, this is about 270 pound cheaper than the rest of the market. And because it was 275 cheaper than the rest of the market, nobody believed it was any good. But the common building was my mates who worked in law, were all downloading the document selling it to the clients for $299. And then they used to complain to me when it was out of date. So someone wanted the time, or maybe there's a less there, you can be a little bit too ahead of your time.
Brent Sanders 03:31
Fantastic. So when you walk me through, you know, when you look at your sort of automation practice today, or what you're spending your time on, you know, what are the types of problems that you're seeing in modern RPA? versus what you're seeing? You know, back in the 2000s? I mean, the problems the same largely, or are they evolving in any way?
Kieran Gilmurray 03:51
I think the problems are largely the same. You know, we talk now about customer experience and giving customers value. But that's as old as time began, I think maybe lots of people forgot it in between where they got really excited by the technology, and what the technology could do know, the best technology solves basic problems. In other words, how do I make my business a heck of a lot more productive? How do I make my customers a lot happier? How do I deliver for my customers in a way that they want when they want you know that that's been an age old problem, technology's changed, computing power has changed, time has changed. You know, all those things have changed. But the basics and the fundamentals of business never have. I think we've got confused sometimes and layered on technology and layered on complexity. That if we actually and you've seen this over the last year with COVID, when we stripped everything back to the basics, it was literally have great employees who are happy in the work as productive as can be delivering for the customers, using whatever means possible, and a lot of complexity got removed. People discovered the world still turned customers probably got more service than they ever did. And staff were happier than ever before, particularly when they were really in trouble. engaged in the business. And when decisions were handed down to them at the edges of the business, to allow them to do what they knew has been right for years and to make decisions that satisfy their customers for years. And then they broke down barriers and broke time silos that were built up over the years as organizations grew and scaled. So I tend to take complex problems, or if you want to call them complex problems, turn them into rather simple problems, because trust me, keeping staff productive and happy, and customers productive and happy, are not easy, but they're not too complex either. And then come up with what I hope is really simple, really robust solutions that meet both those needs. And when you do that, when you're happy staff tends to translate into happy customers. And when you have happy customers that tends to translate into profits. And all those things work in a magic circle, we now have more technology, you know, some of the choices out in the market are absolutely fantastic. And actually quite like that, because now there is a piece of technology for every single budget. Yeah, if you want to work in a different way, not just buying the technology. And if you want to work remote in the cloud, whatever. Then if you look at some of the capacity, some of the technology, including you know, deep analytics, artificial intelligence chatbots, you name it all that's available at the flick and the click of a button. And I would say what's improved for me probably the accessibility of it. Because I remember I was buying, you know, a Dell server, other brands are available, of course, you know, in the year 2000, you'd bring up it might take six, eight weeks to arrive yet then go and hopefully ordered Microsoft server at the time that took a period of time to arrive after you negotiated with a particular vendor or vendors, then you ordered other software, you realized there wasn't enough main memory six, eight weeks later, it just took forever, no Click, click, click, you know, a couple of dollars later, I have a website up and running, have a chat bot sitting on it. You know, I have so much tooling at my hands. It's almost mesmerizing. But again, it just goes back to what's the problem you're trying to solve? How can I solve this in the most efficient way possible that delivers the most value to customer, employee and business? And job done? You know, so it's the excitement of seeing all the tech and what's possible. But as I said, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, how do you bring it back to basics, and do just a really good job with what's in front of you?
Brent Sanders 07:18
That's a really interesting insight, because there is something about like spinning up, you know, an infrastructure and doing it in this day and age where it's like, oh, you really can go to the nth degree with it and go way too far and build beyond your means. Is there any like principles or way that you think about problems in order to avoid that in order to avoid overbuilding? I mean, I do feel like that, that it tends to be from time to time projects you can get kind of obsessed with the tools and obsessed with it get started, get away from the customer or away from the point of what you're doing. How do you think about it? And what are ways that you can avoid over building?
Kieran Gilmurray 08:00
Probably the old phrase if I give you a kiss? Brent, it's to keep it simple. Yeah, I thought on that Thursday afternoon, you know, it's just keeping it simple. I placed the North Star of the project right at the top of everything, you know, we begin the meetings with a look, we're aiming for this, how are we doing? What are all the things that we're doing contributing to getting that goal? And I'd love to say it's perfect every time. And over the years that I've not gone off. Of course, the times. But you know, that's the bit you need to level set. Get your retrospectives, and I'm quite a fan of Agile doesn't mean it's the only methodology you can use in the business because waterfall is appropriate times. But just looking back, and when you've realized you've got so excited by the technology consumed by whatever it is that's going right or going wrong and forgotten why? You know, the why not the hole in the wall, why you're doing the thing. I've level said a whole lot of times, and there's an art in that, you know, admitting you've gone wrong. And don't keep going because you've invested so much time in what you've done to date. But if you don't hit the Northstar or the outcome, then you're in trouble. And it just goes back to like, what are we what are we doing? How do we do it in the most simple way possible? It doesn't mean that that's not gonna offer, you know, what is there a wonderful customer experience or agent experience or worker experience? is just how can we do it in a way that meets the need that we set out to meet and do it, you know, quickly do it affordably and do it in a way that's involved people on that journey. So they get what they want at the end of the day. And whatever we said we would deliver, it delivers and it delivers in spades for those who need it. But not not always not always easy. Because of the plethora of technologies that actually exist and the numbers of options. As I'm saying you could run into meetings and have meetings about meetings about meetings, planning things, but sometimes it's just go back to basics. deliver what was requested, make it a great experience, do it in an affordable sense, and then move on to the next level of value.
Brent Sanders 09:52
That's great. Yeah. Do you ever find that sometimes? I mean, obviously technology can be complex, but do you ever find people can be the most complex part of a project.
Kieran Gilmurray 10:02
If we're allowed to say that the industry is the most complex part of the problem, I think people themselves are the actual problem that time as well, everybody can be traced here. And that, you know, that just goes back to an old thing that you keep having to do. When organizations were reasonably simple, people talk to something, something crazy, a wonderful breeder called people. And you understood you know, what they wanted, you understand their fears, you understood their hopes and their needs and everything else. And that's where a lot of technology programs have come unstuck. You know, the forgotten their North Star, or they haven't spent time building those relationships with people, understanding what people truly want, understand where they're frightened, understand where they're worried, understand the outcomes that they need. Instead, we got so excited by the technology, we went off and built it when, you know, six months later, was not what I wanted. No, but that's what that's what I'm giving you. That's what you said you wanted, you know, so it just goes back to that same piece. How do we bring people with us on the journey? And not only, you know, old IT world of how do we bring people with us? Because, you know, in technology, sort of the ideas? We've got the technology, we've come forward with it, but how do we actually listen? How do we let the business bring forward the ideas? And how do people in the automation world or Intelligent Automation world, try and help people achieve all the things that they want to do? Because there isn't enough, as they say, software developers in the world, so everything to happen. And that's why you end up with stuff. You're not like low code, no code citizen developer or whatever else. So my one is, it's all about people beginning, middle and end because people transform organizations, not not technology.
Brent Sanders 11:41
Yeah, I can't disagree with that. I mean, when you mention things like low code, no code and citizen developers, we have to, we're obligated by the rules of our podcast to then ask you about what your experiences are with citizen developers. So I'm just gonna get that over with now. What are your thoughts on citizen developers? I mean, have you? Have you experienced programs at work? And we and I would just preface your answer with, we've heard both sides. And that's why it's an obligatory question . We really, we haven't seen, you know, definitive answers one way or another. I'm curious, what are you seeing in that space?
Kieran Gilmurray 12:20
So we're both laughing here. It's almost like a mortal sin. You mentioned that on LinkedIn, and everybody pounces on you. So I'd be very careful here. But I'm saying No, I'm joking, of course, to let me step up a level just momentarily, I go back to, you know, IT organizations never had, and still don't have all the answers. And that's not a criticism of very talented IT departments or it functions? Absolutely not. There just isn't enough people in IT departments to do all the things that folks want to do. And whenever good folks coming into the workforce today, if I take one of the accounting associations in Ireland, that you have to pass robotic process automation, of course, actually qualifies an accountant, you know, so that people can the skills that are coming through are fantastic. Like, why did bring your own device come into play, it wasn't that people suddenly went, anyone folks should bring your own device. You know, it's cheaper than anything, you know, it was people having the technology and playing with this at home and using things that allowed them to be more productive in the working life. And then of course, they come into work and went, well, I'm using technology that is, you know, five years old, or whatever else, you know, so a lot of it is driven by demand from people themselves. And the more progressive organizations are realizing, how do we actually get the collective effort and the collective innovation, the collective spirit of all of a workforce? And part of that is, or one of the answers is through technology? Now, I'm an advocate for do I think that everybody can become a citizen developer? No, it's a bit like, Can everyone become a citizen dentist? Well, we can try but I don't think let loose teeth. And therefore, like, not everyone can become a developer. But it means that people can, can jump in and help and digital transformation in different ways. But also, like, let's be honest, here, not every developer is brilliant, they were not born. And suddenly, Virginia says I've worked with some of the best. And let's say that I've, I've worked with some that might have been better suited to work in different rooms altogether. But if you can give people the tooling that they need, and we constantly hear, you know, citizen developers, RPA. But look, if I look at other tools, and I look at, for example, canva.com. And there's lots of these websites, and cabling, and whatever else, then all of a sudden, you know, I can do video editing, I can do picture editing, you know, all the types of things that I wouldn't need the graphic designer for years ago, a pile of different technologies, and a lot of cost. I can do that now. So I can build up a web server and Amazon without being you know, an architect, you know, there are so many things that I can do, but it has to be controlled, and I've got it where you go, okay, we've created teams and some of the best developers I've ever worked with have come from the business. And that's where local news quarter or less code tools can work but not by themselves. You know, you need to coach , you need to mentor , you need to set all this put on a set of guardrails, you know, all those things are right in the proper things to do. There will always be developers in organization and they are fantastic. And I recommend you put a developer working with citizen developers to mentor and coach them. And then you can do certain things at certain levels. Whilst Not everyone can become a citizen, dentist, you can certainly become a citizen hygienist, you know, there's a whole host of things that you can do to make yourself productive on a daily basis. So I am a fan of people who have been giving the tooling, the training, the coaching and the mentoring the guardrails and everything else, to allow them to be really efficient and productive, and organizations. Because I'll tell you this, an IT team of 50 can produce less than an organization of 1000 people pushing in the same direction at different degrees.
Brent Sanders 15:56
Yeah, that's a great perspective, I think mentorship is a good thing to call out and what you were saying. But beyond that, I mean, the development is in service of the business. Right. And that's, that's one thing that I kind of get stuck in my craw about it, which is, you know, we're billing automations in service of the business, and who knows the work of the business better than the people doing the job. So it's, it does make sense that you want to connect them with these pieces in it, which makes this topic so kind of difficult, right? Because it's, I don't think the, in my mind, the proposition of citizen developers is not that they will take over, but it's that they'll be able to articulate their problems, articulate their processes, as well as, you know, understand how it might execute a little bit more. But we always go back to Excel is like the ultimate citizen developer tool is, Excel is one of those things that, you know, there, you can have some people in departments that really can do wonders with just an Excel sheet. And that being sort of the first place to start with a citizen development program. But it is a hotly contested topic where everyone comes between, you know, they don't really work, they don't really exist, it's something you absolutely have to have. And we've seen success, it just takes time. And that being the one ingredient that a lot of people don't necessarily want to invest is the amount of time that it may take to start to build people up. But we see it really coming from purely a software aspect, you see it commonly with automated testing, like testers that go from manually testing and quality assurance testing, that slowly move up the ranks to automated testing and become software engineers. And so it feels like there are certain roles that are built towards that, that demonstrate that there is this thing called citizen developers. And at the end of the day, as you mentioned, there's really not that much too much, not much of a difference between the software engineer and the next worker, once you boil down the qualities, it's just sort of domain knowledge around how to use things or, or whatever else, engineering techniques.
Kieran Gilmurray 18:06
I think you do need logical mind, you know, they're, there's a whole host of attributes that folks need to get their citizen developers to work, if it's RPA, or AI, or data analytics, you know, I genuinely believe that. And that's one where organizations, you know, they do need to take time and invest in people. But it's the same you know, if you want someone who's brilliant and marketing you, you invest in them, you train them, if you want someone who's brilliant at finance, HR, you know, it's all the same thing. And you need to take time mentor coach development and help them guide. And unfortunately, sometimes we're in such a rush these days, and organizations that we go for the shortcut to hire someone who's, you know, exceptionally good at coding, but I should say maybe doesn't know the business. For me, it's just again, it's the same thing you know, RPA is one one local tool, but if I look at the numbers of tools that exist these days, including data analytics, tools, workflow tools, or whatever else, but really the complexity has been taken out of the task, and all of a sudden the code and everything else has been built in the background for someone and that's in every department across an organization then it's absolutely amazing and fantastic to see. And I personally can't wait to see you know, growing so that everyone in every department within reason can use a tool that abstracts complexity to allow them to be a heck of a lot more productive you know, it's a bit like an you know, some people may argue with that, but I go back to why do we all start using calculators not Abacus, you know, that extraction from from shifting and lifting and it's the same with Canva and cabling, and RPA tools and workflow tools, encore you know, whatever it is all those tools are removing complexity thank goodness they're removing you know time because they're pretty quick to work they're not perfect yet are lots of them aren't perfect. And yes, they can't. You can't become a citizen dentist by shortcut their god no. And but you know, they're moving in the right direction and I started to Think Firstly, that we're at the very start of all of this movement. And if you look at the progress been made over the last 10 years, can you imagine what 10 years time is going to be looking like Alexa, currently today, or Siri or whatever else will be pretty dumb In comparison, right? What I hope is a very exciting time where I am doubling or tripling productivity depending on how many digital twins or assistance I can afford at the time.
Brent Sanders 20:26
Mark, did you want to add something to that?
Mark Percival 20:28
Going back to that piece around the citizen developer, there's also this other side, which is companies that are getting started on this, sometimes the way they get started is somebody in the org kind of takes up the idea of I want to automate something, when someone comes to you and says, you know, hey, I'm looking at automating something, you know, viewer to, you know, give them some advice as to how to bring that into there, or how to kind of start the process, because it starts at different levels, right, it's not always the top down, it's sometimes somebody that's in an accounting role, or an HR role that says, gosh, this would be a great thing to automate. There's no reason this shouldn't be automated, if you had advice for them to how to start that conversation to tools they could start with but also the organizational level, which is how you kind of go to start the conversation and buy in from everybody else, pretty kind of go with that.
Kieran Gilmurray 21:11
I love that mark, you know, domain, at the risk of saying hug them tightly for fear of getting in trouble with HR, you know, you've got someone in there who's interested in technology and interest in making the work more productive. My goodness, we need more of that than organization to be fantastic. As you know, the fact that someone has come to talk to me about it is absolutely brilliant, because what's the alternative? You know, they don't load something on their PC, it's not particularly productive, they go off and do it themselves, or they build a whole host of things that that department becomes dependent upon, yeah, and then they find a new job. And all of a sudden, it becomes again, the IT department's fault. The other bit is that I think these days, you know, technology is amazing. I think people use it in their life in their working lives, they use it in their home lives. And after they've clicked a couple of buttons and done something easy on an app store. They believe it is simple. And it's not you know, a professional, a team, IT team, they know what they're doing is just the most amazing thing any organization has. But we've got an awful amount of pressure on them to deliver all the answers and know everything about everything. It's not possible, you know, how many specialties you have, as doctors, you know, or eye surgeons or whatever else, it's just not possible. And therefore, I go back to what I said earlier on, if you've 1000 people in an organization, and they've 1000 ideas, that's far better than 50 ideas in one team or any team in the organization. Will all of them work? Absolutely not. But where lots of them work, or have the potential to work, absolutely superb. No, that individual is coming up. Who's got ideas? You just go? Yep, fantastic. Let me see what it looks like. Well, it worked out, maybe, maybe not, if it does, fantastic. If it doesn't, it goes about how you actually handle that person. And how you encourage them through your interest and what they're doing and encourage them if this didn't work, maybe there's other ideas in your department that we could look into. And all of a sudden, you know, someone finds you been very helpful, you're not been obstructive, it's not. It says no, you know, screams as soon as they see coming to summon to the ID department, the best automation, its technical departments enable people and facilitate. They're doing things that can add to the bottom line of a business, you know, so my win is to embrace them, work with them, try and help them, it may not be the right thing this time, it may be you know, and there'll be other opportunities. But if you've got ambassadors and advocates, you know, those are the folks that can help make things happen. And again, from an employee perspective as well, do you want to be part of an organization that listens, that innovates, that takes you seriously that encouraged you to think or do you want to be part of an organization that says no, that belongs to it? Nope, that belongs to finance. Nope, that belongs to marketing. You know, they're amongst the worst places I've ever seen. That's not where I want to work at all, you know?
Mark Percival 23:56
Yeah, it's a really good point. I mean, I think that's something that is definitely a large piece of RPA success is just general organization, a good organization, right? I mean, good organizations will make good RPA hosts. Whereas bad organizations that have these bad practices are always always going to run into trouble in this space. And so it's kind of hard to kind of hard to solve for that. So it's definitely not something that you can just say, here's, here's a toolset that you can use in this organization, it really does come down to a larger look at the organization and how they perform.
Kieran Gilmurray 24:25
And that's where maybe we go back to what we were saying earlier on, the amount of technology you could look at can become overwhelming, you know, so mine is a little bit of, you know, do a try, experiment, see if you can win, you know, and you know, if you can't click in, you know, there's not much out there at every budget, every type of tune, you can win in some shape, or form or other. The worst thing is the other alternative, which is do nothing at all, you know, so it's, what's that paralysis by analysis? You have to try things the world just moves too quickly these days. And I suppose that's the one challenge for organizations is how do I build an A dread to use this word for fear, we get shouted out again. You know, an agile organization without me thought that everyone has to practice agile. And we all become agile disciples, but what I mean is how do organizations, you know, try things, break things, learn things change direction quickly, you know, move at the pace that the customers and markets want. And the only way they're going to be able to do that is when everybody is on board, and with the type of tool set that allows things to be rope, you know, built really, really quickly, and then potentially thrown away really, really quickly. Without it costing the sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars, you know, five and 10 year projects these days, I'm not too sure many organizations should be binding themselves into that type of cycle, because what we're currently doing may not be what's needed in there, you know, three or five things.
Brent Sanders 25:44
Yeah, that's a common thread that I feel like Mark and I discussed early on when kicking off this podcast around legacy software is like, by the time the legacy software initiative has been completed, the new software is the legacy software again, it's like it's just this, this repetitive carousel that you just cannot because it takes so long in some of these organizations to move, which is the attractive thing to me about automation. And it doesn't have to be RPA, per se. But, you know, can we make some, it allows this bridge, right, where we can make some decisions that aren't the hard, full decision of, hey, we're rewriting everything, we're redoing everything, or where can we not just take this piece, and maybe use some automation to create a bridge for you, and then we'll take on a bigger piece and another piece, so I I'll just come out and say it, I am a believer in Agile, I believe that that's a good way to deliver software, I believe that it's it definitely has its flaws. And it's not for everybody, but it has a couple of pieces that I really like. And I'll just say the incremental delivery that aspect of Hey, every two weeks, we're going to be delivering something, we're gonna be showing telling something. And we're going to be trying to make the process better every iteration, like those two simple pieces, or that sort of my takeaway from what I've done in my career that has always turned out to have positive impacts on projects, it's like, the sooner you can deliver something. So in hearing you talk about which is the reality of enterprise IT is we have a five year initiative to transform some aspect or some migration. And as you said, by the time you're done, you better get ready for the next piece of software to be replaced.
Kieran Gilmurray 27:23
I agree with that entirely. It's interesting, it was a chat a lot of people a lot of time in this space, which is a lot of fun. The narrative startup company, they're five years old, and they've had five, five mainframe systems or five big system upgrades in that time, almost building, throwing out building throwing light, but it's the way their market was moving in the market they were in and it's fantastic to be able to do. Yeah.
Brent Sanders 27:44
So on that, on that same note, one of the things I wanted to ask you about is, you know, inheriting projects, I mean, this is a part of just from purely from a software perspective, it perspective, can be one of the hardest parts of any job of not having a Greenfield project having to step into something where, you know, it's maybe it's being deemed a failure or a potential failure. Walk me through, you know, how do you handle those situations? Because it seems like you've been through that before, and you've had some experience with it.
Kieran Gilmurray 28:15
Yeah, I wrote, and I have written on my LinkedIn profile, project paramedic, and it's more for a bit of tongue in cheek. Because I think if you worked in technology and business for the last goodness knows how many years at some stage, you're going to have to do that. I actually quite enjoyed, you know, the easiest thing in the IT world or business where it was coming in, having a big budget and been allowed to build your own team from scratch, you know, but that's not the way the world works. And I think the key thing is, and this is coming in, in the first period of time, it's not coming in and ripping everything up going, this is all rubbish. Even before you've looked at it, you know, when I come into organizations or teams, I spend time getting to know the individuals I spend time getting to know the end customer. I spend time getting to know the technology, I spend time understanding the need. And sometimes when you look at those things, what was technically a failing project can be quite different. So a team, for example, that's failing. Well, actually, had they had the direction before. Did they have the actual budget to do things? Were they under resourced? Were they given, you know, sufficient estimated time? You know, there's a whole host of reasons why teams may not be performing at their optimum. It can be that someone's put someone into a team because they felt like doing it, or it sounded like a good idea. But you know, as I said earlier on, not everyone can become a developer, and therefore, it's about finding the right places on the bus for people so that everybody goes in the right direction and moves in the right momentum. The harder one is, if you're coming into something that you just when you look at it, you've examined all that. It's just not going to work. And I've seen instances of folks who've been oversold products. Imagine that in the RPA world. Yeah, oversold the project by you know, our technology by somebody had never built a robot in their life and That's pretty, pretty hard, actually. Because some of those I've had to shut down because they're just never ever going to work the works to cognitive, you know, you might be better off shoring it, where you can actually hit the price point, then bring the data and having stored in a database, and then started to do something with artificial intelligence or data analytics, that allows you to get value out of the data out of the process. So that's a tough one. And it's more tough because I hate to see waste. And I hate to see people having the world pulled over their eyes as well, that that is really frustrating. The other bit is coming in and telling the business hard facts, you know, it's a bit like, right, I can I got a project, I got to throw it over the fence, and I'll see you in six months, you know, the worst things that I've seen over the last 25 years are our executives doing that, you know, they go away for a couple of days with the board, they come up with a great strategy. And then they forgotten about it. But now it's the team's challenge to deliver minor, always insist on an executive owning everything, it's a top five executive and agenda and it was not, then you have to worry by something, isn't it sufficiently resourced in budget. And by that, I mean, you know, if the right people, there's money behind the bit to do it, I'm not asking for billions, just enough money to get the project to work. And that the executive themselves is front and center behind the initiative. And they actually explain where teams have been impacted, why they've been impacted and how the technology works. So it's not one thing that that is, you know, broken or not working in a project, it's lots of different things. And therefore come in, take your time. You know, as someone once said, to me, God gave you two years and one most, you know, listen to what is happening, look and see, and then start to make tweaks and changes and do it with people front and center of everything that you're doing. Because I'll get back to that phrase I used earlier on as people not technology transforms organization, the tech is relatively easy. People are a little bit more challenging. But you need to understand what went on before.
Brent Sanders 31:54
Yeah, it's understandable. You know, when it comes to breaking those hard news, this hard, the hard news, breaking the hard facts that, hey, we're not going to be able to deliver what was promised or having to shut down a project. I mean, obviously, that has its own impacts, you know, from like, an internal and political perspective. I kind of wanted to get your perspective on automation as it like, how does it impact organizations from that, like, people perspective, I mean, obviously, there are the, the winds, and most of the cases leads that we see, and I'm sure that you do as well, where you implement something people get their time back their savings, there's all these great things. You know, what we try to ask people about is like, what are some of the other aspects and so what you just described is really no different than any other it conversation of, hey, we're going to miss the mark, we need to scrap something we need to, you know, rethink our approach. And that, of course, has impacts, you know, on the stakeholders of the project on the sponsors of the project. But as a broader question around, like, how does automation in trying to pull it apart from it? But how does automation impact the company? How does it actually impact the people? And like, what do you see, you know, the positives, the negatives, at play? I mean, part of this question is almost like a, we're always trying to find out a little bit more about us, like, from an ethics perspective of like, you know, there's this idea that the bots are going to take over, and I'm putting that aside. So what I'm not trying to find out is are you going around the office, firing people now that bots are taking the job, but more so like? What do they do to the dynamics of how people work together?
Kieran Gilmurray 33:42
Dare I say? Brent It depends. Typically and so maybe they shouldn't have zero and one, should they really just given us one? And then that would have stumped us be quantum answers.
Brent Sanders 33:53
Kieran Gilmurray 33:55
You have to go back a little bit historically. And I'm going to jump around a little bit here, but hopefully to goodness anomic sense if it doesn't, you can always edit it afterwards. The joy of technology, but for years RPA has sold us yeah, just come in, you know, go to the RPA sales folks come in sold to CFOs. And executives this year, we can get rid of tons and tons of people, you know, bots will be able to do everything that people can do and then rubber hits the road and all of a sudden it was a heck of a lot more complex. And I can't remember which consultancy said years ago, you know, 50% of automation projects failed. I would say it's probably higher than the first half of the 50s said at work were liars. And that they still had a working payment or something else but it's just you know, look inside of organizations processes are messy ways of working are messy, messy. Things have been added on to over the years and bots or automation needs, you know, good data, good logical flows. And half the time these things aren't written down in organizations. But lo and behold, it was come in and we'll get rid of loads of people quickly they discovered that that was impossible. And then people either mothballed projects or pivoted to or were making or staff happier, we're creating more capacity or something else. And that's fine. If that's your mission, go for it. You know, I have an article on LinkedIn That said, if you're not making money financially, then your RPA programs failed. And I meant it. And I still mean at the time on the basis that if you're pumping a lot of money into a program, and you cannot evidence of return, then all you're doing is putting more cost into a business. Now, if you start out and you say, look, I want to add more capacity, that's great. But what are the staff going to do with that capacity? How many more millions per year are they going to bring to that business, because I've just spent a million quid getting my automation program up and running, you know, has to be something that, okay, what my customer experience to be better, great. So happier customers should buy more, you know, stay longer, the customer lifetime value should be a heck of a lot greater, you know, there's financial analytics goes behind that, or, again, go back to the staff, you know, we have retention problems. And therefore, we, you know, we don't want staff to go, Okay, so if I put in automation, if your current retention rate is 30% a year, you're spending x, hundreds of 1000s of dollars on trainers, on coaches on rework, or whatever else, then I want to see that back, I want to see my error and emission figure going down. But it has to been, you know, a million dollars, a million dollar million dollar fine. As soon as I put in automation, it's the Euro or a heck of a lot less, but one has to cover up the other. The beauty of this space is that when I do one thing, that I can get multiple other benefits. So if I do go in and make a process work, and I mean, you know, it works really well for the employee x, it works really well for the customer, cx when those two things come together on a bind together on the right process, you have happier employees, you have happier customers. But for me, overall, I think organizations need to do a far better job of explaining technology first, and how it works. I think we expect everyone to understand it intimately these days and the power of technology. And we hear the phrase, you know, get your business strategy, first, get your technology second, otherwise, everything looks like a hammer and a nail. But to set your business strategy, you need to understand the art of the possible. So there's a lot of education, the latest buzzword is change management, you know, a lot of education to get people to understand the power of tech where it works and where it doesn't work, where it's suitable, where it's not suitable, you know, go away and embezzling harm an organization might deliver, look out at the market, look at how customers are dealing where they're engaging, you know, is it social media channels is a clicks as it breaks you all those things need to come into the mix, to help you create a really great path forward. And as you're doing that, you know, you start bringing the people along with you, you know, it's not just right off to the golf course executives decides what to do, she comes back to the office and then says right, folks, here's what we're gonna do, I'll see you in three years time, and we'll be done. You know, it really is a case of setting the strategy. I'd bringing people with you understanding that the fears and the tears, you know, accounting for that, you know, well people lose their jobs, potentially, you know, but work has always changed. Jobs are always evolving. I think kids who are born these days, the great news is, folks, if you're young, and you're listening, you've 100 years of work to go, you know, 20 something careers, you know, everything changes all the time. But how do you bring really valuable people with you, you know, I've seen organizations dumping people over 20 years experience with qualified into a robot. The question is, how can you make that person and take their experience, and use that value in another part of the organization where maybe the role has been impacted? You know, the message that you're sending to people, is not the people who you're letting go with automation has caused that it's the message to the people who are left behind, who next time a new technology comes in and you want their support or help, then they're sitting there going well, you didn't really care. You didn't have a lot when you didn't communicate with me, therefore wailed on you for getting rid of the I'll make up a number of 40 people you didn't want, but you know, something. I'm on LinkedIn or a job site tonight, because you ain't the type of firm that I want to work for. Because you haven't thought about me. You just worried about your profits. And my personal one is they use this a lot, much to the stress of HR teams, I think HR have a huge accountability for digital transformation. And working with executives in the business to work out what is the future of work? What does it actually look like? And how do I build my HR strategy wrapped into my transformation strategy wrapped around my business strategy to get the business and to get everyone who's in the business into place so that their skills are relevant this year, next year and the year after? There's nothing worse than me seeing organizations turning over staff because they're not quite right. But they don't have the skills. That is a failure of HR strategy. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, there's a lot of different caveats here around you know, growing, succeeding, failing, introducing bots, or whatever else, as you said, it's like any technology, look at any bad technology implementations have happened over the years. Well, ignore your people, you know, not next week, next month or next year. And then you still wonder why the technology didn't work or the program didn't work. Makes no sense to me. Never has, you know, very simple stuff customer stuff business. It's a small thing, and then the rest, the tech and the policies and everything else come with it.
Brent Sanders 40:04
That's a great answer. All right. I think you preface this, setting my expectations very low. But that's probably the best answer to this question we've had thus far. So I appreciate your, your candid feedback. I know that's great. So I think on that note, Mark, did you have any other things that you wanted to bring up?
Mark Percival 40:23
No, I follow up. I mean, I guess we can go a few things. But I follow up. I do think that's a really good point about HR. It's something that people don't bring up the transformation. It's kind of like digital transformation, we're going to here's it, here's, you know, these other business units, and then HR kind of gets left out, or they're looked at as like, well, how are we going to transform them, but you're not looking from their point outward? Which is how do you encourage those employees to like, you know, how do you build that trust with them? How do you actually, yeah, that's it's a, it's a really interesting point that I think a lot of people leave out.
Brent Sanders 40:50
Yeah. One of the sort of couple of closing questions. One is shifting gears a little bit to the automation industry that you see in front of us right now. Like, what do you see the next sort of generation? I mean, we see the things around us right now. UiPath, went public. And, you know, I think Gartner expected RPA to be a $2 billion business that was in 2019, they're proposing for 2020, or 2021. And I would expect that to actually end up being greater I mean, so it's, we see it exploding, we see these platforms growing, we see, you know, everyone going crazy over it. But from the perspective of somebody who's actually a practitioner, where do you see the space going over the next three to five years?
Kieran Gilmurray 41:39
I actually liked the space, if that makes sense, on the basis that only stories are not unexpected. And maybe because they've been around for two and a half decades, I've seen the same thing. VRP of saying the same thing with the internet, you know, you name it, there's a hell of a lot of excitement, then there's a bit of a dip where everybody going on, this didn't quite work out, you know, internet bubble, you actually thought yeah, you know, values put onto the companies that may or may not have been worth it, I'm not suggesting what values are gonna suggest for any company that may or may not worth it just mean the historically, then all of a sudden, you start to learn the rules of the game. And I would say, particularly in the automation space of the last couple of years, we're starting to have really good practices, and we know the rules. And the folks who, who were coming in and sales jobs and an RPA. Land, selling RPA is the gift that just kept on giving the golden goose that could do no wrong, you know, that that's been weeded out, you know, or thank goodness, for the sake of those companies that still do it, please close down and go away. But you know, it's the rules of the game. And I established and now we're starting to say, look where it doesn't work, or it doesn't not work, you know, will RPA deliver everything that you want in an organization? No, of course it won't, you know, no technology will do you know, out of 1000 jobs, 1000 roles and 1000 things and deliver in 1000 way, it's never been the case. And therefore did the industry itself create some of that maybe you know, that's arguable that excitable CFOs or executives, you know that he or she suddenly come back, you know, from from wherever talking to a vendor or been at a conference or my God, I find the latest thing that will do it. They've been doing that for years, and vendors have been overselling for years. You know, it's a little bit incumbent upon an organization to have a sense of perspective as well. But I think the technology in the tooling is really good at the moment compared to where it was, I think the rules are really well established. I think the market knows what is right or what is wrong, or can smell what is right or what is wrong. And so I think we're in a great place. The bit that excites me is not the valuations You know, when I'm looking at choosing a product, of course, I want to know if a company is going to be around and x numbers of years time, of course, I want to know if they're going to invest in their product roadmap, and all that takes cash and and and and I want to make sure it maps and matches to where I'm going. But I'm excited. Like if you look at automation over the last 550 years, or whatever else, the progress has been phenomenal. Over the last two or three years when money has been thrown at this market and all these companies have grown and accelerated, you're starting to see some amazing platforms starting to form. Now you're starting to see what I described as the coattails of that or the ends happening, you're starting to see open source RPA coming into the fore as well, you know, and that's a sign of a healthy market as well. And if you look forward in 10 years time, like technology, it just moves at a rate of knots and capabilities move at a rate of knots and the rules move. So now we're on to mentioning Gartner, the hype curve, we've gone up, we've gone over, we're on our way down, and now we're on the bit where the gift will give. But it's not a solve all for for every business problem. But you know, get yourself a good backbone and organization. Get yourself a good digital layer these days. And get that platform are that glue in between that allows you to shift and lift and move data real pace and you have a winning formula, you know, but 10 years time, we're gonna look back and go This was right This was kindergarten. You know what to do now at this moment in time, so I can't wait to see how it evolves over the next couple of years. And then the next decade as well.
Brent Sanders 45:07
Excellent. Excellent. Yeah, it's been absolute joy having you on. I think it's been great to have your perspective. So Kieran, thanks so much for joining us and hope to have you on again.
Kieran Gilmurray 45:17
Yeah. Have a brilliant day and appreciate that a lot.
Brent Sanders 45:21
You too. Take care.