Learn tips and tricks from one of our valued community members
Ted: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Bob, and for being our first “Spotlight Speaker” in our series as part of the relaunch of our Automation Community. Can you tell us a little about your history and background in the Business Automation Area?
Bob: Sure, I started with IBM in 2002. I worked for a very small company that built a process modeling tool for business users called “BPM Workbench.” The name of the company was “Holosfx.” IBM acquired Holosfx and its products to be the front end modeling solution to IBM;s Workflow solution at the time. So my career has basically been around process automation and process improvement all along. My focus has always been on process modeling for the business user. I started out doing re-engineering consulting engagements where I’d go to clients and model their business processes and look for areas where improvements could be made. Since then, although I’ve had many roles they have all really been customer faxcing and all around sales and technical sales of business process improvement software. What I learned in these roles is that starting with process modeling has always been a key success factor in the projects I’ve been a part of. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a business’s process puts you in the best position to understand what you should keep and what you need to change to make improvements.
Ted: That’s really insightful. Thank you for that background, Bob. Let’s talk about the “Ninja Series” a bit. It has really grown up to be a popular series for IBM Sellers and Customers alike. What got you started on that?
Bob: Sure. The way it all started was back in 2017, I was trying to get an abstract approved for what was then called “Interconnect.” I wanted to come up with a ‘catchy title” so, number 1, it would accepted, and, number 2, people would come to the session. So, I came up with the “Ninja” part of the title and the session was accepted and was really well attended. In fact the session kind of took on a life of its own after that. Myself and one of my colleagues, Talia Hooker, did three or four on-site workshops covering the same or mostly the same material for the attendees. So that we could get critical mass, we switched over to a webinar format which gave us much broader reach than traveling the world with in person sessions. We expanded the series from covering only process modeling (Blueworks Live) to other Automation topic because we were told that clients really liked the Blueworks Live sessions and wanted similar webinars for Tasks, Workflow, Decisions, and Content offerings. Now we have between six and eight webinars per month cover all Automation areas. The purpose of these webinars still remains. We offer an informal and fun way to learn about our different technologies. We try to minimize slides and major on hands on so you can spend an hour with us and gain a lot of knowledge and information on our solutions.
Ted: Do you do this all by yourself including creating the hands on demo portions?
Bob: I create most of the material, but these days, I partner with a colleague who often handles the demo portion and I do the “side commentary” to keep it fun and interesting.
Ted: So switching gears just a big, what do you see as the biggest overall trends in the Automatiion market?
Bob: Good Question. In general what I would say is, for the most part, the things that people want to do have not really changed in twenty years. Customers want to improve the speed and efficiency of their processes so that they can do more with the hours in the day that they have. They want to provide a better experience to their customers. These sorts of things, improving a process and automating it somehow, isn’t a new concept. What has changed is the way in which you achieve those results. In the past implementations took.months and sometimes years to get a process or processes modeled. Once modeled (and implemented), it was locked in stone because of the effort it took to build the model. With the advancements in new technologies and the advance in our products, the speed at which processes can be modeled has improved and the technical skill level required to model processes has decreased as our products have become easier to learn, understand, and use. This changed the cycle time of modeling projects from six months to two weeks. The ability to make more changes given the flexibility and ease of use of the products has led to improved speed and resulted in better ROI for this area of automation.
Another trend I often see is with customers who have built their processes around spreadsheets and email and similar types of tools. Given today’s tooling these kinds of operations can be improved greatly within a couple of weeks time. This wouldn’t have been possible or worth it without todays advanced tooling.
Ted: Given all the customers you’ve dealt with and worked with, is there a standout use-case you’ve seen that you’d cite?
Bob: I see a couple of use cases really. Since, at customers, there is really no shortage of applications in use. Often these applications are “siloed.” What I mean is they operate independently and aren’t integrated in any way with each other. In this case, Automation can provide the end-to-end bridge to tie together and orchestrate these previously independent apps which can lead to greater efficiencies in the overall process while preserving the investment made in the individual applications.
Ted: Very good. How do you see AI playing in this field?
Bob: Another good question. I see a lot of customers interested in AI and the promise of AI. It son their radar, for sure. The instantiation of it is actually something that is hard for some to wrap their heads around. As we are building AI into our offerings it is providing specific functionality that we are able to highlight to our customers. By doing it this way, with specific use-cases that are leveraging AI, it makes it easier for clients to see the value that it can and is bringing to the offering.
Ted: OK, no technology is perfect. What do love and wish were better about our automation offerings?
Bob: What I love about our technology is that whatever your problem, we have an offering in our platform that can be applied to solve it, all from IBM. So, the breadth and depth of our portfolio is great. One area I’d say were we need to do more is in the area of containerization but we aren’t there yet. This containerization will allow more flexibility for our customers in terms of deployment options, in particular. I’m also very excited about efforts we’re executing to unify the look and feel of our offerings so that the users experience is more consistent.
Ted: Thanks for your candor on that one. Let’s wrap up with what advice would you give someone starting out today in the Automation area to help them ensure their success?
Bob: My biggest mantra that I live by is the “keep it simple.” You’ve got to be able to communicate complex ideas in an easy way for people to understand. I always think about how I’d deliver the message to my Mom. She is a smart woman, but she doesn’t know much about this technology. If I can explain in a way that she’d understand, I feel as though I’m at the right level. Of course, you have to always keep up with your enablement as technology changes constantly. Always be on top of the bits and bytes of the technology as much as you can but more importantly know the business value being delivered and how to explain it simply and convincingly. This really applies to all walks of life. Explain it so they understand it in a non-threatening way.
Ted: Thanks again for your time and for connecting with us today, Bob. Have a great second half and stay well.