Hyper Intelligent Automation has become a critical addition to the CXOs’ arsenal in the current business climate. In our latest Zinnov-UiPath report on Hyper Intelligent Automation landscape 2020, we found that more than 75% of the Fortune 250 enterprises have already made significant investments in Hyper Intelligent Automation (HIA) and its adoption becoming an absolute is only a function of time. In this episode of the Zinnov Podcast, Diego Lomanto, VP Product Marketing, UiPath shares his perspectives on the rapidly evolving role of automation, the current state of the Hyper Intelligent Automation market and its future, and the role of COVID-19 in accelerating HIA adoption.
Praveen: Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of the Zinnov podcast. I am Praveen Bhadada, Managing Partner at Zinnov and your host for today. We are now in the new normal, new lifestyle, new workplace, new expectations. The role that technology has been playing in helping us ease into this new normal, has been unprecedented. Today we will be talking about one such key technology that has been at the forefront of driving rapid digital transformation. It is automation. At Zinnov, we have been on a mission to demystify and simplify the automation space, and as a part of this effort, we recently released our Hyper Intelligent Automation Landscape for 2020 jointly with the leader in the automation space, which is UiPath. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Diego Lomanto, VP of Product Marketing at UiPath, to discuss the various aspects of automation through the lens of the current business scenario. Welcome to the Zinnov podcast Diego.
Diego: Thank you, Praveen. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today, and I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Praveen: Great, so let’s just dive right in. First of all, congratulations on attaining the Decacorn status, Diego, it’s USD 10 billion of valuation for your company. This truly has been a fascinating journey for UiPath specifically, starting from very humble beginnings in Eastern Europe, to now achieving this level of success across the world. What do you think UiPath has done differently to create such a globally distributed business?
Diego: Yeah, thank you. It has been quite a journey, the last couple of years, at UiPath. I joined because I was fascinated by the technology and I saw the impact it was having on our customers, both for their employees and their customers and just in general, and how it’s helping them transform and accelerate their digital transformation. We had an idea that this thing was big and certainly it was growing fast, even back then, but it’s been interesting to be along on this ride and truly see how impactful it’s been for our customers. I think the foundation of what has driven this type of growth, is the value it provides. It is real, it’s true, it’s faster time to value than a lot of the other ways of automating. So, I think it is important to start by thinking what you can do, how do you replicate, or what have you learned from some of our successes in the foundational technology, the core value it provides – it’s just off the charts and that’s where it all starts; if you don’t have that, nothing else really matters. Talking about UiPath specifically, we were very intentional about our growth into our second and third acts. We thought a lot about what’s going to happen as we reach this milestone or cross this barrier, and what do we do and where do we need to be next year, and the year after that – So, we thought long term while we were executing short term. We made some mistakes; there is no shortage of criticism and we’ve done things, sometimes imperfectly; but we were comfortable making those mistakes. The foundation comes from thinking about the long term and building a scalable system of leadership. We have some core values of being bold, being immersive, moving fast, doing it all while being humble, and we did that. We were intentional in the type of people we hired to do that. So we brought in people who have done this at scale, who match our internal values, and the way we run the business and the technology that we’ve developed to an external value framework, which we believe helps move society forward. We truly feel that we are building a technology that’s going to help people in the long run and do more interesting work, and that’s the type of people that we hire. So, we hire mission-driven people. And, I think that’s the core of the success – scalable leadership, mission-driven people, and then being focused on our mission and our goal.
Praveen: Excellent. So, what you are saying is, of course, there’s a people side of the story, there’s a go-to-market and opportunity side of the story, and there is a technology side of the story. I would also think that there is a lot of value in terms of the ideation of the market itself. So, this is where my second question comes in, Diego. If I look at UiPath, in terms of product innovations, you have been at the forefront of everything. You have been innovating at a pace that no one can match up to. How do you manage to stay ahead of the market all the time? What is the recipe behind that?
Diego: I think when it comes to innovation strategy, there is a lot of forces that pull at you in terms of what you can do. You have market forces, you have investors, you have the analysts like you guys, helping us understand what you are seeing. And then, you have the customers and quite frankly, the most important voice in our innovation strategy is, working with the customers to understand where they are going. I know that everyone says that, and it’s mostly because it’s right and it’s an easy thing to say, but it’s really in the fabric of the company, and it’s generated by our founding story. Our founder Daniel Dines was building a good business, a good technology with UiPath, several years ago. And neither did he nor we, had the idea of the scale of impact that we were making until he got a call from a customer in India. The customer wanted to show him how they were using our core automation technology. He went to India, spent three months with that customer to understand what they were trying to do, and then came back and built a product to help them solve that problem because he realized that, wow, this is a real challenge. The customer was getting data from multiple sources where there is no API, and he saw an opportunity where he could help.
But the customers were not just looking to scrape the data and put it in a spreadsheet, but they were trying to move it across different systems. So, he learned that from spending time with the customer and seeing how they were trying to use our product. And that is where the idea for the core RPA platform came from. We have continued that level of customer-driven innovation throughout the life of our company. We have customer and product advisory boards. Our forum has 40,000+ active people in there every month, providing feedback, telling us what they love, and what they do not love. They are telling us what they want. We have insider preview programs, StudioX which we released a couple of months ago, even before we released it to the public. During our beta program, we collected nearly 100 pieces of feedback from customers that were in their early beta, which made its way into the product. So, it’s really harping on the idea of customer germination, focusing on that, and emphasizing how important that is, that has made all our product managers and our engineers receptive and open to hearing what customers say. So that’s what drives the innovation. It is a pretty simple formula. It is just hard to stick to when you have a lot of forces coming at you.
Praveen: Got it. Talking about customers a little bit more, Diego, I think, historically, automation, at least in the last three to five years, has been evolving as an integral core priority for enterprises. But then the pandemic happened. So, I am curious to know, what has this period taught a company like UiPath? How are the changing priorities of customers, forcing you to reimagine your roadmap, from a product innovation standpoint?
Diego: Yeah, it’s a great question. We live in interesting times, right? We didn’t know what to expect, obviously, like, no one else saw this coming, and like every other company, we were concerned. Very quickly, our customers were all en masse turning to us and saying, ‘I need to ramp up what I’m doing here because people are right now focusing on moving from offices to working at home, we’re struggling with paper processes, those things are not getting processed.’ One of our customer advisory board members said that anything paper-based, failed, and anything that was automated kept running. So, they came to us really quickly and said that we have some core processes that we have to automate right now. So, there were two types of things – one, what resiliency do we need to build into the business right now? They were concerned about business continuity when they were thinking long term, but in the short term, they were thinking about the processes that were failing and how can they automate them as quickly as possible. And that agility has really taken hold, and that was how the early days of the pandemic were. So, I think it shifted from, business optimization, cost takeout, and employee and customer experience enhancement, to continuity and agility. These two things have completely taken over our customers’ mindsets right now. And fortunately, automation is a really good technology to help with that.
Praveen: Interesting. So, let’s talk a little bit outside UiPath, and look at the broader market space. I think automation, and based on the report that we jointly did, Diego, we know that the addressable market is pretty huge, about USD 65 billion worth of addressable market for this technology and everyone in the market space is looking at that opportunity and wants to provide the right solutions to participate in that opportunity. So, I think the competition in the space, from a technology standpoint, is increasing rapidly. We have started seeing companies like Microsoft, IBM, and some of the largest technology brands starting to focus on this. What is your view of the market? What do you think is going to happen as more and more of these players start looking at this opportunity more seriously?
Diego: Yeah, it is a great question and obviously, we think about that a lot. Like you said, with the total addressable market of the size that you mentioned, there is no doubt that everyone is going to get involved, and we saw that coming. We are happy to see it happening because it validates the power of RPA and automation. I think it is going to be great for the customers because as pure fundamental economic theory shows, competitiveness in a market leads to greater innovation and better solutions for the end customer. So, it is forcing everyone to be even more customer-driven, and even more innovative. And we are good with that, because that is, as we said earlier in the podcast, our sweet spot. We are an engineering-driven company. We are a customer-focused company. We believe the race is around innovation, and we feel good about being in an innovation battle.
Praveen: Got it. So, taking your idea of the innovation battle further, another question that I had was, in terms of predicting the future. What do you think is the future of automation? What are we looking at, in the next three to five years’ timeframe, in terms of the global landscape with respect to automation?
Diego: Yeah. It is another great question. I think you guys really define it well with the Hyper Intelligent Automation framework that you have. It is way less about point solution around RPA and more about an end-to-end solution that takes automation through the entire lifecycle of determining what to automate, the best tools to build the automation, the best interfaces and engagement models for the end-users to work with automation, the best ways to optimize the business between analytics, and understanding the value and impact of automation. So, I think this lifecycle is crucial. Since we started talking about the life cycle, it has been an accelerator for our business, and our customers are really embracing that. So, that I think is the first big wave that we should be watching out for. I think the idea of citizen development and low code – that is massive. We see that, when a customer starts their journey, they are typically doing it from a top-down approach, and it is centralized – the COE (Center of Excellence) is picking what to automate. And when they get the end-user to start working with automation and give the end-user the ability to make suggestions on what to automate, we see this flywheel develop, which is amazing; and, really starts to drive more ideas into the center of excellence. But then, when you supplement that, with the ability for the more technically savvy users, we call them citizen developers, to build their own automation, we see this flywheel explode. So then all of a sudden, you have a couple of percentage of the companies who are building their own automation, and then the COE is picking up on those and saying that it’s a really interesting automation that they have built to manage a particular task, and they want to distribute that across the whole company. Then that makes that flywheel spin even faster. So, I think enabling citizen development meant enabling low code, making it easier and easier to build task automations; and business applications are going to be huge going forward. And then, the continued investments in AI-powered automation. We are seeing AI creep into the platform in subtle, but really powerful ways, like intelligent document processing, like being able to bring decision models to a robot in the midst of a workflow when they have to make a decision, and that’s going to become increasingly more important as the low hanging fruit of automation. It’s kind of automated already. Customers are looking to automate the more complex processes and that’s where AI will come into play. So, I think those are the three big areas – Hyper Intelligent Automation framework, system development low code, and AI-powered automation.
Praveen: Got it. What will be your advice to customers who continue to be on the fence with respect to automation decisions? And our report also found out that 25% of the largest global enterprises are still undecided about pursuing automation. So, what’s your recommendation for them?
Diego: Yeah, I think you just test it out. That is the beauty of it. It is easy to get started. We, and all the other vendors, make it easy to download and try, and that has been our core ethos as well, where we want to democratize it. So, we provide free download, free training, our academy is free, and it always will be. So, start small, find a use case, you do not have to make a big investment in it. Give it to someone in a line of business, get them to automate something that is a clear bottleneck, and we have all kinds of guides on what processes to pick and you can find that on our website. But just try it out. You are not going to have to invest a lot to do a pilot. And then you will see if the ROI makes sense to you, or not. Quite often it does, and it just takes off from there. But that is the beauty of it – you do not have to invest a gigantic sum to see if there’s any value, you can just get started and try it. And that is what the pioneers did, so that is what I would suggest.
Praveen: Great, perfect. Well, thank you so much, Diego, for your time and for sharing those insights with us. And of course, thank you to our audience for tuning in to this episode of Zinnov podcast. Do keep an eye on this space as we are not stopping our efforts to make automation scalable and accessible. And of course, in partnership with UiPath, we have recently launched our landscape report. So please feel free to write to us, and we will be happy to share a free copy of the report and hopefully, that will enable you to just get started. Thank you so much, Diego, and thank you, everyone, for tuning in.
Diego: Thanks, Praveen and thank you all.
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