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Pharmaceutical is an industry that embraced automation pretty early on, and has been reaping its benefits for a while now. However, there are still many enterprises which are grappling with certain challenges and change management issues while going through their automation journey.
Tune in to this episode of our HIA series to listen to Jai Gulati, Global Head of Application Services & Intelligent Automation, Regeneron, talk to Dushan Garg, Engagement Manager, Zinnov about the complex and dynamic nature of the Pharma industry. Having spent 25 years in the space, Jai discusses how automation must aid the business objectives, how automation can help companies prepare for the recession, and more.
Dushan Garg: So enterprises are betting big on automation and companies across industries are maturing in their automation journeys. But when we speak of automation, the processes, risks, benefits, and challenges are often glossed over or are one-sided. Now, Pharmaceuticals is one such industry that has embraced automation and has been reaping its benefits. However, there are still many enterprises which are grappling with certain challenges and change management issues while going through their automation journey.
Hello everyone. I’m Dushan Garg, Engagement Manager at Zinnov and I’ll be your host for today’s episode of our Hyper Intelligent Automation series.
And I’m excited to be sitting down for this discussion with Mr. Jai Gulati, Global Head of Application Services and Intelligent Automation at Regeneron. A very warm welcome to you, Jai. It’s wonderful to have you here.
Jai Gulati: Pleasure to meet you as well. Thank you for having me.
Dushan Garg: Let’s jump right in.
So Jai you have over 25 years of diverse experience in the technology industry across multiple domains and in multiple roles. Can you tell us about a bit more on how you’ve navigated through this complex yet dynamic nature of the technology industry?
Jai Gulati: You know a lot of times when we think about technology, a lot of folks are focused on the bits and the bites of technology. I would say I’ve been blessed to be able to navigate technology from a lens of business. When you start thinking about business, when you start thinking about how is it you’re going to enable your business, technology is just another enabler.
Technology is basically a tool that you use to enable what the problems are that the business are facing, what the opportunities are that the business is looking for. So I would say that has been sort of the blessing and then the sky for me in making sure using business as a forefront in technology as a solution.
Dushan Garg: And like you were saying that technology should be tied back to the business objective. So if we talk about your automation initiative, so what are the different outcomes you’ve been able to drive from your automation initiatives at Regeneron?
Jai Gulati: You know, the outcomes are truly, you know, we’ve been able to obviously make sure we’re able to bring better value to the business. And when we say bringing better value to the business we look at a lot of parameters. And some of those value parameters are did we improve a process? Were we able to reduce cost? Were we able to help in some sort of decision making? And as we’re doing that, what value did we increase? Were the internal controls that we were able to mitigate or put more controls over? Was it something that was before, maybe, 8 by 5 operation, now it’s a 7 by 24 operations? Were we able to increase quality, you know, stability, the speed, and obviously making sure focusing our employees on the value added work so this way we’re able to take some of those tasks that can be automated through the elements of automation.
Dushan Garg: That’s great. Given the current economic scenario where everyone is talking about a recession looming, what are the macro trends which you see can be propelled by automation and how can we navigate those?
Jai Gulati: See, when you think about recession, a lot of times when you think about recession, it is truly based on the areas of demand as well as supply. I mean, the basis of economics. And when you think about automation it really kind of goes back to what is it that we’re trying to solve for? What is it that we’re trying to deliver to the business with? So for me, I think recession is truly based on business demands and needs. and automation has its own play on what is it that the business is trying to achieve with that automation.
Dushan Garg: That’s good. Thanks for sharing that. So, we talk about a lot of these change management initiatives and sometimes change management initiative throughout an automation journey is considered to be an afterthought. What we believe is that as a leader who has been in the automation space for long have you observed like how companies and employees are affected by these changes? And then what is your thought on the whole navigation of these change management initiatives and to ensure especially the fear of job losses amongst employees through these initiatives?
Jai Gulati: Well, that is a loaded question. So three questions in one over there. I’ll start with the first one. I think the first and foremost is, it goes back to the engagement model with the team, with the employees, with all the folks that may be impacted in any way, shape or form in that journey. You want to make sure you’re taking information from them. You want to make sure you’re including them unless, but not least, you want to make sure that they’re part of this journey.
And when you do that you would find that those employees end up becoming your biggest advocate. They realize the value for themselves. They realize what more they’re able to achieve with automation and quite frankly, you’ll get more ideas, you’ll get more information, and that art a possibility if you think it was X, now it becomes X to the Nth degree because the folks that you engage with are part of that process.
The second thing, you know, it goes back to talking about change management, right? I’m going to piggyback on the last comment that I made… Change comes from within, change come for us. And when you were including us, it is no longer them, so therefore you’re in it together.
And in your last question about job losses, what we have found is with the automation journey, we’ve been able to retain that talent for longer and other value added work. And quite frankly, because some of those automations we’re not able to do more… things that we were not able to do before.
So you know, that is a last thing that kind of comes to our mind because sooner or later, if it’s a task that should be or can be automated, the quicker you get at it, the better it is for everyone. Otherwise you, as an organization and the employees will be left behind on this journey.
Dushan Garg: Those are some really good thoughts. So in addition to this, Jai like there is also a talk of the town in terms of driving various citizen development programs at the enterprise so that the employees, like you said, can upskill themselves in the automation and also become an integral part of the automation program. So what are your thoughts about a citizen development program and then are you running any such initiative at Renegeron?
Jai Gulati: I think when it comes to citizen development, I think there’s tremendous amount of opportunity in that area. But before you can go into that citizen development model, you know, you got to look at sort of your overall structure on how you are set up in an organization. That kind of goes back to when you think about the various activities of executing on any kind of automation, whether that’s the planning, the design, who’s going to be the one who’s going to be creating that automation?
How is it getting verified, how we’re going to be releasing some of these automation? So it really kind of goes back to the governance structure that you put into place. We work in a very highly regulated industry. So for us, you know, when we’re putting these automations, those are some of the things that we’re looking at to make sure, is this automation going to have an impact or anything that’s regulatory of nature? Is this something that we need to be thinking about downstream, upstream impacts?
So I would say it is a journey. Automation is a journey. Things that can be automated without any impact to upstream or downstream. Absolutely. I think there’s a good value and scope for that. However, given the fact that we are in an industry where we have these automation that are tightly knit to various systems, it is best served in a COE model where you’re able to deliver these services and making sure that they’re truly adding that value.
And again, once that automation gets deployed, you want to make sure that it’s, it’s working as anticiped. Someone is monitoring over those automations because again, it is impacting your customer whether that’s an internal customer and an external customers. So again, it kind of goes back to your automation journey. It goes back to the complexity of the automation that you’re trying to build, and it’s got to vary from organization to organization.
Dushan Garg: That’s really something which other stakeholders also are priv to. And like you talked about Pharma industry in particular, we know that it’s regulated one, which is having a lot of pressure in terms of resources, the capitals, the R&D kind of involved. So it was very quick in terms of pivoting to leveraging these automation technologies in the wake of Covid. And how do you think the next few years of Pharma industry would look like in terms of some accelerated adoption of these automation technologies?
Jai Gulati: I think what Covid has done is it has given us the opportunity to really accelerate what we do best in any Life sciences organization which is research. And part of that research is making sure you’re able to look at that hypothesis, prove that hypotheses positive or not positive, depending on what you’re doing. And what Covid did for technology is it hyper automated. It hyper scaled the speed that we needed to deliver on, and also it took folks out of their comfort zone of doing what they were used to. You know, we’re obviously having this conversation right now. We’re in a very virtual environment. I’m sure pre-Covid, I may have been sitting in some studio of your office, you know, with a mic and in a conversation. But here we are, right? We’ve got this technology that we’re using. So it’s all because of covid.
So same thing goes to automation. It opened that opportunity for technologists. It opened that opportunity for teams, and also it gave an opportunity for your customers, your internal customer, your consumption of those customer to be able to adopt to these technologies because there was no plan B. So, it kind of forced a lot of us, right? I mean, quite frankly, it forced the whole world to adapt to change. And I think automation is really the beneficiary over here. Whether if that’s Robotic Process Automation, Business Process Automation, or quite frankly, if that’s a Virtual Assistance or chat bots.
So it really gave that opportunity to make some of those change and ensure that we’re able to move in this journey much faster, than we were able to do before because what people are used to doing the way they were doing things.
Dushan Garg: In terms of Regeneron, if I may ask, how much did you see the scalability increase? You would be having X number of processes automated to Y number of processes. So if you can share some insights on how did Regeneron scale up their automation journey during the Covid time and what are the different technologies which you actually adopted?
Jai Gulati: What I can share with you is, you know, we did really increase our speed to automation, by at least 10 to 15 fold. If we had single or maybe tweens, digit, but during the pandemic we were able to increase that double or triple to a point where, you know, we we’re north of 50 to 60 in matter of less than a year. And again, it goes back to, you know, necessity is the mother of invention and necessity is the mother of automation in our case, I would say. So, you know, it forced, quite frankly, the business to automate because they were no longer able to do things the way we’re doing, whether, ‘Hey, I’ve got to print this invoice and scan it and, and email it.’, or whether I need be able to digitize my signature process and once that process is done, I need to automatically send it to so many people. So there’s all these different processes that we were doing before, truly, which were… I guess for the time what we were doing was the right thing to do. But again, we needed to pivot and we pivot very quickly to be able to truly, you know, what we do best help our patients.
Dushan Garg: Great. What is your thought about people, leaders, or even enterprises limiting themselves to a small set of automation technologies? Like we still see many leaders think automation is anonymous with robotics versus automation, and then still of not very comfortable in exploring other technologies, such as Intelligent Document Processing, Use Case Discovery Processes, Task Mining. So what are your thoughts? Why is it limiting? What can be limiting to people in terms of adopting a broader set of Automation technologies?
Jai Gulati: So what I would say for us, it’s not really limiting. I think we truly look at the art of the possibility. You know, we look at the business problem, or in this case, for a scientist, the scientists look at the scientific problems, but for us looking at what the business problem is and seeing what technologies are out there that can solve that problem. Whether it’s something to do with task automation, process automation, or it’s something to do with, like you just mentioned scanning and OCR from perspective of text into any kind of flex field putting in. So what I would say for us, it is quite frankly the business is, I would say helpful to us in saying, ‘Hey, this is what I’m looking for. This is what I want to get done.’ And, I think, we have a great partnership with our business in various parts of the business to be able to deliver to some of these requests that they come with.
Dushan Garg: Lastly, I would like to know your thoughts on what do you see would be the top three trends upcoming in the automation journey or Automation industry as a whole in the next coming years?
Jai Gulati: Top three trends. If you think about, you know… We continue to talk about from digital perspective… We talk about the digital twins, but what I would say is, you know, it’s truly integrating your processes, whether if they’re manual or not, digitizing those processes and seeing how you’re able to, the word that I keep hearing quite a bit we call it hyper automate.
And in the case of hyper automate is you can have, let’s just say manual paper process. Again, these are some of some of the areas that we’ve been able to truly help our business. You know, you take that manual paper process, you digitize it. Once you’ve digitized that process, there are steps after that information that needs go from point A to point B.
So depending on what that is, you can automate that process, whether you’re automating it through a Business Process Automation or you’re automating through a Robotic Process Automation. And in those scenarios, you’re able to use all the two or three different technologies to really end up serving your customer.
For example, say you’ve got a Virtual Assistant, say a chat bot, you know, as we call it now, you may have a chat bot that is engaging with you as a customer or, or us as a customer or a patient or whoever the clientele is. And based on that interaction there could be cognitive abilities. There could be, depending on the level of maturity of the AI engine that’s built behind there, or the ML engine that’s back there, that bot could be understanding what that need is.
And based on that need, it could be executing a business process through Business Process Automation or/and you could be putting an RPA process to go execute a task, bring it back, and serve that information back to the business stakeholder via chat bot, where that workflow would’ve involved either multiple folks, multiple teams, multiple, multiple people in the process and, and the time constraints where you can kind of automate all that in this one served up to do business.
Dushan Garg: Thanks a lot for sharing all of these. I think it is really interesting to hear your thoughts and some of my key takeaways were that navigating technology through business outcomes is of essence while driving automation. And it’s not only about cost savings but automation is also catering to a lot of decision making.
And another one was making the employees to become advocates of automation is really important for success of any automation initiatives. And the inclusion of the impacted employees through upscaling or other initiatives is also of essence. Once again Jai thanks a lot for taking time to spend with us and sharing the experience from your expertise.
Jai Gulati: You’re welcome. Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.