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ZINNOV PODCAST   |   Intelligent Automation

Unpacking purpose-led Intelligent Automation

Jon Jet Theuerkauf
Jon Jet Theuerkauf Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer Blue Prism

In conversation with Jon Jet Theuerkauf, Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer, Blue Prism, Praveen Bhadada, Managing Partner, Zinnov discusses how Automation can become more mindful, and driven by purpose. Through his career, Jet has worked across platforms and RPA technologies to facilitate easier processes. He once worked from a customer standpoint, and today, interfaces as Blue Prism’s Customer Strategist, directing the positioning of RPA interventions. In this episode, he talks about how reskilling is paramount, and why leadership must have courage and patience to successfully deploy and adopt Automation. Jet also touches upon the importance of inculcating Automation as a cultural shift within teams and making it relevant to their role.

As businesses think more long term, Jet explains how Globalization should be looked at as a part of business operations, and not a standalone strategy. Diversifying operations in different countries can lead to stronger teams, opines Jet. Hear what else he has to say, in this all-new episode of the Zinnov Podcast – Hyper Intelligent Automation series.

Everyday Problem-solving

Fundamentals To Innovate And Automate



Praveen: Hello everyone. And welcome back to another exciting episode of the Zinnov Podcast Hyper-Intelligent Automation series, the most reverent destination to listen to the who’s who of the global automation industry. I am Praveen Bhadada, Managing Partner at Zinnov and I will be your host today. Today we have with us Jon, who is the Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer at BluePrism.

For over two and a half decades, Jet has been working on and leading global transformation initiatives that deliver positive results. He has become one of the most respected voices on connected RPA, intelligent automation and building and scaling a digital workforce. Jet has also served as the Chairman of the Diversity Committee for one of the largest banks in Europe and he’s constantly involved in philanthropic efforts as well. Great to have you with us here Jet, and thank you for joining in,

Jet: It’s great to be here Praveen and very much looking forward to this.

Praveen: Sounds good. So let’s get started and dive right in. In your storied courier for about 26 years, you’ve seen the role of tech and technology evolve to serve the needs of different industries. More specifically, the banking, financial services insurance industry. You’ve been both a user and provider of technology in your roles over the years. The first question that I want to get started with is to hear your views in terms of the mega shifts, the macro, big picture shifts that you’ve seen in the way technology has evolved over these years.

Jet: Well, it’s been, you know, at a pace and speed I think that many of us didn’t expect quite honestly, you know. We hear about, the replacement timelines for technologies such as PCs and computers, going from two years to one years, nine months, six months, just because of the new technology that comes out and the hardware that we use every single day. We see it in our mobile devices that we all carry around in some shape or form- the cost and upgrades and that the new applications that are available on those.

So I think, you know, as I look back and think about, you know, what were we doing? In the late 80s, early 90s in the companies that I worked for, like GE and HSBC, Credit Suisse, Fair Bank got to go through that on a timeline banking. My last financial institution where I worked before joining the software industry.

You know, I think what we’ve seen is that it has gone through a period of, we started, if you wanted to do transformation work, People usually couch that around something like a big ERP platform that was going to be the trick. That was going to solve all the problems. It was going to be these massive platforms that you brought in to completely, back in those days, we thought of it as almost revolutionary in the way that things would be done and how we’re going to be on a single platform, new finance, HR, tax audit, you know, all of these types of things.

You fast forward to today and you can see the incremental steps that we soon learn that the costs and the, the likelihood of success and the getting the expectations out of this massive investment, just never really materialized. It may have in some organizations, but it didn’t probably, if you look at the statistics now.

Some of the most recent things out by, uh, the likes of some of your colleagues in places like McKinsey and Bain, BCG that do surveys with large, lots of CEOs and, you know, the most recent one less than a year old. 1600 global CEOs said that their digital transformation efforts weren’t meeting their expectations. I don’t think that’s a new phenomenon. I think what’s happened is now organizations are figuring out that there’s, let me call them micro technologies. Now that can actually help supercharge their transformation efforts. Things like RPA, things like machine learning, things like chat and a number of these intelligent automation components that have in by themselves may not make that much of an impact. But when you combine them together in a suite, what they figure out is they can, they can leave existing, ERP platforms and these big systems that they’ve had in place for a long time, they use these smaller micro technologies. You bundle them together and almost like platforms, and you’re able then to create some massive change that they couldn’t do or may not have been able to get that fulfilment that they were looking for other ERP platforms now that they’re able to achieve that.

So I think we’ve seen this move from these big platform is now and thinking about automation is a C-suite initiative to help them achieve the transformative nature. And I’ll end this with just saying the reason we’re seeing it becoming more and more important today is we’re facing a labor shortage.

Um, birth rates globally have been going down for the last two, two to three years. Nobody who follows us, believes that that’s going to change anytime soon. So if we believe now, all of us are trying to hire workers and find the talent. We think it’s tough now, it’s going to get worse.

You have to find an alternative workforce to be able to take on work that’s suited for a more digital way of getting it done. And then allowing the human workers that we still desperately need, to do the work that the companies want them doing. Things like interfacing with customers, things like working in innovation areas, things like being creative, empathetic, all these areas are very, very important and still solely only the domain of human workers.

And so I think again, the technologies having to move towards this to enable this kind of happening to go on. If not, these organizations are going to find themselves very, in a very difficult situation in the next few years. And so again, I think that technology shift, we wouldn’t be able to do this digital labor force in a big ERP platform as we traditionally would know it. We need those platforms. Don’t get me wrong. We work with them all day long. You need something in the middle there that helps enable a different kind of labor and alternative labor force to get work done. I think again, that’s probably been the most significant shift I’ve watched, as you think back about how this slowly began to point towards this direction.

And COVID really did accelerate that to a precipice that said we don’t really have a choice. We have to figure out how to make a smarter, digital workforce to enable people to do things that we want them to be doing.

Praveen: That was such a lovely and very interesting viewpoint. The whole, I would call it as disintimidation of the platform and integration through micro technologies which is the phase which we are obviously going through.

And like you said, the COVID situation kind of pushed a lot of enterprises into adopting platforms like automation and many other surrounding technologies. I want to pick up from there and ask you this question of-now that we are slowly starting to come out of the pandemic, what are some of the permanent changes that’ll be there in your belief, right? As your customers adopt more such micro technologies, including RPA and intelligent automation, what are some of the permanent shifts, uh, that you likely to witness over the next few?

Jet: Well, I think we all know that, you know, our workforces around the world are going to find it very hard to come back and work in an office five days a week.

I mean, we see it all the time, at least across the Americas, Western Europe and a lot of the areas in APAC as well. Uh, you know, you just changed the behavior in people for two years. And then if you believe that they’re going to come back all of a sudden, because that you decide you want them there, remember, we already in a shortage. And so they don’t like that. There’s a lot of jobs out there for those people. So I think what that’s also forced the hand of corporations to figure out is okay, if we’re going to have this distributed workforce now working some in the office some days a week, some out into remote, like we’ve been doing for the last few years and very successfully, by the way, why is it that what’s the motivation that people come back into the office?

And so I think one of the things is, is the experience with the technology that they’re going to be using. As organizations shift and as, as people like myself and others work with corporations, small, medium as well, on rethinking about their current labor force. How do you look at labor? How do you look at your jobs? How could you reimagine that work to be done in a different way? Because if you use people first automation, which is, kind of our mantras, the way we think about, but use a people first automation approach, you would never build the processes like you have them today.

So I think what you’re going to see as one of the permanent changes is, is this continual almost back to the old Six Sigma Lean Sigma continuous improvement, but with a large leap where it’s really focused on not just incremental improvement, but how do we completely reimagine anything that we’re doing? How do you reimagine a mortgage process? How would you reimagine a payment process?

How would you reimagine a sales process where you have these new technologies available to you, you can bifurcate work between the work areas that you want digital workers to participate in, and you educate them. I.e – you put more and more intelligence into them through the things like, you know, Hadoop and R and put, uh, data ingestion engines, many of those out there, OCR, ICR engines, uh, computer vision engine.

You give them talk capability, and put chat engines in them. So you’re starting to do a lot of those things and these companies are going to need to be able to adjust to that because the human labor force is going to say, I don’t want to do that kind of work anymore. I don’t want to even work in the way that I was working before.

There’s an interesting bit of research came out from Deloitte. You know, there’s always been this thing about when you bring automation and everybody’s fearful of their jobs. Well, we’ve already seen, that’s not actually true. You actually create new jobs and you can actually train the workers when you take things away from them that you’d rather have a digital worker cause they’re more capable of doing that. In a lot of ways. And then you give them new types of roles and tasks. They’re really more challenging, more fulfilling, more advancing for their own careers. More engaging for them within the way that they want to lead their lives. Which when Deloitte asked their employees about [and they have thousands and thousands of them] the use of technology, the fear of technology, the results were very instinctive. Uh, the majority of the people that responded to the survey said, yes, give me automation technology to make my job better and easier than what I’m doing it today. And insights from that when they did the follow-ups were things around the work of what is it, the kind of work that the humans wanted to do and the kind of work that they could see that they were asked to do, that they would be happy to give to an automation entity. Whether it’s a digital worker or a BPM platform, what are those kinds of things, but very, very willing to do that. So I think what you’re going to see now because of the pandemic is a shift and you, this really kind of people, first automation approach, and you’re going to see the acceleration of technologies are going to enable that to happen.

And those organizations will have this opportunity to do this reimagination of work. And really purposely thinking about where do you want humans involved in that process? Where do you want humans involved in that workflow and work in the rest of that work be done in a secondary labor force way?

And I think that’s going to be very, very big. Uh, we’re seeing more and more there’s conversations coming up. Um, it’s not for the faint of heart has, it’s hard to do. It’s very difficult to do. And, but you can see the, the organizations that are pushing the edge and there’s a massive bank that’s located, headquartered in the UK, um, that they’ve asked us to come in and help them think that through, you know, they are already very, very good at using digital workers, but how do you move it to a more transformative discussion?

Because they know they can’t keep working the same way. And I think that’s really, really important.

Praveen: I think this is a really interesting viewpoint because that’s all we’ve been looking at offshoring and globalization for about 20 years.

In fact, today’s our birthdate as well.

Jet: Happy Birthday.

Praveen: Yeah. For 20 years, you know, we have seen this industry grow exactly the way you talked about in its maturity and things like those. And it’s interesting that that’s kind of similarity in the way RP and automation is evolving. It’s very unique point of view.

I think the one debate that happened because of offshoring and later globalization. Who should be the custodian of running these kinds of operations, right? Should it be with this nurse? Should IT get involved? There was this concept of business services, trying to show up their hands in terms of owning it mobilization initiatives, and so on.

You’re almost seeing a similar conversation pick up an automation, right? Like who should really own it? What are you observing? What are the shifts you see there with respect to the ownership of automation?

Jet: I think it’s interesting and it’s again, a great observation. Absolutely true about, you know, still, today people are trying to decide, so who owns these operations that aren’t in our normal locations? But to me, the companies have gone way beyond that.

The guys that I know and the people that I know that I’ve worked with personally in my career, they moved. That was a stage in this maturity where they are now. That’s just a location, HSBC has. That’s a location that Credit Suisse. That’s another location for doing finance work and tax work and operations. It’s not really an ownership thing because they’ve moved beyond like who should own it.

And when you look at it from, I guess, a business optimal reading logic is just a part of the normal clothes. So who would own that if they didn’t have those locations, the business would own it. IT would be enabler to those things, right? HR and enabler to those things to have. Um, so when you think about locations and the labor that’s in those locations, both digital and human – they are business operations is what they are.

Another popular model is you have individual business lines, then have individual business leaders. They own everything. And it’s basically just like any other building. And it doesn’t matter. It’s no different if they had a fund accounting business in Boston, and they have a fund accounting business in Thailand or Costa Rica.

So you just need somebody to take care of that facility, but you don’t each business owner and business line manager that’s in those locations does the same kind of role they looking for but in a more normalized location. Because again, as I said before, Praveen, the companies that we work with a lot have already moved well beyond that well, who owns it? And who does this? Like, no, no, it’s just part of our business. It’s just BAU.

So I think we’re going to see the same thing. We are seeing the same thing with automation, right? Um, you know, Blue Prism has made no bones about it. We’re a big proponent of making technology that enables business operating people to build a digital workforce that they need to have in their organization.

We have, the technology that we have enables a business user, a non professional developer to build those technologies. It’s been the way since the company was founded 21 years ago. And so who owns it is that I think the ownership thing is dependent upon what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about infrastructural platform, we always exhibit about our robotic operating model. We advise companies. You’d use your stakeholders in your organizations where they have this strake. So for example, a business person does not want to own their IT stack. They don’t want to be responsible for the backup power generators. They don’t want to be SPOC responsible or the, uh, the, the data farm and the server farms and all the other types of things that go on.

They don’t want to be responsible for setting the standards and goals for system access. Uh, they don’t want to take a CSO role and all those kinds of things either. So what we always advise our customers is you do what you’re best at, which is you run the business, you know, where automation could be very, very helpful to you.

We’ll help train people and put them in your organization so you can build it yourself. Along the lines that your SecOps people and clients and lists say, okay, you have to build it like this and stay within these areas. If you go outside it breaks security protocols and does this. We always want to make sure that you have a very strong governance around those kinds of operations.

We do have customers that will actually start with all the development work and all the automation were being built and delivered to the business. People buy IT. They just, they started there. There are competitors of ours. They promote that because their technologies building actually have to be a coder.

Um, but that’s not us. So people ask me all the time. I meet with customers every week about, well, we’re thinking about moving it here. We’re thinking about moving it there. And I’m like, if you’re running the business operations, what’s the objective. What’s not working for you to move it somewhere else.

Like an IT department, uh, or a production department. Guys of new product development as an example. So I don’t think there’s one model, but you know, there’s preferences depending upon the culture and the ways that people work. What we always try to get them to do is remember why RPA was actually developed in the first time, because it was a way to help speed up what business people needed to get done. And technology. You know, this new intelligent automation technology is simpler. It’s more nimble. It’s easier to operate and to use.

And so our advocate should always be, why wouldn’t you have your IT departments working on the things are very complex, where you need pro developers and you need pro architects and engineers. You don’t really need that. All this low code no code capability that we have now was built specifically to allow businesses to free themselves up, to focus on the things that are in front of them. They’ll all start out with doing simple task automation, but as they get comfortable and confident, just like we did in offshoring, we’ll start putting in more complex tasks into the digital worker framework. We’ll put tasks that would normally require multi-decision points being done by multiple people, all being done by a digital workforce and supporting technologies, decision engines and such.

So I think we’re seeing that move forward. We’re seeing organizations begin to think about is that still the right place, but I think that’s very similar to what we saw in offshoring, like who was going to own this at the end of the day. And I don’t know that there’s a wrong answer. I just know that for some organizations, they find a right answer for them that may be different than their next door neighbors.

Praveen: It makes a lot of sense, because I think the real confusion is automation is thought of as technology and also people first. Right? And the moment you put these in together, you know, the CIO community comes and says, look, we want to avoid needing shadow IT.

Business services would come and say, look, we got the dealing with people. We can bring a lot of people efficiencies by globalizing, offshoring and therefore we should also control automation. Right? Like you said there’s no wrong answer, but probably enterprises have to find the answer that works for them, given their maturity and give the investments and so on.

That’s a good perspective, building on that, assuming that the ownership question is centred, which is the case with most of your customers, like you mentioned, what are the real traits of the automation leader then, right? Who is an ideal automation leader in your view as an individual, as a person within an organization?

Jet: I’ve thought about this when you sent the questions over. And I was thinking about people that I admire and customers that I’ve worked with, then, you know, I try to think about when I’ve sat in a Chief Transformation Officer role and what were the kinds of characteristics that, you know, if I looked in the mirror every day, would she do, when you get ready and you had asked yourself those questions, like, what are you bringing to the table?

What’s your game plan? What are these kinds of things? There’s probably three or four that, um, are really important. At least the ones for people that I think are very successful at this. And one of the biggest one, and it’s in no particular order is courage. You know, it’s courage to take that first step into spaces where people are probably going to tell you: No.

Just going to tell you. And, but you have to have the courage to be okay with that. You have to have the courage to help inform and educate and make people aware of the different approach that you’re bringing as a transformation leader, as an automation leader. And it takes time.

So patience is another one. You have to have patience because you’re bringing in things that people can’t figure out how to put it in their paradigms. And so again, where patience is very important because you have to help educate them. You have to help inform, you got to bring them along with you. You know, one of the things you hear all the time about transformational leadership and the successful transformation, versus those that work. You’ll hear the leaders talk about the importance of followership, this ability to make, allow people to understand what you’re doing and they will follow the initiative now. So bringing those people on with you is very important. So patience is key.

Another one that I thought about, it’s tenacity, it’s that ability to stick with things that you believe are true and also have the ability to change when you realize it’s not. And that’s nasty to be okay with being told, no.

Quite often when you’re being courageous and you’re, you’re, you’re trying to bring a new and better way forward into an organization and sustain with it long enough so that you actually understand whether or not what you’re doing is right.

It’s, it’s a kind of combination of having the stick to it-ness, but also be, you know, introspective enough to understand that you’re hearing enough data points that are telling you, you got to do something or this boat’s going down.

Right? And then you see all the time in the news and statistically speaking, 70% of these digital transformations don’t make it. They don’t deliver on expectations. We were talked about that earlier. There’s reasons for. It’s not the technology, by the way. It’s the things we’re talking about right now. It’s the characteristics of the person leading that. It’s also about their ability. And I will probably be the last one I would add in there because there’s so many of them, right?

You need to also be a bit of a psychologist. You have to be aware that you’re dealing with humans and humans have this innate, uh, ability to resist change.

As we were talking before. They want to find the things that keep them in their swim lanes that they’re comfortable with. And you need to understand how do you help people work through change and not only the people, but how do you help the entire organization work through change?

Because a lot of the more enlightened companies do change manager at the individual level, but they do change management at an organizational level as well.

Yeah, I think those four or five things are the things that I think about, you know, I look for, and I admire when I see them being utilized in, in transformational people. And you, can you get kind of a vibe about them, your spidey senses stand up a little bit when you’re around people like that. They’re very motivating. They’re very encouraging.

Praveen: And now that Blue prism is part of SS&C, which is a much larger tech company, very focused on the banking, financial services industry, what does it mean for your customers going forward, your current customers and your prospective customers going forward? Just a quick point on that.

Jet: Yeah, I think from marketing perspective, it gives us an opportunity to be in a whole different league of, you know, the customers that we have opportunities to go talk with and meet that we would’ve never been able to do. Secondly, I think that it gives us an opportunity to interact with, you know, the C-suite on a regular basis because that’s how SS&C does their business. Um, third, it gives us access and capability now to share their own technologies from the course platform, like their BPM platform, like their intelligent document processing platform is capable of reading handwriting at a very, very high level. You get that pusher up.

So look, they’ve got deep pockets, you know, Bill Stone runs a great company. Um, Mike Megaw, my boss runs 20 individual businesses. He’s been there 16-17 years. They’re very, very successful. They have the ability to invest in organizations like ours, in technology like ours that they don’t have today.

It’s really, really key because given the access to their market, and vice versa because we can introduce them to customers that they don’t have today. Plus our ability to work at a different level in the organization, a higher level on a very consistent basis, and that ability to share technologies and be funded by a company that has done very well.

And has the capital invest in, you know, our type, I think it was a great acquisition. I think it was fantastic. Uh, and you know, we’re all, I think at least from the BluePrism side, and I know meeting with Mike and his colleagues at SSNC, they’re all very excited about this. You know, this was a big acquisition for them.

So I think, again, it’s really, really important that, you know, this acquisition took place and now we’ve got to take advantage of it.

Praveen: Absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing that, Jon, thank you for all the valuable perspectives and speaking very candidly about your experiences over the years. Um, as we return to some sense of normalcy, these points of views will definitely provide context for how automation can help enterprises and businesses move forward and I’m certain that our listeners would find this episode really insightful.

And I definitely learned quite a bit from, from the session. The whole connect back to globalization, offshoring was, you know, spot on – the traits on leadership. What you talked about makes absolute sense. So truly enjoyed chatting with you, Jon.

So thank you for taking out time for this and thank you for everything that you said on the podcast today.

Jet: Well, it’s been a great pleasure and it’s a nice way to start my morning here. So thank you very much for that. And anytime I can help, you know, Zinnov or any of your customers you have, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Praveen: Absolutely. And thank you everyone in the audience for tuning into this episode of the Zinnov Podcast Hyper-Intelligent Automation series, we will be back with another episode and another leader that is seen till then stay safe and take care.

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