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December 6, 2019

Robots, Dreamy Businesses and the Future of Work

No bet is ever a sure thing.

By CBR Staff Writer

I recall a quote from my former boss, Jeff Bezos, who said, “Bet on dreamy businesses that have an unlimited upside,” writes Gavin Jackson, SVP & Managing Director, UiPath.

gavin jackson

Gavin Jackson

These dreamy businesses have 4 characteristics: 1) Customers love them. 2) They grow to very large sizes. 3) They have strong returns on capital. 4) They can endure for decades.” When you look at the composite parts of Amazon, these characteristics endure and have become wildly successful, but nonetheless, they were once ‘bets.’ So, deciding to embark on a new adventure outside of Amazon is a bold bet and one that wasn’t taken lightly.

As a privilege of my job leading Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the region, I had close proximity to the challenges large enterprises and governments face in serving their customers and citizens in the manner they expect in the digital age. I had equally close proximity to the ‘new kids on the block’ and their insurgent mentality. These newcomers are born-digital with native characteristics like a voracious appetite for harvesting value from data, a loathing of wasted capital, and time spent on undifferentiating tasks combined with an obsession to put their energy into the customer experience. In short, they have a cloud-first, ‘automation first,’ customer-first mindset.

My experience with larger enterprises and governments tells me that these characteristics are a simple articulation of what they want to achieve too; the larger organizations just call it ‘digital transformation’. A common tenet that customers cite for digital transformation strategy is to “use technology and platforms to remove the undifferentiated heavy lifting from humans to enable them to focus on innovating for customers”.

This is where my former team at AWS (other cloud platforms are available) had been successful over the past decade – helping customers remove the undifferentiated heavy lifting of procuring and managing technology infrastructure, so they could innovate faster for customers. The parallel I’m drawing here is that cloud platforms have helped customers free up time and accelerate innovation by helping them implement a cloud-first operating principle. But the same is true for all work, not just DevOps and IT Ops. What if you could remove undifferentiated heavy lifting of all work in all functions? How much more innovation and customer focus could we achieve? Enter the world of intelligent automation.

According to McKinsey & Company, “Companies that deploy intelligent automation technologies can realize substantial performance gains and take the lead in their industries, even as their efforts contribute to economy-level increases in productivity.” This speaks to every human worker in every field of work. Imagine just how innovative, data-centric, customer-centric, productive, progressive and happy we could be. Imagine the same principals applied at home, with robotic assistants managing the household administration, working on your behalf to save money, make money, file tax returns, order repeat prescriptions, or manage your communications. Work and home life could be a lot more rewarding if a company existed in the world to satisfy those needs.

So, when making my bold bet, (thanks to the Amazon culture of customer-obsession) I had the luxury of reducing the odds by really listening to customers and understanding what they really, really want. Customers of all sizes loathe waste. Companies in any industry want more of their precious human and financial capital to be dispersed in the process of innovation for their customers. Every worker in every company and industry knows they expend several hours of work every day that is not contributing to the process of innovation or differentiating in any way, and yet we all know we must do it. Every company seeks the path of least resistance. Increasingly, that path is led by software and data. And in every case, the path between the worker and the software and data is the user interface (UI). And so, I have bet on UiPath.

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Unlimited Upside

I admit it… I’m a nerdy Marvel fan and my favourite character is Tony Stark (Iron Man). We all long for a world where we have access to an intelligent assistant that can carry the heavy lifting required to simply give us intelligence on command. A reaction to our action. Or better, a (pro)action. Tasks that get carried out where we don’t even have to ask. If Iron Man were real in today’s technology paradigm, I can imagine Tony Stark flying over an enemy compound in his suit and commanding J.A.R.V.I.S. (the artificial intelligence computer) “give me a readout on the number of bad guys, the composition of the compound walls, and the probability of a successful mission”. Sounds compelling.

Then, I can imagine J.A.R.V.I.S. responding, “Sir, I am searching all the satellite systems and gathering the plans for the compound to determine the composition of the walls. It’s going to take a while. I need to ask the systems guys of at least 12 systems to run queries. Two of them are on vacation. One system is older than our oldest engineer and we probably shouldn’t mess with that. It’s currently number 62 in their queue. I found the drawings, but my machine learning (ML) algorithm doesn’t understand the image. So, I can’t give you any intelligence on that. As for the probability of success – I’ll get back to you.”

As incredible as this narrative sounds, it’s not too far away from real-world scenarios. Asking simple business questions does not render simple or immediate business answers. Processes are manual, systems are disparate, and data sources are plentiful. The amount of human effort in the undifferentiating part of integrating elements to get to an outcome is vast and leaves only a small amount of time for real insight and business outcomes.

While we’re not quite ‘Iron-Man-ready,’ UiPath robots are super smart and getting smarter every day. Our robots can extract content in a variety of forms, from a multitude of systems. They can understand context and make intelligent decisions. They can extract data from many sources and read and write to a variety of databases. They have embedded skills like process understanding, document understanding, conversational understanding, and visual understanding. They integrate with UIs, including digital voice assistants. They connect to a myriad of system APIs. They can be unattended and work to automate a downstream process workflow or attended as in the J.A.R.V.I.S. example. UiPath robots operate within a task, within a set of processes, at an enterprise-wide level, and at a user level. They are equally capable of augmenting work from the largest enterprises on the planet to the smallest, to consumers and to digital-native companies. There truly is an unlimited upside.

Company Grows To A Very Large Size

UiPath is a platform that transcends narrow customer categories, user types, and even technology integrations. It’s as relevant for large enterprises, such as Walmart, Orange, and GE, as it is for small organizations. UiPath is relevant to incumbent digital transformers as well as insurgent digital natives, such as Uber, Google, and Amazon. We’re relevant to cross-company process automations, such as finance, HR, sales, marketing as well as individual task automations.

Automation is on the agenda for 84% of CEOs and 93% of enterprise companies see intelligent automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as the ‘kickstart’ to digital transformation. UiPath has thousands of customers and has become the fastest growing private software company in history, in what has been called the fastest-growing software category today.

We have only scratched the surface of abundance. Much like Bill Gates’ declaration in 1980 to have a computer on every desk and in every home, our founder, Daniel Dines, has a mission to have a robot for every worker and for every human. He envisions software robots that work for people every day to improve their lives and accelerate human achievement. UiPath robots are also the path to production artificial intelligence (AI)/ML. AI Fabric is a drag and drop function that enables customers to use ML algorithms or AI primitives and put those into real-world workflows.

Customers Love it

Despite my 20 years in technology, helping to cultivate new technology categories (AWS, VMware, EMC), I have never seen the type of early traction and customer adoption that I’m witnessing at UiPath. Our mental model at the tip of the UiPath flywheel is to produce automation solutions customers value and love. We aim to produce solutions that can provide empirical evidence of business value and that also induce real feelings of emotion, such as relief, surprise, happiness, and even love. Imagine a project that pays back quickly but also gives you a feeling of relief that you’d solved a problem that was draining resources or killing morale in your team. It’s very powerful and almost always leads to further discovery of other such solutions across the enterprise.

Building solutions that customers value and love requires an ecosystem of like-minded partners. Our partners are companies that are solving problems or creating opportunities for customers and see automation as being on the critical path. Examples would be horizontal software providers (like contact center, procurement, HR, sales, marketing, etc.) and vertical industry software providers (like banking, insurance, telecoms, retail, etc).

UiPath has an open culture and platform, and enables hundreds of software companies to build on the UiPath platform and create solutions for customers. We have more than 400,000 people using our open and free learning platform, which in turn is accelerating our customers’ ability to build their own automations. Many of our customers submit their automation workflow designs to our open and free marketplace, UiPath Go! to accelerate the path to business outcomes. Customers really do love what we stand for (open) and what we deliver (solutions to value and love).

It Can Endure for Decades

To coin another Bezos(ism), it’s still day one for intelligent automation, RPA, and AI, in what we estimate to be a $6 trillion opportunity. We are at the early stages of widespread enterprise adoption and the categories are still being fully defined. After all, is UiPath an automation company? Sure. Is it a robotics company? Kind of. Is it an AI company? Absolutely. In the fullness of time, customers of all sizes, across every industry, on every continent will have executed their digital transformation strategies. These strategies will include operating principles like cloud first, customer first, automation first, and AI first. Consumers will increasingly make buying decisions based on what their software robot assistant recommends, and it will execute tasks intelligently on our behalf. The augmentation of human and robot workers will be the new normal.

In the final analysis, no bet is ever a sure thing. I have learned from the best minds in the world that if you focus on customers and make them the center of your universe, you can’t go far wrong. I believe the culture of UiPath is very well aligned with the culture I am accustomed to, which centers on customers. I believe that AI-powered automation first is as pivotal – if not more – to digital transformation and human progress than cloud first was, but that they are two sides of the same coin.

I can imagine UiPath being a generational company, enabling my children to enter the workplace with the skills to manage and put software robots to work on their behalf. I can imagine their work-life balance being so much more rewarding than that of previous generations as a result. I’ve rolled the dice. I hope I have built trust with customers and partners over the years and that they open their doors to this new possibility. Only time will tell.

See Also: We Need to Talk About Cloud Sprawl

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