I had the opportunity to talk with Neil Kinson, Chief of Staff for Redwood Software.
Redwood is the world leader in process automation and strives to automate highly repetitive, rules-based business processes to reduce errors, improve productivity, empower people to do what they do best – think and solve problems. Neil has been with Redwood since 2012 after a long career with OpenText.
Who do you consider to be your competitors?Companies that provideIT automation, time and scheduling to event driven at the process level like IBM, Automic, BMC, and CA. We also see prospective clients using third party outsourcing providers for salary arbitrage; however, the drivers of innovation are shifting.
What do you consider to be the most important elements of enterprise process automation?Taking a macro approach to what people do. The user interface (UI) is the only place to integrate. Anything that drives the front end to provide a better customer experience (CX) while eliminating 100% of manual activities. Look at what the process is trying to achieve. What’s the end-to-end process, don’t just transform one element, improve the entire process. We’ve helped clients with unreliable interfaces that populated data that then had to be checked manually and corrected. We’ve enabled clients to refresh their SAP system copy without reloading the entire system – this drives productivity and innovation. We attempt to identify and drive more agile and aligned processes – anything that stifles innovation.
What programming languages and frameworks do you use to build your solutions?We are typically working with standardized ERP platforms and interact with them using their standard interfaces. We provide the connectors and glue to collect, validate, and aggregate the data necessary to integrate the different applications or platforms. We strive to enable users to see information to make decisions in two or three clicks to improve compliance efficiency, accuracy, and security by providing less access to fewer authorized users.
In what industries and areas of business are you able to make the greatest impact?Automation is a term that is overused. There is not a common understanding or agreement to its meaning. We focus on business level processes. The SAP user interface is what it is but companies want customized transactions and scripts to improve the interaction with the systems. ERPs are for standardized processes. We provide the toolsets for customization. Our core business is highly repeatable finance processes. We work with clients to improve CX, UI, and human response. In supply chain and logistics, we work with clients to provide a great CX – having the products they want when and where they want them. We provide a closed-loop process without having to create a new platform. While the front end is fixed, the back end has many more applications that can be improved and customized.
What does the future hold for enterprise process automation?Eliminating 100% of unnecessary manual activity. Allow businesses to reinvest in their people and enriching their contributions. In discrete manufacturing, like the automobile industry, sensors can be used to track the production process but humans can improve quality control to ensure a good CX and high levels of customer satisfaction. There are more opportunities in the back office to drive innovation by focusing people on what’s valuable and reshoring versus outsourcing.
What are the implications for developers and engineers?There will always be changes required to customize standard systems and people will want these changes to be made quickly and painlessly. This will require a DevOps culture committed to making and implementing cutting edge improvements. Be a thought leader and change agent committed to improving the UX and CX for your clients and their end users.
What else do we need to keep in mind about automation and robotics?There’s a lot of hype around artificial intelligence. The reality is that intelligent things can be done; however, the application of analytics to analyze business processes, customer behavior, and metadata to drive improvement is still in the future.
How do you see robotics and automation affecting your work?