AiThority Interview With Ryan Duguid, Chief Evangelist, Nintex
How do you interact with the intelligent technologies that you work with?
The thing I like the most is when I don’t even know that I’m interacting with intelligent technologies because the people providing them have done such a great job of making them a natural part of my work flow. Whether it’s voice recognition, advanced image analysis, sentiment analysis, or document processing, I love having it baked in to the products and applications that I use every day. It can be as simple as a conversation with Alexa to understand the weather and traffic for the day, or getting recommendations for articles I should be reading or presentations I should be watching. It can be as sophisticated as gaining insights into how I can better manage my team by analyzing how they’re thinking and feeling through the employee engagement platform which we use. Either way, I’m looking for the little ways to be more efficient and effective.
How has Information Technology transformed in the past two decades?
It’s changed in so many weird and wonderful ways, some of which seemed obvious to me on my own journey, and some that took me completely by surprise. I could try to rattle off a number of examples, but I always get grounded when I sit back and watch an HD movie streamed to a giant screen that sits flush on the wall in my living room. I compare that to downloading Netscape 4.0 the day it released, and at a whopping 7MB, it took the weekend to download it to my account at university. I also like to look back at my time backpacking around Europe, with my Let’s Go guide, my SLR (complete with 10 rolls of film), a Sony Discman, 20 of my favorite CDs, and the challenge of booking a place to sleep each night when I couldn’t speak the language. Now I can take care of all of those needs with the phone in my pocket, and rent a scooter by the hour while I’m at it to get around and see more than I ever could before.
What are the advantages of Nintex’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution?
By striking the right balance between power and ease of use, Nintex Foxtrot enables anyone to quickly and easily describe a set of activities for a computer (bot) to carry out on their behalf. Those activities could be anything that you might do each day on your desktop or laptop, including interacting with applications, copying information between applications, searching for information on the internet, in short, anything you might do with your mouse, keyboard or voice. The idea is that once you describe those activities, the bot can do it faster and more accurately than you could, freeing you up to focus on other activities. I talked to a customer recently in the construction business who receives Excel based timesheets at the end of each week from all his subcontractors. Every spreadsheets is in a slightly different format, and someone is tasked with consolidating all that information in to a single spreadsheet, sending that out for approval, processing any necessary changes, then entering the information into SAP for billing purposes. In no time at all, we were able to build a solution to that problem that would remove all the errors in data handling, and get the entire job done in minutes rather than hours or days. What’s more, Foxtrot is part of the wider Nintex platform, and that means we can have the bot focused on work that a person would normally do, then hand off to a larger business process that is interacting with API based systems, and gather information from key decisions makers along the way.
Which industries have leveraged Nintex’s RPA?
Prior to the acquisition, the Foxtrot team focused on financial services, banking, and healthcare. That said, much like our workflow platform, Nintex Foxtrot was designed to address a broad range of automation needs, and as such can be leveraged across any industry. We’re looking forward to getting Foxtrot in the hands of our customers and working with them to leverage the power of RPA to address their industry specific needs.
What is the most challenging part of being a Chief Product Evangelist?
There are actually two key challenges in the role that I’m constantly keeping an eye on. The first is balancing the time spent outside the business with that spent inside the business. If I’m out in the field too much, then it’s easy to lose touch with what the rest of the team is doing every day. At the same time, if I’m not out in the field, then I’m not doing my job of promoting our brand and technology, and gaining valuable insights that can help shape our product vision and roadmap. The second issue is around finding the time to prepare for presentations no matter how big or small. I like to keep things fresh, which means I’m constantly fine tuning my stories and presentations based on what I’m seeing and hearing in the market, and the feedback I get from a live audience. That means a lot of time spent working on slides, demos, and rehearsing to ensure that I’m delivering value to people who give up their valuable time to hear me speak.
How is AI impacting the businesses?
While there is a lot of talk about including AI in everything, I still see a lot more hype than true delivery of value. Right now it seems like many vendors are making big promises or trying for moonshots while those that I admire are the ones looking for practical applications that can be leveraged by the average employee. At Nintex, we’re trying to strike a balance between a big vision that could dramatically improve business processes, and everyday benefits for the people who use our platform to build bots, forms, and workflows, and those that carry out tasks and provide decisions to influence the outcome of the processes they are involved in.
Where do you seek information on Artificial Intelligence from?
Blogs, podcasts, are usually my source this information. We’ve built our platform on Microsoft Azure, and I’m a Regional Director, so I invest a lot of my time keeping ahead of the investments that Microsoft is making to best understand how we can leverage them to deliver value to our customers and partners. We’ve also built a strong partnership with Adobe over the last few years, culminating in the development of Nintex Sign powered by Adobe, so I have a keen interest in their Sensei platform, and how it can be leveraged to derive meaning from unstructured content. At the same time, it’s clear that the mega vendors all have their own areas of specialization based on the sources of data they have access to, so I keep a watch on Google, IBM, and Salesforce as well.
Where do you see AI and Machine learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025?
I believe that we’re in the early stages of a major shift in technology that will fundamentally change society. As a parent of two young boys, my hope is that it’s a change for the better, one that will help us solve the big problems facing the human race, and help make our planet a better one for all of us to live on. That said, I see many ethical and moral challenges ahead in the development and application of these technologies, and as a product leader, I’ll be doing my best to help steer things in the right direction. To that end, I’d like to see AI and Machine Learning enhance our abilities, and enable us push the boundaries of our potential, working and living smarter than ever before.
What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
To be honest, I spend most of my time watching the tech titans right now. They are investing billions in R&D and are highly focused on making AI accessible to developers around the world. They also have big war chests and seem to be snapping up start-ups the minute they show potential or reach critical mass. With that in mind, it’s far more likely that we’ll find capabilities that can be easily packaged up and made broadly available to developers and non-developers alike by watching what Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, and Salesforce are up to.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I’ve never been a fan of shortcuts or hacks, preferring to focus my energy on finding efficiencies in every activity or task I perform each day. It started a long time ago in one of my early jobs as a milk delivery driver. Back then, I was paid a fixed amount to complete the run no matter how long it took, so I started looking for ways to not only finish faster, but sell more product along the way than any other driver. It could be as simple as picking the right times to jump in and out of the truck so I could deliver milk at the same time as the milk boy on the back of truck, or as sophisticated as memorizing every account so that I could fill in the books at the end of the night rather than writing things down at every stop. I’ve carried that mindset forward in my work and personal life and so far, it seems to have served me well.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
David Cancel, CEO and Co-Founder of Drift
Thank you, Ryan! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Ryan brings more than 20 years of global IT experience to Nintex where he is responsible for defining and promoting the company’s product strategy to help people easily solve their business process problems.
Prior to joining Nintex in 2012, Ryan was at Microsoft and responsible for the content management business in the SharePoint Product Group. He has also built a number of successful small businesses, led the global expansion of a New Zealand software consultancy, and helped connect the island nation of Niue to the Internet.
Ryan holds degrees in computer science and psychology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
Nintex is the global standard for process management and automation. Today more than 8,000 public and private sector clients across 90 countries turn to the Nintex Platform to accelerate progress on their digital transformation journeys by quickly and easily managing, automating and optimizing business processes.