Predictions Series 2022: Interview with Param Kahlon, Chief Product Officer at UiPath
Hi Param, please tell us about your current role at UiPath and how it evolved during the pandemic?
I am Chief Product Officer at UiPath, and I’m responsible for the product strategy and roadmap for the UiPath end-to-end automation platform. Our focus has remained the same throughout the pandemic, which is to continue to innovate our platform and add functionality that further extends automation in the enterprise. It’s clear that automation adoption and rapid scaling is happening all over. For our customers and for the world at large, automation adoption can’t happen a moment too soon. But to realize the full potential of automation, companies are aiming to become the fully automated enterprise. It has to happen everywhere, infusing operations, workflows, mindsets, and people.
How has everyone at UiPath embraced digital journeys within remote collaboration? Do you use UiPath solutions for your internal purposes within the organization? If yes, please elaborate:
We’ve learned through these changes that our workforce needs to be agile to swiftly navigate disruption. Our workforce was already digital-first prior to the pandemic because we built that flexibility in. The notion that people can flex quickly to accommodate not only the work they do but also how their work fits into their life is key. Automation and digital tools can help to foster greater business agility. We use UiPath software robots throughout our business to improve efficiency and to boost employee and customer experience. As with many of our customers, we saw the need to build new software robots to support our team with pandemic-related concerns. A good example is our response to the growing pressure on IT operations.
It has been estimated that IT workloads have increased by 37 per cent since the outbreak of the pandemic. Working from home brought about new challenges of maintaining tech remotely and increased security risks as a result of working off site. In response, we expanded our internal Centre of Excellence (CoE) for UiPath IT operations.
The team was augmented with software robots, including a self-service IT chatbot, to better support employees and lend a helping hand when responding to security threats. As a result of this automation, we have seen a 15 percent reduction in yearly IT workload, and through automating 85 percent of our Continuous Vulnerability Management (CVM), 20,000 brute force attacks have been blocked in just 12 months. What’s more, the introduction of additional automation in all facets of IT ops has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in yearly computer usage within the department, proving that automation has the power to create a greener workplace.
Tell us how CIOs should better prepare for the automation era?
If you’re a medium-to-large enterprise you probably have upwards of 175 different apps in use across your operations. You’re dealing with a mashup of cloud-based and on-prem deployments. You’ve got modern and legacy technologies struggling to co-exist. You’re working with horizontal systems, apps, and software used across the enterprise, and special use, verticalized ones used by just a few.
This technology fragmentation affects everyone. CIOs managing an increasingly complex environment, and who aren’t getting the ROI they thought they would from their technology investments. Employees spending frustrating days navigating and traversing across disparate systems instead of doing more productive work. Customers who don’t get the service, support, and products they need, as fast as they need them.
To prepare for increased levels of automation, CIOs should lead automation mandates. CIOs will need to make crucial decisions such as which automation technology to standardise on, which organisational capabilities will need to be built out, and how to ensure good governance, security, and quality.
CIOs can tackle automation mandates by developing an enterprise automation strategy. This should include building out internal capabilities and infrastructure to manage their initiatives, creating an automation Centre of Excellence, and developing a prioritized pipeline of automation opportunities across the business.
How will semantic automation influence RPA’s adoption across industries?
Today, automation developers need to tell robots what to do, step-by-step: “Move here, open this, extract that, bring it there…” Depending on the complexity of the automation, developing, and encoding step-by-step instructions can easily account for 40 to 60 percent of automation build time.
Semantic automation allows automation to start to move away from rule-based approaches to eliminate much of this developer labor, making it easier for a business to adopt and deploy automation. Semantically enabled robots will not only be able to see and read what’s on the screen; they will also understand the relationships between, and contexts around, documents, processes, data, and applications.
Soon, software robots will be able to simply observe an activity and begin to emulate it without step-by-step instructions. They’ll recognize the process, understand what data is required, and know where to get this data and where to move it. Developers and business users will be able to initiate automation development simply by asking robots to perform a task or complete a workflow.
Aside from CIOs, who do you think could rise to the occasion to lead the modern automation revolution for the global ecosystem?
Looking into the near future, I see Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) becoming key automation champions.
Automation is a technology that is making a near-instant impact on green initiatives. For example, automated processes for powering down data centres during times of low usage have cut some organizations’ electricity usage by 9% or more. Another example includes automating and digitising invoicing, contract execution, and other paper flows to significantly cut paper consumption. These efforts, alongside the general power of automation to make operations and other solutions more efficient, makes it a powerful green tool.
Therefore, I believe that Chief Sustainability Officers should forge partnerships with Chief Information Officers, IT leaders, and Chief Financial Officers to examine how automation could be applied toward achieving sustainability goals.
How does UiPath help to improve human-digital workforces? How can HR teams prepare for their next workplace disruption, such as hybrid coworking or office automation?
People are working side-by-side with their software robot assistants, sharing work, handing it off, and taking it back many times a day. These hybrid human-digital workforces are only expected to become more prominent as we look to the future of work.
At UiPath, we are continuously improving our offering to better support these interactions. For example, over recent years we have advanced our low-code tools to empower non-technical staff to build more complex robots, allowing for the rise of citizen developers. Furthermore, our UiPath Action Center makes it easy and efficient for robots and humans to hand work back and forth between each other, allowing for seamless collaboration within human-digital workforces.
Of course, support will be needed in-house from Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) to prepare for increased automation within the workforce. CHROs will need to predict and plan for job losses and gains. Robots will take on many lower-skilled tasks that involve data entry, rule-based processes, and monotonous activities. But new positions requiring higher skills will more than fill the gap. We believe automation is a net-jobs creator. Forward-thinking HR teams are mapping likely losses and gains—and developing plans to upskill, reskill, and redeploy workers into these new positions.
CHROs must also expand training to change everyday behavior. Business leaders expect that they will have to retrain a third of their workforce over the next few years as a result of the implementation of new automation technologies, according to Deloitte. Training will broaden to include end users who may not want to become citizen developers. Expect these end-user programs to focus on things like encouraging workers to change their workday patterns, adopt new processes, and learn to use their robotic assistants most effectively.
Finally, the importance of upskilling and reskilling should not be overlooked. As lower-value jobs are taken over by robots and higher-value jobs emerge to take their place, HR departments need to embark on a massive training effort that includes not only technical skills but also soft skills like leadership, critical thinking, and adaptability.
What’s the biggest challenge that organizations would face in 2022 if they miss the automation trends?
Automation is here. In fact, 80 percent of organizations say they’ll continue or increase automation spending this year, and more than half of all enterprises now have four or more automation projects underway.
The issue now on many minds is how to effectively scale existing automation projects. If organizations start to fall behind, they may see competitors outstripping them in terms of productivity, cost and, employee and customer experience. My advice is to continue looking forward and to understand how best to embrace new automation capabilities.
How do you see AI/machine learning capabilities improving automation further?
As automation becomes more intelligent through the integration of robotic process automation (RPA) and complementary technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, it’s potential will only grow. Take processing invoices as an example, using RPA alone will allow a robot to read, extract and process structured invoice data that it has been taught to look for. However, by integrating document understanding, for example, a robot can search through handwritten or scanned invoices and process this unstructured data as required.
In this way, complementary technologies will only serve to widen automation’s capabilities. I expect this to next take the form of semantic automation, in which robots will use such technologies to understand processes and as a result drastically reduce development time, increasing automation’s time to value.
Thank you, Param! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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Param Kahlon is the Chief Product Officer at UiPath. In his role at UiPath, he is responsible for product strategy and roadmap.
Prior to UiPath, Kahlon was a General Manager at Microsoft, responsible for Dynamics 365 customer engagement apps (sales, customer service, and field service). Prior to Microsoft, Kahlon managed customer service and order management products for SAP® and Siebel/Oracle. He has been in the enterprise software space for over two decades leading strategic planning, customer relationship management (CRM) product management, and new product introduction.
Kahlon holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science & Engineering from Punjabi University, India.
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