With a quarter century of experience in helping major financial institutions navigate transformation, Jon Theuerkauf knows disruption when he sees (and doesn’t see) it. He said he’s never bet his career on a technology before now, but Blue Prism’s robotic process automation (RPA) technology made him take the step.
Mr. Theuerkauf is the chief customer officer at
Blue Prism, a company at the forefront of RPA transformation. Blue Prism provides connected,
RPA-intelligent software with the ability to automate and perform repetitive tasks
so a company’s employees can focus on the creative and more motivating aspects
of their work.
Jon Theuerkauf has viewed the enterprise from
many different vantage points, with senior leadership postings at GE Capital,
HSBC, Credit Suisse and Sberbank on his resume. He has lived in England,
Russia, Switzerland, New Zealand and New York. It was while he was working at
BNY Mellon in New York City that he tested different software options and felt Blue
Prism was the most secure and most easily scalable of the lot.
“We developed 300 digital workers within two
months and automated 150 to 175 processes,” Mr. Theuerkauf said. “We scaled
A few years later Mr. Theuerkauf left BNY Mellon
to start a consultancy and was recruited by Blue Prism CEO Alistair Bathgate
for an advisory role. He’s been there ever since.
Why has he bet his career on Blue Prism’s
technology? What makes it different?
The reasons go beyond the core technology, Mr.
Theuerkauf explained. Instead of a siloed technology that forces companies into
an “us versus them” choice, Blue Prism connects different technologies so
companies can choose the elements they feel best suit their needs, regardless
of who makes them.
“On one platform you can take the best in breed
of the other technologies and plug and play that into your platform and create
a skilled digital worker,” Mr. Theuerkauf explained. That “non-carbon-based
worker” may only have to address rudimentary aspects of a job, or it can
encompass more complex technologies such as optical character recognition so it
can complete higher-level activities.
There’s also a clear separator between Blue
Prism and other companies, Mr. Theuerkauf added.
“One thing about Blue Prism is they’ve actually
delivered,” he said.
That shows no signs of changing either, Mr. Theuerkauf
said. With cloud-based AI tools offering companies the ability to drag and drop
key elements of their digital workers, the process is already simple. But stay
tuned because more is on the way.
I spoke with Mr. Theuerkauf at Blue Prism World
2019 in Orlando. One popular statistic being floated around the event was the
fact 80 percent of the jobs required within the next decade haven’t even been
created yet. With change coming that fast, the ability to quickly produce and
deploy a digital worker is an attractive trait for companies looking to remain
And if a better product comes along next year,
you don’t have to start from scratch. Remove the underperforming aspect and
replace it with the superior one.
“That’s the best of both worlds of having that
capability,” Mr. Theuerkauf said. “I can decide that if my people say ‘this is
the tool we are going to use’ then we plug it right in. And guess what? In a
year from now or two years from now when a better product comes out you pull it
out put the new one in and it’ll work just fine.”
Blue Prism also offers a digital exchange that
is similar to a vending machine or app store where companies can select
previously-built tools that have proven successful and quickly deploy them.
“In some ways it’s simple elegance, and to me
that’s how you change how people think about work,” Mr. Theuerkauf said.
Over his career Mr. Theuerkauf has developed a playbook
of how companies can best adapt to change. For starters, remember transformation
best starts at the top. Someone lower down the hierarchy may have a truly
transformative idea, but if they can’t get anyone to listen it won’t take root.
Transformation also takes time. While you’re
building your case around the c-suite, spend your time laying the foundational
elements for scaling so that once the bigwigs buy in, you are ready to move. If
the idea is as good as you believe, a logical question is “how quickly can you
deploy this everywhere else?”.
Transformation can also bring pain, because
people don’t like to change. As you prepare your case, consider how you are
going to communicate the change that is coming and the opportunities it will
bring. A psychologist by training, Mr. Theuerkauf said you must be prepared as
such changes can strike people at core Maslowian elements such as safety. That
can produce strong reactions which can be hard to detect as people keep
insecurities to themselves.
“We know humans don’t like to change. We love
schedules, we love order, we love routines,” Mr. Theuerkauf said. “These are
core fundamentals when dealing with people, as you affect things they use to
shape their self-worth and value.
“You can’t communicate too much, you can’t educate
too much, and you can’t communicate too much.”
Most often it means the elimination of the rote,
back office tasks that are becoming tougher to hire for, especially among
younger generations looking to tap into their creativity. While there will be
cases where there is no longer a position for some people, it is often less
common than many think. Add in an aging workforce and fewer replacements and
you are looking at shortages anyway. Why not erase the most boring positions?
The changes will keep coming, and for banking
that could mean a move to more kiosk-driven operations, which is something Mr.
Theuerkauf worked on when in Russia, where they also tested holographic agents.
The popularity of handhelds have produced generations who do not know any other
way of interacting.
There is always going to be a need for the human
element, as sensitive matters are best not left to the hologram of Alec Guinness.
“Where do you draw that line? It’s easier for
the baby boomer to decide,” Mr. Theuerkauf concluded. “Gen X, millennials, the
new generation, what tolerances they accept for non-human interactions may be
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