19 Aug 2021
Intelligent Automation - An interview with the Chief Revenue Officer of UiPath
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We speak to Thomas Hansen, Chief Revenue Officer of UiPath on his leadership since joining in 2020 and the power of automation and how companies are recognising its vast transformational impact.
Michael Drew, Partner and Head of Odgers Berndtson Global Technology & IT Services Practice continues the
At Home interview series with Thomas Hansen, Chief Revenue Officer of UiPath.
Watch the entire series: CEOs At Home
Today I'm delighted to be joined by Thomas Hansen,
Chief Revenue Officer of UiPath.
You joined UiPath in April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. I'm sure, probably like any leader, you really wanted to make an impact quickly, but restrictions would have forced you to adapt. Can you provide some examples of things that you've done differently and has leading in largely a virtual environment taught you anything new about leadership overall?
Thomas: Yes, look, it's been a challenging time for all of us in whatever capacity function, company role or geography you're in. I consider myself a very, very lucky guy. Over the years, I've had an opportunity to live and work on five continents. Many of the roles I've been in, although it was all pre-pandemic, had a high level of remote work to it in the sense that I've managed regional teams and global teams where just by the sheer nature scale, scope of the roles, a lot of the work had to be done remotely so I've been preparing for this moment for best part of 15, 20 years of working remotely.
This was not the first time in my career where I had to hire people without ever meeting them in person. I've, in prior parts of my career gone weeks and months without ever meeting my team in person or setting foot into an office, but of course, this year is at a different level and dimension for all of us. For me personally, I think there's 4 major lessons I've taken away from this.
Number one, I think the pandemic has taught all of us that things can be done differently. I don't think any of us is going to return to normal. I think it's going to be a new normal, one where you don't always have to be on-site. That's lesson number one.
Lesson number two is,
Communication is just harder virtually. You have to be so crisp and so clear and so deliberate. You have to over-communicate in a larger virtual environment. I have my rule of seven, which is you've got to repeat yourself seven times, otherwise, you're not heard.
That's one of the things I do. I get a little bit tired of listening to myself, but that's part of the game.
Lesson number three for me is, and this is something I've caught myself in, I've caught my colleagues, you've got to be careful during this pandemic and wanting to over-communicate and connecting with people on Zoom or Teams calls or Webex calls or whatever. You have to be careful to not overdo the amount of internal calls and internal meetings. That's something to keep a very careful eye on. Then lesson number four, in terms of the pandemic and working from home, you better make sure you have a good coffee machine at home.
Mike: Extending the leadership question for a minute. You've successfully navigated a career in big tech with 14 years at Microsoft, but since then, you've led some tremendous scale-ups like Box and Carbon Black. When you think about leadership and go-to-market strategy, does this big tech playbook translate well into hyper-growth companies like UiPath or do you have to tear it up and redefine it entirely?
Thomas: I've been in sales now for, I think, 117 quarters. That's around about a billion seconds, but who's counting, right? I'm very fortunate. Not only have I lived and worked in five different continents, but I've worked for incredible companies, but incredibly diverse companies in different categories, different stages. Having been in such diverse and fast-moving environments, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You've got to try new things.
You've got to embrace the fact that rapid experimentation is the name of the game. There's nothing wrong in failing. I don't really use the fail word much though. I talk more about, as I said, rapid experimentation, but you got to embrace that things have to be done differently. You got to be careful in falling in love with stuff you built yourself a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, because things change, context, environments change.
You've got to be always looking yourself in the mirror questioning if what you have in place really is the correct structure. Look, change is the oxygen we breathe. You got to embrace it in any hyper-growth company. Each quarter will look different than the previous. You got to make sure that you continue to get feedback and challenge yourself and question yourself.
Mike: I just want to turn the attention to the transformational impact of automation. UiPath were announced as a leader in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for the third year running. You're well-placed to capture a big share of $60 billion software automation market. Can you talk about what sectors are the most advanced in adopting automation? In your view, who will in the short term realize the benefit of automation?
Thomas: Well, look, here's the thing, UiPath is fundamentally reshaping how people work. What we do, is we basically emulate humans. We've removed the boring, the mundane tasks so that humans, friends, colleagues, people, can go and do what they do best, which is to be innovative, be creative and truly add value. We are popular in many sectors, including finance, banking, insurance, health care, public sector, telecom, manufacturing, retail, and so many other. In each of these sectors or verticals or industries, there are business units, there are departments, jobs where there's still a lot of manual repetitive work.
For instance, what we're seeing that in every one of these sectors, well, they have a finance department, they have a HR department, many have call centers. Most have customer success, and all these businesses have customers and deal with a CRM. These types of roles that live in systems and processes are primed for automation, where we, as UiPath, can come in and work with them together with our partners and help out free time. Free times where those humans sitting in those roles with a lot of boring, mundane components of that job. We can free that up. We can automate it to ensure that their customers in turn get a far better experience, and that those employees of those companies can go and spend more time on what really matters. Better serve the customers in a faster, better way, and apply more creativity and innovation to the day job.
In terms of just to conclude on your question, we've seen banking, health care, public sector so far having realized the most amount of benefit in my opinion. There are a lot of legacy systems and old processes that are now embracing digital transformation, but it's across all verticals, all industries, all countries. We see opportunities left, right and center. It's interesting when you think about enterprise software, enterprise cloud systems platforms. You know that all vendors have good stories around digital transformation, but for most vendors, it's a function of years before those promises come true.
Most enterprise software vendors, cloud vendors struggle with large implementation times and time frames to get into production. UiPath is different. It's time for us to get in through deployment activation, get processes built and get into production is a question of days and weeks, some cases months, but it means that the time to value realization is very short. As the customers see the ROI, see the benefit of our technology, they spend with us. We are very, very fortunate in the sense that we have very low churn amongst our customer base and a very high net retention rate, something we're very proud of. It all starts with serving our customers well and showcasing value from our platform, from our solution.
Mike: It made me think, as you were talking there, for any company irrespective of size, RPA is something which they could invest in without question, but knowing where to start that must be a major challenge for any organization, let alone deploying it at scale. Can you talk about the typical road map the companies will go through, if they're wishing to adopt intelligent automation? How do they know where to start?
Thomas: We can help them directly through our own value engineering and consulting arm and through a partnership with more than 4,000 GSIs, BPO's and amazing partners across the world. Now in terms of getting started, we believe starting larger with a deliberate automation strategy is the best way to start. As I mentioned, RPA is about bringing ROI in a matter of days and weeks, not years. One of the biggest hurdles in getting started to scaling is being deliberate about the strategy. A key piece around the strategy, and my advice really is to start a COE, a Center Of Excellence, and focus on just a few business units with valuable potential processes. I mentioned them early on.
Build that automation pipeline, though just start with one process. Simply seeing these automations work will open up the whole organization's eye to the art of the possible. We have a whole platform there to help our customers to do this right from discovering processes to building, to running them, and to monitoring the processes. Yes, build a COE, built a Center Of Excellence, have dedicated resources on it, build the road map, then you're set up for success.
Mike: Can I just jump into another layer of detail there though? Because for the folks watching this particularly CFOs as an example. If you take the finance function as an example, then what's the transformational impact of automation? Can you provide some examples of UiPath clients that are really benefiting from this now?
Thomas: Yes, you bet. Let's take an example from Asia.
One of our banking clients in Japan, they have saved nearly half a billion US dollars and more than 1 million man-hours since they started working with us just a few years ago.
These are stats as of last year before COVID had made digital transformation so much more relevant. Much of the work for this banking client was in their finance department. We can be tremendously useful, for example, in invoice processing, as we combine technologies such as AI, OCR, and RPA to provide full solutions for customers under one platform, not multiple technologies.
Looking at a different industry, one major car manufacturer implemented our system just in one of the accounts payable teams. This particular team processes around 2000 invoices every day in SAP. Implementing UiPath, reduced the time spent on that set of processes by two-thirds. Then I do believe in drinking your own champagne or eating your own dog food, depending on which one you prefer, those analogies. We ourselves within UiPath, have done a tremendous job in automating so many of our finance processes. We now have over 100 robots working alongside our own finance team.
For example, our whole order to cash processes has more than 10 discreet processes performing many of the mindless processes, such as updating information, populating systems, generating invoices. This is not about reducing the workforce. It's about allowing a team to be more creative, to be more innovative and to focus on the more complex cases and exceptions. That's the journey of humankind and technology. As societies have evolved, we find ways of embracing new technology, and that's exactly what enterprise companies out there can do with RPA and automation at large from UiPath.
We can help companies to become more productive, more profitable, and also bring more joy to their colleague's workdays by removing the boring mundane stuff and allow their colleagues to focus on fun stuff, the innovation, the creative parts, the higher value end of their roles.
Michael: My final question, can you talk about how AI will impact RPA?
Think about it this way here. RPA is emulating humans. Think of it as the hands and feet of a human being. We teach it to go and execute some processes. Now, then, if you take RPA with AI and ML, think of AI and ML as the brain, the human brain. You now have the hands and feet of RPA, and you have the brain of AI and ML embedded into one platform.
You now have opportunity for levels step and sophistication of automation that far supersedes what we've seen before. We continue to invest in our ML modules. We continue to make significant progress in terms of how we leverage AI on our automation platform, and we see that that is where the real significant opportunity for real non-linear progress is possible with this technology.
Michael: Fantastic. That's wonderful insight, Thomas. Thank you so much. That's all my questions for today, which just leaves me the time to say thank you for your insight. It's been really valuable and much appreciated. My best wishes to you and your family and your extended family at UiPath for the rest of the year.
Thomas: Thank you. We really appreciate the time. Thanks for everything.