Digital Transformation and Robotic Automation

High PerformancePeter Schooff: Hello, this is Peter Schooff, Managing Editor at Today, I am pleased to be speaking once again with a name I'm sure you're all familiar with, is Keith Swenson. He's Vice President of Research and Development at Fujitsu North America and also the Chairman of the Workflow Management Coalition. Keith authored the book, When Thinking Matters in the Workplace: How Executives and Leaders of Knowledge Work Teams Can Innovate with Case Management, which is currently available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Today, we will be speaking about digital transformation. First of all, Keith, thank you so much for joining me on another podcast.

Keith Swenson: Peter, it's always a pleasure to talk to you, especially multiple times over the years as the industry has evolved. It's always good to have a good catch-up.

Peter Schooff: Definitely. You being one of the key people of the evolution, so I'm really excited to get you. What would you say is the fundamental drive today for digital transformation? And how would you say this is similar for the drive of process re-engineering from years past?

Keith Swenson: Yeah, that's a really key question that we should all be asking ourselves. Digital transformation: why are we calling it transformation? And when you think back to the mid-'90s, we called something ... we called it business process re-engineering. Why was it re-engineering? And the whole thing there was to say, look, we're not just taking technology and slapping it on the side of an organization that exists and just sort of make things go faster. We want to think about the way we're working and how that can be changed by the technology.

And that's what we were trying to do in the '90s. The phrase "don't pave the cow path" came up at that time. Basically, the idea that cows are wandering around, so that's where we should always go. We need to rethink it and figure out where ... you know, maybe there's a better path to follow.

Peter Schooff: Definitely.

Keith Swenson: We find ourselves faced with exactly the same thing today. Digital transformation is all about internet technology offers us new ways of interacting with our customers. Let's learn from that, let's do that. Let's become fully internet-enabled and see how that changes our business. So it's kind of the same thing, but it's updated for the new technology.

Peter Schooff: So another really hot topic coming up all the time across my screen is robotic process automation. How is this playing into all of this stuff?

Keith Swenson: That's another one. I ... first of all, robotic process automation is incredibly important. We're seeing it all across the industry. It's a confusing term because "process" there doesn't mean ... The automation that's happening there is not automation of a process, but it is kind of. It's kind of a process, which is picking up information from these legacy applications, so it looks like a process.

The important thing there is it's integration. It's integration to applications that probably should've had a web service interface. But all of these applications are being built, and many of them ... you know, the web service interface is inadequate. The people who designed those applications never imagined that people would not want to use their beautiful user interface. So they never provided a way to get the data raw.

So robotic process automation solves a very real problem today with picking up that information from those systems, and also sending data to those systems.

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Peter Schooff