Wikipedia defines Customer success as “…the business method ensuring customers achieve success, their desired outcomes while using your product or service.” If automation is your product/service, what are the keys to ensuring it succeeds for your internal and/or external customers? When digital transformation projects have a documented failure rate as high as 84%, how should you approach implementation of automation to be part of the 16% that succeed?
For answers we turn to Balaji Uppili, Chief Customer Success Officer at GAVS Technologies, one of the leading global IT service providers for midsize enterprises. As the man tasked with assuring GAVS clients get the desired outcomes they demand, he’s developed critical insights on how to increase their odds of success. He shares some of his accumulated wisdom with us, including why cost reduction shouldn’t be your most important measurement of success.
Guy Nadivi:Welcome everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Balaji Uppili, Chief Customer Success Officer for GAVS Technologies. For those of you unfamiliar, GAVS is a global IT services provider focused on AI-led managed services and digital transformation. AI and digital transformation of course are two of the primary topics we focus on at this podcast. And as Chief Customer Success officer for a global MSP providing those two services, we’re very interested in hearing from Balaji what the keys are to successful implementations in those disciplines. Balaji, welcome to Intelligent Automation radio.
Balaji Uppili: Hi Guy. Very good morning. Hi. Good to talk to you.
Guy Nadivi: Balaji, please tell us how you ended up in your current role as Chief Customer Success Officer for GAVS Technologies.
Balaji Uppili: Very well. Thank you. This is my 10th year at GAVS Technologies. We started off as a global delivery officer, and then when we realized that delivery is to deliver towards an SOW or a contract or a predefined SLA, we felt we need to go way beyond that and deliver to the outcomes which the customer wants, deliver to the roadmap and aspirations which they want. And hence, we felt delivering to the success of the customer is far more important to deliver this project successfully. And that’s why we represented as customer success. And we think we made the right choice because we are now able to measure and live up to a larger set of expectations and value to the customer than just delivering to a project. And that’s how I ended up as a Chief Customer Success Officer at GAVS.
Guy Nadivi: As Chief Customer Success Officer, I’m curious, how does GAVS Technologies define success when it comes to automation projects.
Balaji Uppili: Success actually respective of automation or otherwise, is extremely critical for the long-term relationship and connect, and more so in current days when automation has become the central need for all of our customers. We define success by understanding that individual who’s playing the key role with us from the customer organization and customer itself. When we get to interact with them, we identify and understand their larger business goals, capture those. We identify, understand what are the larger aspirations and expectations way beyond what the initiative we are working on and capturing those, measuring those, and being transparent with them as to how we are embarking on that journey is what defines success. And that’s what we actually take pride in doing at GAVS.
Guy Nadivi: I imagine that one aspect of customer success for automation projects involves user adoption, especially when it might lead to a change and a given user’s role, and this can lead to a type of anxiety we refer to as robophobia. Balaji, how does GAVS help organizations overcome their staff’s robophobia?
Balaji Uppili: Very good question, Guy. Customers actually want automation in normal circumstances, but when it comes to individuals, they feel that automation could actually replace them. They feel that their jobs may be going away. The entire change management, which is very critical, is to actually emphasize that automation actually augments human beings. Automation is not a replacement. So when we actually bring in an element of process change or technology change, we are very fast to adopt because that actually helps us. That actually makes us better. But when it comes to automation, it is felt as a replacement. The best way to address this is to actually let automation solve their mundane regular problems first, before embarking on complex ones. So involving the customer, having them participate in the journey of automation, and having them in the central part of defining what the automation can derive is actually key to success. And when they participate, their anxiety levels actually go away and probably they’re actually faster in embracing it. So the change management is extremely critical when it comes to automation.
Guy Nadivi: Balaji, can you talk about some of the more interesting and successful automation projects that you and GAVS have delivered for customers?
Balaji Uppili: Sure. For one of the largest public relations firm in the US, when we embarked on automation, it was felt that it is actually an exercise of reducing manpower, and to reduce costs for gas so that we can actually execute it using automation. But later we realized when we actually started introducing automation step by step, and we actually achieved about 40% and above automation over a period of 18 months, we then realized that the customer is actually delivering higher user experience. When the whole conversation turned from a labor arbitrage or a peek in production conversation to higher user experience, then their ability to embrace it actually improved to the extent that the CSAT went from anywhere from two to 2.5, to close it to 4.5, one a five scale, and they were able to bring a lot more value to the end user in defining what is user experience, in defining what can be the way the end users can actually have a very frictionless environment. So that’s one big customer engagement I would talk about. And quickly, the second customer engagement we’ve talked about is a very large aircraft manufacturer company in the world. They wanted to carry out a large digital transformation and towards that, they were doing a lot of manual activity in orchestration in trying to lift and move the data from as is environment to a target environment. When we brought in automation, they felt that they could focus on much larger business process re-engineering, rather than just focus on the day-to-day or heavy lifting of the applications and services from on-prem to the cloud. These are two examples, which I can relate to in the last 12 to 18 months, which has significantly brought value to our customers, Guy.
Guy Nadivi: Hearing you talk about these projects, Balaji, I’m curious when GAVS evaluates a customer process for automation, is there a minimum ROI you need to see in order to recommend automating that process to your customer?
Balaji Uppili: It does. I mean, at the end of the day, automation is felt as an overhead initially to automate the manual steps before starting to use it. But in most cases, we have found that the business case is written not for an initial investment, but over a period of time, how the benefit actually accrues. So if you plan out the automation initiative with regards to cost, with regards to availability of intellectual capital, and more importantly, with regards to enhancing end-user experience upfront these, three automatically fund the automation initiative. These are critical because cost alone is not a measure of automation. Frictionless execution, end user experience are also equally or better in terms of how automation can define the way enterprise operates. So driving these upfront, and capturing these, automatically provides a very useful ROI case for any automation.
Guy Nadivi: So speaking of ROI, is there a single metric other than ROI that best captures the effectiveness of the kind of automation you deploy for organizations?
Balaji Uppili: Very well. Good question, Guy. The biggest beneficiary beyond even costs is actually end-user experience. I take a small example, in one of the largest consumer goods customers, the CIO actually wanted us to bring in as much automation so that he’s proactive to his business. He is proactive to how his end users are able to react. The more we provided him information and were proactive, his ability to be accepted as a technology leader within his business organization was far higher than before. So the end user experience is probably a lot more valuable parameter than even costs as part of an ROI. Every time end-user is able to get that particular activity out without difficulty, absolutely frictionless, and offer very higher quality, automation speaks for itself. I think end user experience and frictionless operations are probably much higher in the scale when compared to ROI in such automation, Guy.
Guy Nadivi: Interesting. Balaji, GAVS touts itself as a global IT services provider focused on AI-led managed services and digital transformation. Now digital transformation projects have a notoriously high failure rate, as high as 84%, according to some. Balaji, for the remaining 16% of digital transformation projects that succeed, what factors did they share in common?
Balaji Uppili: It’s very simple. Automation or digital transformation cannot be done in isolation. It has to be done in an extremely collaborative manner. I mean, to date GAVS has been successful in every digital transformation initiative. When we involve the key stakeholders at the customer, including the people who are going to be using the target state platform early on, it actually makes a big difference. Digital transformation is not about moving everything to the cloud. Digital transformation is not about automating everything. Digital transformation is changing the way of life. Digital transformation is making our customers to do the same thing in a much better fashion. It could be automation, it could be cloud, it could be analytics, it could be mobility. So having the key stakeholders of the customer participate early on in the planning process and in the transformation process is key. And second one is showing quick wins and demonstrating through pilots and proof of concepts earlier on, makes the customer to participate even better. Those are, I feel, are genuine key considerations for success of the digital transformation. And that’s what actually GAVS has taken pride in because we have created something called as a migration office template for digital transformation. And that is actually helping customers to participate in a very collaborative manner and see the benefits of it from day one.
Guy Nadivi: At the time of this podcast’s recording we’re in the middle of a worldwide healthcare crisis due to COVID-19. Balaji, how is COVID-19 affecting global IT services providers like GAVS Technologies when it comes to providing IT services to enterprise clients?
Balaji Uppili: I wouldn’t be doing justice if I say it did not. So it definitely has impacted the way people relate to others. The way people are collaborating. It’s all being done remotely. So more and more, when we start looking at this new normal of working remotely, collaborating remotely, ability to deliver value remotely, I think automation plays even more, a larger role. The reason why I say that is automation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a script running to be able to drive some work done. Automation is identifying certain elements or certain processes within an enterprise, which could have either been avoided manually, or could be done much differently, and then figuring out how to do it differently. So we have a principle. We say that if in case you want to do something second time, why do it through a human? Why not automate it through a bot? Now, if I use that, it actually applies even better for remote collaboration and remote working. Wherever we feel that we can actually use the remote workforce to do much more higher value, pass it on to them to do it, and bring in these automation scripts and bots, to be able to do the day-to-day stuff in a human and remote manner. So the actual remote working, while it has changed the culture while it has changed the working patterns, has actually lent itself very well for automation. And we are seeing a lot more customers wanting to automate, wanting to look at digital transformation during these times.
Guy Nadivi: So with that in mind, what has been the pandemic’s effect on enterprise decisions about implementing automation, AI, and other digital transformation initiatives?
Balaji Uppili: It’s actually gone up. While they were cautious in the early days, what has happened is now the customers want to do remote collaboration. They want even more better frictionless applications or business process, because they now don’t have the touch and feel of the customer themselves in helping them out. That is one aspect. The second aspect is cost. The cost optimization has become significant. People are wanting to reduce costs because of the uncertain times. That automatically means that automation is an answer to some of that. And lastly, because it is remote collaboration, newer techniques of Agile, newer techniques of execution are happening, which automatically lends itself to automation. I think the new norm is actually going to drive digital transformation and automation in a much better way without impacting lives of people, because I think cost and user experience are automatic increased expectations in this new norm
Guy Nadivi: Balaji for the CIOs, CTOs, and other IT executives listening in, what is the one big must have piece of advice you’d like them to take away from our discussion with regards to implementing automation successfully at their enterprise?
Balaji Uppili: Don’t just work towards an ROI which has costs as the primary driver. Bring in end user experience, involve the various stakeholders who are going to contribute to the end user experience. Bring in a cultural change in the way you would like to execute, bring in elements of digital transformation, elements of things which can be eliminated like a waste elimination, or use the Lean Six Sigma principles to arrive at some of that. Don’t just consider this as a cost optimization exercise, but consider it more as a transformative exercise, consider it as an enhancing end-user experience and making your enterprise frictionless, which means you have to have a larger participation of your enterprise stakeholders in this initiative. Doing it in isolation, and only as cost will probably not help you achieve some of those good results which come out when you think of automation and digital transformation
Guy Nadivi: Making your enterprise frictionless, I think is some great insight. All right, looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Balaji, you are the first Chief Customer Success officer we’ve ever had on the podcast, and I think you’ve really enlightened our audience about the importance of customer success for the advanced technologies many enterprises are adopting as part of their digital transformation initiatives. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
Balaji Uppili: Thank you Guy. It was my pleasure and we look forward to more and more of such conversations, but please keep in mind, automation is the new norm, digital transformation is the new norm. Don’t get scared, embrace it. It will give you lots and lots of benefits and make people’s lives better. Thank you very much Guy for the opportunity. Good luck. Have a great day.
Guy Nadivi: Balaji Uppili, Chief Customer Success Officer for GAVS Technologies. Thank you for listening everyone. And remember don’t hesitate, automate.