…Value: The most effective initiatives I’ve experienced generate value early, accruing true benefits such as cost savings, quality improvements, or increased revenues that establish momentum for expanding the initiative further across the organization.
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Hoback, Director of Intelligent Automation, at WorkFusion.
As WorkFusion’s Director, Intelligent Automation, Kyle helps leaders in Banking, Financial Services, Insurance, and other industries understand how Intelligent Automation is accelerating a transition to more meaningful work for enterprise operations teams, improving efficiency and satisfaction across stakeholders. Before joining WorkFusion, Kyle consulted public- and private-sector organizations on more effectively using their data and IT systems.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My career started in management consulting with a variety of technical and strategy projects. I had always been interested in experiencing life at a tech startup, and a great opportunity with WorkFusion found me. I’ve been with WorkFusion now for the better part of a decade, spending my early years here on sales and account management teams, helping our early customers achieve success with our software. In my current cross-company role, I help educate our team, partners, and the market on how WorkFusion’s Intelligent Automation plays a key part in Digital Transformation journeys at large organizations.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The first thing that pops into my head is when I picked the time for daily meetings with one of our key customers. I chose 8 a.m., thinking it would create a good start to each day. What I failed to consider was the necessary prep for successful calls. So my days actually began at 6 a.m., when I’d get updates from the development team, update our progress-tracking tools, and align with our founders each morning, all before that 8 a.m. “start” with our customer.
I grew quickly, though, and not just in my ability to adjust to an early morning schedule. I learned that great preparation for a meeting is really more important than the meeting itself — especially if you have less than positive news to share and need to provide alternative scenarios. I learned small things make a big difference, like kicking off the meeting with highlights and quickly following-up the meeting with action items and owners. I learned how important it is to have technical leads articulate progress and issues in business terms, not just tech terms. And, I learned the value of coaching, as our founders trusted me with leading the meetings but also propped me up with active, useful feedback each day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful to our company founders, who trusted me to help guide those early calls, and continued to find opportunities for me which helped grow the company and also my career.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I often point to Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up,” a memoir of his standup comedy career. I’m far from a standup comic myself, but his insights are directly applicable to the business world. He acknowledges that it can be easy (and lucky) to be great one time, but it’s really challenging to be consistently good. Success requires collecting data, reflecting on results, and constantly innovating. Maybe more important than the book itself is a quote from his publicity tour, advising the path to success is, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
“Accelerating the transition to more meaningful work” has long been my purpose with WorkFusion, even before we adopted those words as our mission statement. There are a lot of people in this world spending much of their day on mindless mouse clicks, keystrokes, and small decisions, who would have more rewarding workdays if they could leverage their brain power on something more meaningful. I’ve seen it first-hand, in countless process demos and on-site workshops with customers and prospects, where people are doing what they need to do for a paycheck but clearly could be getting more out of their day. By automating those mundane activities, we can provide that opportunity for more engaging work.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m authoring a thought leadership white paper and campaign that explores the unrecognized costs and risks tied to tedious manual information processing work, which is so common in large enterprises. We want to shine a light on how poor employee experiences contribute directly to high attrition rates and other negative impacts on the business — and how companies can fix this problem.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
A simple view of Digital Transformation is leveraging technology — often the emerging, cutting-edge tech — to drive major organizational improvement. Working with Intelligent Automation software, the transformation I’ve seen most involves converting manual work performed on a computer to more automated approaches, leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other automation techniques. But, Digital Transformation often encompasses more than AI and automation, such as Blockchain, Cloud Infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, etc.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
Whether or not they are specifically called by that name, Digital Transformation initiatives are most common in large enterprises — big banks, insurers, healthcare providers, manufacturers, etc. — with enough scale to justify Centers of Excellence (CoEs) or Innovation Labs to focus on continuous improvement for the organization. But the concept of Digital Transformation is really applicable to any business. For example, my dad and grandpa installed scanners in our family grocery store back in the 1980s, which I would classify as a Digital Transformation for that business, even though adoption was limited to a single grocery store. Today, community banks and small healthcare providers often have similar pain points and use cases as their larger counterparts. Their level of scale changes how they might approach the problem, but the basic goal is the same.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
The examples that I’ve been involved with for Intelligent Automation tend to focus on eliminating or sharply reducing mundane work in key processes across an enterprise. We’ve been focusing on Anti–Money Laundering (AML) programs in banking and financial services. One specific example is what’s called Adverse Media Monitoring. This process is screening large numbers of news articles and reviewing any that are flagged. This takes a person using search engines about 20–30 minutes per search. When AI and automation are added, each search takes that person only 2–3 minutes!
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years examining many other processes like this, all involving a lot of documents and document-like data (such as emails) and thinking through how people can delegate more mouse clicks, keystrokes, and small decisions to machines, so they can focus on more creative and analytical work.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
Two challenges stick out to me. The first would be the challenge of communication. Most programs could benefit from communicating more with all stakeholders, including leveraging a Change Management framework to assist.
The other challenge would be achieving value. If the initiative focuses too much on proving technology but not enough on demonstrating quantified business value, it will struggle. So, upfront, it is best to consider success not just to prove the technology but how it will benefit the organization.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Digital Transformation helps businesses in a few ways:
- Value: The most effective initiatives I’ve experienced generate value early, accruing true benefits such as cost savings, quality improvements, or increased revenues that establish momentum for expanding the initiative further across the organization.
- Efficiency: Almost any process has room for improvement, but a concerted effort to standardize and refine how work is done makes the organization better.
- Technology: The “digital” part of Digital Transformation means leveraging the latest technologies for improvement. My focus now is more on automation and artificial intelligence (AI), but other tech also plays a role in modernizing organizations and innovating with emerging capabilities.
- Customer Service: Many of the benefits of digital transformation are often passed to the customer, whether that’s faster service, increased quality, etc.
- Employee Experience: Benefits can and should be passed to the employees to make the workplace better and more competitive — not really things like ping-pong tables but better software user experiences (UX) and simply more engaging work.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
To me, a “culture of innovation” requires listening to the organization from the bottom up, more so than the top-down, which empowers the entire organization to look for areas of innovation and be more agreeable to innovation impacting their day-to-day activities. Establishing a culture is more than one thing, but listening and communication up and down the organization is a great foundation to build from.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I graduated college, the benefactor of our scholarship program shared a quote attributed to Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Yes, many of us are trying our best to maximize our living standards, but life is as much, if not more, about how we help and interact with others.
How can our readers further follow your work?
LinkedIn is best. Please reach out!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!