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April 12, 2022

E003 Andrew Wright: Corporate Business Automation Professional

Accurate data reporting is the most valuable decision making tool your business can have.

Andrew Wright is a Corporate Business Automation Professional with experience in United States Government Contracting as well as a NoCode Intrapreneurship though leader.
His LinkedIn: Andrew Wright
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Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  0:07  
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling. Every day they wasted time, effort and money on repetitive tasks that added no value. One day, the better automation podcast by process CEO came to show them the way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that, these businesses grow, prosper, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz, and I'm your host that better automation podcast by process here where I interview the world's top experts and share their best ideas on how to improve automation in your business, processes. And life. My guest today is Andrew Wright, located in Maryland in the United States, Andrew is a no code intrapreneur and the business automation professional specializing in Salesforce and airtable. With experience in US government contracting. Andrew, how are you today?

Andrew Wright  1:32  
Hey, how's it going? Man, it's good to be back here and talking to you. So thanks for the invite back and really looking forward to get in touch and talking with you a little bit.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  1:39  
It's my honor. It's my privilege. And I'm happy with all the great things you're doing right now. So to give some kind of context, what's your story? How did you come up to be doing what you're doing? And what are you working on right now.

Andrew Wright  1:56  
So last time we spoke, I was working at a transportation company, we did a lot with federal compliance with the Department of Transportation. So we kind of built out of a CRM with airtable, that did a lot of automations, and a lot of document creations. And but all of it was through air table. So since then, I've actually taken a different position at a government contracting company up here in Maryland. So now I'm working for that company. I've been with them for just about a year. Now, I switched over to the automation, business automation Salesforce operations side about six months ago. But really, that was the first time I've got experience with Salesforce. So I'm about to take my Salesforce certified administrator exam. And we've been doing a lot with flows, and just kind of basic UI and fields and reporting dashboards, and things like that. This company does just north of half a billion in revenue every year. So it's been a big change of having multiple departments and accounting, sales, compliance, project management, all of those things. And now all those are kind of under my automation roof and improving and optimizing those systems.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  3:08  
That's so fascinating. And I have so many questions. And I'll ask one, which is, what's the difference in your experience between previously doing automations for startups, small businesses, compared to now doing it with, you know, corporations and big entities?

Andrew Wright  3:29  
So the short answer is, there's really not that much difference. The biggest thing you have to decide is, what data do I want to capture? That's it. Like if you can answer that question, if you do $100 in revenue, or you do $100 billion in revenue, that's the only question that matters. What data do I need to catch. And how you get to that point is when you start getting a little bit of changes from your free, no code, low code operations, and then you're more advanced like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, a lot of these Appian app Ian's a huge one in the corporate world. Now. It all comes down to what data you want to capture, identifying it, and then understanding who is responsible for gathering that data because our business it's garbage in, garbage out. So we really have to work at understanding who is putting this data in. Because that first value I can, I can run a million different formulas and lookups and, and all of these things to get to another value. But I need that first initial human inputted information into the system. And then my job is to do all this funky stuff with it, whether I'm doing it in air table, or Afghan or Salesforce, I'm a big Salesforce guy, I would say out of all of them that I recommend, you know, gotta go Salesforce is just the ability, the ability to customize, everything is unbelievable and the community's amazing. But yeah, not not much different. So a lot of the skills that I learned using air table and using all of these low code, no code tools have helped me tremendously in my new role, because it's all the same the it's a different UI for in terms of how you click. But most of the software's today is still like low code, no code, it's just different. Like in flow of Salesforce. It's just like a node structure. So like, you got your node, it's got its conditions, and its formulas and everything. And then it connects, there's really, you can get so much done today. At a very, very high performing level, we're talking major multinational corporations without writing a single line of code. Now, once you get into the more money of these corporations, you do want to do some custom coding to get just exactly what you want a little bit of functionality. But I would say 90%, of all of our major business operations, or low code, no code using Salesforce, but same functionality, same formulas, and all those things. But the custom code really drives home that last that last mile problem. So you would need to kind of make some connections in the business world with some custom coders, with lightning components and things like that, to really push it to the next level.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  6:18  
Thank you and process CEO, who is creating this podcast in order to connect the automation community has those enterprise grade features and the ability to add custom code custom actions, create your own API's for software that doesn't even have them. And I have two questions for you. Because I noticed you're speaking about data, deciding which data to focus on. Well, what is your advice to whether a startup or corporation on deciding what data to keep track off or to use? And you spoke about reporting? Is it the data the most valuable thing that it can do? Is decision making? Or is it like process efficiency? Or is it saving man hour? Or person hour? Or what is the highest value that you're experiencing? Currently, when you're doing the work that you do?

Andrew Wright  7:17  
So in that data, does all of those things that you just mentioned, and when you talk about value, the question you have to ask yourself, as is, how much do you value those processes? So like, how much do I value a dashboard that's informing my executive management on the state of the company so that they can make strategic decisions for five years down the road? How valuable is that? That's you really, it's hard to put a number on it. But also, you got to think of how much time am I saving within my interdepartmental communications, to where I can guarantee and show that this department is working with this department. And they have constant visibility into that it's not just throwing it over the fence and hoping that it gets done. So that right there is also valuable. So it's really a very subjective question on your terms of value. And I think if you go the higher up or lower down, you go on a corporate ladder, that's where you're going to find that value proposition of what makes data the most, most valuable. But for me, though, if you really get into it, it's got to be the dashboards and the reporting at the C C level executives. Because it all has to be right. Right. So I can have a process between my sales team and my accounting team, and there could be an error and we can fix that error. At some point, we everyone can know, okay, this is a wrong value, there's still a couple of delays there, of fixing that and getting everyone up to speed. But when it finally hits my sea level desk, it's gotta be right. So I would say that's the most important because it's a compounding. It builds on top of each other, you start with the data input, then you go to interdepartmental, communications, then you go to the reports, and you go to the dashboard, and then it goes to steel. So data evaluability is growing every second, that it's inside the system. So the your historical data is probably in my opinion, the most important, the most valuable data you have the older your data, the most important it is, and it seems ironic. And eventually it kind of drops off. And it's not important anymore. But old data is good data because it shows where you've been. It shows your current state and which allows you to do machine learning artificial intelligence on historical data, to show you what the future is. So that value is added over time. With that,

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  9:38  
I love that. And you mentioned that garbage in garbage out and when it relates to data and what you're doing, how can someone kind of verify or make sure that they're capturing correct that that things are going well, that they're not there isn't garbage within the information? They have because like you spoke about, if you put machine learning into garbage data, all you got is more errors and mistakes and decision makings. So what are your thoughts about this?

Andrew Wright  10:13  
I think as much as I love data and automations, and the computer side of it, there is a human element to all of this. So you really have to do proper training, find good employees really kind of select them appropriately. And they just kind of have to care. That's like the biggest thing for me, if you care about it, you can kind of realize when you're putting garbage in. So that care factor is that really good part of inputting data. But I would say, from the data side, and the business operation side of it, you can do certain things within your system to make it almost foolproof. So a lot of help texts, like just basically how you name a field. So I had a situation last week, where we identified a field that was the field name was kind of misleading. And we realized, like it has there been any problems with this, we're not 100% Sure. But we went ahead and proactively changed that field name to be more on point with the actual function of how that data is going to be used over time. So you have to really kind of simplify things as much as possible, provide really good training, and make sure everybody understands the mission of what they're doing. We want everyone to realize that we're not making all these improvements, optimizations and system upgrades, just for the sake of being cool. Like we do have end goals with why we want this data and we want this data in this format. Not only is it going to make their job easier, by kind of streamlining and automating a lot of their processes. But it also has a higher goal within the corporate structure and the corporate vision for the 510 year plan of how we're going to get there. And that data is very important for the individual as an employee and the company as an entity. So really understanding the mission of the data, proper training, and simplifying any confusion within the user interface. Those are I would say the big three things to to limit garbage in.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  12:09  
That's wonderful. And I'm really curious, because I dealt with startups a lot, and you're dealing with corporations, and you have dealt with both, at which point and the growth, the scaling or the maturity of the entrepreneur, comes the time where they will value data, they will begin to capture it to analyze it to create workflows and processes for it. When do you think someone will either be enlightened or ready to take advantage to all of all those opportunities? Because like you spoke about, if you're making $100 or 100 million? Well, someone making $100 is unlikely to be in the mindset of thinking about that, as when do you feel that inflection point happens?

Andrew Wright  12:56  
It depends on different people. But the one thing I do want to like stress about data, right? Data is a byproduct, it's not the main goal, most of the time, it's a byproduct of a workflow process. So when you build these automations, you build these workflows to improve how you perform your job function. The byproduct is data. So when we really focus in on going fast, and optimizing and making sure people are not wasting time, we're minimizing clicks, we're reducing time for departments to talk to each other using automations. We can reduce our SLA time. By doing those things by focusing on optimizing and speed and performance. Our byproduct is good data. So I would say the moment you realize about data is the moment you realize this process can be done better. And when you do it correctly with inside of a system, that repeatable, repeatable it stores data in a database, the moment you realize that your workflow processes need to be somewhere and they need to have some level of automation, and some level of just not manual on piece of paper. That's the moment you realize the value of data because it's a byproduct. It's like how plastic comes from oil. But it's just it's a byproduct.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  14:16  
I agree with you 100%. And when it comes to automation, and all those wonderful things, well, what is missing currently in the tools and the marketplace? Since you're using them and you're combining them? Is there something that is not that you feel is a frustration or a pain that you're experiencing and you wish it were better? Or do you see some trends and future technologies that will be added to those automation, workflow data capture data, data reporting, software that will make them a lot more valuable? And you're excited about so either now there are some things missing, or it's okay, but you see new trends coming that will really take it to the next level,

Andrew Wright  15:03  
I would say, the API's, the interconnectivity of things, making data move outside of silos. So when that's what I really love, when I first got into the no code community, was the emphasis on the community have not, we're not a company, we are in an environment that works with these other companies. It's not very siloed. That was huge for me, because I come from like a decentralized background blockchain back into debt. So when I found out about this, no code, low code space to where they were trying to decentralize that environment, and open the gates with their API's, so everything can talk to each other. That was huge. And I think we've made great strides in that as an industry. And I think that as we progress more and more, I think the biggest trend that's going to be the most beneficial is these API's. And but the secure API's because I'm in the federal space, so I can't work with a lot of companies, because I can't guarantee their third party data transfer stuff, right? So secure data, actionable compliance, controlling that data, showing the government and other governments that you are not selling data, you're not doing all those things, you maintain compliance, or at least have a division within your company that is federally certified, you know, that's huge, and having the API's that allow us to transfer data with you. So I would say those are the biggest things that can really expand this industry as much as possible, because every company has a value proposition. And you expect one tool to have everything that's just not possible. So we have to work together as a community, and as an environment of different ecosystems. And, and because your software does something better than my software, well, why don't we just talk about it, and let's exchange that, you know, that's what's going to be huge. You can't expect one company to come in here and do everything. And if they can, then you kind of get into what if I don't like the color of their main user interface, and it's got to be entirely customizable. So I would say it's secure API's, and secure that we got to start protecting the data more, and I need actionable compliance documents that show that these companies are in compliance and that my data is going to be safe, before I can work with them.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  17:21  
So secure collaboration rather than isolation and competition. I like that. And you spoke highly about Salesforce. Well, what do they do that other maybe competitors or other automation software or anybody else is not doing? Your spoke the community's Wonderful, well, what else? And in what ways? Are they special, as well as salespeople who are using almost a pen and paper, maybe they're using Excel or whatever? In your experience, since you're dealing with Salesforce, and some might think, Oh, it's too expensive, or whatever? What value or benefits do you see you then that adds to the growth and scale ability of a company.

Andrew Wright  18:09  
So it's a rational, relational, relational, relational database, air tables, the same thing, right. So I have multiple tabs and air table, and I can do lookups, to talk to him. And I can pull in values from other tables. That's all essentially, Salesforce does at its function at its core, the objects, we're not getting into the automation side of it, but the core data visibility across multiple objects. It's a relational database. So if you can't afford Salesforce, you really got to look at a tool that is a relational database, I need to be able to talk to an account and a contact, but I don't want to store that information in the same bucket. So you need that relational database aspect. And then other stuff in terms of automations. Just being able to reference fields, you gotta be able to reference any field, you got to be able to loop through multiple objects, that's huge. I need to talk to each one I got, I can pull 1000 things, I need to make an automation on each one of those 1000s. So I need loops. And, and just basic formulas, those three things are really all there is is field reference field assignment, which is one thing, looping through multiple objects, like collections, like 1000s, and then formulas. Once you do all those things, it just comes down to a matter of configuration. Those are the big that's why I love Salesforce. And in one it's also industry standard for where I'm at, we're in the multimillion dollar range. So us using anything other than Salesforce is kind of doesn't make sense for us as a company, but for people that are in a startup environment and they don't have the money to initiate a Salesforce license and have the startup and work with a consulting for them to build their custom configurations, those are the things you got to look for relational database, relational database loops within your automations field assignments within your automations. And formulas. I've worked for that transportation company before I started working here, and I built an entire ecosystem using air table and many extensions, which was $30 a month, I think our total CRM cost monthly was around 100 bucks. And with just a lot of custom configurations, a lot of formulas and just creating a field creating a column creating a row, that is a data point, every cell is a data point, you gotta find out how you're going to get there. So we built an entire thing, when I think that company was doing roughly like 2 million in revenue yearly. And we had a very high up like overhead costs. So it's, it's totally possible for about 100 to $150 a month. With proper education, you have to learn this stuff, this isn't stuff you're just going to buy, you're not going to get all the you can't have your cake and eat it too. With automation stuff, you got to learn how to do it, or hire somebody that knows how to do it. And it's not hard. And that's why I love the no code, low code community. Because it's a new industry. It's revolutionary in terms of how they're doing all this stuff. So people are super excited to talk about it. So just take the time, do the research, get involved in the community, learn the stuff, then you can you can walk away with something that you totally customize that provides all these job functions that does all this stuff for 150 bucks a month, but the cost is in the brain, you have to learn it, it's not something you can just buy. And I think a lot of people are used to buying things off the shelves, and it works for them. That's not how it works anymore in the startup world, you have to learn it.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  21:50  
Thank you. And I mentioned in process you again, which does the enterprise grade automation, where anybody of the listeners can get one hour a month for free, which is of runtime, which is equivalent to 100 Human hours. So it doesn't even have to cost 30 or 100 or 150, it can be for free. And to ask you that, let's say someone wants to learn and you spoke about like the brain cost. And I remember how much time you spend looking around in YouTube videos to learn how to use many of the automation tools. If you could look back and give yourself or any other person advice on how to learn it, or how to vet, a consultant or someone who comes to help them build their automations or workflows or anything like that. What would be your advice in both cases, or whether how to learn it in the best, most efficient and effective way? As well as how to know if someone knows what they're talking about? Rather than talking big game? But yeah, now they are they don't do anything with it.

Andrew Wright  22:59  
My advice for learning it is to you, you have to build on your you have to build. So if you don't have a use case that you're working on, it makes it really hard to build stuff and learn, right. But you can also I started off by building there's like little stuff like at my house, like things that helped me personally, like personal CRMs like for my contacts, right? And then you just keep always saying I want more. I want to know more. I want to know the time, I want to know I want to know the time from the last time I call this guy until right now how long has it been a day since I called this guy last? That's another field. And then you say, All right, it's been this amount of days, since I called him I want to set up an automation that says every 30 days, it's going to send me an email to remind me to call this guy, right. So there's everything can build on top of each other in this space. So never be satisfied. Never be comfortable. Always want to know more. And just if you have a question, try to try to mess with it, try to try to figure it out. If you can't figure it out, Google it. That's it. That's that's how I learned it. You don't have to go to school. You don't have to pay anything to learn. You just got to have actual problems like create problems. Don't try to to like not have any problems like you want to, in this early phase of learning. You're running into a wall just run headfirst into the wall. Because eventually you're going to break down the wall. But if you walk around that wall, then it's a problem. Now you never knew how to break down that wall. And then you keep going and going and going and eventually you get to another wall that looks like that. That's 100 miles wide. And you can't walk around it needle all the way back to that first little tiny wall to learn how to break down that wall. Every problem, figure out how to defeat it. And it was one I was when I was in high school. This guy, he was one of my LSAT. Like preppers, or whatever, when I was taking the LSAT, he's like, you don't realize that a kid that five years old, can go all the way up until, like senior year of high school without ever knowing the number four, and he can pass that sets 10% of your basic number numerals. Over time, yes, you're going to miss more questions, you're going to get things wrong. But how often is number four referenced? See, I'm saying so by not knowing number four, yeah, you're gonna get things wrong. But you know all the other numbers. So you can really start to, to learn that you're going to forget four. So don't ignore the number four, learn every number, learn every problem, fix everything. Well, what was the other question that I was learning? And then the other one was a vetting a consultant? Well, one, yeah, look at the reviews, first of all, but it's not even I don't even care. So I work with a consulting firm, right now on a daily basis, a lot of my job is working with a consulting firm and, and building more complex custom code, different types of things for our company, right? And they're a great company, I don't we, my biggest thing is, they're willing to listen and work with you. And you, it's not about them being right, a 98% of the time, they're right, right, that we usually come up with the same conclusion. But that other 2% If I think there's something a little different, they listen, and we talk about it, and we're able to decide which direction we want to go. So it's very good for someone to be able to listen and understand which comes into your role working with the consultant. If you don't know it, how do you expect them? To do it? It all comes back to you. It's not about anybody else in this industry? How do you even know they're full of shit? Did you learn it? Do you know? Are you fully shit? That's like, back and forth there. So it all comes down to you, if you don't know what they're working on, who knows. But if you're smart enough, and you've done the time you've put in the research, you've tried to become the expert, you'll be able to see right through stuff. It all comes to you. It's nothing to do with that.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  27:30  
I agree you and 100%. And that's why entrepreneurs or managers or executives should have an understanding of everything that's happening, although they will take care of the strategy. They have to be aware of the logistics. I remember, I was watching a military strategist who said amateurs discuss strategy, but you know, elites or those who are advanced discuss logistics, which is like how to do it, will it be able you will be able to do it with this tool? Will how will it work? So it's very important to not be blind to that, and just let people sell your dreams without you being able to evaluate the quality of their work.

Andrew Wright  28:16  
So I'm glad you brought a Miller to give me one more. I'm glad you brought up a military strategist, right. So here recently, over the last two years, I've been learning about this guy named John Boyd, right. So he's a fighter pilot from like the 50s. This dude revolutionized military strategy and dogfighting for the United States during the Korean and in Vietnam, and all those things, and then all the way up into the 80s and 90s. But he created what's called the ODA loop, the Eau de a loop. And it is a different way of like working through problems and decision making. So he was saying that if you have a checklist, if you have a checklist, one after the other after the other, of a process of what your decision making is you're going to lose every time. It's a linear down the line thing you're going to lose every time because you're not injecting new data, things change in the decision making process. That's why he brought in this jet fighter pilot dogfighting mentality. You get two planes, and they're making maneuvers. But in the old way of thinking in the old way of decision making, you're never reassessing based off what your opponent as performed. So the OODA Loop allows you to observe Orient, make a decision and action or something like that. Don't mess with my head. But it's really good to think about you have to say, what changed. You have to always be asking yourself what changed. That's the whole premise of in the short is I did step one. What happened what's changed since I did step one, do I have to reassess do I have to reorient Alright, no, I'm good. He didn't move. They always move. Step two. Alright, did step two, did they move the thing change did the data change? I have to reassess my decision, you have to make your decisions at each step level and reassess the environment around you. So, but you brought a military strategy, and he's a military strategist, his name's John Boyd, highly recommend you look into it.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  30:13  
Thank you. Absolutely very true. Because life is constantly changing, as Nietzsche said, you know, life is a process of constantly reorienting yourself in the face of uncertainty, which is exactly what you're mentioning. And it's true, because deep down any decision you're making is based on some assumptions, and for sure, some of them are wrong. And therefore, you should look around to know whether you're swimming or drowning. And if you just stay on those assumptions without seeing what the feedback from reality, well, you could be going deeper and deeper digging into a hole, I'm not even aware of it until it's way too late. And that's what actually one of the most important things about data and the data that you're showing to executives, and you said, that's the most valuable thing, so they can do the order loop on it. Or do you always reassess valuable?

Andrew Wright  31:16  
Oh, 100%, man, 100%. Because what changed my dad, actually, I get data from my sales team, right? And then I gotta send that data to my accounting team. That the point of that data has changed, it's not the same person looking at it. So I may change the field names for accounting, like the salesperson knows field one as this, but when they send it to accounting, they don't need to know that I changed field name. They don't know. I just need to make sure that everyone is aware of exactly what's going on at every time. So at every step, every time the data moves, reassess why it's important. Reassess, anything that can go wrong. Reassess, reassess, reassess at every stage, and that's the OODA Loop. That's John Boyd. He is the dogfighting mentality with the fighter jets always be reassessing, always be reorienting, because your paths to objective are never a straight line. And previous decision making has always been do step one and do step two, then step three, but it's really do step one, oh, shit, this data doesn't look right, I need to do step two, see over here, but oh, wait. And I need to go back to step one, because something changed. So that's how the decision, it's a loop not alive.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  32:27  
I love that this is both advanced, very relevant to entrepreneurs and corporations, and anybody who is dealing with reality because actually, my belief, people are used to reliable outcomes that are based on you paying something to get a result or to get like a Big Mac, or to get education where you expected that okay, I did this, I'm guaranteed to get a result. But life is not at all like that life is like, you know, being in a sandstorm or whatever. And you're trying to orient yourself to the next water plays, you don't if you don't arrive, you die and you don't see anything. So you're groping in the dark as Einstein said that the way he lived his life is actually like a blind person groping in the dark. And that's what you do is you touch here and you think, is it empty? Can I move like the ODA loop? Like you said, you cannot know a plan if you're in such a situation? Well, Andrew, it's really valuable what you share if people want to learn more about you or to experience some of your wisdom or to communicate with you, what are the best places for them to do so? And I'll make sure to write at least your LinkedIn link in the description.

Andrew Wright  33:47  
Yes, on my LinkedIn, it's probably the best way to get in touch with me. It's just Andrew Floyd, right? My full name as the like the in the URL footer, you know, like you just type in fluid, right? Yeah, that's the best way to get in touch with me. Just a heads up, like I'll answer questions and do all those things. We are very busy in the during the weekdays and things like that. But everybody comes with any actionable questions, I definitely will try to get out and reach out to you but I'm learning to. That's my biggest thing. It's like, when people ask me questions all the time, what gets me is, did you look it up? Did you try to find the answer? Because that's what I'm gonna do. You come into my office and ask me a question. I'm gonna Google it. So that's, that's the biggest thing going back to learning and all those things like, it's probably going to be pointless ask me questions. Like, I didn't have anybody to ask questions to for the most part in terms of automation and business and stuff like that. Again, it's great to talk to people and to learn stuff, but it's really just reassurance if you don't know the answer. I don't want to give you the answer. Use need. Most people just need to be reassured that hey, is this the answer? Yes or no? If I could say yes, I can say no. And if I say no, go back and come back with another answer. Coming to people with problems without solutions is pointless

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan  35:08  
100% It's like the iron Rand philosophy of objectivism where she speaks about how you should live your life as a first hander, solving the problems, finding new solutions, making up your own theories and mental models, rather than only a second hander who's just repeating what everybody else is saying. And I love these conversations. These are food for thought for every listener, who will take some time to think to reassess to evaluate to Oda loop on whatever projects they're working on. And we spoke about various tools. Well, again, I recommend process here where any listener can get a free processes, the modern, low code, no code platform for advanced automation, and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. The link is in the description and Andrew as always, thank you, it's an honor. It's a privilege. And I wish you a great day and I value your time

Andrew Wright  36:17  
as you thank you and call me anytime love talking to you and it's always great