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May 11, 2022

E018 Ian Barkin: Intelligent Automation Thought Leader

Intelligent Automation Is A Fundamental Part of The Future of Digital Transformation For Gain & For Good.

Ian Barkin is an Entrepreneur, Founder, Investor, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, and Speaker on all things 'Future of Work'.
His LinkedIn Learning classes have been seen by 200,000 digital citizens, and his book, "Intelligent Automation" has helped introduce people worldwide to the concept of automation for gain, and automation for good.
His Intelligent Automation Foundations Course:

His LinkedIn: /in/ianbarkin/
His Twitter: @ibarkin
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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 PROCESIO came to help them find the way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that. These businesses grow, scale, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz and I'm your host at Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to improve automation in your business, processes, and life. My guest today is Ian Barkin. Ian is an entrepreneur, founder, investor, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, and speaker on all things Future of Work. His LinkedIn learning classes have been seen by 200,000 digital citizens and his book, Intelligent Automation has helped introduce people worldwide to the concept of automation for gain and automation for good. Ian, how are you today?

Ian Barkin 1:30
Aziz, I'm great. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:32
It's my honor. It's my privilege. And I'm really curious about what's going on, on your mind these days? Because I'm sure it's something fascinating. Is there an insight that you're thinking about a lot? Is there a problem that you're seeing a solution for? Or a question, you keep on hearing again, and again, that you have some interesting answers for.

Ian Barkin 1:55
You set the expectations way too high, that you're sure it's going to be fascinating. Let's see. Let's see if you if you think it's fascinating. I will tell you what I'm fascinated about. And and you mentioned, I've had the the good luck and fortune of being in the right place at the right time for several different waves of technology, introduction, and then impact on on the way we do things. I first found that in the ERP space, and then in the Internet of Things space, and then most recently in the Robotic Process Automation and Intelligent Automation space, starting about 10 years ago. And it was it was fun, because it was it was raw, it was exciting, the impact, the promise of impact was high. And so we used to always talk about how robots could truly help transform enterprises, they could be that catalyst for digital transformation. The challenge was, and I saw this often when I was talking to like the media, a lot of journalists would ask me one of two questions they would ask me about the potential of AI and usually alluding to like general AI, just magic, it can do anything. But the second most prevalent question they always asked was about the impact on us. Were our jobs doomed? Would we have a sort of dystopian future in which there was no more work left for people because robots were doing all the work. What's so fascinating is as a result of several different dynamics COVID certainly being one of them. And a a an unleashing of ability to work virtually all over the planet, we've now run into a situation where the problem is not in fact, there aren't enough jobs for the people. But 180 degree difference, there are not enough people for the jobs. We are now in a heavy narrative that's impacting all growth of there aren't enough people for the jobs. And there are a lot of different types of jobs, their jobs, like food service, and home health care, those sorts of jobs aren't enough people for them. And some of it can be attached to, you know, incentives and, and pay. That was happening during COVID, for good reasons to help people survive. But then the other angle is also the white collar, sort of the white collar jobs, the services, jobs, jobs of the future. There aren't enough people with the digital talent to play a role in that digital transformation. And so I'll wrap up, because I know I'm going on long with this point. But ultimately, we've all been so excited about the huge impact digital transformation is going to have on enterprises all over the world. The only problem is we don't have enough folks to make it happen. And and that really falls on our understanding of the skills that they need our investment in the trainings necessary to upskill everybody, whether you're a kid coming out of university or you're, you know, 30 years in the work For us, we're just not giving people the right skills to contribute to the potential impact digital transformation can have. And that's why all the narratives now are that like 75% of digital transformations fail. It's not because we don't have enough robots, it's because we don't have enough people. And that's my answer.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:19
I love this. I really, really believe in this. And I have so many questions. But I'll begin with, with a very basic one that I'm sure if someone is hearing this for the very first time, they will think as all humans do first, WIIFM or what's in it for me. So let's say okay, there are not enough people to do digital transformation. How are what do I need to do to upskill myself so that I'm one of the people who will be in demand in need for the long term as someone who can contribute and be part of this digital transformation?

Ian Barkin 5:58
Great question. And again, it's it's inherent on companies, employers, universities, any educational system to also contribute and say, you know, what we need to do, but you're absolutely right. What's in it, for me is an important input important dynamic and force here? So there's a few different things one, and actually, yeah, there are a few different things. One, is those individuals have access to more open source education than has ever existed in the history of humanity. On this planet, right, there are more open source courses, whether it be Coursera, or Udemy, or YouTube, or one of my favorites, LinkedIn learning. I've got two courses on LinkedIn actually, by later today, I can officially say that I have three courses on LinkedIn learning because one of my courses is going live today on intelligence, automation and introduction to Intelligent Automation. And it's, you know, it's basic, high level, but that's the important first step is to create the sort of the very basic awareness of what's the spectrum of automation technologies and capabilities that fall within that Intelligent Automation umbrella. So you, you owe it to yourself, to, to, to check out those courses. Some of them are really light, really short, really easy, but but create that initial lens through which you look at the rest of of your job and the world. So you need to do that. This isn't to say that everyone should be a coder, you don't all need to rush out and learn Python tomorrow. Because the other nice thing that's happening is there's there's a dynamic working in your favor, that's coming to meet you halfway. So if you understand the structure and the concepts of digital, you understand some of the basic logic of how digital will have an impact on the way that you do your work and your enterprise does its work. There is a movement, supporting these digital citizens around low and no code, software. Companies like PROCESIO to actually where the tech the technology is coming to meet you where you are. So you don't need to know Python, you just didn't understand the problem you're trying to solve. And they're more easily usable sort of visual drag and drop tools that ever heavily rely on API's connectors that exists. So you don't have to make them yourself sort of thing. And so, so I guess what I'm saying is in the what's in it for me, build that basic awareness, continue to follow the path as it relates to the things you already know. Like, you know, your processes, if you're an accountant, you know, finance, if you are an HR, you understand hiring, payroll retirement benefits. So those are harder to learn. So So figure out how this new digital awareness matches to your core strengths and in your in your career skills. And then play a role being a champion within your own enterprise, help them be aware of this as well, because then it makes you an innovator, you a change agent, which is a set of skills that are highly in demand. So I'm assuming at that point, then you become a great deal more valuable both to your current institution, and to anyplace else you want to go to remember not enough people, so the job market is really tight. So there was there's going to be continued movement. So it's, it's a great way to to increase your salary, increase your opportunities, increase your responsibilities as well.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 9:42
I love this and we will go deep, I decided because we're dealing with human beings. And there is something called the status quo bias, which is this pendulum between the fear of success and the failure or fear of failure where people have an impostor syndrome where they think, Oh, wow, yes, I'm dealing with what is familiar, I know what's going on. But what if I'm not good enough to learn those skills? What if I learned those skills? And then I succeed, more than I can handle? And therefore, people come to me for answers, and I don't have the answers. What if I fail, how to deal with failure? I know it's a lot that humans are have this convoluted psychology inside. So let's say, Okay, I'm a normal human being. And I remember, I, one of my best, the best books I've read is why therapy works, which is an analysis, I think, by an Italian psychologist of why therapy works. And his first point was that low self esteem is the initial state of all human beings. So dealing with facts that they are, let's say, someone understands, yes, I see the logic, yes, people, if I develop these skills, I will be in demand. But what if I'm not good enough? What if I have an imposter syndrome? What if I will fail? How can I deal with that failure? How can you tell someone something that will motivate them in a way either to understand that, be humble and be vulnerable, and let people know your limitations or take risks, risks and fail? Because actually, failure is learning and you're an educator. And that's how you learn or whatever you might say, how can you encourage people so that psychologically, we are also given them that engine for them to move forward?

Ian Barkin 11:33
This is a huge question and one I've never been asked. So I do think so impostor syndrome is, everybody has it? If they don't, then there's something wrong with them. Then they're too confident. And I think that low self esteem sort of funny I used to be, I still am, I suppose a consultant in some extent, to some extent, but the used to always talk about how and in top consultancies, the low self esteem was one of the things you were recruiting for, because those people would bust their butts and work nonstop and create great work just to continue to prove themselves, they were always doing that. So low self esteem is a great starting point. What would I say to folks? I guess, throughout my career, the times I've learned the most, the lessons that have sat with me, and had the biggest impact were the were the times where things didn't work, the times where things were harder, the times where I failed, I probably don't remember, when I've succeeded, if I succeeded, I sort of, you know, you sort of move on, and you just keep going, if you fail, it really sort of hits you in the face, and you sit there and go, what, what just happened to me? And that's when you reflect and learn. So it's one of the greatest things you can do. It's not be it's not like Don't be afraid of failure. It's like seek it out. Right? Because, because because it will teach you more than anything else that you do. And how costly is it? I mean, we're not talking about sort of life and death. Here, we're talking about tinkering with tools and deciding whether or not you're comfortable with them, we're talking about trying to innovate and be a sort of a change agent within within your, within your realm of and sphere of influence. Awesome, that just makes things more fun. And if somebody sees you as disruptive and that you are breaking things, you're probably at the wrong place, or they're in the wrong role, because they will not be they will not be at the helm of whatever organization or role or team they're running for very much longer. Because digital transformation is about disruption. Disruption is about trying new things. And trying new things is always about learning through bumps, bruises, scars, hiccups and mistakes. So the future of work is predicated on new, being comfortable trying new things, it is built upon a mountain of lessons learned the hard way. And so, you know, why not be part of that journey? Sounds a hell of a lot more fun than just sort of doing what you what you're doing, and continue doing it. I mean, it might be great. But like, why not try new stuff?

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 14:13
I agree. And I will say to those who feel the impostor syndrome, well look around everybody around you is thinking and feeling the same. And maybe they're better at hiding it as well as what you spoke about the future of work, you should seek failure. And what I mean is, if you're not failing half the time to 80%. If we'll think in the Pareto Principle, or even better, 95% or 5%, become unicorn results and 95% are soso or negative, then you're not really doing things correctly, that failure is the way or the obstacle is the way or whatever we think about it and I have this other question. I spoke to one scientist who is specializes in AI Talk about singularity. And what he said specifically, AI will never be smarter than human beings, it's not designed that way is very dumb is just based on algorithms that we don't really know what's in the box. But it's really, really done. And the only thing that will happen or that we can call singularity is that we're moving towards a pace of reinvention required that is so fast that at some point, you'll need to reinvent your business and adapted every minute or so. And therefore, you need those skills of digital transformation, because you'll be constantly needing to transform and adapt to the marketplace where you need reporting, that is almost instant and almost instant feedback in order to stay in the game. What's your perspective on this?

Ian Barkin 15:49
If you speak to an expert in AI, they let you in on a little secret that AI is math. If you speak to other people, futurists and salespeople and others, AI is magic. But AI isn't consciousness, it isn't sentient citizen it AI is math. And and the problem is by pitching it as any more than that you set up a set of expectations that ensure disappointment and failure. Right. Whereas IBM Watson today, it did a tremendous job of promoting itself and getting people excited about a concept. But it also set expectations irresponsibly high. And so enterprises didn't go into the journey with the right mindset and the right equipment and the right team. And so the result was, was often disappointing. If it's about understanding your business is complex, your data might not be big enough to be big. So we need to figure out how to clean it and make it useful with the math that we have available today. And then we need to learn from it and iterate with it, it's not going to just iterate our business model by itself. It's very much a human plus, augmentation automation story. And that's where success is going to come in the in the future generations of business, I hope we're never in a situation where business models are changing every minute, because that sounds exhausting. If that's the case, then I'm I'm out I'm gonna go binge watch NetFlix for the rest of my life. But, but I do hope that with that higher level of digital awareness and quotient within enterprises, a greater comfort of working side by side with more useful algorithms that are that are shining a light on information that might have just been noisy or dirty or hard to access in the past, we become far more adept at addressing the actual point and purpose of any endeavor we do, which is to create greater impact, create greater experience for customers, employees, citizens, patience, etc. Because that's the purpose. And then ultimately, obviously, by doing so, hopefully, you create a more successful machine that, that reaps the rewards in the form of profit, that's got to be a thing. But that's the future of work is is colleagues, algorithm and human collaborating, learning iterating and creating great outcomes together.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:28
Thank you. And if I heard you correctly, I heard two three things, actually three, the third is profit. But the two things are, look within the way that people are interacting with your business with your organization, with your government, or whatever it is, they are showing you or there are data, whether it's human behavior, or body language, or actual math, that tells you what they like, what they don't like, what is adding value to their lives, what is not adding value. So rather than living based on assumptions and deciding based on assumptions you take, you have machine learning, or whatever it is, that is much more powerful than the human mind to pinpoint exactly. Look, this is what people love. Streamline your operation to give them what they love, rather than anything that is wasted, that you assume is necessary, but it's either distraction or absolutely useless. And the second thing to view AI and all this new technology not as a replacement for human beings, but almost like a cyborg or whatever, where your arm becomes stronger because of a suit that you're wearing. So you can lift more or the transformation from going from paper and pen to laptop and the Internet or whatever. It didn't replace humans. It just created the possibility for much, much bigger impact productivity and efficiency and therefore, it's not necessary to be afraid at all. or needed or even something that is rational to be afraid of it. But to understand, actually, it empowers humans, and therefore the skill to know how to use this technology so that you can leverage and multiply yourself in many ways. That's what is needed. And therefore you should not only have the old skill that is doing what you do, but the skill of knowing how to use this technology so that you can multiply what you do to levels that could be almost infinite. Did I understand correctly?

Ian Barkin 20:33
Yeah, man, it's always rational to fear, new and different and change that's biologically embedded in us but but as you said, the the impact is the magnification. And everyone, everyone knows what could be done if they had more hours in the day. And this gives you those more hours in the day. And this allows you to really harness especially in in sort of enterprises and process areas. It gives you the ability to harness your process, understanding your customer centricity your strategic mind, to to make better happen, I

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 21:10
Thank you and I love you mentioned how fear is rational, sell this, if I put myself or we put your ourselves into the shoes of a decision maker who wants to implement some digital transformation projects, and they're brave enough to not think they will fail, they will directly think my people will be too afraid, my people will resign revolves to whatever it is. And it's actually a big factor that maybe some people don't look into that if you're changing the processes of how things have been done. That requires the brain to readapt and use a lot more energy which it resists it likes habits and pathways that are already well worn and well used rather than pioneering paths that have not been crossed before. So how to create that change, while reducing either the fear the resistance, or the unpleasantness of change. For employees who might not have that owner or entrepreneur mentality of going through uncertainty and taking the risk, they prefer safety, predictability, and that the past continuous into the future.

Ian Barkin 22:24
It's fine to want that you just have no control over the laws of physics and the direction of travel. Right. So you get to decide whether you either have a unique and long standing business model that allows you to survive in an environment that's changing all around you. Or you change with it, or faster than it. Choice is yours.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 22:44
Thank you,

Ian Barkin 22:45
That sounded very dire. But ultimately, if you don't change, you die, right? In this environment where things are changing as fast as they are. There's only there's only so long you can stand. Stay where you are man, look at anything Fintech is taking on banks, MedTech taking on traditional ways of of discovering drugs, you know, the the automation, obviously, is impacting every way that we do everything internally, operationally, and externally through channels with our customers, and partners, etc. So you either you either get on that train, or it runs you over,

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:19
I agree 100%, it's no longer a choice. It's a requirement right now, to adapt and to do what we're talking about. And since you're the expert on Intelligent Automation, as well as the future of work, can you explain to people, what's the difference between automation or dumb automation and Intelligent Automation? As well as Can you speak about your course coming today? And I'll make sure to write the link in the description for anybody who wants more so that they can participate take part in it, learn and evolve.

Ian Barkin 23:53
Sure. Yeah, I mean, I don't think anything is dumb. It's just more structured, it's scripted, right? So robotic process automation, I always I would explain is it's not dumb, it's just well behaved. It does what it is that you teach it to do. Intelligent Automation open to that, that sort of the spectrum, the aperture opened up. And so Intelligent Automation as a, as a category includes more of what we would interpret as the cognitive tools. And that's with a lot of machine learning more of that math that we spoke about a capability to understand interpret language, so voice recognition, to interpret and understand images, both static and moving. So So we're talking about character recognition, and in progressively more into intelligent data processing, interpreting videos, etc. So all of those elements, and then ultimately, the power of Intelligent Automation isn't any one of those discrete components. It's the collective. It's the combinatorial innovation that comes from putting some of those pieces together, and the multivariate equation of using intelligent data processing, and then, and then, you know, chat, and then rpa, and then some Data Mining and Machine Learning, all informed by process discovery, etc. So it's just putting all those pieces together to solve a bigger end to end problem and to create more impact. So that's, that's really the intelligent angle of it is, is it's the combination of those higher order algorithms and math that make for better solutions. So that's that and, and so that's what the book covered it was, it was just helping to define what this means. So enterprises can start to start to noodle on it and start to take their first steps that exploring it and its potential for their enterprises. And then this course I've got going live today. I don't know if the podcast goes live today as well. But so I mean, Tuesday, May 10, is when it's going live is effectively just a condensed version of the introduction to Intelligent Automation. It's a I think it's like a 40 minute long course, that just is sort of the best primer I could put together, that that would enable you to raise the digital awareness of your enterprise throughout the organization. It doesn't matter who the person is, maybe the IT team will find it a bit simple. But but everybody else will find it enlightening, hopefully. And we'll get them on that train to be able to be contributors and participants in this digital transformation and continuous improvement using tools in the Intelligent Automation toolset. So that was that's the course. And hopefully, it's helpful to, to many, many people.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:42
Thank you. And do explain what you said, if I understood that correctly, that people should think about Intelligent Automation, not in a way where it's a step by step plan where you do step one, step two, step three to get to the result, but more as what's called in system thinking and emergent, where you have like pieces to the puzzle, when you put them together, you can see the picture. It's not like 123. But it's the interconnection and the interrelationship between all the pieces that create something beautiful alive, or something that is truly powerful. And thank you so much for this conversation. Of course, on all these steps PROCESIO can help the listeners get there. And that's why I praise it so much, because PROCESIO is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software as well as you know, moving towards the more Intelligent Automation approach to your business. Any viewer or listener can request to get a free account at to get a full one hour execution time every month, which is equivalent to 100 Human hours, which is a lot. That's truly leverage and expansion of your capabilities. And for those who love it, who want more who need more, there is a very generous 50% discount code called in one word BETTER50OFF capital letters, one word that you can use at any time to upgrade and get 50% more information in the description. Thank you, Ian, this was my privilege, my honor, such an enriching conversation that could go on for longer and much much longer and I thank you very much

Ian Barkin 28:39
great as he is now. I loved it and look forward to more conversations in the future. Thanks for what you do. I love the show.