Steve Burke’s resume includes serving as an officer in the British Parachute Regiment before switching to management consulting with AT Kearney in London, then into banking in South Africa and back into consulting where he ran the strategy and transformation practice of a Big 4 firm. “I was getting on in age and, when someone told me about software robots, I laughed and couldn’t get my head around the concept,” he likes to joke. “Once I did, the potential for digital workforces blew me away.” Turning serendipity into an opportunity, along with his co-founder Werner Horn they transformed DigiBlu from being a consulting firm to being wholly specialist in Intelligent Automation.
Since then, the five-year-old company has found itself in the fast lane to success. They maintain operations in Cape Town and Johannesburg and have recently opened an office in London. Built with a focus on “Human Endeavour – Digital Workers” and to “take the robot out of the human”, DigiBlu aim is to create and operate multi-purpose digital workforces, as a strategic enterprise asset. “I haven’t been so excited since the dot com boom, and for the same reason, because we get to innovate business and operating models,” opines SteveBurke, co-founder, and CEO of DigiBlu.
“I value our shared sense of purpose, the inquisitiveness that we encourage and the lessons we gain from that”
DigiBlu is an award-winning international leader in providing Intelligent Automation related services and is taking South African expertise to the world. They operate in the vanguard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, creating digital workforces and releasing people from machine-like mundane activities so that they can thrive as humans (were meant to be). The firm is organized according to agile principles. Hence they are constantly learning and developing best practices for implementing and operating digital workforces and developing innovative new offerings, including consulting, implementation, digital operations, capability build and Business Processes-as-a-Service (BPaaS). The key thing: “Ultimately, it is about creating a shared sense of purpose and empowering everyone to help achieve our vision. We seek a self-organizing and highly motivated organization, short on controls and big on trust,” says Burke. “And we want people to come on the journey and enjoy the ride, thrilled to know that we don’t know everything and that we need to learn, fast.” So while working with an international insurer that said, “okay, so we’re successfully automating back-end processes and making them fast and accurate, but what does that do for the customer experience if we still have a slow and inefficient front-end?” To do so, they got seriously involved in cognitive capabilities, such as chat bots and OCR, and about reengineering processes from end-to-end. “I value our shared sense of purpose, the inquisitiveness that we encourage and the lessons we gain from that,” says Burke.
Consecutively, as intelligent automation is not like traditional software that comes packaged for a specific purpose. DigiBlu creates capabilities – multi-skilled, multi-purpose digital workforces – that orchestrate and automate activities along the entire customer value chain, from the first conversation to fulfillment. “‘Bots’ wait to be given work, then come alive with the persona and permissions required to fulfill the activities required of a particular process then, when finished, wait for the next piece of work. This is why they are multi-skilled and multi-purpose, one moment they’re working for HR, the next finance, the next they are opening accounts or paying people,” carries on Burke. Thereby helping organizations realize the full potential of Intelligent Automation, taking them on the journey to creating and operating digital workforces as a strategic enterprise asset. Furthermore, the company also has a Robotic Operations Centre which provides digital workers as a managed service over the cloud and BPaaS, for those that don’t wish to build the digital workforce internally. The possibilities with the DigiBlu platform truly are endless.
“While robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming pervasive, few organizations have scaled it to create digital workforces. It is most often used too discretely, without vision. Add cognitive capabilities to RPA and you extend its reach and value. Add agile development and operations methods for speed, and you capture the value more quickly,” proclaims Burke. Even so, he is fully aware of the unique challenges facing mass adoption of RPA. Especially when implementing an RPA, one of the biggest issues that organizations face is dealing directly with infrastructure changes. “On-premise RPA does, however, require significant investment in IT infrastructure and time spent in reviewing and adapting IT and HR policies – RPA isn’t traditional software, it mimics human workers, but doesn’t need the perks and compliance training that humans need. Intelligent Automation delivered over the cloud, however, negates much of the infrastructure spend,” clarifies Burke. “RPA done well is very high-performing and quickly flushes out inefficiencies in IT and operations environments from lagging systems to IT areas that can’t support 24-hour operations to exceptions handled at people speed. We’ve automated processes that took five people in different roles two days to complete and run it in two minutes and 55 seconds, but half the problem with the old process was the lag incurred in the handoffs, the wait at the back of the email queue, the lunch break, the smoke break. Bots don’t do that.” But can bots adjust their behavior the same way a human can? “Yes. We regard bots as new employees. We automate the process happy path and expect exceptions but, once in production, we continuously review the logs, resolve exceptions and improve performance, getting into a weekly or bi-weekly release cycle. The bots learn fast.” affirms Burke. And they don’t make mistakes as well? “What we can say, with utter confidence, is that the bots only do as they are told. They don’t get tired, act malevolently or make errors. That is not to say that poor programming won’t introduce errors, but they should be identified before going into production and will be highlighted in the logs thereafter. At one of our clients, there were zero instances of incorrect processing during the course of 180, 000 transactions,” says Burke. However, he points out, “Poor implementation, lack of vision, failure to add cognitive to increase its reach and value could impede the growth of RPA.”
Outside work, Steve owns a boxing club and unwinds in the ring.
Steve Burke, co-founder & CEO, DigiBlu.
DigiBlu is expanding geographically at speed. They have just launched a UK DigiBlu business and will be seen moving into the US and open in Hong Kong later this year.
Having had five straight years of record-breaking growth DigiBlu plans to extend their offerings; from RPA to Intelligent Automation, from discrete implementations to digital workforces, from as-is processes to reimagined services, to consulting on the workforce of the future, and getting there. The company is also very excited about their Robotic Operations Centre. Through which they intend to continue providing automation managed services, Business Processes-as-a-Service and implement automations remotely. Ultimately, DigiBlu aim is to be internationally recognized as the leader in creating and operating digital workforces. “We’re getting there, so does that still count as an aspiration?” asks Burke. To us and their customers, their success is certain.