AI powered RPA bot-management firm Choiceworx has been making moves recently. Last month they announced a strategic investment round led by Tech Council Ventures with participation by Front Row Fund and IDEA Fund Partners. The company also announced Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) industry pioneer and ChoiceWORX Co-Founder Frank Casale (above photo) has been appointed Chief Revenue Officer, and veteran industry analyst Eric Hochstein has been appointed Vice President of Business Development. Global technology firm tracker Tracxn has already designated Choiceworx as a Minicorn worth keeping an eye on.
Cognitive Business News Executive Editor Loren Moss recently caught up with Frank Casale to discuss “broken bot syndrome” and what Choiceworx is doing about it!
Loren Moss: So I’m here with Frank Casale, Frank has a long and storied history in the industry, he’s the founder of the Outsourcing Institute, ‘outsourcing.com’, he’s the founder of the Institute for Robotics Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, I’ve known Frank for several years, he’s also launched and spearheaded DAPI, that’s the Digital Americas Pipeline Initiative with operations internationally, I know he’s got operations down here in Colombia, based in Metropolitan New York City, Frank welcome to the call.
Frank Casale: Super, great to be here and listen Loren, thank you for taking the time but don’t forget my new day job now with Choiceworx.
Loren Moss: Exactly, that’s the purpose of this interview and why I wanted to have you back on. We had the chance to talk a couple years ago, so tell me about Choiceworx, the company, and your new role with the firm.
Frank Casale: No, super, thank you, and again, I appreciate you being a friend and supporter, and you yourself a thought leader out there, you and your magazines, and your media empire, educating the planet on what’s going on, so always a pleasure to be here with you my friend. So listen, we’re really excited, we just came off of closing a funding round with Choiceworx, which is an “AI as a service platform” in essence, but the technology is really cool, but we’re really not in the technology business as much as we’re in, you know, what I refer to the digital labor of business meaning, you know, we’ve built here software that acts like a knowledge worker, is not task centric, it gets a job done, so it’s an entirely new genre, it’s like the intersection of really intelligent fit for purpose software in this alternative to labor arbitrage, that’s the exciting new area, so happy to share more about it with you.
Loren Moss: Absolutely, so I know that RPA has been kind of the blob that’s eaten the outsourcing and shared services industry in the past several years. We launched Cognitive Business News a few years ago once we felt that’s where things were going, and it’s been fascinating because if you listen to an RPA vendor it, you can just buy a few bots and then just go home, and business will get done and you can just sit back and collect the checks, but as we know it’s not quite that simple, and even though we call it robotic process automation, you said something very insightful to me recently and that is really robotic task automation, because that process still has to be managed and it has to be defined, but then also we can go and install bots and we can teach bots to do a particular task, but those tasks change. They are working and interfacing with software and that software changes and now we have a new phenomenon that nobody expected, well, at least the sales people didn’t warn us about it, and that’s called “broken bots,” so if you can walk us through: What is the phenomenon of broken bots and then tell me about this solution that you guys have come up with to address it?
Frank Casale: The RPA players…I’m not an RPA hater, you know, there’s people out there saying RPA is dead, misleading all these people, I would say: hey listen, RPA and the pioneers that we all know in the RPA space, they’ve ushered in this new trend, right Loren? So, we have to thank them for that, and there are thousands of companies now that have already begun the journey. The role we’re playing is, I would say for companies that are ready for that next level of automation, shifting from task automation to true process, end-to-end process automation, where you shift from, let’s say a bot, or some let’s say, and intelligent technology assisting a knowledge worker to actually, you end up with a digital knowledge worker, right? Certainly in our case an AI fueled platform that’s fit for purpose so it shows up as an experienced employee ready to do work, right? It does the work, so what we’re saying is that, of course thousands of companies are embracing RPA and for some it’s working, for others it isn’t working perfectly, but we’ve seen this before with every wave of technology, I remain optimistic.
However, every single organization that starts today with RPA, all of our research and our experience indicates they’re going to move more towards an intelligent, fit-for-purpose place, where the shifting from task to actual process, what I call digital labor, that’s really where the magic is now. Probably the biggest challenge in the RPA space is the fact that these bots are brittle, they break and therefore are really tough to scale, and after surveying our membership within IRPA-AI it has become clear to us that this is the number one frustration, as a serial and serious entrepreneur, my partner Sam Gross and I saw this as an opportunity, how do we fix this thing?
So here we are with Choiceworx, we already had our first product, Apptinuum, which proactively and autonomously remediates problems with a PC desktop, laptop, right? It identifies the issue, remediates it, really with low to no human intervention, so that is our move into revolutionizing the IT service desk, and certainly endpoint management, so then we look at this and we say well, how much is it to–. From autonomously monitoring, managing, repairing a PC, to autonomously monitoring and managing a bot, and it is different, but it’s not that different considering the time, money and resources we had already invested in this platform we’ve built, so the second product that we’ve built in Robotinuum, in essence, our bots fix your bots, so you basically get to avoid this challenge of labor cost, right? Additional resource stress, if it’s your existing team, and challenges of the hang time…hang time meaning someone has to find the broken bot and they have to repair or reprogram the broken bot and they have to reinstall it.
So now you have 20 bots,50 bots, 200 bots, but that dog don’t hunt, right? so you have this brief feeling of they maybe I’m relieving resources of strain on the front end because you embrace RPA, and barely six months or a year into it, you have to pile bodies on to solve this problem that they didn’t anticipate, right? So people are stuck, and the industry in general is a bit stuck with this inability to scale and with thanks to Robotinum and many that have seen it now in industry leaders, really I would say confirm what I’m about to say, which is, we get the industry unstuck, so with Robotinuum, you can scale as quickly as you need to remove humans from the equation, so you don’t get stuck having to assign people in a budget to monitor and maintain these spots. It’s technology agnostic, and that’s really what we kind of see as jet fuel for the industry right now.
Loren Moss: I think that’s interesting because when you look at companies and they go to adopt RPA, and I have seen this happen, where they go “wow”, it looks like this, the future, the great new solution, Utopia is coming, but then in the implementation, things get bogged down once they get around, past around 50 bots or so, because before you can have one or two people managing it, maybe somebody who reports to the CFO or somebody who reports to human resources, but then once we really try to scale that, ok, because one of the things I remember when I first learn how RPA really works and it’s like we’re going to train this bot to do a process that we do, and we’re going to maybe replicate actions and human mouse moves and keyboards, but the thing is that I’m working on Excel 2016 and I trained my bots and then we upgrade to Excel 365 Office, or whatever version we’re on now and some little thing changes in how Excel operates and now my whole fleet of bots is pressing the subtract key instead of pressing the plus key, right?
Frank Casale: Exactly, yeah, right. So what we found is that although I refer to this as a broken bot syndrome, kind of tongue-in-check but it’s kind of catching on a I’ve already had people in the marketplace use that term when they’re calling me but the bots themselves typically, technically the bots very rarely break. The bots are good bots regardless of the RPA variety. What happens is the environments change, and then once all you need is one dependency to change, and you end up with driving a car and the engine suddenly seizes, so you’re not going anywhere, so the bots kind of seize, and then the only way for it to get fixed is that you need to have personnel, or multiple people, in many cases, you need to have a team of people that are constantly just monitoring, right? And waiting, so it’s inefficient, it’s costly and it really kind of kills the master plan. Most of the people that we’re speaking to, have way fewer bots than I anticipated, I would think that people kind of hit the wall at maybe 50 bots, maybe 100, which and for some that is the case, several hundred bots, in some cases maybe a thousand.
We’re talking to people that hit the wall 25 bots, so now picture this Loren Moss: Here you are at the beginning of this RPA journey, you spent the previous six months winning over your bosses as to how awesome this is, game changing and the impact it’s going to have, right? And your ultimate plan probably requires a thousand bots, maybe 2,000 bots once you work it through the enterprise, HR, IT, finance, whatever it may be, and here you are, you’re barely off the finish line, and you tripped, 25 bots, everybody right? So the person who bought it looks silly, the person who sold it looks silly, the CFO who’s wondering what…Where’s the ROI, right?
Loren Moss: Right.
Frank Casale: Those that are in the RPA space, whether you’re a software provider or even let’s say a solution provider, everybody’s stuck, right? Everybody’s stuck in first gear, and you know, they’re trying to get out of gear, you can’t get too far in first gear, so it is the weakest link in the space and the sense we’re getting from the marketplace is the timing cannot be better to come up with really this autonomous approach where your bots fix your bots and at that point, if you’re in a fast track to 500 to 5000 to truly get the ROI then we can set you free.
Loren Moss: So, you know, the space is rapidly evolving, we’ve got traditional players and nontraditional players, but really segment leaders out there like UiPath, and Automation Anywhere, then there are companies that are you know, maybe you have a specialty like NICE systems and Antworks and other companies, so when should a company say “we really need to contact Choiceworx?” What does a company look like you can help and what is the situation that you’re here to help?
Frank Casale: So, think of it this way, from a big picture standpoint we are about leveraging a fit for purpose AI platform to create opportunities for companies to tap into a digital labor, so think of the evolution, the past 30 years, from onshore to offshore, think about this evolution from offshore to no shore, right? so it’s software that emulates a worker, so that concept is appealing to you if you’re looking to rein in labor costs, or if you’re looking to augment what I would consider kind of digital staffing, if you’re looking to get more out of an existing team or you are mostly looking to reduce costs, this is the game changer, and we’re not looking to be all things for all people.
We really have two specific products, one targets the IT service desk, so if you’re a client, if you’re an enterprise let’s say user, and you have a service desk and you’re unhappy with the service or the experience or the cost, which is very labor intensive, then we have the game changer for you, the ultimate of better, faster, cheaper. In the other scenario, with our second product, if you are well into your RPA journey, and you’re struggling with broken bots, and it’s much more resource intensive and it’s much heavier lift than you thought, and you’re wondering what to do other than pay more to either in-house to assign more resources, which is a cost, or hire a third party to assign people, which is even more of a cost.
If you’re looking for an alternative, if you’re looking for a digital solution that is cost effective and extremely efficient, then we have the product there, that’s basically it. IT services desk end user support, autonomous, and bot management, bot repair, bot maintenance, again, autonomous, that’s basically it, that’s what we’re doing, so if you have those problems, then we have a solution!
But listen, you’re kind enough to ask me about what I’m doing, let me ask you because I’m getting the word out more and more about you, Loren, you’re doing some interesting things these days, you’re doing roundtables, you’re helping companies communicate with buyers, you’re helping buyers communicate with each other, so I want to make sure I connect you with more and more people in my network, because now more than ever, especially in this Post-Covid world, people need to connect, so I’m looking forward to getting the word out about you as well.
Loren Moss: I appreciate it, I think that there are lots of synergies to be had, and one of my responsibilities as an analyst and as a journalist is to provide good information and good advice, both on a mass basis as a journalist, that’s to say to our readership of business executives and then of course some people in the government as well, in academia, but then also as an analyst on a one-on-one basis, a lot of times, either companies or entities come, and they’re looking for good unbiased but knowledgeable and sector specific expertise and advice to help point them in the right direction and so part of what we do is a B2B connection factory, kind of as a journalist we try to bring the right people whenever there’s a good fit and a good match, but then really I try to stay up as much as I can on what’s happening in the sectors that I cover, like RPA, like analytics, so that when I discuss things with customers and clients that I can give them a solid advice and that side advice from time to time might be, listen, you need to contact people at this place, you need to contact these good people that probably can help you with what you’re trying to do, and that’s important.
Frank Casale: Yes, and you know, I’ve spent the last 20 plus years doing that, right? A source of information, a source of connectivity within the network and you do a masterful job with that, and listen, always a pleasure speaking with you, hopefully this discussion is of interest to your audience, keep an eye on it, I think you’ll see even beyond Choiceworx, I believe you’ll see other players in the industry, identifying fit-for-purpose digital labor solutions, it could be any sort of a process, again the key is to shift from task focus to a full process focus, it could be mortgage processing, it could be claims processing, it could be internal tax and audit…Of course I’m excited about talking about choiceworx and our solution, but my word to your followers and your viewers is, really begin to do research as to what’s out there as to this next wave of really intelligent software that plays the role of a knowledge worker is really exciting, and I think you’ll see significant in ROI as companies begin to embrace these technologies.
Loren Moss: How can people contact or find out more information about choiceworx?