On this episode of Wonderful Work, we chat with Stina Gustavsson, global head of strategic partnership at Robocorp, about leveraging robotic process automation (RPA) as part of an intelligent automation.
Stina "Snowflake" Gustavsson
As a Swede, Stina is no stranger to snow. But her love of the cold is deeper than you'll find in the average Scandinavian. "I was born in the north of Sweden, and I really love the cold and the snow. When I was quite a bit younger, I tried to change my last name to Snowflake but couldn't because it was already taken."
Despite her love of the cold, Stina is a very warm person. "I like the snow, and I like to be around people," Stina says.
Stina never wanted to work with robots
Recently, while getting some boxes from storage, Stina came across a newspaper article she'd been interviewed for as a child. She was asked what she wanted to do in the future. Her response is comical.
The 9-year-old future head of strategic partnerships at Robocorp said she wanted to work with humans or animals. "When they asked what I didn't want to do, I said I never wanted to work with robots because they will take over the world. I was scared of them," says Stina - a fantastic woman who now works for a company with the word Robo in its name.
From sociology to robotics
Perhaps it was her love of people or her desire to get as far away from robots as possible that prompted Stina to study sociology, journalism, and communication.
"My studies were all based on globalization, international economy, leadership, communication and cultural aspects in society and organization," Stina explains. "I like working with people from different countries and cultures. It adds a spark to the dynamics in a company"
Stina loves learning about different cultures because it teaches her about change. "But I learned you can make many positive changes with technology, too." Stina overcame her technophobia but thankfully maintained her love of humans. "I work with people and cultures in the technology industry and try to understand how the user perspective differs" Stina explains.
How Stina landed her first job in technology
Soon after university, working for the Swedish Ministry of Education Stina did a tour round the country to take note of IT solutions implemented in Swedish schools. She was part of a team that gathered and presented the information at a Geneva exhibition.
"I came into contact with many companies there," she explains. Her first technology job experience was with a company building a wide area network across Europe. "It feels like a hundred years ago now," she says.
Robots and humans working in harmony
Indeed, the fast pace of change in technology is impressive. But there is one aspect of the tech sector and society that remains constant: The need to connect with human beings.
"When I came into the tech sector, I realized that you need to understand humans, and humans need to understand what value add and functionality they will achieve by technology"
At Workfellow, we share this sentiment. Take the business process monitoring phase of a process analysis, for example. You can use the best tools to look into your workflows. But without human communication, buy-in, or mutual understanding, business process monitoring becomes a pointless endeavor.
Why is automation important for change management in business?
"If you don't apply a change management structure in your automation project, you won't succeed," Stina says. "Automation is a major change in an organization. It's the employees that will be affected by the changes so the purpose and expected outcome needs to be clearly communicated from the beginning and throughout the whole project so everyone can understand and adapt to the “new” way of working"
The biggest observation Stina has made is RPA moving from the realm of IT and tech to C-level management. "Everyone needs to be involved in executing the RPA/Automation strategy. It should never be taken away the involvement from IT. But I think it was a question that previously never got out of IT departments. Now it is, and it's influencing all aspects of the business," Stina explains.
Stina's practical advice for leading a culture shift toward automation
"This is a major change, so you need to think about how it fits into your digitalisation strategy and how it'll affect your company. Ask yourself what outcome you expect, and always remember it requires an investment from your side," Stina says. Of course, the investment Stina mentions is not just about money. It's also an investment of time and effort.
How Stina describes RPA to her friends and family
Stina has been involved with RPA from the start. We asked her to communicate her extensive knowledge of the subject in simple terms.
"I describe it like it's a person that can help you do things for you," Stina explains. "I say it's just like having help and support for things you do all the time and don't even think about, so you can spend time concentrating and focus on the more complex tasks which hopefully gives you an even more fun and meaningful work in the future"
Who in a business organization should be most interested in RPA?
"Everyone should be interested in RPA, but they may be interested in it for different reasons," Stina explains. "C-level leadership should be interesting due to the fact it offers a return on investment and also increases the customer and employee satisfaction. People in middle management are the ones facing challenges with resource replacement and employee satisfaction and maybe the most important reason all employees that get a better and more effective working day, spending their time on the more complex part of work and can leave the repetitive task to the bots"
What common misconceptions do people have about RPA?
"People often think you can just implement an RPA product and expect an outcome," Stina explains. "However, I think more companies are beginning to understand they need to work with an ecosystem of software vendors, Service Integrators and Advisory partners to support the whole journey."
At Workfellow, we focus on process intelligence, which comes together with RPA to create intelligent automation. We asked Stina what areas of business are being driven forward by intelligent automation.
"I see it bring opportunities in every aspect of a business," Stina explains. "One major thing we'll see in the future is the integration of different tools. If you don't want to make these changes today, I really think you should plan for it going forward," Stina says.
A typical working day in Stina's role as head of strategic partnership at Robocorp
"I'm fairly new to Robocorp, but not to RPA as I previously worked for UiPath for almost 5 years. I am positively delighted to see how far Robocorp has succeeded to take place in the market as a leader of the Gen 2 RPA. It is an exciting time ahead to see how we with an enhanced Partner Model can move the needle even further. I am thrilled to get the chance to be part of this journey, to lead and develop the Strategic partnership for Robocorp '' says Stina.
"My daily job is to talk to potential business partners and try to understand how Robocorp will fit their business and how the solution will then adjust into the end customers strategy.
Of course, RPA is not yet mainstream. But it will be someday. It could be in two years, or it could be in ten years, no one knows. But it's already commonly known and deployed by most companies in some way."
Where do you see RPA heading in the next five years?
"I don't think RPA will be a solo thing, it will be part of an ecosystem where integrations are key. Companies will need, for example, to combine RPA with process mining and task mining to get the best total outcome of the automation for their processes"
The Wonderful Work Podcast
If you'd like to know more about Stina’s journey at Robocorp and her views on RPA, check out Lari's and Stina's chat on the Wonderful Work podcast.