Episode 20 – Process Mining: James Dening
Sometimes things in business kill the best podcast publishing schedule.
Today’s guest, James Dening, the CEO of Minit, has sold the firm to Microsoft on March 31. Nevertheless, this interview with him is very insightful regarding his way to becoming the CEO, process mining as a discipline, as well as the process mining market compared to the last “hot thing” Robotics Process Automation.
James is a former geek, now a commercial leader, with a passion for combining how you use data effectively and how you nurture and develop people superbly to create amazing kick-ass organizations. He has have held senior positions at Amazon, Google EMEA, XLN Telecom, Red Gate Software, and most recently in the RPA space with Automation Anywhere, as GM EMEA and our first Chief Evangelist, growing revenue from zero to tens of millions per year and building a team of over 250 people across Europe.
Today he works at Minit Process Mining, as CEO, in one of the most exciting and fastest growing spaces in software, shining a light on how processes are actually performing, and enabling companies to target their automation and process improvement efforts accurately.
When James is not working, you can either find him with his family, or out with his spaniels, or possibly taking his boat to the pub.
We are talking about the following topics:
- James’ background from a software engineer, through sales person, to general manager and what cross-knowledge he gained and still values
- The situation of process mining and why it is a significant change in how doing BPM
- Qualities needed and lessons learned on the way to becoming CEO
- How to select and nurture the right people (and keeping seats open)
- How to grow personally when you reached his career step
- Advice for aspiring junior folks
- Minit as young company/challenger in the industry; James’ outlook on the market development and M&A activities
Ep. 20 – Process Mining: James Dening – What's Your Baseline? Enterprise Architecture & Business Process Management Demystified
- There is no additional information for this episode.
Music by Jeremy Voltz, www.jeremyvoltzmusic.com
- CP1 (Welcome)
- Lofo Lobby Loop Horns (Interlude 1)
- Wish You Knew Me (Interlude 2)
- South Wing (Outro)
(The transcript is auto-generated and was slightly edited for clarity)
Roland: Hey J-M, how are you doing on this wonderful cold January day and I hope when we publish this episode it will be much warmer than it is today.
J-M: Oh my goodness, it has to be, it can’t continue to be snowy and wintry cold. There were crazy huge flakes last night outside my window. I thought to myself this would be great if I had a yard to go make a snowman in, but alas, I’m in an apartment. So not so much, but that’s all right. It’s a great opportunity for us to get together by the warmth of the fire of a podcast, isn’t that great?
Roland: Well, I have good news for you, as always in every episode. Today we have a guest who joins us from wonderful (I hope not too rainy) Britain. We have James Dening, the CEO of Minit today on the call. Hey James, how are you doing?
J-M: Ah, welcome James.
James: How are you both doing?
J-M: Doing all right! We’re really excited for today’s conversation. I believe this is the second time we’ve spoken to a CEO as part of this podcast and we’re really excited to get your perspective on all the things you do and all the things you are. So thank you so much for agreeing to come play along with us on What’s Your Baseline.
James: Guys, delighted to be here. But first of all I’ve just had a look out of the window and here in the east of England, the sun is shining for an excellent session with you guys. No rain, no snow, no sleet. It’s a beautiful day here in England.
Roland: Enjoy it. It might be the last day of 2022 where you have this wonderful weather. I heard British weather is a little bit unpredictable.
J-M: No, I don’t jinx it.
James: No, we I’ve I’ve checked I’ve checked with the met office. We’re due for our usual four days of sunshine in 2022.
J-M: Ah, wonderful. Well, we’re really excited to meet you today. We’ve had a chance to chat before but I think our audience is going to have a chance to meet you today and find out all about who James Dening is and what got you to where you are and what you’re looking to do with all of the things that Minit. So let’s start us off – talk about yourself, who are you? Why are you on the podcast and what do you do for a living?
James: So my name is James Dening. I’m the CEO of Minit. Minit is a process mining company and I’m here to talk about the whole process mining / process insights / automation / process discovery and all of those things. It’s what I do for a living, running a business that’s deeply involved in that. But also I find it quite interesting. You know, I’ve had a variety of jobs over my career and some of them have been in areas that I found, you know, quite interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in any area that I found deathly dull. But there have been some bits that I’ve worked on that have been wonderfully fascinating and this is definitely one of them.
J-M: That’s wonderful, and we’re going to ask you a little bit more later on in the show about your exact career and sort of how you got to here, but talk to me about some standout moments. What are your key experiences, things you’ve done in your professional career that you really reflect back on. Things you want us to tell a couple stories to our audience about who you are.
James: So I think first and foremost I’m a geek. I’m a proper geek. Certainly in the UK, you can age people very accurately to within a year or two by “what was your first computer”. I was part of the Sinclair generation. So I got a ZX 81 then moved onto a spectrum. Then I had the wonderful BBC Model B which was a great computer because it was designed for people to learn about computers. It had Basic as part of it, but it was very easy to then start writing machine code. You could get into writing operating systems and file systems. I was really lucky that I went to one of the last of the great grammar schools in the UK, a school called Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School. It’s a state school. It’s in Buckinghamshire, just outside London. And we had a visionary teacher – a guy called Chris Clair, and I’m actually going out for dinner with him in a couple of weeks time and it’ll be the first time I’ve seen him in 30 years. So there’s a whole bunch of us who were in his form who did, you know, the same A-levels. Chris was a visionary and he had a computer room in, I think 1980 or 1981, which was very early. So we had these 16 BBC model B computers and the school ended up setting up a company partly staffed by kids from there because we had written a much better network filing system using hard disks instead of the BBC Econet, which had big floppy systems. So we had this whole kind of NFS that we’d written. Some of the very early BBC games were written by kids in my school. Fortress, which is a great game, was written by Matt Newman. Matt Newman wrote it when he was sixteen years old. So this was the atmosphere I grew up in – this amazing, very computer-centric atmosphere. So I was a geek and I ended up running the school computer room. I think what saved me from any kind of adverse consequences with my peers was I was also captain of the Rugby team, you know, I’m not a big guy. And actually computing and writing software and rugby ended up being the two big loves of my life. So I did a physics degree and decided I didn’t want to do it (I did it mainly because Chris was my physics teacher as well and this guy was great). I realized I didn’t want to be a physicist and went on to do a master’s degree in computer science, and after that I went out and got a job as a software engineer and this was the first big phase of my career. I went to a small company and I found a job near Cambridge and moved to Cambridge, and I spent the next six, seven years writing software. I was writing C/C++, I was doing some stuff on Windows – this was .net so this is all Microsoft Foundation Classes. Did a bit of stuff with Linux and it was great. I enjoyed it and it became the first phase of my career.
J-M: So you’ve really spent your time in the trenches and learned what it means to be someone creating something from nothing. In a later segment we’ll ask a little about how that bridges into what you do today. But it’s actually funny, I was telling Roland that this is our second guest this season for whom rugby was a passion. We had a guest earlier in our podcast set schedule, Carlisle Gunn, who was also a rugby player, and I myself was a rugby player at some point in time. So we’ve got the fellowship of tech rugby guys.
Roland: Shall I feel bad now because I’ve played American Football for 4 years in Germany?
J-M: It’s a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen, that is rugby, and a gentleman’s game played by hooligans is American football? I think that’s what we say
Roland: Ah, I don’t want to go down that path.
James: We normally apply that to rugby and soccer. But yeah, I think it’s a good quote. But you’re right – my first career as a software engineer was very useful because I, yeah, I loved it. I loved writing software. It’s very creative, but it also gave some real insight into some of the tensions and some of the dynamics within companies. You know, we’ve all sat in dev teams and had all the software engineers going “oh the sales guys, they just don’t get it. They’re asking us to do unrealistic stuff” and I’ve also had the chance, because I’d have moved in sales, to sit in sales meetings and say “oh the engineers, they’re naive idiots. They don’t understand the real world.” And it’s been very useful, especially as I’ve gone into more of a general management role, to understand those dynamics. I was very lucky that that I became friendly with one of our sales guys and he realized that if he took me along to a meeting with a customer and kind of pulled my string and wound me up, I could talk about the technology in a way that was relevant to these people in the business. So I ended up doing some of this pre-sales work. And he used to come into the computer section of our business and say “hey hello fellow sales guy” purely to kind of wind up all the other software engineers. It killed my credibility as a coder. And I remember around that time I said to my fiance JoAnn (who’s now my wife – this is twenty five years ago) I said “hey um I’m thinking of moving in sales” and she said “if you move in sales I’m gonna leave you. It’s just not your thing.” And I was like “that’s harsh, darling”. I don’t know, maybe fifteen years later, I got a job offer for the Head of Sales at Amazon UK and I showed her the letter and said “are you still going to leave me?” and she went “okay, maybe I was wrong on that one.” So the one documented instance where I got something right. So I moved into a kind of pre-sales role and that was kind of fun. And I was enjoying the technical side but also the commercial side, going out and meeting people, and then I had a bit of a realization and it was probably one of the relatively few mercenary moments in my career. I tend to be driven by passion rather than the kind of cold hard cash. Having said that, we’re all (to an extent) driven a bit by cold hard cash. I was going to all these meetings and we were doing quite well as a business and I realized that you know we’d go in I’d do my bit I’d leave the room, the sales guy’d do his bit and then we’d win the deal. And he’d take me out for a slap-up lunch. You know, as much steak as I could eat and he’d get a check for £15,000. And I thought, hang on a minute, that sounds quite enticing. And a few things moved around and I ended up getting a few small dead accounts. I jumped up and down until I was given a few small dead accounts, and really by luck one of those accounts was a company that had been dormant with us for a year or two; we hadn’t particularly looked after them, and they were, and we didn’t realize they were right on the cusp of a big new strand of business. And I found this out, and I cut a deal with them, and I think the next year they were something like 40% of our revenue. So I really made it on this account, which is great. And six months later they headhunted me and I went to work for them. And that was my first proper out-and-out sales role. And I had a bunch of sales roles, mainly around TV-over-IP – that was the big thing back then. I worked in selling DRM and selling set top boxes and selling browsers to sit on those boxes. And this was all good fun. And then the peak of all of that was when I got this job at Amazon. I had an old boss, a really good guy called John Hoskins (hi John, if you’re out there). So he kept all his RSUs from ten years ago, so he is long retired and playing a lot of golf. And I went to Amazon and that was an astonishing experience. Really hard. I’ve said that working at Amazon is like doing an MBA on crack. You learn a huge amount, and everyone there is very driven, very, very clever, very collegial. You know, it’s quite a nice place to work from that side. But it’s relentless, and you do work sixty seventy hours a week. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I would say now, at this point in my career, I would say to anyone, if you get a chance to go work for Amazon. Treat it as a learning experience. It’s a great learning experience
Roland: Yeah, there are organizations out there that basically milk you, but I agree it’s quite an experience that one should have to see what is possible in doing this. But before we get to this, James, let’s take a step back so that our audience learns a little bit more about you personally. I know you’re coming from an entertainment background if I understood that correctly, and I’m curious to see what your hobbies are. What are your interests? What are your bucket list items that you want to do besides your day job because obviously life is more than just a job.
James: So it’s a big question, and I don’t think there’s a very short answer. My wife and I, we love doing stuff. And we have children – we have two daughters, Maddie and Katie, who are 19 and 17. We’ve just become empty nesters – Katie is doing her last year at boarding school and Maddie is first year at university, so to all you parents out there with kids when they finally leave, it’s wonderful. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love them, but there’s this amazing thing where you tidy your house, and you come back the next day, and get this: it’s still tidy. This was a revelation for us. This was very, very cool. So what do we like doing? For the last twenty years my life has pretty much revolved around my family, about being a father. We’ve had great fun with the girls. We do lots of things with them. Sports have always been a big thing. We’ve always skied lots with the family. I’m still playing a bit of rugby now, though my knees are kind of giving up, so this would be my forty-third year of playing contact rugby. Rugby has been one of the great loves of my life. I was lucky enough to play to a reasonable standard. I played in the second tier and I’ve played for Bedford, played for Cambridge. I still play a bit for Ely, although I haven’t yet this year. I played for a couple of other teams when we’ve gone to visit friends. And actually my rugby is now entering a slightly new phase. My 17 year old Katie is very, very good. She plays for Cambridge Rubies at the under 18 level. I help out with a bit of coaching for their forwards and so I’m spending a lot of my Sundays now going and watching her play and coaching the rest of the rest of the girls and that’s great fun. And she’s far, far better than I ever was. She’s excellent. She scored the best try I’ve seen in years last Sunday, so I’m still floating around on cloud nine because of that. So lots of sports stuff. We live out in the country. I do a fair bit of country pursuits. So there’s a little bit of game shooting. We’ve got a couple of working spaniels. We have an old boat. We have a 35 year old boat that sits on the river outside our house and in the summer most weekends we’ll be found on that, just tooling down to Ely, our local town, going and having a few pints, and tooling back. And if you recall in the 1970s everyone in the UK had these bathroom suites that were this kind of avocado green, and if you can think of that, 27 feet long, floating on the River Lark. It’s this wonderful 1970’s avocado. It’s great fun. We travel a lot, and probably the last really big interest for us is food and drink. So I cook a lot. I’m very excited, in a couple of weeks time my wife bought me a butchery course. So I’m going to learn how to butcher pork properly, so that’ll be quite a new thing. But I cook a lot, and as a family we all cook. We eat out a lot. We. Love good food. We love good wine. My parents have lived in the South of France for ages. So I love my Southern Rhône Valley wine. I love my new world wines, like Washington State, Oregon and California. So yeah, food, wine, sport, me spaniels. We keep very, very busy.
Roland: That’s great, and I can tell you out of my own situation I can relate to the empty nester situation. So our boys left basically last year and I’m in the same boat. So it’s great.
J-M: Well, it sounds like you’ve got a very busy life with a lot of things going on. And so you have to fit in, of course, with your actual job. The one you do day in and day out. So I wanted to go into our first piece of the puzzle here, which is about Minit. For those of you who don’t know who Minit is, give us the elevator pitch. What do you do? Tell us about Minit. How have you evolved as a company and where did you sort of step in and shape that?
James: Well, I’ll take a slight step back because we got to the Amazon bit, but there’s one more bit after that that’s very relevant. After I finished at Amazon, I did a fair bit of entrepreneuring. I did a variety of things, we talked about the telecoms company a little, which still goes today. I set up a garage in the village as part of a drunken bet on the rugby club. We did all these kinds of things for a few years, but I finally went back into the industry, and I ended up having a two hour phone call with a guy called Mark Fletcher who said “we’ve got great business, OK? It’s called Automation Anywhere. It’s an automation company and we’re looking for somebody to start Europe.” And this was one of the biggest jumps, and probably one of the best things I did was getting into the whole automation market really at a very, very early level. So we built up Automation Anywhere in Europe, and I was there for four years before I moved on. About a year before I left, one of the folks on my team who ran partners, Martin Afton, said “hey have you heard of these guys called Minit” and I said “no”. He said “well they’re pretty small still but they’re a process mining company” and I knew what process mining was and I said “why are these guys important?” He said “well they’re really small at the moment but they’re going to be huge. The technology is fantastic. Yeah, they’re a good bunch. They’re out in Slovakia. They’ve got this great technology”, and we had a look at it and I agreed with him. I thought, wow, this is really interesting. And roll forward a bit and I was looking to leave Automation Anywhere. I was coming up on 4 years, fully vested (which is one thing). But I was kind of ‘same old same old’. I’d been running that region and had built it up, and we were into more of a steady state of just keeping cranking the handle. I thought, well, I want to go and do something that’s more back into that kind of crazy growth vector. And I’d sniffed around Minit a few months earlier (maybe six months earlier) for a CRO-type role. I thought that was the next step. And they’re just taken on a CRO and there was nothing going. They came to me maybe a year ago now. A headhunter came to me and said “listen we’re representing this process mining company called Minit”, and I said “yeah I know them” and they said “we’re looking for a CEO”. And you kind of go “oh, you know, that’s nice” and then you kind of go “you mean me?” And they go “well, possibly”. We spent a few months talking and it reconfirmed what I knew about the technology. It was still founder-led and the founder Rasto Hlavac is a great guy and still in the business. Absolutely a core part of our business. They built this amazing thing. They have great technology and had gotten over that first hurdle of the first enterprise customers. It was really about how we could then scale in the same way that we scaled Automation Anywhere. And of course the big success story around that time as UI Path had just floated or they were just about to float. We shared investors with them – Early Bird Ventures, who are great investors, one of our biggest investors. And I took the job. And the remit was fairly simple. Get this company which is in this great space; it’s got great technology. Build that machine for growth / for hypergrowth. How do you get something that doesn’t just double in size of year. How do you triple or quadruple it every year?
Roland: Yeah, so can you give us our listeners a little bit of an overview of Minit? How many people are you? Where do you play? What type of people are working in your firm?
James: Okay, so I’ll be a bit coy about some of this. You know, we’re privately owned and venture capitalist funded. We don’t give too much away. We’re between 50-100 people, headquarters and the kind of spiritual home of the company is in Slovakia. I’m in the UK, we have people in the Netherlands, we have other people in the UK and a few other people around Europe. We’re a process mining company, and process mining for those of you that don’t know what it is, it’s being able to take any process in your business and look at every single time that process is used, look at how that process is used and what happens to the instance of that process. So if you generate 20,000 invoices a week, you want to be able to track where every single invoice goes. And where process money is different from task mining or process discovery is that they will tell you how your process is meant to work. They’ll say your process goes like this. It goes from this stage to this stage to this stage, and you go great. What process mining tells you is that of those 20,000 invoices, 80% of them followed that happy path. 10% of them followed this slightly unhappy path that went around the houses a bit and ended up with all sorts of weird approvals. Another 5% went around this really convoluted path and actually those invoices took 120 days to get settled. It ended up in some remote office with some obscure validation protocol that you don’t even know about at the head office. And then it sat in somebody’s inbox because that person’s left the business and then someone else had to pick it up. The point is, process mining lets you track all of those outliers. So it doesn’t just tell you what your process is meant to be; it tells you actually how it’s worked in the real world.
J-M: And that leads me to a question around exactly how you sell it and who you sell it to, because you know we’ve talked about process mining on the show a couple of times and there’s a lot of different types of use cases that you can talk to around the technology and its approach. At Minit, what do you put at the front of the boat? What’s the masthead of your process mining offering and what sorts of organizations and industries are you seeing penetration and are you seeing acceptance and use in to a real good process outcome?
James: So I think it’s pretty much any industry, because every business, every industry, is a collection of processes. And what we see at the moment is that people don’t really understand how well those processes are working. And until you have that understanding, how do you know what you need to be changing? How do you know what you don’t need to worry about, and how do you know what you do need to worry about? We don’t know what we don’t know and historically the way we’ve had of improving processes is we’ve gone to our friends up Deloitte or KPMG or EY or any number of companies and we say please really send the team a very, very nicely dressed, very expensive consultants who will interview people, ask what’s going on, and figure out how our processes work. And that’s great, and you get to look at those processes and reduce those inefficiencies, but for me, it’s quite an analog process. Everything in the world now, we’re moving away from analog processes and we’re moving to digital processes. My favorite example of this is: if you’re in a car and you want to know how fast you’re going, do you look out the window and think “yeah, those trees are going past kind of pretty quickly” or “the road surface is moving fast”? Or do you look at the instrument in front of you which tells you I’m doing 80 KM/h or I’m doing 53 MPH. And for me actually having that granular data that tells you not just ‘my process is meant to work like this’ but actually ‘what are the outliers in this process that are reducing my average efficiency or speed or throughput or cost or whatever metric you’re trying to hit, what are the outliers that are dragging that number down.’ If you think about some of the evergreen processes that every company has often around, say, finance. So we talked about invoices. Let’s look at the other side of it in Order to Cash. Nearly every business will have an Order to Cash process of some sort. If you’re a big company (or a small company) and you can speed up that average Order to Cash cycle, you can reduce it from forty days to thirty five days. What’s that worth to you? If you’re a small company, it’s valuable. If you’re a big company, that’s worth a lot of money. And it’s no good knowing what your process is meant to be. You need to track every last waif and stray. Every single time an order is generated, you need to be looking at has that fallen within whatever SLA it’s measured by, has it gone through the happy path process. And if not, where’s it gone and why is that happening, and then I know what to fix.
J-M: Yeah, it’s funny I I think about process discovery in the traditional fashion as kind of the manual drawing of a zoetrope. That spinning animation device. And each picture is drawn by hand by a different person. And theoretically, if you spin it fast enough, they kind of blur together. But you’re missing the one person who drew a completely different picture. You’re missing orders that are going to the completely wrong place, and the fact that an outlier exists means your process has a lot to learn.
James: I think that’s a really, really good way of putting it. It comes back to what I just said: you don’t know what you don’t know. So yeah, you know, 80% of the time your processes are working just fine. And that’s not to say that that happy path process can’t be improved and can’t be made more efficient, but that’s not the problem. The problem with the 20% or 5% or 6%, whatever it is, the problem exactly as you say, is that one person who says, oh, the process I use is something completely different and it’s a lot more onerous and painful.
Roland: So when I think about this, and I agree with you, James, this is obviously a new quality that you bring to the table in regards to analysis. What is your opinion on other process improvement techniques that are out there? You know, simulation or Lean and all these types of things. Do you think with process mining those are redundant and organizations won’t need this going on forward, or is it more like that’s another tool in your toolbox.
James: So, no, I don’t think they’re redundant at all. I see process mining really as a technology that tells you where the problems are. We have some clever stuff around out. We have root cause analysis. You can simulate the effects of some changes before we do them. But ultimately, we’re saying listen, we’re going to give you that really good granular insight, that understanding of how well your processes are or how well hidden or how badly your processes are working. How then, you remediate that it could be any one of a number of things. You could decide to throw brute force at it. You can say, you know what, we’ve got this process, we’re going to throw automation at it. We’re going to go to Automation Anywhere or UI Path or Blue Prism or somebody and we’re going to throw bots at it. Great. That’s one possible solution. You could look at the process itself and say well, all these unhappy paths, we’re going to try and block them off. We’re going to try and reroute those unhappy paths, and figure out why things go in there, and reroute them into that happy path. You can say, you know what, we’re going to take whole bits out of this process; we’re going to eliminate them. We might change the inputs; we might take the unhappy paths and maybe say that as soon as they deviate into an unhappy path it goes to a named person who picks up that spreadsheet and says “right I’m gonna deal with these right now”. There are any number of ways that you can fix your processes either by automation or by enhancement, or by refinement or by making them more efficient. What process mining gives you is it gives you the insight to decide the best route forward.
J-M: Yeah, we often refer to that as insight to action. What are you going to do to fix the problem that you have now discovered? There are some people who will talk about process mining as sort of the end of the conversation. You do process mining to throw up dashboards and that’s what you’ve produced. But no, what you’re producing is transformation. This is giving you the kickoff in the right direction to say “this is what we need to transform and here are some ideas on how you can do that”. So I wanted to take a bit of a break. We’ve been talking for a little while, and this is wonderful – I think we’re getting to the meat of what we do, but we’re gonna take a tiny bit of a break here and leave people with something you think about as we play some music that we love. And those are a couple of questions that I had for you, our lovely audience. So put yourself in the seat of an entrepreneur just like James as he came into the place that he is right now. What kind of business would you build net new? What are the issues and gaps you’re seeing in the marketplace around you? What would you offer in that business? So look at your processes and look at your business. What are the gaps that you can fill? And how would you satisfy that under-addressed industry topic? We’ll leave you for a couple of moments and come back with our second part and a little bit of a discussion on the journey to CEO.
Musical Interlude: “Lofi Lobby Loop Horns”, Jeremy Voltz
Roland: Welcome back listeners. We like to switch horses a little bit in our second segment here. A huge portion of our audience (when I look at our statistics) are people who are at the beginning of their career or at the mid-level of their career. And obviously I’d like to take the opportunity to talk to somebody who (for obvious reasons) has a senior role in an organization as the CEO of a company. So, James, you spoke a little bit about your background and your history and all these things. But from your perspective, what were the capabilities that you had to build and the connections that you had to build to get into the position where you are today?
James: I think it all goes back to childhood. Did I always want to be a CEO? I think I did a bit. My dad was a CEO. He was a managing director for a publishing company. And I think I maybe had that, you know assumption that, well, if dad did it, then I’m gonna do it. I think as I got into my career and actually realized that I realized all of a sudden that the journey from being a junior software engineer to being a CEO as you then understand how companies are organized, you go “wow, that’s a really long journey”. And with every year or every promotion I learned more and more about all the things that I needed to learn and do in order to get up that food chain. It’s certainly not the case that I was focused on going up the food chain. It was very much I was taking one step at the time. I look at the journey from being a software engineer to being someone in sales: I think when I was a software engineer I was thinking more about becoming a CTO at some point. I think I was always quite ambitious and when I got into sales I was then thinking about how to become a sales director or a CRO. I just maybe started thinking a few years ago about that final step, and I think it was the time at Automation Anywhere. We had many arguments internally that I was always told to just focus on revenue or the sales lead. Don’t worry about the rest of the people in Europe. With all due respect, it was kind of nonsense because you had these people over here, they didn’t have local line management, their line managers on the west coast or it was in India. They needed somebody to throw their arms around. They needed that heart and soul of the company. So I found I was having to do pastoral care to make sure all those functions were aligned. So basically it was being the local CEO without actually having the title. But also what I didn’t have, really, was the authority. So all of that alignment and managing of people and making sure we got the right outcomes; I had to do it all specific actions by managing through influence. And in hindsight, that was a great learning experience. Because if you have to do it through influence, that develops your soft skills. So, are there specific actions about my capabilities and connections? I think there were. Certainly the first time I got onto a proper leadership team, which was at Redgate, we spent a lot of time thinking about the dynamics of leadership and about the organization. We did a lot of offsites as a leadership team to think about how we would relate to each other, how we would operate the company and cadence of meetings and metrics and all that stuff. So we looked at the theoretical side around not just management but also leadership. I think as time has moved forward, I’ve appreciated maybe the connection side of it more. Whatever role I’m in, I’m thinking: who do I need to understand, who do I need to know? So I don’t think there were specific actions. I think it was maybe a bit more unconscious, but it all gradually got to a point where I think I was ready for it, and then I had that big stroke of luck that the right headhunter reached out to me. It was the right company at the right time. I’d piggybacked onto the success of Automation Anywhere. It’s a great technical success story. So I think there was a bit of luck. But also I do think when that door opened in front of me, I was the right person and in the right place to go through that door.
J-M: And talking about being in the right place; I feel like we’ve had a couple of offline discussions about this, but you have a lot of principles you hold dear. Things that make you feel like you’re capable and that you are serving the people you work with. Talk to our audience about some of the mantras things you say to yourself and to others about your role as CEO and your role sort of as being that heart and soul that you just talked about.
James: It’s hard to answer this without sounding a little bit trite.
J-M: No please. It’s for our audience to understand what’s going through people like your head that allows them to do really hard things at scale.
James: For me, first and foremost, you’ve got to be able to look yourself in the mirror and regard yourself as a decent person. And that’s really important to me. I’ve had many managers, many CEOs. I think some of them have been like that. Too many have not. Too many really haven’t cared about the carnage and destruction they have left behind them. But I remember very clearly, and I’ve suffered from that, and I’ve seen people suffer from it. I remember very clearly once Katie, my younger daughter, was talking to me (she must have been five or six) and she said “daddy, did you do good things at work today?” And I’d say “yes” and it’s because I’d intervened in something. I think I’d actually had to dismiss someone for sexist behavior in the workplace. There was a job I was at where the department I inherited was a bit of a bear pit and I ended up literally firing somebody on the spot. I got HR and said “this happened I think this is gross misconduct” and I took somebody out of the building. Then I stood on a chair and said “everyone listen, that stuff just ends right now right today.” And that’s really important, I think being a good actor and using whatever power and influence you have to try and reduce the behaviors that we all know and everyone gives lives that gives lip service towards. I think when you actually can stand up and be counted on for those things, I think it’s really important. So first and foremost, I think it’s about being a good person, a decent person. That doesn’t mean you need to be soft. It doesn’t mean you need to let bad behaviors go or poor performance go. I think quite the opposite. I think if somebody is not performing, you have a duty of care to them to find out why. And if the reason is there’s something else going on that you can help with, then great! If that reason is that they’re fundamentally unhappy or unsuited to the role, you may sometimes be helping them by saying “look, this isn’t the right place for you.” Because nobody in my experience tends to be happy underperforming and knowing they’re underperforming for a long period of time. Certainly not the world that I live in.
Roland: And then on the other side, it’s not just one person in the organization who basically runs it. You know, every good organization I worked in was run by a team of people who got along very well with each other and had the same moral background, if you will. When I look at your situation, how do you select your senior leadership? What are the criteria that you look for in a candidate that you want to pick and how do you create the way of working that makes your team successful?
James: So it’s a really good question. You’ve got to be a decent person. Fundamentally, whether it’s at work or play or whatever. The most important thing about being a leader is to get the right people in the building and make sure those people are happy. Remove any obstacles from their path. I’ll talk about how I select those people. When I took the Minit job I phoned up a couple of friends of mine who are CEOs. One guy, Mark Boone, is one of my best friends. Very smart guy. And he said “get the right people and make sure you just fix anything that you can fix to make them do a better job, any obstacle you can remove do it”. And I phoned another friend of mine who I went to school with, one of the smartest guys I know, this guy called Charlie Woodburn. He runs a tiny little company called British Aerospace and Charlie and I were in Chris Claair’s form together. We were kind of competing for the physics prize stuff like that. And I phoned him up because I’ve known him since we were 15, and he gave me the same advice. He said “it’s all about people.” He said “get the right people, reward them as well as you possibly can and then stay the hell out of their way.” And I think it’s about finding people, removing obstacles, and then not micromanaging them. And for me, it’s kind of obvious. If I hire somebody to be a CMO, I’m hiring them because they’re better at marketing than I am, because if they weren’t, why am I hiring them? Why don’t I do the job and just get some functionaries to enact whatever edicts I throw at them? The whole point is you’re hiring these people because they’re really good at stuff. You need to provide those checks and balances and advise and suggest. But fundamentally, if you’re hiring somebody to do a job, let them do the job. Find out what’s stopping them from doing a great job, and fix that. It might be that they need more resources, need more people. Sometimes I might need a bit of a kick in the bum. There might be an alignment issue. But remove those obstacles and stay out of the way. So that’s the other mantra. And it always amuses me when I hear CEOs being interviewed. They all say the same thing. No CEO ever says”oh, you’ve got a micromanage; you’ve got to know everything every day.” And I had a wonderful moment when I was at Minit. It was a small HR issue. I was on this call with my brilliant head of operations Zuzka Vankova and our head of HR and they said “what should we do about this” and I started telling them. I started to say “so what we should do is this”, and I stopped. I went ‘no, that’s not my job. That’s your job to figure that out, and off you go.’ If you want my advice, I’m happy to give it, but you’re asking me to do your job for you and it’s become one of my catchphrases at work. “That’s not my job.” And it’s not work avoidance, and my team get this; it’s me empowering them. That’s your job to figure that out. Happy to advise. Happy to suggest. If you want to run stuff past me, great. If you really don’t know what to do, then I’m happy to step in, but let’s start with you trying to figure out how you do it. You’re empowered to do that. I do select my senior leadership team, and at Minit I think I inherited four and I’ve hired two. Is there a way of working that makes that team successful? Partly I want people to lead themselves. I select for initiative; I select for cleverness. Cleverness / being intelligent is the kind of panacea that covers maybe a whole host of other, you know, deficiencies. When you’re smart, you can figure stuff out. I want people who are collegiate, who work well with others. I’ve had some brilliant colleagues who are like wolves. But I think when you’re on a leadership team, the word ‘team’ is the clue you need to work as part of that team. What’s really hard is figuring out who these amazing collegiate smart tough capable people are who are better than me at the job they do. And there’s a bit of Amazon in me there. Every time you hire, you need to be looking for somebody who really raises the bar, somebody who’s not just good, somebody who’s great. I say to people on my team, “when you hire somebody, I want you when you finish that interview and you say we’re gonna make an offer for this person, everyone’s aligned, four of us have said they’re great.” I want you to be so excited that you phone me up at 3:00 in the morning to say “James I’m really sorry, but we’ve hired somebody who’s so amazing, so groundbreaking so utterly brilliant to the business that I’m phoning you now” and you’ll be delighted to take the call. So hiring those people, going for ‘great, not good’, not settling. It’s really difficult. Amazon gets this. In my time at Amazon, at any given point, the recs that were open but unfilled were always like 22-23%. So you had this very painful business because you’re always short-staffed. But at Amazon we never settled. We never hired somebody who was kind of okay. I remember somebody asked me about that, and I said “imagine you’re in a team of like 10 people. Yeah and in your team of 10 people, you’ve got maybe someone – let’s call her Sarah – who’s brilliant. An absolute rocket scientist. And then you’ve got three or four who are pretty good and then you’ve got some who are okay and then there’s maybe one person who’s not great, that you need to do something about (and obviously you don’t hire that person), So at Amazon, you never hire the ones who are okay, but you also never hire the ones who are good. You’re looking for Sarah. You’re looking all the time for that rocket scientist. And every company says that – “we only hire the best and and and the brightest” and Amazon doesn’t do that, which is why you have this building genuinely full of some of the most capable people I’ve ever met. I never tried to be the smartest person in the room. I tried not to be the dumbest person in the room there.
Roland: Yeah, that was one of the things that I learned when I was spending my time with Accenture. The attitude there was (with which I wholeheartedly agree) is don’t hire for skill; hire for attitude. Because at the end of the day you can train everybody in anything if you want to.
James: I think it depends on the role. Sometimes you need to hire people who have a particular skill set. If you’re hiring somebody to do marketing automation, they need to understand those tools. But I think hiring for attitude, hiring for intelligence, but overall just is this something you think is great. It’s quite a holistic guide. Is this a great hire, and if it’s not, sometimes you have to fill a seat, but on the whole I air towards keeping that seat empty and we all soak up a bit more pain until we find the right hire. I’m quite pleased with what we’ve done there at Minit. I was very, very lucky at Minit. The team I inherited was, on the whole (you know, it’s a little bit of movement), a really good team. When I started, I wrote down 6 key things I wanted to do, and one of them was to keep the founder in the business. So Rasto is a brilliant guy. Really nice guy. A real visionary. It’s his company. He’s a serial entrepreneur and I was delighted that I could keep him in the business as our chief strategy officer because he knows everything about the market and about the business. He’s building great relationships for us. But the rest of my team as well. I’ve got a great CTO, Jaro. The smartest person in the building is my operations director Zuzka, and then a couple of people I’ve hired in. People I’ve worked with before – John Spooner and Andrew Morris, and when I arrived at Minit they came to me and said “listen, do you have any roles there for us?”. And they’re guys I’ve worked with before who I really, really enjoyed working with. So I think for that team, you need to be hiring people who are really good. You need people you can coach and you need people who have that collegiate way of working. Yeah, that’s how we roll. So there’s very much a specific culture within Minit, and we sat down and tried to identify what some of those behaviors were. We did this across the whole company and what we came up with was (and I swear I didn’t influence this at all) something that was very similar to the Amazon leadership principles but with some stuff about looking after yourself added on at the end. And I quite like these because the only problem I had with the Amazon legion principles was there was nothing about looking after yourself or about sustaining your ability to work or whatever. And then a few weeks after we did this exercise, we discussed it as a company. We use that document all the time to make quite aligned decisions. I quoted a bit at some point this morning in a meeting. Andy Jassy took over and Amazon released their new slightly fluffier leadership principles with a lot of that ‘looking after yourself’ stuff added in. So I like to think we got there two or three weeks before Amazon.
J-M: And that leads me to a question about what you’re doing for you. Because obviously you’re sitting in a seat where you’re looking to try and make sure your staff are great. You’re raising the minimum bar, you’d rather keep a rec open than have a company full of seat-fillers. But for you as a CEO, what do you do to improve yourself? What sorts of information do you consume? Where are you investing your time to constantly be innovating on your own personal capabilities?
James: So some of it is external. You know, so I read a lot. I’ve always been an avid reader. I talk to other CEOs and other people who may not be CEOs, but I think they have incredible amounts of wisdom and experience. And this goes back to the conversation earlier about connections. I have been very lucky over my last few jobs to build some really good connections. So if you look at people like Stephen Dewitt who runs CloudBees or Wade Burgess. You know, these were guys I knew from there. Mihir Shukla at Automation Anywhere. Mihir has been very generous with his time talking to me as a rookie CEO and that’s given me insight into areas that I need to work on. My friends Mark Boone and Charlie Woodburn. Probably the biggest one though, is my wife, Joanne, who is very, very smart. She was a sales and marketing director when she was like 22 or something like that, and when we had kids I actually volunteered to give up work because she made a lot more money and she was far more capable and more of a high-flier than me. And she said “I don’t think so. I want to stay at home and be with our lovely babies”. So I stayed at my job. But her wisdom and her advice, especially around soft skills, we talk about quite a lot of things and she guides me in a direction. Maybe not around technical issues but certainly around people issues and organizational issues. I think she’s been astonishing in helping with that. So that’s the external stuff. Internally, I think we have a culture where I get really good feedback from my team, especially from Zuzanna, my operations director. I’ve always said: “look I made mistakes”. And part of our company culture is that we’re moving really fast. We’re in a growth market. We’re gonna move fast and that means we’re gonna make mistakes and we’re gonna accept that. But it doesn’t mean we just sit back and accept it. We accept it, but then we look at how we avoid that in the future. So having a team who are happy and feel safe enough to say “actually, James, that was a bit of a dick move.” Or just I think you’re making the wrong call here. I think that’s really important. So I think it’s probably my only real skill, maybe – I try to be very, very aware of when I’m getting something wrong and figure out what’s the thing I need to do to fix that.
Roland: Yeah, great advice. But maybe to close out this segment. When you think about our aspiring entry level / middle level listener, if you could put your learnings in maybe 2 or 3 sentences, what would be the advice that you would give to a junior person who’s aspiring to become a CEO at some point in time?
James: I think doing it in two or three sentences is totally impossible. But the answer is, there’s an awful lot of stuff. I think it’s really hard to give you like, you know, a couple of things, but I’ll try. I think the first one is that it’s always about people. It’s about your relationships with people and whether it’s the people who work for you and empowering and enabling them. Yeah that’s critical. It’s probably the biggest thing in your role. Maybe your peers as you’re moving through your career, how do you learn from them? How do you build those relationships? You know, these are people that you might want to do stuff with later on. There are always people around to learn from, whether they’re below you or next you or above you, and dealing with the people above you, yeah, doing that managing upwards part. What can you learn from those people? How can they help you? How can they help you help the business? And wherever you are, you will have people that you have to manage up to. I’m a CEO, but I’ve got investors I need to deal with. There are things they want; they have needs; they have requirements. I need to be able to satisfy those. As a CEO as well, a lot of the time you’ll realize that you don’t actually do things yourself. You have other people who do stuff. You have a head of sales and they run sales and you have a CMO and they do the marketing, so it’s about making sure those people are enabled. But it means you’ve got quite a long lever into the business. If your sales department fundamentally isn’t quite working, if the processes aren’t right, then your sales leadership needs to change those processes. So you need to help your sales leadership do that. Maybe then you realize you don’t have the right sales leadership, so you need to chase the sales leadership and that trickles down to the rest of the team. And when I say change it, it could be that you have to re-educate; you have to train. Maybe you need to push for a bit; sometimes, you may need to swap them out. But it means you have these long levers, so you kind of have to be both patient and also impatient at the same time. Because you have to push those changes forward as fast as you can, but no faster. Change is by its very nature a disruptive process and the danger you have, if you change things too quickly, if you push that bus too fast, people will fall off the bus. Some people will be unsettled by change. You may have staff turnover. One of the things I always look at whenever we’re going to change how a big chunk of the company or a small chunk of the company is working is what’s the impact on the people? Will there be people who’ll find that too uncomfortable? And one of the measures of success for me is ‘have I changed the business as fast as I can into a better place without damaging it, without losing people, without losing the trust of those people? So it always comes back to people as a CEO. My friend Mark Boone once flippantly said after a glass of wine “what is your job as a CEO? It’s about managing the energy in the building.” And the first thing I did was laugh and say that’s the most pretentious thing I’ve heard halfway through this bottle, whatever, but he was right as well. It is about getting the most out of the people in the building. The second thing is (and this is actually going to be the title of my book. Haven’t started writing it yet, but I’ve got a title, so don’t steal it) it’s all about the narrative. So as a CEO you have to tell stories; you have to persuade people to do things. And for thousands / tens of thousands of years we have told stories to each other as human beings because a story is the most compelling way of explaining something / of taking somebody on a journey. It’s why Amazon used the 6-page narrative rather than the powerpoint presentations. So whether I’m trying to encourage my team to come on a journey with me, I’m trying to show them the promised land and get people to give me everything they have to take me there; whether I’m trying to persuade potential investors to give me $50m, I’m telling stories. When I’m trying to persuade a particularly interesting candidate to join the business, I’ll be constructing narratives. Hey, I’m doing it right now and constructing a narrative for you and for your podcast listeners. And I think the more time I spend as a CEO, the more I realize that that ability to construct a narrative, to tell a story, to tell a compelling story, is one of the most critical skills you can have as a CEO.
J-M: So I’m hearing you both are a storyteller and a driver. You’re patient, compassionate and you’re focused on the people who make up the success that you enjoy as an organization. And man, that’s a powerful combination for everyone to consider on this podcast.
James: I don’t know… I think if you asked my team, “is James patient?” They’d say “yeah, sometimes…” We haven’t had a question about what are your greatest areas for development. I think becoming more patient is definitely one. I’m quite kind of [claps hands]. I’m quite ‘let’s go. let’s go’. I know I bring that energy. And with that comes a bit of impatience, but certainly I’m learning to be patient. Getting the most out of people can sometimes require more patience than what may come naturally to me. But part of my journey has been to learn that patience or at least maybe to conceal the seething, raging impatience I have beneath my skin at the right time.
Roland: I’m definitely looking forward to reading your book – I didn’t know you were planning on writing one! So let us know when it’s out. But maybe let’s take a little break and listen to some music. But while we’re doing this, dear listeners, you might want to think about you and your career. Where are you headed? What are your plans over the next couple of years and what specific actions will you take to build your capabilities and your connections in a similar way that James did so that you achieve your goals. We’re gonna be back in a few seconds with our third segment.
Musical Interlude: “Wish You Knew Me”, Jeremy Voltz
J-M: All right folks. Thanks so much for taking a couple of seconds to think about how you might build your career with some amazing lessons from our good friend. Now, James, we wanted to talk a little bit about what you actually do with Minit and its industry. I know, we know Minit is a young-ish player in the process mining industry, coming in and being that challenger against a lot of entrenched companies. How do you compare yourself? How did you distinguish yourself from those entrenched players and how are you building on those special capabilities or approaches to really stand out in this congested field?
James: So I think there are two things here. The first one is around product. We think there are things that we do that no one else does. There’s some decent competition in the market, but I’ll talk about that in a second. But we think there are some things actually around the product around root cause analysis, around simulations, actually around how you visualize how the process is working to people in the business, that we do very, very well and that’s really a key thing. IT divisions don’t buy process money because it’s cool and shiny. Companies by processing technology because it helps them run their businesses. The ultimate consumer of the output that we have from our process mining technology are the people in the business. So unless you can clearly show those people ‘this is happening this is the probable cause and here’s how the outcomes might vary depending on what you do,’ – unless you can clearly show them that so they can then say “right, I now know what I’m going to change in my part of the business, I’m the business owner, these are the changes I’m going to make.” Unless you do that, you’re not really giving them the answers that they need. And we think we’re very, very good at that. I would say as well, when it comes to competition, there’s not as much as people think. Because you have some pretty big companies – UI Path is a good example, a great automation company. I competed against them for years, and they’ve got some process mining technology, but I will quite happily compete against it. We’re well aware of the technology. We think what we have on a product level is significantly better, and it’s not their focus. And if you want to take a best-of-breed approach, do you go to a company for process mining where process mining is very much a second or third string on their bow? Or do you go to a company whose only focus every day, every week, every year is to build the best possible process mining technology to help you as a business improve what you’re doing?
J-M: It’s interesting – this connects back to selecting people for roles, because you’re using the same argument as you would to build the best team at an organization. As in, don’t get seat-filler technology where it’s not the best thing. It’s one of the things in what they do, but you know it’ll do okay for now. No. Only get great.
James: I think that’s right. Some businesses like that best-of-breed approach; some businesses do like to go to a single spire. There was the phrase ‘they want a single neck to strangle.’ And I do see over the next 12 / 24 / 36 months there will be some consolidation. We’re already seeing it. We’re seeing companies like SAP and IBM – they’ve made acquisitions in the process mining space. So certainly, if you’re an SAP shop, you may want to go to SAP and say “hey we want to have your amazing yeah ERP stuff and we want to have the process mining that goes with it.” But there will be many many businesses that don’t want to take that approach. They do want that ‘best of breed’ approach and when I look at the process mining market. There’s a couple of realistic players, us and one other who I won’t name. I’m not going to give them that free air time. The middle ranks have been very much depleted by that M&A activity and they really are down to some pretty small subscale companies. So I think there aren’t that many options if you want genuine best-of-breed process mining technology. I’m not sure there are as many options as people think there are. What we have to remember is a lot of people who say we’ve got process mining – honestly, they don’t. They’ve got task mining; they’ve got process discovery. Those are great technologies, but they’re not process mining. They deliver a very, very different outcome. They tell you what your processes are meant to be. We’re telling people actually how those processes work as we said at the top of the show.
J-M: This is really interesting to me. I was looking at the Magic Quadrant for process mining because you know, that’s a pretty hot topic that’s happening, and being analyzed by a lot of these different consulting and analysis firms, and Minit for its size (in terms of the number of people) is incredibly well positioned. How did you get that to happen? How did you get that really primo spot in this analysis quadrant off of a small number of people on your team and a challenger market entry position.
James: So it really comes out of the product. The product’s very good. We do things that no one else can, and we’ve always pushed into the analyst community in a very product-first way. I can tell you what we haven’t done is throw lots of money at them.
J-M: Really, you haven’t just bought your spot?
James: I’ll be absolutely honest – I have better things to do with the money. So no, I’m aware people sometimes take those analyst reports with a pinch of salt. You know, is it pay-to-play? In our case, no, it absolutely wasn’t. We work with those analysts. It’s actually a strand that’s been led by Rasto Hlavac who’s our founder and my chief strategy officer. And he’s done a very, very good job of engaging. But I think where he’s done exceptionally well is being able to articulate and demonstrate how well the technology works. Because it’s not just about what we have now. ‘What’s the process mining capability today?’ But what’s the thing that people are going to be doing tomorrow, or in six months, or in twelve months? I mentioned earlier root cause analysis – super powerful. Because you don’t just want to know you’ve got a problem here. You want to say well, what’s the thing that’s actually causing that problem. Simulations. It’s expensive to change processes and if they’re production processes, it’s also risky. You know, production processes tend to be a bit inviolate because of their very nature. If you can simulate the effect of change on your processes – what would the outcomes be like if you did X, Y and Z, that’s hugely powerful. So I think we’ve done a very good job of explaining what we have and where we’re moving towards, and I think that’s been reflected in what the analysts have said about us. And I’m very, very proud of the team for the work they’ve done there. I think it shows us in a good light, and I think in a very, very fair light.
Roland: Oh, absolutely, and your positioning in those analyst quadrants was basically the trigger for me to reach out to you to be part of the show here. Let’s have a look forward, James. How do you see the process mining market in general and Minit especially evolve going forward? What are the main topics that you see in the foreseeable future that process mining companies and the overall process market will face?
James: I think process mining still has a really long way to go just becoming a mainstream technology. And to me, I remember being a bit puzzled when I first understood what it was, just going “why isn’t everyone doing this?” Why would you be throwing automation at stuff or hiring expensive consultants, or using other process improvement methods like Lean or Six Sigma wherever without first of all understanding if you have a problem or not or where that problem is. And we talk to a lot of big companies – we have a lot of big enterprise customers – but it certainly hasn’t gone big across the board yet. We’re still a few years away from that. And it reminds me, really, of 2015 in the RPA business. When people were just starting to go ‘hey they’re in these software bot things and they can do stuff that really frees up a whole load of time and money and it does things quicker and better and more efficiently and more accurately,’ and all this stuff. I remember really believing in that first two hour conversation, standing outside King’s Cross in freezing cold. Two hours on the phone with the guy who became my boss, Mark Fletcher, and he told me the story. He sold me the story and it turned out to be true. I think we’re in exactly the same place today with process mining. It will become a very, very big mainstream technology. In 5 years time, every company in the world, every enterprise, will have process mining embedded into their business, because why wouldn’t you? Ask any CEO or any CIO, “would you like to understand how well your process is working in a very granular accurate fashion, or not” and it really is as simple as that. So that’s where I think the overall market is going. For us, I think there’s some more interesting bits of capability we can add on. I’ve talked about RPA and about simulation. There’s some core parts of the product we want to really improve. So at the moment we’re doing some really interesting stuff. It’s very internal and slightly boring if we describe it.
Roland: Oh yeah, we don’t want you to spill the beans here, right?
J-M: No, no, spill the beans!
James: It’s stuff like: ‘how can we rebuild our models around processes much much more quickly you know, and that’s really hard and really clever, and that’s one of the things we’re really working on. We cover an awful lot of the software ecosystem in terms of the systems we can connect to. So ERPs, CRMs, but there’s always more, so there’s a continual kind of ‘repainting the fifth or fourth bridge’ there and making sure that what we have connects very well and very quickly to the systems that other people are using. I think there is a move in the market towards consolidation, and for me, it’s a bit of a trifecta. There’s a bit of a holy trinity of process mining, automation and maybe coordination/workflow management. And we’re seeing people start to build up those consolidated stacks. I referenced SAP and IBM earlier. But I think, for us, making sure that we have the right strategic partnerships and the right technical relationships with some of the big companies in those other spaces is really important. And we’re already seeing that. We have customers that we work alongside some of the big RPA vendors – UI Path, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism. So staying ahead of the game with that. So. It’s very easy for a customer to come to us and say listen, we’re using Oracle and we’re using Automation Anywhere and we’re using Workcato or Workday or whatever this be and we say yes, fine. Bang. And it just works. And it gets them to a return on their investment, which is what they’re looking for. It gets that return on investment quicker than it would otherwise. I think there’s work for us to do there for certain, but it’s the right sort of work.
J-M: And I think that’s something we say a lot on the podcast, is the certainty that comes along with evidence-based decision-making. We say those words a lot: evidence-based decision-making, because it kind of forces a conversation about the opposite. If you aren’t using evidence/data to help make decisions on how processes need to evolve, what are you using?
James: I think that’s probably one of the key things. In fact, this might be the most profound thing I think any of us have said, you’re absolutely right. And I’ll give you a very specific example of that. We have quite a few people who come to us and quite a few enterprises who come to us and say look, three years ago or whatever we engaged on the automation journey. And we’ve done some of the obvious low hanging fruit. Can you now help us find maybe the slightly higher hanging fruit. Can you instrument our processes to tell us where we put the next 50 or 100 or 500 bots. Because there was an obvious issue around Procure to Pay and we had 30 people sitting there and we’ve managed to move them on to do other things in the business to get more value, and we’ve automated all of that. But what about the rest of finance? What about logistics, what about operations, what about HR, what about internal IT? There are all these places where companies know that there are opportunities to refine their processes or to automate their processes. What we can do is show you where that is. For me, if I had done my first big chunk of automation, the very next thing I’d do would be to give us a call and say “show me where the next set of savings are for automation or for scramble six sigma or whatever.”
Roland: Yeah I agree. The low hanging fruit, once it’s gone, what are the next things? But we’re coming to the top of the hour; James, and I want to be cautious of your time. Having said that, how can people reach out to you if they listened to the interview and they said “that James guy, that’s a very interesting character and I definitely want to get in touch with him”? What are the ways to reach out to you and connect with you?
James: So there are many ways. If you go to the Fountain Pub in Ely on a Saturday night after the news is finished, I’ll be in the bar on the left, just ask John the landlord, where I am. Easy to find my email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org or simplest to probably go to the Minit website www.minit.io and find the ‘contact us’ form or just contact anyone and say please can I speak to your CEO. And between May and September, most Saturday mornings, I’ll be at Brands Hatch riding round in leathers on my beloved ricer trying very, very hard, not to fall off, and I’m using my happiest then, so very good time to come and find me.
J-M: Well, that’s wonderful and thank you so much for a lot of really amazing insights. You know, behind the scenes of our stuff I have a little notepad that I take notes on when someone says something really interesting. I write a little note “hey, this is a quote to use for the show”, and I’ve filled in my quotes for this. It’s incredible. So thank you so much, James, for incredible insight into what you do and who you are and why those things are in harmony.
And also a huge thank you to our wonderful audience. We wouldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for you, our listeners. So thank you all for tuning in to What’s Your Baseline, the podcast, and of course if you want to give back, give us some information. So go to Anchor and leave us a voice message. Or you can send us an email at email@example.com and that will let us know what you love and what you want to see more of, and help us shape the next podcast we make to bring you to different aspects of architecture and process all over the place. If you can, please leave us a rating and review in the podcatcher of choice, that helps us defeat those nasty algorithms. And as always you can find the full show notes, including a transcript, on our website at whatsyourbaseline.com/episode20 . Well, as always, I’ve been J-M Erlendson.
James: I’ve been James Dening.
Roland: And my name is Roland Woldt.
J-M: And we will see you in the next one.
Roland Woldt is a well-rounded executive with 25+ years of Business / Digital Transformation consulting and software development/system implementation experience, in addition to leadership positions within the German Armed Forces (11 years).
He has worked as a Team Lead, Engagement/Program Manager, and Enterprise/Solution Architect for many projects. Within these projects, he was responsible for the full project life cycle from shaping a solution and selling it, to setting up a methodological approach through design, implementation, and test, up to the rollout of solutions.
In addition to this Roland has managed consulting offerings during their lifecycle from the definition, delivery to update, and had revenue responsibility for them. This also included the stand-up and development of consulting teams, and their day-to-day management.