Elevate Human Potential With Innovative Automation on the hello, Human Podcast

Our podcast, hello, Human, features the leading builders, explorers, and warriors of AI. Together, we investigate how they’re putting AI to work to transform enterprises and make sustainable progress on automation, privacy, business disruption, human-bot teaming, and much more. We strive to make each episode intelligent and engaging, with the ultimate goal of improving your understanding of the opportunities AI can bring to your business and our world.

FortressIQ | Intelligent Insights for the Modern Enterprise
Episode 7 - Elevate Human Potential With Innovative Automation
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In episode #7, my guest was Ben Nabulsi, a process data scientist at dentsu, one of the largest advertising, marketing, and media agency groups in the world. On this episode, Ben and I talked about using automation to elevate the human potential while still considering the human. Dentsu has long been at the forefront of innovative automation, and has deftly used automation and AI to increase the productivity and effectiveness of their 60,000-plus employees spread across 145 countries. The mission of their Automation Center of Excellence, where Ben works, is to elevate the human potential.

“My daily journey starts with looking at the recent mining,” said Ben. “We’re looking at the database and the signals we have, to refine it and to mine more. It’s like hunting for the good process, high quality process, so we can document and share with the business, and get the feedback.”

While the process intelligence gives Ben insights on how the business operates at dentsu, he gets more excited when investigating new, novel technologies that can enhance how workers actually work. In using FortressIQ, for example, dentsu was able to map and document over 2,200 processes in just a few months. From there, they found opportunities to work with different disciplines on the business side, executives of their various agencies, and others to improve processes down to the user level.

As with everyone else, the pandemic arrived with the potential to derail everything Ben had worked so long and hard to improve. But, instead of pulling back, the team doubled-down. They already had experience with how workers used the different systems, tools, and processes, but working from home shifted everything. So, they started digging for opportunities to improve their new normal. One negative impact was a lack of context, given that workers were sometimes out of the loop on certain digital conversations. Ben quickly drilled down to not only find areas for improvement, but also start thinking about which human behaviors will or won’t stick once their teams go back into the office.

“Something like work from home analysis, how did it really impact us as a business?”, recalled Ben. “Whether it was through specialized or productivity apps, they had to go work from home—we all did. That was very insightful to see how their behavior had changed. How did it impact the short- or long-term application usage and how people behave?”

Understanding human behaviors is at the root of automation, especially if you want that automation to work alongside real humans. It’s even more of a challenge when you’re automating the flexible, creative workflow of advertising and marketing, which don’t use traditional enterprise tools and flip between what each client uses. But dentsu has been a pioneer in automating such processes, and they attribute some of that success to being focused on the real processes rather than what a manual says the process should be.

“With FortressIQ, we are able to tap into the user logs, not just the system logs,” Ben explained. “Now we’re looking at the behavior of the user. That was one of the success factors. For the first time we’re able to see the process for what it is, not how it should be. This helps when we transform because the conversations are more real, are more based on numbers, based on behavior, not just how the system menu or the manual is.”

Of course, analyzing the real process means looking over the digital shoulder of every worker. That tends to bring up concerns around privacy, security, and trust. Again, Ben focuses on the human behind the process. 

“It’s one of the trickiest things in this kind of culture change, because everyone is like, ‘Oh, you’re looking at my screen, you’re seeing what I’m doing,’” said Ben. “But it all starts with explaining the technology (and) having this very honest conversation. Anytime they feel uncomfortable they can say, ‘Can we be off?’, and we’re always open. We don’t force it on anyone.”

Ben also explains to workers that he’s not really interested in them checking the news or shopping. To Ben, that’s all noise and it distracts from his efforts to decode work and find opportunities to drive business value. But, he’s having the conversations, being open about what they’re doing, and explaining what is and isn’t relevant. That’s what builds trust. 

And it’s working! Ben has had more than 200 workers volunteer to participate in their program. Part of that momentum is the support and reinforcement his efforts get from their executive leadership, from their VP of Automation up to their CEO. Again, it’s the human element of explaining the goals, getting workers on board, and building excitement for what automation can do for both humans and the company.

“Having these sponsors and supporters, they see the vision of where we can go year over year, and that has been very helpful to support this program,” said Ben. “The human element has been one of the most important things beside the technology. It’s exciting to work with such dynamics.”

Ben also mentioned how they’re sharing with the entire company the as-is process definition documents created by FortressIQ, and how that’s driving further interest and trust in the overall initiative. In other words, they’re using process intelligence to change the culture of their organization. Now that’s innovative!

Hear all of my discussion with Ben, including how dentsu is building an automation roadmap into 2025, using AI to analyze terabytes of process intelligence data, and his top tips for those embarking on a process automation initiative, all on the hello, Human podcast. Subscribe to hello, Human on your podcast app of choice, or read the full podcast transcript here.

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