#64 Public Sector Process Automation…What’s coming in 2023 with Paul Blackwell at Nintex

Interview

Public Sector Process Automation...What's coming in 2023 with Paul Blackwell at Nintex

This time The Automation Guys are joined by process and automation expert for the public sector, Paul Blackwell, of Nintex.  Paul, who formerlyworked for K2, joined Nintex as part of the aquisition of the K2 platform back in 2020.  In this episode Paul talks about Nintex expertise as an end-to-end automation platform and how the business is positioning itself to support the public sector with automation and optimisation of processes to support the challenges ahead for the new year.

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Sascha: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Process and Automation podcast with the automation guys. Usually you hear Arno, myself talking about all things process and automation, but today we have, uh, things a little bit different, um, because today we have a great guest on the podcast who is as passionate about process and automation as we are.

It is with great pleasure to welcome our next interview guest to our podcast. He is the manager public sector, UK and Ireland at Nintex. Hello Paul. Thank you for joining Arno and myself today.

Paul Blackwell: Thanks very much for inviting me Sascha and Arno. Thanks very much.

Sascha: Please tell us a bit more about you and what you’re doing at Nintex.

Paul Blackwell: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Um, well I, I’ve been at Nintex for a couple of years. Came across, uh, in 2020 as part of an acquisition of a company called K2, which, uh, hopefully some of the listeners will be familiar as well. Um, in a way, K2 and Nintex were, were huge competitors, for 10 years. And, and then we joined together and it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. Um, so combined, I would’ve been with, with the same company, if you like, continuous employment for about thirteen years at the end of December. Um, and I’ve worked across all kinds of sectors and countries. Right now I’m doing the public sector in the UK and Ireland.

Uh, but before that I’ve worked across all of Europe, you know, from Tel Aviv to toing. So, um, Before that I worked for a company called Capita who were a business process outsource company, uh, in the UK and then also a company called Tower Software, who are now called HP in the field of documents and records management, ERMS.

So I’ve kind of been involved in Process and Automation, documents and so on for about 20 years. Wow. Yeah.

Sascha: Pretty much like Arno and myself. I think Arno, um, uh, and myself working with various intelligent automation vendors for more, like more than 15 years with those vendors we support, uh, companies with all things process and automation. So with that background, we have done that. Where do you see, um, the sweet spot specifically now after your, your experience with different companies, um, for Nintex in the market?

Paul Blackwell: Yeah, I think, I count myself as really fortunate in that, you know, working for Nintex because it is a, um, an end-to-end automation platform.

So it’s not a just a company that just does one thing. Um, Nintex has this whole graph of sweetest products, if you like, across workflow forms, but then also, yeah, RPA and document generation and signatures, business intelligence and so on. So, yeah, you know, we’re, we’re in a, a really good position, I think right now.

Um, of course the world isn’t perhaps in such a great position, but, um, , we have to just get through that, you know. I’m covering public services and, you know, it’s quite clear there’s gonna be cutbacks in that area. So, you know, what we’re trying to do, uh, what I’m trying to do is just to, to help customers get going on the automation journey, which I know, will definitely save them time and save them money, which will enable them to do things in a better way. So, it’s a good time I think, to be involved because we’re gonna help people, you know, get over the difficult times, uh, and hopefully recover a bit quicker.

Arno: Yeah, no, that is, um, that’s quite topical, the automation and optimization especially. You touched a bit on the economic forecast and outlook for 2023. Um, it, it looks quite scary out there and I think that automation is certainly something specifically in public sector, I suppose as well, that allows organizations to, to really, um, you know, cut, cut that unnecessary costs. And it sounds like, you know, with you at Nintex and obviously your experience, Paul, you are exposed to, to quite a lot of use cases and the way that you can use Nintexto, you know, deploy automation solutions.

Um, You know, just kind of thinking maybe, um, back at, at, at the sort of things that, that you got involved with type of projects, um, you know, what um, do you think is the, the, the most, um, exciting and impactful use cases, um, that can be delivered or that was delivered on, on the Nintex platform? I think our listeners are very interested in obviously, technology, automation technologies. Um, you’ve mentioned, that Nintex got quite a, a few capabilities within inside its platform, so it’d be nice to understand, you know, what, what do you think are those great use cases, uh, for the platform?

Paul Blackwell: Absolutely. I get to see quite a lot about, you know, real applications, things that get used. It’s one of the reasons why I’m passionate about public sector. A lot of people would say, oh, public sector, you know, isn’t that a load of filling in forms and a lot of tenders and stuff like that, you know, especially in, in sales like I am.

But, um, the actual use cases, what they do with technology can be really interesting. Um, and I, I’ve been very passionate about case management. Uh, you’ll know, uh, I know we used to work with a guy and he developed using k2, you know, which is still a, a core part of the offering that Nintex have, uh, on premise, um, is, is is Nintex automation for on-premises, which was K2 five.

And, and he developed the initial thinking around, around case management. And that’s where I’ve seen a huge amount of things that I thought were, were exciting, um, challenging, uh, you know, some really tough stuff. So, uh, you know, something that’s in the news right now. Um, again, working alongside, uh, one of my previous employers, um, where how they handled asylum applications.

And actually removing people from the UK, you know mm-hmm. , putting them on planes to go to different places. Um, I worked on a project which was around the management of, of ankle bracelets for prisoners. Again, the kind thing that you, you know, when you work for a process company, you don’t expect to be involved in those kind of things.

But I did, and, and actually there’s another one I know that you know pretty well Arno, which was around the contingency planning, um, for a London hospital, just in case there was an EMP attack, you know, or something like that, you know, from, from, uh, from bad people. I did firework display permissions for a fire brigade and I’ve been really lucky, again, I’ve spent time working with some of the, you know, the people like MI five for instance. You know, it’s, You know, you watch a program like Spook Thing, it probably hasn’t been on for a few years in the UK now, but, and you get to see some of their capabilities that they, they require to carry out their work and you see some of our technology spilling over into their world. Yeah. So, you know, it’s, of course it’s really important for somebody to do their expense claim or their holiday request and whatever. That’s, that’s workflow. That’s, Automation. But I get the real buzz out of the stuff, you know, getting to go into a hospital and getting to see how our technology has, has helped the patient journey around the hospital to be less paper.

Arno: And make a big difference. And, and I think that, you know, um, there is this sort of, I don’t speak for everybody, but it’s this sort of, General consensus that automation is a private sector, financial services, that’s the, that’s the sweet spot, that that’s the place where it needs to be applied the most.

Um, but I think that there are certainly very interesting opportunities within inside private sector. Um, some of the examples you’ve just used, um, you know, uh, if you look specifically inside the NHS, Um, regardless if it’s NHS back office, um, you know, optimization, fraud detection, things like that.

Anything to do with procurement, you know, to, to make budgets go further or patient care. So, so I think that, Public sector is actually quite an interesting place. Um, perhaps it needs more innovation and that’s why it’s exciting to get involved with it because there’s a lot of things, I guess, in the private sector that has got carryovers to public sector and by the sounds of it there, there are a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot of use cases. Um, you know, and you’ve just touched on a few, I’m pretty sure you know that there are thousands of these, so Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for that .

Sascha: Many use cases now. Yeah.

Paul Blackwell: Yeah, no, thanks Sasha. Yeah, I, I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s something that, you know, and I, you know, without giving, giving away, you know, secrets from Nintex in terms of the direction of travel, of where the company’s going, but it’s, you know, we recognize that, you know, for an organization to build out some of these things, they’re gonna need not, not one piece, you know, not just RPA or not just workflow or electronic forms or digital signatures, but they’re gonna need all of these things together as one package and Nintex changed its pricing, uh, just a couple of months ago to kind of come up with all you can eat offer, you know, the, the, the whole product stack, whatever you need, you know, you get it all for one, you know, in, in one go, one hit, um, for the enterprise.

And I think exactly as you were just saying, Arno yes, that’s gonna be attractive to a, a bank or a financial services organization, but it’s also gonna be attractive to the, the government body, which has to do lots of different things. And, and, you know, Of course the citizen is always gonna be front and center for much of the, of the processes that are developed within public services.

Uh, and again, I’ve seen some, some great stuff in Malta and all kinds of countries across Europe whereby, you know, they’re doing much more citizen interactive services using technologies. It’s not just about the back office or the automation of the back office.

Sascha: Indeed, Germany, where I have lots of contacts there, there’s a big, big, uh, program currently underway to do collect basically over 285 of the, the current services of local government sort of into this, uh, digital bringing, bring it into digital really. And they struggle, um, otherwise to really get going. But,  hopefully a platform like Nintex, um, can, can support them.

Paul Blackwell: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, we, and, and Nintex or, or, or their technology of choice. You know, it’s , it’s, uh, of course there’s good technologies out there. You know, we’re, we’re, we’re one of them. I like to think we’re the best, but, but absolutely, we’re not arrogant enough to think that we’re the only choice in town.

So, uh, you know, as you say, as long as people get going on automation, that’s all that matters. You know, get yourself.

Sascha: Indeed. So, yeah, in intelligent automation, hyper automation, these are sort of the, the big passwords of the last years. Looking a bit into the, the future, 2023 maybe, where do you see things developing for companies, uh, in these areas?

Paul Blackwell: It’s only about six weeks away you know, 2023. It’s not that much into the future, but, but you’re right. 2024, 2025, and so on. Um, Hyper automation is interesting. I, I wasn’t sure if it was something a, a term that was phrased because somebody said, oh, we need something a bit more than automation, Oh, let’s go hyper automation. You know, and I know, you know, I know what it means. Um, but you know, it’s, it, it kind of, you know, do we then get super hyper automation and platinum hyper automation and. My personal thing, it’s, it’s all about, you know, people shouldn’t rush to automate something just because we call it something different.

It doesn’t mean, oh, this is what we need to be doing. Um, you know, it, some companies end up with a bit of business indigestion and, and they get, you know, I remember talking about workflow 10 years ago and, and companies would say, oh yeah, we tried that. You know, we tried Tipco, whatever it was back in the day and it didn’t work for us.

It made employees do things the way they didn’t want to do them. And I think that’s where things go, go a bit wrong. You know, if you, if you hyper automate a bad process, you gotta end up just doing the same thing quicker and, and with greater speed and at a greater cost. Um, so look, you know, start slowly, start simply and, and, and, and I think that’s, what I would like to see companies doing is perhaps just taking a little bit more time to think about what’s right for them. Get back to the basics, map out the processes, put the people at the front of what they’re doing, and you know, what is it? People, process and technology. Well, you know, people’s at the beginning of that.

So, you know, get people to come together and work out what’s right for them. Um, for us I think, I think you know, the big ones right now. And, and you, we’ve seen it with companies like Celonis and like Cryon, which is the company that, that Nintex have, uh, have again recently taken over mm-hmm. and merged into our product set, which is around process mining, process discovery, task mining.

Um, I think if you, Going to the website. I, I passed it around my company this morning, actually. I came across it, uh, on LinkedIn, which was the cio.com website, a piece by Johnson and Johnson, the big pharmaceutical company, and they were saying that they were aiming to save half a billion dollars through intelligent automation, right?

500 million an amazing figure. And yet they said they’re already over halfway there by implementing the right things within with the intelligent automation. Um, but they did talk about how they initially struggled with it. Uh, and part of that was that the people didn’t know their business processes as well as they thought they did.

So they go to the head of customer services, let’s say, please, I’m, I’m not quoting Johnson and Johnson there, but they’d go to the head of customer services and he’d say, oh, this is how we do it. And it turned out it wasn’t perhaps exactly the way that they do things. So they employed a, a task mining tool, a process mining tool to do that.

Uh, and then that not only uncovered that particular process, Uh, found a few more processes that they didn’t even know existed, so if you ask me where things are going, I think there’s gonna be a lot more demand and a lot more people interested in that front end of, you know, what actually is our process then.

Arno: I think you’ve actually, in a roundabout way, answered my next question, which was, you know, what, what is your advice for companies that wants to get started with Digital transformation projects and automation projects. And I think one thing that I, that I, that kind of stood out, and maybe we can talk a bit about that, is to get started.

So, I mean, what, what is your sort of go-to advice that you, you know, if you, or if you have to pick three things you have to tell somebody that, you know, have a corridor conversational, maybe you’ve met somebody at, on an online event or at a physical event, you know, and they want to get started. You know, what, what is your advice to them?

Paul Blackwell: So I have to be very careful Arno you know, cause I can’t be controversial. Well, I can a little bit. So look, look, you know, take it that this is my opinion, right? , but you know, first of all, don’t rush in. I think that a lot of RPA, a lot of companies, it seems to me over the last five years have said, oh, we must get a, and they’ve bought some robots from, from a, from a provider.

They’ve not really used them and they’ve not really thought about how they’re gonna use them. And it’s given them a bit like workflow 10, 15 years ago. It’s left people with a little bit of a bad taste in their mouth that maybe, sure this isn’t, this isn’t right. And I, I think they’ve, they’ve rushed in and, you know, you gotta get back to the brass tax and think about the people and the processes before spending the money.

You know what’s really important? Get good advice from specialists, people that know what they’re doing. And yes, you can go to the vendors, people like, you know, I’ve been doing this a long time, you can come and ask me. But you know, there are specialist people out there, not from the Big four, but people who actually specialize in, in good automation advice.

Arno: Like the automation guys, for example.

Paul Blackwell: Is that what you guys do? You never talk about.

Arno: It keeps us out of trouble. And, um, but yeah, on a, a serious note, I think that yes, I, I guess there’s always a, a vendor-driven approach where the vendor will offer a different narrative to what a consultancy approach would be. Um, yes. So we pretty much on the consultancy side, where we look at the landscape, we look at the goals you want to achieve.

Um, we also look at, you know, the, the, the. The size of, and your appetite for, for, for automation projects. So if you have a very strategic project in mind and it, it turns into a program of work, that’s the sort of thing that will give strategic advice. If it’s more of a tactical, well, we want to dip our toe into RPA or Nintex workflow, for example, whatever that is, you know, that, that’s gonna be a, a sort of a slightly different approach.

Um, so, so I guess. What you’re saying is look at your processes, make sure that what you want to automate is, is kind of clear. And then overlay tech on top of that to understand what’s the most effective way to actually go and automate things so you don’t end up with automating the wrong things or, um, you know, creating automation projects, which turns into novelty projects or worse, worse, even, um, having a great technology but having no application for it inside your business?

Paul Blackwell: Hundred percent. It, it’s on, I was reading, I’m doing some research and I was reading, uh, Sascha’s website and you know, they, it talked there about, you know, one of the things that, that Sascha’s company recommends, which is to run a small scale pilot project first.

Yeah, great advice. You know, that’s Sascha, that’s exactly what people should be doing. Pick an easy process and a hard one and then, you know, get somebody to work with you to kind of say, Is this gonna work or not? Where could we, what, what would be the best things to use? And so on. So, mm-hmm. . So I think Sascha, you know, you, you, you’ve already written a blog piece, on this, right?

Sascha: Yes, indeed. Yeah. Completely agree.

Paul Blackwell: Yeah. Yep. So, uh, so, you know, yeah, there’s, you know, take your time, don’t rush in, get good advice and, you know, pick some things that you know are the, are perhaps some, some easy wins, but things where you can learn. Rather than, yeah, let’s, let’s go spend loads of money on something , you know, I want you to do that eventually, but I want you to get there through your own findings and the fact that you actually come to that realization and, you know, we’re in Gartner said about Nintex, you know, the what’s, what’s Nintex strength?

And as well as our technology, it’s the fact we’ve already got 10,000 customers and so we’ve got 10,000 people using our technology, who we’ve done exactly that with. They’ve started with one of the things that we do, and now we’re able to talk to them about, let’s go and do some more. Let’s, let’s use some technologies. So yeah, that’s where we are.

Sascha: We and our listeners like to get to know our interview guests a bit more. So a bit more than just the technical and the business side. Mm-hmm. , that’s why we like you to ask a couple of quick questions, which are really not technical and business related. Um, so are you up for it?

Paul Blackwell: Oh man. Where could this go? Um, yeah, yeah, go on then. Go on. Alright.

Sascha: Who is your idol and why?

Paul Blackwell: You know, my wife’s not listening, so it’s okay. I don’t have to say my wife, although I do think she’s absolutely amazing. Cause, you know, in our, in our, in our job, we have to do loads of stuff, uh, that’s out of hours and traveling and suddenly plans change. You know, she’s looking forward to a summer holiday one day, and, you know, it’s, it’s coming up to our 25th wedding anniversary, so I suppose I hope to take her somewhere, but, I’m a, I’m a cricket person, right?

That’s my, my sport. I love cricket. Uh, England just won the, uh, mm-hmm. , the T 20 World Cup. Uh, yeah. This weekend has gone. So, um, but I have a particular person called Jeffrey Boycott, who’s, um, a, a player from the 1970s and 1980s. Very single minded approach to what he did. Um, and when I first took up cricket, I got his book, uh, and I read it, and that’s what helped me to, to, to do the same things as he did.

You know, he, he wasn’t an entertainer, He studied hard, he listened, and then he put into that in wanted to practice and so, Yeah. People laugh for me for that. But anyway, that’s my, uh, that’s my, my hero. He’s Jeffrey Boycott.

Arno: Oh, cool. Yeah. Brilliant. Well, you just said a poignant thing there about being a good listener and that, that’s such an important, I think, attribute for any human being to have is to be able to listen to somebody speak because I think everybody wants to be listened to. Um, so I guess if it’s uh, uh, you know, if that comes through in the book, then I can see why this particular person is your idol. And you also have to listen to your wife as well. When she says you’re going on holiday, she actually means she wants you on holiday this year with her there.

 

Paul Blackwell: Yes, you’re right.

Sascha: Vacation these days you’ll be there, but.

Arno: Okay. Um, so let’s move it on slightly then. Um, so I’ve got a question for you, Paul. Yeah. Um, so imagine you can get all the contents and knowledge of a book instantly. Which book would you choose?

Paul Blackwell: Okay. I, I do read a lot of books. I’ve got a lot of books on my shelves, but they’re all like science fiction and stuff like that, so I, I don’t think there’s any of those.

Um, if. You know what I, I would really like to be able to do and it’s something I can’t do is right. Mm-hmm. when, when the techie guys get, I go to a meeting and then the techie guys get talking and I can’t contribute cause I haven’t got a clue about developing code or anything like that. And I just love the way you know, that they are able to switch from one thing to another.

So I know it’s a bit weird, maybe, Is there a. Developing code book or in net or something, or Java, something like that where I can instantly understand the technical conversation that these guys are having. Cause I, I hugely admire what they’re to do, you know?

Sascha: So the next one, uh, is what’s the best advice you have ever received?

Paul Blackwell: The best advice I’ve ever received, um, . Wow. Okay. Um, I mean, it, when you’re, when you’re in, in a, in a sales-oriented role, you get loads of advice and loads of people saying stuff and, uh, you know, it, it’s, um, it’s interesting actually. It was only something that I read last week on, on LinkedIn again, that, uh, somebody was saying, look, if somebody asks you to talk, don’t say, oh, you know, I’m, I, I want to be paid.

Just do it because at the end of the day, if people will listen then and people will hear your opinions and what you’ve got to say. And maybe if they like it, then they might gravitate towards you and do something. So, you know, look, give up your time for free and, you know, and, and things work. You know, I do a lot of volunteering, uh, in the community and helping out with, with kids, with sports and so on.

And, and so I just, just, you know, if you’ve got time, then give it because you’ll get back more in return then than never the keeping of it, you know, that’s, that’s what I would advise people to do.

Arno: Yeah. Amazing, amazing. Um, and the last one for you, Paul, is if you could be an Olympic athlete, what sport would you choose?

Paul Blackwell: Is Cricket in there yet in the Olympics? Cricket/

Arno: Don’t, don’t think think so.

Sascha:  That’s, that’s a tricky, would definitely, will be next, I guess.

Paul Blackwell: Oh look.

Arno: Um, apart from T 20 Cricket, of course, because we know you’re the world’s biggest England fan. .

Paul Blackwell: Well, I, I think so. I, I’m just, uh, It’s just something we were talking about.

I know before we started it was just, uh, running. Uh, I know you are a, you’re clearly a runner, Sascha. Uh, and I took up running, uh, in the last year or so about the last 18 months. And, uh, so, uh, I, I run 5k, every Saturday morning, something called Park Run, uh, which I think is a worldwide That’s very good.

Yeah. Yeah. Big in the uk. So perhaps the 5k, the 5,000. In the, in, in the Olympics. Maybe . I won’t finish first, but you know, I’ll give it a go.

Arno: So watch out Mo Farrow, right? Is that what you’re saying?

Paul Blackwell: Absolutely.

Sascha: The Olympics is about taking part, isn’t it? Not necessarily winning. Yeah.

Paul Blackwell: Yeah. Yeah, I’d definitely be, uh, yeah, I’d definitely be taking part, but I’d really enjoy it, you know, but it’s something that I say, I only took up a, a little while back and, uh, yeah, it’s been, it’s inspirational to me seeing all the people you know, of all, you know, shapes and sizes and, and ages running around and, You know, here, here’s me doing my 5k, trying to beat somebody that’s, you know, in the age group, 70 to 80, you know, and, and he’s ahead of me, right?

Arno: It is like playing squash again, somebody that’s a bit older than you, . Um, I made that mistake once and I I will never do it again. Oh. Um, yes, . Um, yeah, it’s interesting. I, I think the running what we’re seeing a lot, and obviously Sascha, you, Paul just touched on the fact. , you do the, the runs for charity and, and I think what’s nice to see these days is all the, the five kilometers park runs that happens across the country.

Um, so it’s usually every Saturday morning and it’s so great to be able to get out and, uh, there’s a lot of, um, popularity, um, kind of building, you know, for, for these park runs. So it’s, yeah, it’s definitely, I think running is one of those, those activities that does, it kind of gives you me time and just kind of like the fresh air and the time to clear your mind and, you know, and, uh, yeah.

Sascha: And brings community together. Yeah. Also, mm-hmm. . Yeah. That’s very cool.

Paul Blackwell: And it’s free. You know, they, people that do it, there’s always, you know, you volunteer. It’s, it’s back to my best advice. You know, people are giving up with their time to help other people. I think it’s amazing. I think it’s amazing. Yeah.

Sascha: Good. Very nice, very nice one.

Paul Blackwell: Is that the end of the questions or is there more?

Sascha: There’s not more. So that was very nice to end the show . No more questions. And, uh, uh, yeah, Paul, uh, maybe I have one question more actually. Um, how, um, uh, can our listeners get in contact with you? Um, what would the, would be the best way?

Paul Blackwell: Yeah, I mean, so, you know, of course, you know, we’ve got chatbots on our website and stuff like that. So if people go to www.nintex.com, do a bit of research on there and have a look at the, at the technologies that, uh, that we’ve got in place already, um, and be very happy to, to advise on, on some of the things that we do, though, you know, like I said, you know, they should get expert advice, you know, for independent expert advice as well on things.

But yeah, just go to www.nintex.com um, uh, or, or you could, you know, my email address, [email protected] I’d be absolutely delighted to hear from anybody.

Sascha: Or connect on, on social as well. Right on LinkedIn? Potentially.

Paul Blackwell: LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn. Yeah, absolutely. I love LinkedIn.

Sascha: We will put all these infos in the show notes and then, uh, everyone who is listening and just click the link and get in touch. Cool. Thank, thank you Paul it was great, um, to have you on the show today. And, um, yeah, maybe we do another one in the future if you, if you like it and then we will be back with another show very soon, and until then, let’s automate it.

Unfortunately, that’s it again, with this episode of The Process and Automation podcast. If you like this episode, please give us a five star rating and don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast, so you don’t miss any upcoming episode. We hope you will tune in next time and until then let’s automate it.

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