Podcast: “What’s missing is the discussion about change management”

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Seth Adler

Despite a wealth of discussion on timelines and implementation, there’s a distinct lack of talk about monitoring and management in RPA

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It usually takes months and even years to bring automation to life because of the complex world we live in and the global companies we operate in—companies that employ thousands of people and hundreds of servers, says BNP Paribas Security Services’ CFO Marcin Nowakowski. “And it’s not so easy to change,” he adds.

“But what I'm missing in all this discussion about the RPA, [is the] discussion about change management. Nobody's talking much about monitoring it and providing the proper change management.”

In this episode of The AI Network Podcast, Nowakowski joins host Seth Adler to discuss the financial and management implications of RPA and automation for global organizations. At the heart of it all, Nowakowski says, is numbers—“if it’s a story without numbers, then it’s just a dream”.

"By repetition, improvement and learning you should get into flow [state]."

Likewise, there needs to be more focus on getting the most out of your people rather than the delivery of projects, he says. “The biggest managers' successes comes from developing the people, not from delivering the projects.”

Tune in as Nowakowski reveals the average timeline of an automation project within BNP Paribas and how to get the most out of your teams—and yourself.

Listen in:


Seth: From BNP Paribas, Marcin Nowakowski. First, some supporters to thank and thank you for listening. This episode is supported by the AIIA Network. The AI and Intelligent Automation Network is an online community focused on building the intelligent enterprise. Content covers a broad range of issues including digital disruption and transformation, task and robotic process automation, augmented intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive computing. Our goal is to help businesses apply these technologies ang building intelligent enterprise of the future. Go to AIIA.net to join.

This episode is all supported by RPA and AI Week 2017. The world decision-makers and doers in process excellence in shared services meet in London this November to collaborate on the direction of task automation and augmented intelligence, share best practices and discover strategies tactics and initiatives, which industry leaders are already implementing for business success. 2017 is our second year bringing this growing and exciting industry together go to rpaandaisummit.com for more.

CFO/CEO of BNP Paribas Poland operation, Marcin Nowakowski joins us from the RPA and AI BFSI Summit where he shares to us as CFO, he, of course hears from executives during budget process throughout execution and specifically during process improvement projects like automation.

In the grand scheme of things and based on a career in Finance, he notes that if an executive ever present him with a story without numbers, it's simply a dream, it's not a business case. While 10-year timeline projects do still occur, average projects are timed in two to three years segments, meaning it's by then that the organization must be paid back. This is the case as it's so difficult to foresee the actual future three years, hence with technological advancements like RPA and AI happening at warp speed. Welcome to the AI and Intelligent Automation Network on B2BIQ. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on AIAIA.net, or through our app in iTunes, within the iTunes podcast app in Google Play, or wherever you currently get your podcasts.

Marcin Nowakowski: Yeah. That's point for you.

Seth: Yes, it's Marcin. Point for me, I'll take it. I'll take it. Everybody always wants to talk to the CFO, everybody always needs money from the CFO, right? The come every day, they knock on the door, "Can I have money for this?", "Can I have money for that?" Is that true or no?

Marcin: Well, there are two things to discuss about truth. First of all, CFO/CEO for BNP Paribas Security Service is a Poland operations.

Seth: Right.

Marcin: Not such a big fish as a CFO BNP Paribas-

Seth: Fair enough.

Marcin: That's seven layers above. But yes, it's still true. So it's true especially during the budget process, when you need to plan the money, and then during execution, when you monitor how you spend your money, and especially for when we discuss process improvement. [It's especially important for new projects like you've got their PA implementation and you need to build a business case, find the money, utilize the money you saved. So, I would say "yes", it's still banging on the doors.

Seth: Yeah, banging on the doors. So, if you don't mind, just tell us what to do, tell us how to ask, tell us what not to ask for. So in other words, when someone ... And a business leader, a high level person comes in, when do you know that they don't have the information that you need? What do you need to make a decision?

Marcin: Well, first of all, I'm very fact-based person, so I need some numbers to see and I need a clear a business case, and the return on investment. Whether it's financial or not, that's a different story. But it needs to have a solid baseline explanation, and then it's fine with me. If it's just a story without numbers, then it's a dream, it's not a business case.

Seth: Yeah. So cup of cappuccino, all forth. Right?

Marcin: Yeah.

Seth: So the business case, how much do I need to prove that out in a certain time? For in other words, if I say "Marcin, it's going to be fine. Ten years down the line we're good."

Marcin: Well it depends on the projects. There are projects which are justified for 10 years existence.

Seth: Such as?

Marcin: Well, if you buy a new building, then you don't look at three months operations, you look at 50 years or 10 years or whatever.

Seth: Even in ERP system. The ERP system.

Marcin: Even in ERP system, you'll need to ... Well, when you look at history, you need to look from longer periods.

Seth: Right.

Marcin: So there are projects which will have the long lifespan. But usually in today's environment, it's not so common, so you look more like two years, three years perspective. It's also quite difficult to foresee future even for three years, so it's difficult to build business cases in credible way for five years, 10 years. So, I would say preferable lifespan would be two-three years. Data can be found for that periods usually, and that's how you build the business case which can be credible with me.

Seth: I got to give you data, so that I can build my business case, got to make the initial investment, so that has to come out of my budget from this year, right?

Marcin: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Seth: I can't ask you for this extra fund to go play a bit in automation, right?

Marcin: Well, now you come to a different perspective. Now you go to the project budget. And as a project manager or a project owner, if you wish, you always have a contingencies, you always have a ... and in the beginning of the projects, quite wide like 20% or something. And honestly as a sponsor or project leader, you can play with this. So that's a quite a lot of [inaudible], I would say.

Seth: Yeah. That's built-in. You already have it.

Marcin: Yeah.

Seth: Which is why folks love RPA, right? This is going to be so quick and it's oh-so-cheap. Is that true?

Marcin: Well, I don't think it's true for buyers and it is not true for providers. So, if I talk to people from the industry, it usually takes months and years bring in the automation to life, because we live in a complex world, we live in a global companies, which employ thousands of people, hundred of servers, that kind of stuff. And it's not so easy to change it. And that's also a bit, what I'm missing in all this discussion about the RPA, there is not much discussion about change management. So, we will ... There is much discussion on, we will come and provide you with the solution in two weeks, six weeks, whatever, you need to move your people upstream, whatever that means, because of the safe FTEs. But nobody's talking much about monitoring it and providing the proper change management.

And if you go into change management then you see that you've got to deal with technology people, communication, risks, finance, etc, for entire project, business continuity, then it pumps up the thing. So, I don't think it's fast, but takes time.

Seth: Certainly, not quite fast as we'd like it to be, not quite as inexpensive as we'd like it to be. Right? A bit of an iceberg, we're only showing the tip here. We've got to really talk about truly the change management that's going to happen and all of the departments that are going to be involved. How long and how much is going to take out of the enterprise to put this in?

Marcin: Well it depends on the project. For simple things which are not across , across countries, you can do it relatively fast. If you use the technology which is at hand and which you know how to use it. And it won't have a huge impact most probably. And the things which are across [inaudible], across country, global, then it might have impact in X number of countries and thousand number of people and then you really need change management to manage it properly and take your time to do it properly.

Seth: Right. And we didn't even talk about customer-facing yet, right?

Marcin: No.

Seth: All right. Okay, let's just then make sure we understand you a little bit more. You're from Poland. Where in Poland?

Marcin: I'm based in Warsaw. I've got a global role, but based in Warsaw.

Seth: Based in Warsaw, but where are you from though?

Marcin: I'm from [inaudible] which is a south city of Poland.

Seth: Okay. So if I know that Kraków in the south, right?

Marcin: It's 80 kilometers from Kraków. Yeah.

Seth: It's pretty close.

Marcin: Yeah.

Seth: All right. And we spoke about the fact that my girlfriend's from [Wałbrzych]. Right? So that's fantastic. What was it like growing up in the town that you grew up in?

Marcin: Well, it's a challenging question. It's been zillion years ago.

Seth: It's not that been that long. Looking at you, it hasn't been that long. But you do seem like a learned person that is actually an adult and to hap back into that childhood mindset, I would imagine it would be difficult.

Marcin: Yeah, it is difficult. I think it was very close with my family. So lots of interactions, big family, and lots of interactions with my cousins, brothers.

Seth: How many kids in the family, in the nuclear?

Marcin: Quite a lot of kids in the family. Usually like, my parents would have brothers and sisters, and all of them would have two-three kids, so a big family and grandparents, very nice family time.

Seth: Everybody around? Everybody lived around the same place.

Marcin: For many years, yes. So we would have, you would imagine, like Christmas together and Eastern together. That's a kind of nice pictures. But I'm usually ... I remember myself as a self-cuttering person, so rather introvertic, like to play with legos or something like this rather than team sports.

Seth: Yeah, then all this noise over here, forget about, I'll be over here doing my own thing, not fair.

Marcin: And then I started working quite early, during secondary school.

Seth: Sure, me too. What were your initial jobs?

Marcin: Well, farming.

Seth: Uh-huh.

Marcin: Farming, sheep and crops and that kind of stuff.

Seth: What was the key, right, so you're what 15, 18-ish right?

Marcin: Yeah.

Seth: What's the key in farming if you're a guys that's like 16-17 years old? What would you have to make sure to do and not do?

Marcin: Well, for me, for sure it's move out of your city, go abroad, live abroad, cook your own meals, do your washing, that kind of stuff, that's how you learn the real life, earn your money.

Seth: So you didn't do farming at home?

Marcin: No, no.

Seth: Where did you?

Marcin: I went for ... I embarked for a student exchange on work programming in Finland.

Seth: Uh-huh.

Marcin: So, I left the country for several years, for several months a year. And I joined student exchange programs in Scandinavia.

Seth: Did you learn Finnish?

Marcin: No, that's almost as impossible as learning Polish.

Seth: So then you speak-

Marcin: If you are-

Seth: Did you speak in English?

Marcin: English, English.

Seth: Yeah. I learned when I was in Finland that there is not a word for "please", or is there not a word for "thank you".

Marcin: No, there is "Thank you." 

Seth: There is "Thank you.", so there was no "please". And I though to ... Because I wanted to know how do I say "please", they said, "We don't have this word."

Marcin: Okay.

Seth: I might be wrong. I'll go check, right?

Marcin: Yeah, we need to check. We need to check, yeah.

Seth: But Finland and then other stops as well, is what you're saying. Other countries, too, or not?

Marcin: No, no. That's Finland for quite a few years, during the studies. And then I did a ... I moved again ... I didn't make my studies in my hometown. So I moved to [Rzeszów] which is another big Polish city to do my legal studies. Again, working all the time. And then I started working seriously and moving a bit around Poland. Then, I've been working in Switzerland, Italy, then moved back to Poland, and now here I am.

Seth: So, you truly, you know Europe. You have worked in Europe.

Marcin: Yeah.

Seth: Right? And you became a lawyer. You went to law school. Did you?

Marcin: I went to Law school. I'm qualified tax adviser. So I still have my small, small practice just for fun.

Seth: Uh-huh. On the side.

Marcin: On the side.

Seth: We call this "side hustle" now, Marcin.

Marcin: Okay.

Seth: What you have.

Marcin: I'm not sure with my English, whether I understand "side-hustle" correctly. But-

Seth: Yeah, but you'll figure it out, you'll see.

Marcin: I check it.

Seth: Exactly. It used to be "side job", now it's a "side hustle", because you have to keep on hustling, that's what you gotta do.

Marcin: No, honestly, I just like the legal work, so it's just for pleasure.

Seth: I see.

Marcin: So I would say "side pleasure"

Seth: Yeah, now that's interesting. It does a different thing for your mind in essence.

Marcin: Yep.

Seth: It's where you can bring your mind to relax in a way.

Marcin: Yeah. The sad thing is that legal profession is also getting automated and robotized.

Seth: Oh sure. Did they know it yet?

Marcin: Not everybody but it's getting done.

Seth: It's coming. So what were these initial jobs? Not the farming, but the actual, the mind jobs, that you started to pick up.

Marcin: Well I started in a ... As I had this tax background, legal tax background, I started in Audit and in Finance.

Seth: Where? What geography?

Marcin: Well, Poland, the next jobs in Finance were in Poland. In Audit, rather small audit firms, not big firm. Then I moved to public audit, so auditing the state enterprises, and then I moved to private companies. And then, all of a sudden, I don't know why have chosen me. I landed as Chief Accountant in a big American Rapeseed oil production company.

Seth: What was name of the company?

Marcin: The name of the company was-

Seth: Who knows?

Marcin: Who remembers but ultimate owner is a [inaudible], which is South American Rapeseed and Soil conglomerate.

Seth: Yeah. You say you don't know why they chose you. Of course, you're being humble, right? How did you approach accounting? You're a matter-of-fact type of person, we opened with that. So you're perfect for that job. What did they see beyond that that you think they said, "We got to have Marcin."?

Marcin: Well, I think, I'm not sure, but I think what is very transparent in my person is that change .... I'm a changed person. I like change. I live delivering change. I like delivering results in change process. And I think, when I look at the companies which accepted me as an employee, these were companies which are in the change process, and they needed somebody who can manage both of business-as-usual but can go also to reinvention, re-alignment of the business.

Seth: Okay. So here's the question, if we got a guy, perfect mindset, very direct, very debits-credits, this all make sense, very simple here, plain, straightforward, we got the kid plan with nobody because I don't wanna deal with all that noise. Where does the change management thing come in? Because I feel like that's a different part of your personality that we haven't discussed yet.

Marcin: Well, I think we are all slowly changing and learning and developing.

Seth: Yeah, but why do you like it? In other words, why do you thrive in that environment?

Marcin: Well, it's the same question, "Why do you like Rolling Stones?" or something else, you just love things. So I think ... I don't think there is a ... I don't like things which are repetitive every day. Let's say 50% of life can be repetitive every day, but then the other 50 should change every day.

Seth: Uh-huh.

Marcin: That's my mindset. But that was a very interesting question because when I was going through early in my career, through the personal test, and then later on I repeated them, I've been going through introvertic-extravertic positions, so it has been changing through the years. And now I'm getting back into more introvertic little kid, playing with Lego.

Seth: So you weren't ... You went to extrovert and then you're on your way back. What I have learned about introvert versus extrovert is ... My assumption has always been that I'm an extrovert. I mean, look at us. I'm literally just talking to everyone that I speak to and recording it. You can't be much more extroverted. But I heard the theory that it is where you get your energy. So do you get energy from being around people or is that where you're spending energy? Do you get energy from relaxing alone or is that where you spend energy?

Marcin: Well, I think it's a mix, because looking beyond the professional life, I'm a marathon runner.

Seth: Oh you are?

Marcin: Yeah, so that's the place where I get and spend my energy.

Seth: Sure. Yeah.

Marcin: So it's two in one.

Seth: Yeah, I got you. 26.2 miles, no matter where you are, that's a marathon.

Marcin: Yep.

Seth: This is a long, long, long way to run.

Marcin: Yes, especially for somebody who is 85 kilos, but ...

Seth: I think I can sense what attracted you to it. But when did you find that form of running? And why did you have to continue?

Marcin: It was pretty early like 20, 15 years ago. And I think it's a very natural sport for somebody who enjoys his companion. So it went very natural and then it became a challenge, like marathon was a landmark for me at some point, and then it became an addiction, and then that's it, then [inaudible] addicted and hooked.

Seth: How many have you done?

Marcin: About 20.

Seth: Twenty marathons. How many ... I just think of like even trying to do half a marathon, I was just like, "It's too much." Twenty marathons, how many different places have you ...?

Marcin: Well, basically Poland has quite a few good marathons, so did this quite vastly. Europe, covered mostly.

Seth: What was the favorite location of yours for a marathon?

Marcin: Well the favorite, favorite marathon I did was not in Europe, it's New York which is more than splendid.

Seth: Yes, why?

Marcin: I mean, the Verrazano bridge, and you've got the TV, helicopters and like 20 people in the same moment, splendid, just splendid. But then all the nice European cities, which are worth visiting like Rome, Copenhagen, Stockholm, these are also nice for running. You can visit in three-four hours, see everything and then you are free to celebrate, dine and wine.

Seth: That's it, that's it. You know exactly where everything is, right?

Marcin: Yep.

Seth: You've become an expert on the city. What could be wrong? What advice would you have for folks that are looking to become marathon runners? What is necessary to do this?

Marcin: Well, accepting the imperfection because things will never be perfect, the weather or your preparation or your diet or how you feel or decors or shoes won't be perfect. So you need to accept this and get accustomed. Accepting that you are getting older and not so fast as you used to be. So lots of acceptance in this sport, but also trying to enjoy. I mean, getting not only the challenge, but also the pleasure.

Seth: Each of the things that you said, this is the way that I approach my life, so I feel like maybe who would have thought it, marathon might be for me, right? I already have these tools, I'm trying to employ these tools. Okay, great. I have three final questions for you, I'll tell you what they are and then I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you at work along the way? What's most surprised you in life? And on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song, it's got to be on there. Now, I would imagine it'll be a Rolling Stone but we'll see. First things first, what has most surprised you at work?

Marcin: Well, I think I was and I'm still surprised how much potential people can have if they are properly motivated and given proper tools. So, I think the biggest managers' successes comes from developing the people, not from delivering the projects, but from developing people and seeing people grow. So this is surprising every day how people if treated properly and developed properly can really grow. This is surprising.

Seth: Give them the right tools, okay fine. Motivating them properly, right? So there's no one way to do this. Everyone's different and you have to find "The Way", but what is the system there? What is the system to finding how to motivate people in your mind?

Marcin: Well I think we all like freedom, so you need to ... depending on personality, but you need a material amount of freedom to play with. So you can experiment and you can try things. So I would say freedom is the first thing and also especially in the earlier support, because then you need mentorship more in order to accelerate your development and you need somebody who pushes you, to [inaudible] you to practice, practice, practice, to repeat.

Seth: This is the key.

Marcin: Well, it works for me.

Seth: How many miles must you run to be ready for a marathon?

Marcin: Well, it depends on your [inaudible] type. There are some guys who are running relatively low miles and they've got [inaudible] results. But I would say that you need to ... In my case, like 600 kilometers season.

Seth: What I'm getting at is I know the basic understanding of marathon running is you don't run three marathons to prepare for the marathon. So why is that different than at work making sure that you repeat, repeat, repeat. Because once you do, you'll know.

Marcin: No, it's not the [inaudible]. It's the different between repeating and learning and improving and the final situation when you should get by this repetition and improvement and learning, you should get into so-called "flow-feeling". And that's your final marathon. There is lots of repeating because you repeat your exercise, you repeat your nutrition, you repeat different things, in order to get this final event. So the same at work, you repeat, repeat, repeat, in order to get the flow, get things properly in the end.

Seth: Understood. So I can achieve flow-state at a shorter amount of miles, but then once I've achieved that flow-state, and then I know I just follow that so that I finish.

Marcin: Yeah, more or less, yes.

Seth: Okay. We'll take the shortcut on that one, right? What has most surprised you in life?

Marcin: Well, the most surprising thing in life is for sure, my wife. I never thought that somebody will so positively change my life and develop myself. That relationship is surprising.

Seth: How long have you been with her?

Marcin: Ten years.

Seth: Uh-huh. She still likes you?

Marcin: I don't know, you would need to ask her. We might.

Seth: You still like her, though?

Marcin: Oh yes.

Seth: Right. You said, you didn't that someone would ... Did you say "change you"? You didn't say.

Marcin: Yeah, I think I said "change".

Seth: You did say that. What do you mean?

Marcin: Well, you come to serious relation as one person with all your bad sides and good sides. And then you change it into something different adulation and it works both ways. So you change the thing and the thing changes you. So, I've got a different set of bad sides and good side after those 10 years.

Seth: With my girlfriend, who is Polish as I've mentioned to you now many times, but at least twice in this interview, I ... not because she's Polish, it's just because she is the person that I love and she loves me. The communication is ... If you don't do anything else, you have talk keep communicating. You have to understand what they think and feel and they have to understand what you think and feel in order for it to work. Otherwise, I don't see how it can work. Is that fair?

Marcin: Well, it's fair, it's fair. It's sometimes difficult to understand yourself and then to understand the other person is extremely difficult, but you are learning.

Seth: Yeah, you just got to put and the effort.

Marcin: You just need to practice.

Seth: Yeah, exactly, repeat, repeat, repeat. Get into the flow-state if you can.

Marcin: Yeah, yeah.

Seth: On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song, it's got to be on there.

Marcin: It would be Rolling Stone's "I Can't Get No Satisfaction".

Seth: Perfect song, Marcin, from the ... based on the conversation that we've been having.

Marcin: Yeah, it's for change management.

Seth: There you go, exactly. Of course, Exile on Main St. being the one of the greatest sound of all time, Rolling Stone or otherwise, would you agree?

Marcin: Can you repeat it?

Seth: Exile on Main St. You don't know ... Oh, you have to ...

Marcin: Yeah, I need to learn.

Seth: This is [crosstalk] as soon as we turn this off, it'll be good, I promise. Marcin, thank you so much.

Marcin: Thank you so much.

Seth: And there you have Marcin Nowakowski. That marathon running section, he said it, the same applies for everything that you do at work, by repetition, improvement, and learning. You should get into that flow state and then everything goes from there. So very much appreciate his time, very much appreciate yours. Stay tuned.