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13 John Ang on simplifying digital transformation

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Podcast with John Ang Part 2


Part 2 Podcast with John Ang

Speaker: John Ang, Andrew Liew


After John talked about the cost benefit analysis of digital transforming a HR process with Andrew, John mentioned that AI can be applied to many other business functions like customer services, sales and marketing so long the company’s staff can identify repetitive workflow and work processes. Concerns that employees are afraid of like being let go can be alleviated. The fastest way to start digital transformation using AI is to focus on a simple business problem with a simple workflow. John mentioned that the process of maintaining digital transformation can be as easy as getting a plumber.

[00:00:00] Andrew Liew Weida: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the AI of mankind show where I share anything interesting about mankind. I'm your host for this season. My name is Andrew Liew. I work across four Continents and 12 international cities. Also, I work in tech startups across a range of roles from selling products, making customers happy, figuring out fundraising, making finance tick, building teams, and developing sticky products. Apart from building startups. I've also worked in fortune 500 companies as a chief data scientist or technologist and people leader. You can call me Jack of all trades or master of learning. I hope to make this podcast show [00:01:00] a great learning experience for us In each season, there is a series of interesting things that invite guests to share their views about their life and interests. Now let the show begin.

[00:01:26] Andrew Liew Weida: In the previous episode, John talked about his backstory. Along the way, he mentioned the cost-benefit analysis of doing digital transformation for the human resource division of a company. This episode continues the part 2 conversation with John and John shared his views on how to initiate digital transformation with business owners. Let's continue.

[00:01:47] Andrew Liew Weida: Yeah. This is one of the things that I'm always a believer in automation. A lot of times people always think that AI reduces jobs. They do reduce this job, but it frees up so much time for people to be creative and innovative to do some other [00:02:00] stuff. And my question to you, John is like you mentioned this isn't just restricted to HR human resources, any other areas that it can extend across?

[00:02:10] John Ang: Sure. This is just one example of a project that we did, but we have done multiple other cases with sales and marketing departments, accounting departments, customer service departments, basically any activity that requires repetitive data processing, for example, answering customer queries, giving quotations, generating invoices or responding to purchase orders. These things can be automated relatively easily and deliver huge cost savings to the companies that adopt them.

[00:02:40] Andrew Liew Weida: Wow. So you mentioned that it really delivers a lot of cost-saving and it can be automated if it's repetitive.

[00:02:46] Andrew Liew Weida: Let's say for any business owners out there, who are listening to this podcast, whether it's a founder or in Singapore terms, we call them Towkays. If they want to get started what are the things that they need to think about, in terms of digital [00:03:00] transformation? John.

[00:03:00] John Ang: What I always tell business owners who come to us and ask us, how can we start with the process of digital transformation? They always least think maybe I should start with the most pressing problem or the most complex problem. I always advise them to don't do that. It's best to actually see. Small, don't start with the most pressing problems that we have the most simple problem. If you can identify a repetitive activity, that's taking up your staff time. That first project on doing something very simple would be a great foundation in figuring out how to roll up your digital transformation. Not just on the automation itself, but it in terms of understanding how your staff will react to this new change. Who needs to be informed? How things can impact that up and down the line? And what we have found is that for these small projects, you can do them in as little as two to four weeks at a very low price. Which is actually I think, pretty affordable and pretty [00:04:00] doable for most SMEs.

[00:04:01] Andrew Liew Weida: Wow. That's a, seems like a very attractive value proposition. Can you tell me more about starting small? let's go back to that use case story that you share with us in terms of human resources. Like when you meet up with the business owner or the senior management. What was the initial thing that they want to solve? And how do you actually help to figure actually just solving the overtime pay can create enormous value for the company?

[00:04:26] John Ang: So what I always do is I run with a set of general use cases. So there is a use case in sales and marketing involving multiple Excel spreadsheets linked over to a telegram account, to respond to customer queries. There is also a use case with emails going into Excel spreadsheets and then going into a cloud system. So when I show the business owners or department heads, the various tools that are able to [00:05:00] synchronize the various email servers and the various work processes that are able to touch. That gives them a very good idea of how it maps to their whole department's process and workflow. And usually, from there, they are able to identify quite quickly, which is either the most useful thing to do or the best place to stop for a first project.

[00:05:23] Andrew Liew Weida: Ah, so in other words, actually, you are focusing on showing some demonstration, getting them to have an understanding about what RPA, which is robotic process automation can do. And then from there they have an idea of say, okay, maybe for the human resource case, they say, oh, actually maybe you can start with the computing of OT Pay.

[00:05:42] John Ang: Correct. So they actually the ones in this case who, where the light bulb moment and said, wow, with the examples you've shown us, I think that the best place to start for a first project would be on the computation of OT pay because this is a very [00:06:00] simple workflow. So then they asked us, can you do it? And what we had to do was just do a quick check that there was no complexity that was hidden and there wasn't. So we were able to actually do this project relatively quickly within two weeks.

[00:06:15] Andrew Liew Weida: It's a very beautiful use case for our audience out there because most of the time I do gigs and I tend to do complex stuff like optimization forecasting prediction, and it involves multiple massive datasets. But in your case, anybody, including small companies, founders, or one-man show that they want to use RPA to improve their efficiency, to enable creativity and innovation. They can actually do that.

[00:06:42] John Ang: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. And I think that those who are a bit hesitant on what value high-tech and data analytics can do for you. This is a great place to start understanding the value of automation. And from there, you will not just lead with confidence, but also your staff trusts in the digitization process. And then you'll be able to move on to greater and more complex things. In the best-case scenario, your staff may actually come back and suggest to you potential projects that can be done. And then that in terms of scoping work is all the work done for you already.

[00:07:19] Andrew Liew Weida: Now that's the process. I think there is the cost-benefits side of things and also the physical demo that enabled them to think about it. When we have conversations with the management team and they say Hey I really want this and then they start delegating to management or administrator. What are some of the resistance that you see or expect and how do you overcome them?

[00:07:36] John Ang: One of the concerns that I encounter most often is always the manager not understanding what the point of the automation is and how it would benefit them as well as being a little bit afraid that they would be let go at the end of the process . So what I always do is once you get the buy-in from top management. That's always very important. Top management must want to do it, then the work began with the middle layer and operational layer to actually work with them, to understand what their process is. I think one of the biggest resistance comes when a tech provider or vendor goes in and says, okay, your own process, we are going to junk all of that. And we're going to move to this new process that I'm going to put in place, and it's going to be great. That usually it doesn't get a very good reaction from most of the operational staff, but what we do, is that we can go to the operational staff and say, tell us how you do things today and not going to change a process. I'm just going to automate it. So you have more time for yourself. And that usually is enough to convince them.

[00:08:43] Andrew Liew Weida: Ah, interesting recap that you mentioned about, making them feel comfortable, showing them, Hey, we are not going to replace any existing process we are going to create a layer of automation on top of it. So they see it. And if they believe it right? Now, the interesting question that I always want to have on this kind of interesting use case Is that they will tell you, Hey John, I like it. It works. But who's going to continue to maintain this whole process for me? Will there be a version upgrade? What am I supposed to do? What is the response to that?

[00:09:14] John Ang: So this is actually something really interesting that we found out about the market. And we develop in response to such feedback as the one that you have just posted. What we have realized is that. For these kinds of relatively straightforward and simple automation, you don't actually need to spend a lot of money if your in-house staff is trained to be painting themselves. So best case scenario, it's simple enough that your in-house staff, maybe the smartest, most technically savvy guy in the room is able to pick it up and do your own maintenance on it. But if not, then we had found out that if the cost of implementing it is about a freelances fee. Then the cost of calling that same freelancer to come back and do maintenance on, it would only be about the same rate. . And it won't take money in one or two days to actually do the maintenance or updates. So that is something like calling a plumber. Or an electrician to your house to just fix something that needs updating or patching. That should be something that is very affordable .

[00:10:19] Andrew Liew Weida: Hi everyone, thanks for tuning into this episode. We have come to the end of part 2 with John. In the next episode, we will continue with John in part 3 which he talks about how AI is deployed in the process of digital transformation. On top of that, John talked about how AI enhances productivity in the future of work by using AI to tackle repetitive and free up our headspace. Finally, he will share with us his view on no code and low code in the course of digital transformation.

[00:10:45] Andrew Liew Weida: If this is the first time you are tuning in. Remember to subscribe to this show. If you have subscribed to this show and love this episode. Please share it with your friends, family, and acquaintances. See you later and see you soon.