After-Action Report: RVM #54 with Chris Bugg

Many thanks to RINGKNOCKER Sponsor Chris Bugg (USNA ’96) and his panel of experts and skeptics for serving up a fascinating conversation on Business Process Automation (BPA)!

You folks have heard me say this 50-odd times: in my professional life, I build machines that help people make better decisions. But what does that MEAN?

Business decision-making done right is a process, especially when you get down to the tactical level. Many decisions need to be made over and over, and it helps to have a framework in place to deal with them.

That kind of engineered decision-making is just one example of the larger field of business processes, which cover everything from deciding which assets to invest in to turning raw RINGKNOCKER Zoom video into YouTube clips for you to share on Facebook. If you don’t have a strong process, then at scale you get the opposite of process: chaos.

Before you can automate a process, you have to articulate it… and once a process is written dow, it becomes much easier to kick it around and make it better.

So how do we do that? Well, when Ford assembles a new Mustang, they don’t forge the alternator casing right there on the factory floor. The pull it off a shelf. And the same goes for process automation: you want to build it out of off the shelf parts.

So that’s where this week’s guest speaker and his shipmates came in.

Chris Bugg is a career tech sales guy who recently took over the FinTech vertical at Decisions.com. Decisions is a RINGKNOCKER Sponsor and—quite independently, for reals—my current top pick for enterprise-grade automation tools. So the customer perspective is Chris’ bread and butter.

Tim Kinkaid (USNA ’04) is a McKinsey veteran and a leader in the business transformation space. He does the critical ground work of improving and maturing processes so that they can be automated more successfully.

Kevin Kinkade (USNA ’05 and no relation lol) is VP of Alts Technology at PIMCO. He lives the process automation problem from the inside at one of the world’s largest asset managers, and has perfected the use of multiple software platforms to streamline the analysis of portfolios and alternative investments.

John Tunison (USNA ’96) is a familiar face around RINGKNOCKER and relishes his role as our official skeptic. He is CFO of a public company that manufactures construction components and is just working its way into serious process automation.

We packed a LOT of material into about an hour of Meetup! Here are some key takeaways:

  • Process optimization comes before process automation. Otherwise you’re going to get to experience your horrible process at industrial scales.
  • Buying a tool is not usually the answer. In fact, going out and buying a tool without a clear idea of what it is supposed to do is a great way to make your problem worse, not better.
  • You start from where you are. Most of the time, you can’t stop your current process and wait six months for the new one to come online. So it pays to have a road map that keeps you operating while your process improves!
  • At some point, all the philosophizing has to stop and somebody actually has to roll up their sleeves and build something.
  • The process of improving your process is ALSO a process.

In the past few minutes we also had a great real-world case study thanks to RINGKNOCKER Sponsor Mike Long of disaster remediation franchisor VetCor Services. VetCor faces a real scaling and communications problem every year during hurricane season. The panel gave him a few things to think about, and my guess is Mike is going to get some much-needed help!

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