Nikhaar Shah: Focus on Solving the End-User Pain-Points While Being Nebulous About How You Solve Them

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    The guest of Electroneek Thought Leader Blog Series is Nikhaar Shah, Chief Executive Officer at HomeLLC, San Francisco. Having an impressive background as a manager of substantial innovation funds within the Big 4 and as a management consultant to private equity and Fortune-100 clients, Nikhaar is a proven expert in innovative business solutions.

    In this interview, Nikhaar shared his thoughts on the role of RPA and AI in the business world, told us more about his own mission as a business owner, and revealed how innovations help his company and could help others achieve the most arduous task.  

    ”financial services have already adopted RPA and will continue to scale their adoption as costs get lower, and risk management becomes more effective”.

    Innovations are something that became an indispensable part of our life. What do you think about the role of RPA in it? Could you agree that RPA can pave the way to digitization for the companies of any sizes?

    Since the 80s, companies have used software to automate their tasks, so process automation has always been around. RPA takes that to the next level by enabling sophisticated processes. Financial services have already adopted RPA and will continue to scale their adoption as costs get lower, and risk management becomes more effective.

    What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for the financial services in implementing RPA? Especially when it comes to the industries of such rigorous and classic business patterns and regulations as banking, audit, or accounting? 

    There are 5 big challenges in adopting RPA at scale in a large firm. The first thing is buy-in from the top, ensuring that the business unit leaders are going to receive benefits from using RPA. 

    The second is effectively implementing it and making sure that the tool is built based on the needs of the end-user as well as taking into account various scenarios that the end-user will be in. 

    The third is clear communication and training, ensuring that both the end-user and the management know well how it works and what to do in different scenarios. 

    The fourth is risk management, ensuring that the workflows are supervised within the right processes and controls and governance policies. 

    And the last is constant improvement, making sure that the RPA system can continuously be tested for each case and scenario and improved overtime.

    From your vast experience in audit and consulting firms, especially in the Big 4, what could you consider the most crucial changes in the industry for the last, let’s say 10-15 years, in terms of innovations? Has the sector transformed dramatically in your opinion, and what are the main areas of transformation? 

    Professional services firms are always innovating as they constantly have to solve new problems for clients. The last 15 years have been accelerated by technology firms who have enabled new ways of working productively.

    Successful companies have always found new ways of creating value, not just for their customers, investors, but for their employees. The companies which fail to do this, usually lose out in the market by losing talent, or customers and eventually losing investors.

    ”at the heart of any significant change is the cultural impetus for going through the change, the cultural consistency for dealing with the change, and the cultural stabilization for making sure the full value of the change can be realized”.

    Is it only the technical side of the transformation that has changed the game, or is it also the cultural aspect? Could you tell a little more about the value of communication within a company?

    Innovation is primarily driven by faster, better, and cheaper solutions to pain-points. In this terms, to enable a rapid solution to pain-points, culture is way more important than technology.

    At the heart of any significant change is the cultural impetus for going through the change, the cultural consistency for dealing with the change, and the cultural stabilization for making sure the full value of the change can be realized. There are three separate behaviors in cultures where you need early adopters in organizations that have the nobility to take a chance on new tools.

    So to successfully implement RPA, you need the right management team, as well as the right governance and compliance teams, that would make sure that the full benefits can be achieved. The decision making by these teams will impact the culture of the employees that are affected by the decisions and the tools that are used by them. The culture is the heart of the change, it is spread through decisions, and every decision either reinforces or creates the culture.

    What could be the most challenging for the businesses in RPA implementation? How to address the risk management concerns, especially when it comes to such hot-debated topics as cybersecurity or confidentiality, for instance?

    Large companies need enterprise governance and risk management layer to manage the robots in different scenarios. And, in general, all companies will need tools that can be easily implemented.

    At least business leaders have to deal with known risks, known-unknown risks, unknown-unknown risks. And cybersecurity is a big part of that conversation. Being aware of potential risks that you know and are managing, and being agile enough to respond to unknown future risks is the critical component. In fact, the resiliency of the entire organization depends on the ability to face all these risks, especially in a cybersecurity landscape.

    What could you advise employees who still feel anxious about automation? How can they adapt to this ever-changing reality to feel secured and in-demand on a labor market in the future? What industries/professions are mostly in danger in terms of automation?

    Anything that can be automated (while saving costs) will eventually be automated. To safeguard yourself and thrive in this new world, constantly learn new skills as our ancestors did.

    It’s not related just to people of today, but also to people in the past. I have had multiple career paths, and I have a motto that whatever people have achieved before, can be achieved again. So no matter how difficult the new profession or new skills may seem, people can learn it in case they have enough time and resources.

    RPA and machine learning have proven to be extremely beneficial for various businesses. But what is the hardest part of implementing these technologies?

    One of the most crucial things is to effectively deploy and control RPA/ML implementations while getting the highest value for your costs. 

    Could you provide with some simple steps to implementing RPA smoothly both for business owners and the personnel?

    There are several steps that can be mentioned:

    Could you agree that involving the wrong people in business automation can lead to some drastic changes? Perhaps you have some examples of such situations in your experience?

    In the current company, we are using a lot of automation and artificial intelligence, which is used to gather, analyze, and predict data related to residential real estate in the US. In fact there hasn’t been a lot of research done in analyzing real estate data. Even fewer experts exist and are able to predict residential housing trends in the US. So we have been building a lot of that mostly from scratch.

    It proves the fact that tools are only as good or noble as the people who operate them. Having the right guiding principles and the right people is the key. And in terms of business relations, it’s in the best interest of companies to automate and save costs, and it’s in the best interest of people to learn skills that these companies will need.

    Could you tell us more about your own company? Have you already implemented RPA or AI in your processes, or do you plan to do this? 

    Our core AI engine called “Blue Dot AI” micro-targets investments in US residential real estate by analyzing hundreds of variables across thousands of scenarios. 

    The heart of our focus is on building wealth for people. In America, most people have traditionally built wealth through homeownership, real estate. While a typical American could buy a home in their thirties in the 1980s, the average age of the home buyer in the US is 47 years old as of 2019. So a lot of people are unable to access the homeownership market and build wealth. We provide debt-free financing through mortgage-ready renters so they can reach 20% down, get a mortgage, and buy their home to build wealth. As we are an investor, not a lender, we don’t charge any interest or fees, and our typical renter saves tens of thousands of dollars buying their home earlier than they would have done it before, as well as without any unnecessary fees like mortgage insurance. And that helps them build wealth by paying the mortgage on a home, which would have been comparable to their rent.

    “Blue dot AI platform” analyzes micro and macroeconomic trends and predicts various scenarios in the US market over the next foreseeable future to determine which home would be the best investment for home buyers. Using this technology we can recommend people the best home to buy.

    ”the heart of innovation is continuously focusing on most essential pain-points of the end-user and delivering solutions to them effectively in terms of costs and time”.

    Here in Electroneek we always adhere to the concept that the human genius drives any automatic processes. Being a technology expert and innovations enthusiast with impressive experience in this field, could you share several tips for success and leadership in such an ever-changing industry?

    When I tried to become better at innovations, one of the most significant contributors to me apart from learning from such great thinkers as Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School and great venture capitalists, was my own mistakes. One of my biggest lessons in innovations that took me a lot of mistakes before I learned it, was to laser focus on solving the pain-points for eventual customers. No matter what technology you may or may not have, the patterns you may or may not have, if you are not consistently solving both current and potential future pain-points for your eventual customers someone else will do it for you. And your business will be disrupted. The heart of innovation is continuously focusing on most essential pain-points of the end-user and delivering solutions to them effectively in terms of costs and time.

    Thus, you as a business owner should focus on solving the end-user pain-points while being nebulous about how you solve them (with or without technology). 

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