Jason Kingdon has been commercializing AI for over 25 years. He has a PhD from UCL Computer Science, he co-founded UCL’s Intelligent Systems Lab in 1992 and pioneered one of the world’s first neural nets for live financial forecasting.
Jason is the Chairman and CEO of Blue Prism, a company that is unleashing the collaborative potential of humans and digital workers to transform the future of work, so every enterprise can exceed their business goals and drive growth with unmatched agility and speed.
You’ve been involved in some form of AI for over 25 years now. What was it that attracted you to the space initially?
I became attracted to the artificial intelligence space because around the time I was in school earning my Ph.D. in intelligent systems and starting my career in research, there was a big boom in technology surrounding software with companies like Microsoft and Apple and Oracle. These organizations were using machines to solve problems people were facing on a daily basis and it was really enticing to become a part of this movement.
In 1992 you co-founded UCL’s Intelligent Systems Lab. What were some of the projects that you worked on?
After co-founding UCL’s Intelligent System Lab, I became founder/CEO of Searchspace, a successful UCL spinout project. We created Intelligent Transaction Monitoring Systems, which to this day are the global standard for money laundering and terrorist finance detection within the top-tier banks.
You were also responsible for introducing intelligent transaction monitoring on various exchanges such as the London Stock Exchange, and the New York Stock Exchange. Could you discuss the type of data that was being monitored and the type of AI implementation this was?
While we started Searchspace with broad ambitions for transaction monitoring, the project came to focus primarily on anti-money-laundering (AML) technology for banks and the middleware to link it to other systems. We produced an intelligent system that worked for the London Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, and others.
You also formed a private AI research lab called glass.ai. What was the mission of glass.ai?
The mission of glass.ai was and is to read and interpret vast quantities of textual data – whether from websites, news, proprietary databases or other sources – at scale, using AI to combine semantic analysis and resource crawling.
You then joinedBlue Prism as Executive Chairman, could you discuss what attracted you to this company?
I was drawn to Blue Prism in 2007 because of the ingenious way that they’d solved the operational inefficiencies within the banking sector – where human workers perform repetitive tasks by interoperating between enterprise-wide IT systems. Traditional IT methods couldn’t easily address this, as they were focusing on big ticket items, so a more agile automation solution was created by Blue Prism that could be run by non-technical business people – but in a highly secure and regulated way.
What really impressed me was how they’d advanced business automation in such an elegant, light way – taking the user interface seriously and repurposing it as a machine interface. Focusing on the interface meant that you can theoretically connect it to any past present or future system. The significance of this breakthrough was very clear to me – especially when at Searchspace, clients always wanted extra things that involved integration with other systems.
Blue Prism solved these system interoperability challenges by pioneering robotic process automation (RPA) software that runs a pre-built, “Digital Worker – a software robot that automates tasks over any third-party system – independently of machine APIs. Another breakthrough was that the Digital Worker uniquely used AI techniques to carry out tasks in the same way humans do – but much faster and more accurately. I also saw RPA as a potential route for organizations being able to more easily test and then deploy any new transformative tech innovation.
The real light bulb moment came when I was introduced to a major UK online retailer who was an early Blue Prism RPA adopter. I was introduced to Kate – an employee who ran ‘the robots,’ and she’d recently used them to reverse overpayments on 2,000 accounts. What amazed me was this complex activity was performed in less than 1 day, but without that robotic capability, the same activity would have taken a number of staff over three weeks to complete.
I believed that commercializing AI-powered automation in this way would have a profound effect on business and society. Blue Prism really understood and embraced this from the beginning and that’s been reflected in the company’s efforts every step of the way.
What has your journey with Blue Prism been like so far?
So far, it has been very exciting, fast-paced, challenging, all-encompassing and rewarding. Since investing in the business in 2007, I’ve spent my time as Chairman driving our growth and vision strategy, and helping take the company public in 2016. This IPO provided the engine for growth and product development – while providing the means for us to make critical investments, such as the acquisition of Thoughtonomy in 2019.
I’m proud to say that over the last four years, we’ve gone from 60 to over 1,000 people, were selling in 170 countries to 70 commercial sectors and are approaching 1700 customers – including many of the world’s biggest brands.
In fact, we recently reported achieving the fastest revenue growth of all large UK public software companies for the fourth consecutive year in 2019.
As Chairman and CEO, I’m now shaping and evolving our product roadmap that takes RPA into the AI era – while working tirelessly to promote the vision of a Digital Workforce for every enterprise. In my vision for the future, businesses will have a new organizational structure – one-third human employees, one-third Digital Workers, and one-third core IT. Human workers will continue to provide strategy and creative thinking, Digital Workers will execute on business processes, and core IT will provide the underlying technology infrastructure and data storage.
With Thoughtonomy, in addition to its cloud capabilities, the acquisition is providing access to analytics that enable better ways of looking at the Digital Workers, seeing how they are deployed, seeing all the activities taking place. We are also working on ways to enhance the way Digital Workers and humans interact. The interplay between humans and Digital Workers is absolutely part and parcel of the enterprise vision and a Digital Workforce in every organization.
In the new operating environment recently created by COVID-19, our Digital Workers are arguably more important than ever in driving organizational adaptation and resilience. We are working to meet this demand by helping organizations to maintain business continuity and resilience to alleviate operational challenges through intelligent automation.
Blue Prism helps companies deliver robotic process automation (RPA) with a step-by-step methodology for a smooth implementation. For people not familiar with RPA, could you discuss what it is and how it can benefit different enterprises?
Our RPA technology runs an AI-powered, Digital Workforce; a self-organizing, multi-tasking, intelligent, processing resource that’s trained and run by business to safely automate evermore complex, end-to-end, business activities – faster and more accurately than humans. This enables our customers to exceed their business goals and drive meaningful growth, resilience and continuity – with unmatched speed and agility.
To deliver results fast, Digital Workers arrive already pre-built – and can simply be trained by business people without coding skills and put to work using a centralized operating system to ‘draw, create and publish’ process automations. Digital Workers amplify gains by compounding how work is carried out – as published automations and all related innovations are centralized – to be shared, reused and improved by the whole business.
Digital Workers are managed by humans with our industry-leading, ‘Robotic Operating Model’ delivery methodology that provides the most effective, proven way to; business-align, organize, identify, design, test, deploy and sustain process automations at scale – so business-led, IT approved, enterprise-wide transformation is achieved. All Digital Workers are easy to deploy, manage, upgrade, scale and can be used by remote-working employees – due to an availability on-premises, in the cloud, hybrid, or as an integrated SaaS solution.
We are helping organizations operating in all sectors achieve 6 areas of proven value delivery:
- By increasing productivity – deliver savings and time back to the business so staff are liberated to refocus on delivering higher value initiatives.
- New service & product offerings – by delivering those activities that are impossible for humans to perform, or perform securely or compliantly.
- Optimising service quality and delivery – with faster, error-free, execution, quicker time to market and reduced risks associated with longer response times.
- Accelerated, innovation and opportunity generation – equipping business people with the additional capacity and technological capabilities to easily create new value-generating services and products.
- Operational transformation – actionable insights from automated process transactions data to optimise or reinvent business processes that enhance stakeholders’ experiences and create long-term value.
- Happy, motivated, staff – liberated to work on more intellectually challenging, fulfilling, value-generating work.
Could you discuss why you believe the Blue Prism solution is superior to competing RPA product offerings?
Our Digital Workers achieve greater transformational potential across the enterprise than other competitor robots as they possess business-led, no-code, centralized, design principles.
- ‘Business-led’ means that Digital Workers are designed for those people who understand their organisation’s operational needs and require the capability to swiftly respond to change.
- No code’ means Digital Workers arrive pre-built, pre-programmed – to be easily trained and put to work by non-technical business people, without further coding – so they avoid lengthy, expensive, design, programming and build projects.
- ‘Centralized’ means that Digital Workers’ automations and all related innovations can be shared, reused, improved and expanded by the whole business. This encourages real transformative collaboration across an organization, where the number of automations you build are compounding all the time – bringing an organization together – and hugely accelerating and amplifying gains.
Our Digital Workers are also equipped with what we believe are the following totally unique attributes:
- Most connected – they can interoperate with other robots, humans, and any past, present or future technology.
- Highest processing speed – perform complex activities up to 150 times faster than people.
- Best learners – they can be easily trained and will then automatically teach each new Digital Worker that same skill.
- Best organised – they find tasks to complete and adjust the order of tasks based on demand or congestion.
- Most trusted – they provide a full audit trail of their work and work in a highly secure way.
- Most insightful – they auto-collect management information across all process flows for process optimization and re-design.
Competitive RPA offerings favor a form of digital assistant for a single person to perform all kinds of time-saving activity. And that’s great, but it’s not taking full advantage of RPA in an enterprise environment. This is because robots that are distributed across individuals’ desktops and used in individual, soiled, contexts –may help the individual – but won’t enable any benefits to be scaled and experienced by the whole enterprise.
Another major consideration is that due to a growing scarcity of software development skills, those robots that require any coding will ultimately suffer the same high costs and deployment delays as traditional IT projects.
What is the Blue Prism Digital Exchange (DX)?
The Blue Prism Digital Exchange (DX) is a ground-breaking intelligent automation “app store” and online community that offers an open ecosystem for intelligent automation capabilities. The Blue Prism DX offers connections to all transformative technologies which are simply dragged and dropped into process flows to be used for the continual testing, advancing, sharing and deployment of new automated innovations. This could be new AI, machine learning, chatbot and other cognitive capabilities. Blue Prism’s DX is significant as it’s now driving those AI capabilities into the wider enterprise – which is something that organizations would previously never have been able to experience.
Thank you for the interview. Anyone who wishes to learn more should visit Blue Prism.