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Scott Opitz, Chief Marketing Officer of ABBYY – Interview Series

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Scott Opitz, is the Chief Marketing Officer at ABBYY.  He founded the process intelligence firm TimelinePI before it’s eventual merging with ABBYY.

What initially attracted you to artificial intelligence?

My interest in AI was borne from the same thing that attracted me to technology in general, I have always been fascinated by any computing tools that increase the speed at which humans can solve problems. For much of my career, I was focused on the development of technologies that made traditional analytics tools more accessible to non-technical users. Although this provided great improvements in their understanding of their data, there were classes of problems that were beyond the capabilities of these techniques. A great example is detecting how the subtle interactions between different steps of a business process can influence the outcome of that process. It turns out that creatively applying machine learning can actually allow you to predict these outcomes far better that any human. These new insights allow users to take actions to change negative outcomes or at least prepare in advance to mitigate their impact.

You were previously the co-founder and CEO of TimelinePI, Inc., a company that was later acquired by ABBYY. Could you discuss how TimelinePI empowered users to understand, optimize and monitor any business process?

TimelinePI was originally founded to provide a better solution for the discovery, analysis and monitoring of business processes. We did this through a combination of process event mining and schema reconstruction. This was particularly helpful in the process assessment and planning for digital transformation projects. In 2019, we merged with ABBYY to further extend these capabilities by allowing us to achieve even greater insight by exploiting the critical business process data locked away in the numerous documents found in business processes. We now offer the combined solution as core capabilities within ABBYY’s Digital Intelligence Platform.

The importance of these deeper insights became especially evident during the pandemic. Overnight, employees from order processing to accounts payable to customer service lost the ability to walk over to the next cubicle to discuss a file or ask for help. In some cases they couldn’t even access core systems and applications. Out of necessity many employees became frustrated and circumvented processes in an attempt to find any way to get the job done. In fact, in a global survey conducted by ABBYY, 1-in-4 workers were so fed up with processes that they were willing to quit their jobs.

The insights enabled by the new ABBYY Digital Intelligence Platform solve this problem by allowing companies to see the exact process steps as they are completed and pinpoint bottlenecks or other potential issues. It also helps companies learn what employees actually do when they perform a particular task and identify opportunities to improve the process through better training or by sharing insights. Uncovering new, more efficient process variations then can be promoted as best practices.

After the acquisition of TimelinePI, Inc. you became the President of ABBYY Process Intelligence where you oversaw the integration of TimelinePI’s process intelligence products (now ABBYY Timeline) into ABBYY’s worldwide sales and distribution channels. What were some of the challenges behind this integration?

The integration of the technologies was the easiest part. The greater challenge was helping our more than 5,000 customers, many among the Fortune 500, understand how to adjust their usual practices to benefit from true process understanding. In many cases these companies are just beginning to realize that they cannot afford to waste time on manual, error prone analysis or the risk of guessing on how best to optimize their organizations. Our successes thus far are thanks to the tremendous efforts of our customers success team and highly qualified partner network.

What are some examples of automation opportunities that you have seen from companies using ABBYY Timeline?

With the fervor around RPA and automation in general, we have seen organizations realize remarkable benefits as a result of having greater process insight. We have clients ranging from healthcare systems to telecommunications firms to fintech organizations that are using Timeline to identify process bottlenecks, expose process compliance issues, assess human resource productivity better, and discover new revenue opportunities. They’re also leveraging it for practical challenges with improving customer experiences, increasing employee productivity, and achieving operational efficiency when it matters most.

In 2020, you became the Chief Marketing Officer at ABBYY. What are some of the marketing efforts that you have taken on?

I’m a strong believer that the marketing organization should focus on speed, quality, and impact. I also think that marketing must be an equal partner with the product development team to ensure we always build products that are well aligned with the needs of the market. With the added challenges of COVID-19, we also had to adapt to new techniques for communicating with our market.

This resulted in the launch of our Digital Intelligence Platform, some exciting new partnerships and new product capabilities focused on enabling our customers to more quickly implement and benefit from their digital transformation projects.

We are also in the process of launching a complete re-branding project to better reflect the breadth of our new offerings and the more prominent role we are playing in the digital transformation space.

Recently, SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) and Signavio GmbH announced that SAP has entered into an agreement to acquire Signavio. Could you discuss in your opinion why SAP chose to acquire Signavio?

The Signavio acquisition by SAP is another great proof point of the critical importance of process intelligence tools. I think the transaction is very interesting as it highlights a recognition that first generation process mining tools were not enough. The real value requires a broader process intelligence suite of capabilities that promote a deeper understanding of their critical business processes to direct their transformation investments and ensure operational compliance.

What will this acquisition mean for the industry?

I believe we’ll continue to see consolidation among standalone process mining vendors by larger platform providers and other suitors. We saw this happen before in many industries – the BPM and security markets, for example. We’ve also seen what happens when large enterprise software providers swallow up smaller vendors – they can’t be good at everything and often they lose their market differentiation. What’s made ABBYY successful is we know what we’re good at, we specialize in it, invest in R&D with it, and as a result, we are depended upon by global companies and all the major players to make their platforms smarter.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about ABBYY or anything else that was discussed?

We talked a lot about having process insight but it’s only one component of digital intelligence. Companies are looking to achieve true enterprise transformation but shouldn’t automate tasks and processes for the sake of automation – that’s why we’re companies’ secret weapon. We use advanced AI technologies to understand how people, processes and data interact together and completely re-engineer how they work together. We make AI real for customers by delivering clear advantages over their competitors and we’re committed to their success.

If Unite.AI readers are interested in learning more, ABBYY is hosting its Reimagine virtual conference in March and I welcome everyone to learn how digital intelligence can make an impact to their organization.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit ABBYY.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.