Shyam Bhojwani on Automation, Digital Transformation, Cybersecurity, and the Future of IT Roles

Shyam Bhojwani, the Director of Business Technology and Cybersecurity at Workato Inc. is pivotal in leveraging automation and AI to enhance Employee Experience and Cybersecurity Operations. With a background encompassing leadership in IT, Solution Design, Cybersecurity, and Internal AI and automation, Shyam spearheads the promotion of a citizen developer culture, enabling both technical and non-technical users to automate their daily operations and allocate their time toward projects and growth. In this interview, we delve into how Shyam’s expertise and Workato’s initiatives reshape employee experiences and cybersecurity operations through automation and digital transformation.

Automation and Digital Transformation at Workato Inc.

How has automation and AI-driven digital transformation been in Employee Experience and Cybersecurity Operations at Workato Inc.?

At Workato, We think about digital transformation in terms of experiences i.e. Employee Experiences (Ex), Customer Experiences(Cx), Developer Experiences(DevEx), etc. The idea is to provide delightful experiences to our employees so that they are able to be the most productive version of themselves allowing them to close a deal faster, ship and deploy a piece of code to our production systems, help a customer quickly resolve a request, etc.

Digital transformation initiatives now combined with AI-driven automation have allowed to automate most of the day-to-day operations from an employee experience standpoint. Be it Automating the complete Hire-to-Retire Employee Lifecycle, Shipping Laptops on time Aka Zero-touch, Provisioning application access within a few seconds, Using GenAI Self Servicing Bots to quickly resolve requests,  Smart AI-powered Approvals for various requests such as PTOs, Travel Requests, benefits requests, etc. 

We have been able to extend our digital transformation Journey within our Business Technology and cybersecurity Operations team with the impact of meeting our SLAs (Service Level Agreements), SLOs (Service Level Objectives), XLAs (Experience Level agreements), and reducing our overall resolution time for support requests and from a security standpoint be able to quickly respond to security events.

What strategies ensure successful automation implementation in these areas?

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a 360-degree overview of IT, Security, Application Development, Solution Design / Engineering and also leading digital transformation initiatives at my current and previous organizations one thing I’ve experienced is that digital transformation is a process that requires alignment and partnership across the organization.

For a Successful Automation implementation, the first thing is to accept that automation is an enabler and start by looking at the end-to-end processes that run within your teams, departments, and organizations and how are these processes being followed by People (Employees, System Analysts, Back / Front office workers, Security & Dev Teams) and using data to identify these interactions in terms of Time spent conducting manual interactions, using CSAT, SLAs, NPS Scores to get a pulse check on the experiences these different interactions are leading to and if using the Automation Impact Strategy i.e If a particular manual task is automated what is the impact in terms of $ saved, productivity gain, happy employee & customer experience, reduction in system context switching,  # of security incidents averted and overall reduction in time to resolve a support request etc.

Traditional AI and Generative AI Combined now have made it easier to identify these areas ( IT Service, Security Operations, Employee Experience Onboarding, Offboarding, PTOs, and Infrastructure Operations)  of undergoing digital transformation and applying systematic recommendations to automate and provide seamless & secure experiences.

The Evolving Role of Digital Transformation for IT and Cybersecurity

What’s the evolving role of digital transformation for system admins and cybersecurity professionals?

IT and business technologists have gone through a tremendous change in the last decade or so and the phrase Digital transformation has always been referenced by more Business Teams such as Finance, HR, Sales, and Marketing, and IT and business Technologists have been the enablers for these amazing transformations.

The role of Sys Admins, Client Platform Engineers, and cybersecurity analysts is undergoing a major transformation, with the advent of AI-led Automations by empowering them to automate day-to-day operations tasks such as software patching, critical systems monitoring, handling the complete service management lifecycle of Requests, incidents, security events log ingestions and security actions.

From an experience standpoint, Workbots (Slack, MS Teams) and/or Low Code / No Code apps can be the display layer so that all the alerts and data can be visualized in a single UI along with the orchestration engine which enables automated actions.

 Eg: Using Workbots + Software License Optimization Automatiins to get detailed information about underutilized SaaS apps along with  Shadow IT Discovery and the ability to close the loop i.e Identify, Categorize, Automated way to inform the end user and use the orchestration engine to reclaim underutilized SaaS License(s).

From a Security standpoint using the Same logic to identify SaaS Applications that are not approved for usage and leveraging automation to identify the end-to-end third-party software supply chain risk and taking automated actions to handle Security incidents and alerts. 

Could you explain the concept of citizen developers and its impact on digital transformation?

Citizen Developers are non-developer or less specialized employees who are trained to become business technologists and contribute to the creation of automation solutions. They are typically either non-developer IT roles like Business/Application Systems Analysts or people in business units whose processes involve using multiple systems. They play a crucial role in digital transformation by reducing bottlenecks and development costs, as they build what they know best for themselves.

Platforms like Workato enable Citizen Developers by providing a no-code/low-code environment, allowing for faster time-to-value with less development effort. This democratizes the transformation process, providing the workforce with the space to become innovators.

In the context of digital transformation, Citizen Developers can drive widespread adoption of  LCNC (low-code/no-code) integration and automation across organizations. They are close to the business processes being automated and familiar with managing SLAs and handling exceptions. Instead of spending time writing requirements and managing understanding for a developer to build a solution, they can spend that time actually building the solution which is automated and integrated. 

This accelerates the digital transformation journey, paving the way for future growth and efficiency.

What does the term “Prompt Engineers” mean in the context of driving digital transformation?

In the last 6+ months, there’s been a huge buzz around Generative AI, Prompts, LLMs (Large Language Models), and Prompt Engineering. 

Generative AI is a transformational technology that has been trained on billions and billions of datasets (LLMs) and based on a valid input AKA “Prompt” can provide the desired output and for this output to be somewhat accurate you need experts AKA “Prompt Engineers” to input the correct Prompt. 

Prompt Engineers know how to input the correct Prompt (Input) and get the best results from these LLMs and these engineers can be the bridge between enabling Business teams to ask the right questions to the internal private LLMs and get the most apt response.

Prompt Engineers are the AI advocates on how Business Teams can use Generative AI as the Interface layer (GUI) to embark upon their digital transformation journey via all the Co-Pilots, Templates, and Low Code / No Code Automations that these LLMs provide as output to Prompt which can now easily be plug and play and reduce the time it takes to automate a business process.

Smart Prompt eg:

 “How can I automate my Service Desk Processes” Or

 “Imagine I’m a Security Operations Analyst and I get more than 10K alerts on a daily basis How can I automate these alerts ingestions to take automated Security actions”

The whole GenAI Revolution boom is definitely exciting but it requires new skillsets and processes from a cyber standpoint.

Cyber Teams are now challenged with ensuring confidential data never goes out to these public LLMs, especially Company proprietary code and IP.

There is now a need for a special internal AI Advisory + Review  Councils to review any Open source, third party, and Cloud Traditional and Generative AI services and offerings. It doesn’t stop there, Cyber teams need to change their endpoint compliance systems and tooling to be able to monitor GenAI Services being accessed within the Company’s Network and Laptop Assets.

Also, Strictly monitor prompts that tie back to your organization as these LLM models learn from Prompts and it’s a constant dynamic learning loop. Another addition to the Social Engineering Component is to monitor any prompts that impact the reputation score of your organization.

How can organizations balance cybersecurity with a great employee experience, especially in remote work scenarios?

As someone with a dual role balancing between employee experience and cybersecurity, I always followed the mindset of providing seamless and secure employee experiences.

In this era of hybrid remote work, it is super important to have a strategic balance between security and experience.  Data is a great way to visualize how a particular new security process can improve the overall posture and how it impacts the employee experience. 

As a fast-paced growth company, we have always focused on creating a security culture and constantly educating our employees on various controls, governance & data policy, and any new security tool or processes that need to be accounted for employee experience i.e how easy it is for our employees to complete their security training or how can an endpoint security tool run on the backend of all the laptops and not impacting the productivity of our employees at all. 

Security is a team effort and definitely requires participation alongside proper enablement across the organization leads to a proper balanced approach.

Empowering Transformation: Cultivating Citizen Developers, Automation Success, and Alignment Strategies

Do you have any tips for fostering a culture of citizen developers in an organization?

Citizen development is more of a mindset shift where you want your process experts to build what they know best for themselves.

Creating an Automation Culture: Encouraging the culture of automation through initiatives such as Idea Portal, Automation Contests, and Hackathons. This allows anyone to share ideas for automation that improve business efficiency and help others discover the potential for automation across teams and the organization.

Skills  & Center of Excellence Mindset: Low Code / No Code & Automation Platforms like Workato provide a comprehensive learning and development program to identify and close any skill gaps and enable builders with automation concepts. 

This includes a formal onboarding process, role-based learning paths, and a certification or endorsement process to ensure builders are ready to use the platform.

The idea is to create a Center of Excellence (COE) mindset where citizen developers get access to the right tools, and skills and are able to automate their own business processes while still having the right guard rails in place.

GEARS Framework (Change Management): GEARS Framework is designed to foster an automation culture and organizational change management. It focuses on five domains: Govern, Enable, Adopt, Run, and Scale (GEARS), representing automation capabilities, including employee skills, processes, and technology operations. This systematic approach helps organizations plan their roadmap to advance automation maturity.

At Workato, We contribute towards the Workato-on-Workato Story where we document, showcase all the automation my teams build, and use this as inspiration for other teams so that they feel inspired to automate their business process themselves. Creation of success stories for all automation to showcase automation success and benefits. This helps drive adoption and develop a culture of automation.

What are the key success factors in implementing automation for digital transformation?

Implementing Automation for  Digital transformation involves several key success factors:-

Asking the real questions:

  • Who is this automation for? Specific team, department, organization, partners, customers, B2B, B2C?
  • What can I automate and how does it help transform my business?
  • When do I automate? Which part of the process needs to be automated first
  • Where will be the maximum impact? 

Asking these real-world questions is a starting point for thinking about digital transformation in terms of automation and its impact.

In terms of detailed success factors:

Detailed understanding of What Tasks / Processes to Automate.

Adoption Strategy:  Automation adoption strategy of either going deep (intensively within a specific business process) or going wide (across many teams and processes)

Re-imaging Processes: Reimaging your processes with Automation and now AI in mind. Again goes back to the question of what can be improved for a specific team, multiple teams, or processes together.

Continuous Improvement Loop: A culture of continuous improvement is crucial. This involves regularly evaluating and changing processes, with automation at the core. No solution is expected to last indefinitely, as teams focus on what is needed now, knowing that they can rapidly change course at any time. 

How do you ensure alignment between IT, Solution Design, Cybersecurity, and AI for a cohesive digital transformation strategy?

Business alignment between IT, Architecture, Solution Design, and Cybersecurity teams, and AI is super crucial for a cohesive digital transformation strategy.

Any new technology, and process adoption requires an effective partnership, and especially for digital transformation initiatives, IT / Business Technology teams have a critical role to play as these teams are the enablers of these initiatives.

Strategy: In the new era of digital transformation, business, and IT teams are coming together to solve problems in ways traditional approaches would not have solved. This involves creating a prioritized roadmap for automation and AI  across all towers of the business and applying a systematic approach to implement it across the company.

Alignment: Digital Transformation Initiatives often times fail due to a lack of business alignment. Business Teams such as IT, Cybersecurity, and Architecture Teams need to be aligned so that they are able to showcase the digital transformation value to business teams such as Finance, HR, Sales, Procurement teams, etc.

The Automation + AI  Factor: A proactive automation strategy can accelerate digital transformation. Automating redundant, long, and time-consuming processes can help enterprises accommodate evolving employee and customer needs.

AI is here to stay and transform business processes and IT, BT, Security, and Architecture teams need to think about AI (GenAI) being the new Input layer combined with the Execution / Automation Layer along with Security as the new mindset approach that can lead to a successful digital transformation journey.

Centralized In-Take Process & Security + Governance: Any new Digital transformation initiative should always go through an intake process and a platform like Workato which also provides Workbots so that various teams can use Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace bots to input their requests and the backend, IT/ BT & Security teams are able to do a thorough review on the same thread, hence reducing the need for context switching and using the automation layer to align and take this request forward is one of the many ways for these teams to align and support digital transformation initiatives.

Security and governance should never be an afterthought and be an important consideration before embarking upon your digital transformation journey.

Career Advice for Technology, Automation, and Cybersecurity Pursuers

What advice would you give those pursuing technology, automation, and cybersecurity careers?

We are at a great influx point currently where technology is simplifying our lives and yet there are new innovations happening at lightning speed. For anyone looking to pursue a career in Tech and specially focused on automation and Cybersecurity, I would recommend:-

Stay in the know: As Tech is constantly changing, it’s super critical to stay in the know of the new technologies (for eg: Generative AI) and trends. 

Focus on getting hands-on experience: We are in this great era of Citizen developers and with so easy access to Low Code / No Code and automation tools the best way to learn or get experience is by actually doing it;  Try acquiring as much as hands-on experience be it through personal projects, automate your own day-to-day tasks, participate in Hackathons and Internships are a great place to get real-world experience.  As a Computer Science Graduate, I was crashing the Kernel & developing OS-level code during grad school; I did my first internship as a mobile app developer which was super exciting as the joy of seeing your code going into a product used by thousands of users followed by my second internship as a data analyst which inspired me to pursue a career in being a data & process expert to understand business and trends and be able to tell a story on how technology & automation can improve the current processes.

Multiple Career Trajectories: I believe in the idea of taking a risk and experimenting as much as possible and that applies to anything in general. Recent advancements in technology have made it easier for anyone who may or may not be from a tech background yet pursue a career in technology. Take a risk, build your first personal project, focus time on understanding the business processes, and use that knowledge & experience to try out different roles. Be it the Business Analyst, Automation Consultant, or Enterprise Architect. Security is all about managing risks and having a business & process understanding and being able to identify risks in terms of people, process, technology, and now data. 

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