If business leaders want to automate any kind of process, they should initially realize why this is necessary. Afterwards, they should get the idea over to their employees. It is the opinion of Leonid Konovalov, Founder of InfoSystems.
He obtained three higher educations: radio engineering, IT, and economics. He studied communications, sales, management, time management, budgeting, planning, and other languages (besides programming). Such a symbiosis helped him to establish a company that managed to save 7.3 million RUB for its customers due to automation and optimization of small and medium business processes. Leonid Konovalov has his own Telegram channel.
Our interview reveals why automation is quite efficient, but not for everyone.
Interviewer: AI Conference (AI)
Respondent: Leonid Konovalov (LK)
AI: How would you explain to a child what automation means?
LK: I would ask a kid to imagine morning tooth brushing. There are two ways of cleaning: to take a brush and thoroughly work with it on your own or take another one, with a button, that will twist the clamp through teeth. The result is the same, but the second option allows to save energy and time without much effort. This is automation.
AI: How did your automation business start?
LK: I worked with my father while studying at school and college. He was also an entrepreneur. The father taught me to be my own boss. Attending the university, I worked in the construction field. I liked designing and even made several projects in Moscow. But a couple of years later, I decided to learn sales in order to set up my own business. I began to explore this aspect at a widely known investment company. I workedin the center of Moscow with interesting customers and team. Within six months, I became familiar with the topic and got back to basics: IT and automation.
AI: What is the core task of your business as of today?
LK: Team building and scaling. I am a keen optimizer and automation engineer, which leads to occupational hazard. The majority of my people work by the piece and some of them work remotely, including a range of competent employees. Obtaining a certain project, I involve them if we are lack of full-time employees.
AI: What was your first commercial project? Which of your projects are you proud of most of all? Why?
LK: The first major project was a bank. It was my first challenge. I was not competent in bank automation and had to acquire skills in the process.
I had no idea how to deal with their account chart, which was 20-digit instead of 4-digit like in bookkeeping. By the way, a specific nature of the exchange with the Central Bank. And the main thing: at that time, there were almost no products based on 1С. At best, three solutions. took an experimental one and ironed out the kinks, substantially saving bank’s budget. Automation budget was only 400,000 RUB, while software products started from this sum in a basic version without exchanges and additional licenses.
Back then, my personal product – Training Bank – came into the world. It teaches students to work with a bank: prepares both operators and chiefs. It is applied in business games. The solution helps to realize what remittance orders mean, how they are conducted in banks, and how legal entities carried out transfers. The Training Bank is still used at educational institutions and business incubators. And I set to interesting unconventional projects (for instance, a petrol station chain).
In a nutshell, I shifted a manual management accounting of the petrol station chain from the Excel table to a single consolidated system. Not only did it reduce financial expenses and make business more transparent, but it also allowed the owner to control the activity from anywhere in the world, preparing any report in a few minutes. Earlier, he had to spend hours for this task, together with bookkeepers and operators at petrol stations.
AI: Tell us about the Real automation Telegram channel. How did you come up with this idea?
LK: I was long cherishing an idea of blog and possibility to broadcast a bunch of case studies there. I aimed to share my best practices and insides with entrepreneurs, as well as knowledge acquired at numerous trainings, educational courses, and, surely, real automation at clients’ enterprises.
AI: How did you get customers? What helps you?
LK: Word of mouth. I do not promote our services at all.
AI: Tell us about your unsuccessful project.
LK: One of the enterprises required the integration of a data acquisition terminal. My fault was the following: I did not detect customer’s clear need, which resulted in inconsiderable expenditures.
The company has a warehouse. Initially, it requested to conduct arrival and inventory using the data acquisition terminal there. We made a wrong choice: came down to the point casually and bought an inappropriate device. The problem was that suppliers used different types of bar code, and many of them used even non-unified ones. We failed to perform a deep assessment and made a mistake.
Some time later, we returned to this issue. Now, we are elaborating technical specifications for a solution that will take at least six months. By the way, the client treated the loss as investments: the total of expenses was small, but we got a clear goal, transparency, and understanding.
AI: How did you understand a task and a customer?
LK: Understanding comes only after the definition of customer’s objective. No goal, no strategy; no strategy, no approach; no approach, no Balanced Scorecard (BSC), and no personnel KPI. This is what I write on my channel, as well as about my own solutions and software, and how to succeed.
AI: What challenges do you face during work?
LK: The core challenge is to teach owners or executives to think in a consistent and process manner and to see clear goals. The next challenge is staff because any changes mean big inconvenience. And if they lead to business transparency and employees’ activity, it is double inconvenience.
Leaders should be responsible. They should not sell things that clients do not need. It is a losing battle. Customers should realize automation objectives and render their vision to personnel. Thus, everyone at the company should understand the reason of such an action. In this case, everything will make sense. Conflicts are inevitable, but they should be constructive.
AI: What defects of product, business model, and corporate management system can automation solve?
LK: Automation is primarily people’s thinking. When everyone in their proper place starts thinking of what they do inefficiently and how to turn their work from the routine to the “alive” system with minimum human intervention, this means that I have done my part.
The next step is mere formality, engagement of programmers, analysts, and employees. Automation is just a tool that can be purchased, taken, and explored, or laid on a shelf. The latter is the most frequent phenomenon, but it is a separate matter.
AI: If you could automate only one business process, what would you choose?
LK: Entrepreneur’s thinking. Just a joke (laughing - Ed.). Quite a great question. It is as good that I won’t give a clear answer. Any process can be digitalized and automated. The main thing is not to run to extremes. Everything should be in moderation.The perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, more precisely, I don’t take on a single process: it is at least inefficiently.
Leonid will reveal how to automate your own business on April 9 at AI Conference.
If you are interested in changing your thinking, listening to him is must-have.