Digital adoption has undoubtedly become a business imperative. However, digital transformation of your business can be a daunting task: It’s about establishing an agile mindset, pursuing the right ideas, and getting the required IT infrastructure and digital processes in place. One of the many challenges: Get the required IT people on board; actually, a majority of IT decision-makers say the biggest challenge to digitally transform their business is too few software developers. Here are some figures: It’s about 10,000 vacancies for software developers in the UK, and about 100,000 vacancies for IT professionals in Germany.
Could so-called “citizen developers” help overcome that bottleneck? – These are tech-minded individuals who can build business automations using drag and drop application components on no-code platforms, without formal tech training. The start-up Capto (www.wearecapto.com) however provides an intriguing alternative, for a very good reason which we’ll talk about below. Its claim: “Do what you love. Automate the rest”.
In the following interview I’m talking to Capto Co-Founder Marchela Georgieva (Here: Marchela’s LinkedIn Profile) about her vision for Capto and for the digital company of the future.
Sebastian: Hi Marchela, Thank you for taking the time to have this conversation. In 10 years time your digital avatar may probably have that interview with me, but today I’m lucky to have that interview in the old-fashioned way. Jokes aside, let’s start by looking at the very moment when you decided to start your company. Given that there’s already a couple of widely used RPA solutions available, what business needs did you want to solve with the Capto solution? Marchela: First off, thank you so much for having me, Seb. It’s such a pleasure to be having this conversation with you, so I’m rushing to dive into the answer to your question. You’re totally right that RPA has been around for a while and with that most businesses will have at least heard of companies like UiPath, and Automation Anywhere, etc. And for a reason. They have helped companies automate a lot of business processes..From our personal work with these solutions, however, they can be a good solution as long as you’re happy with the caveats that come in the package too. I should add here that before co-founder Capto, I did invest over 200 hours in UiPath’s citizen-developer training and my co-founder Alexis Chevallot had worked with traditional RPA platforms for a number of years.
So, what I mean by caveats is that these platforms are notoriously hyper-expensive to implement. What that means is that to justify the investment, historically you’d need to have a pipeline of many complex processes you’d want to automate in order to get a decent ROI. Otherwise, no sound budget holder would approve the investment. So, naturally this leaves most small and mid-sized businesses without a solution to turn to for digitising their operations.
We created Capto because we wanted to answer to all smaller businesses and those that didn’t want to commit right from the start to an intense and expensive automation project. We do this by giving them access to tailored flexible automation at a cost that’s fair, and that allows them to fit the solution to their exact needs and use case as opposed to the other way around.
Sebastian: So, how would you sum up the USPs of the Capto solution compared against the robots from UIPath or BluePrism? Marchela: One of our key selling points is undoubtedly the decreased number of broken robots. All of our robots are built using open source libraries which means that no updates get pushed unsolicitedly, thus crashing the robots. This naturally reduces the time the robots are down and significantly lowers the need for maintenance which is instrumental both for our maintenance team and our clients.
What our clients also appreciate a lot is that we don’t commit them to a certain period of time, say 3 years as is often the case. Also, we pass the code to the client should they decide to keep the robots’ maintenance in-house. That’s a very big difference from traditional platforms where as soon as your licences expire, you effectively lose access to your robots.
Lastly, we have to mention the price, which is a fraction of what traditional RPA tends to cost, as well as the flexibility of our solutions which allows us to tailor exactly to the client’s use case. Essentially, we focus exclusively on serving our clients in a way that 100% addresses their problem, as opposed to focusing on growth and building generic solutions that resolve a few very specific client scenarios.
Sebastian: Capto is an open-source solution. How is that a game changer for your clients? And how does your business model work with this open-source approach? Marchela: Building all our robots using open source allows us to have full control over the end client solution because we are the ones writing the code as opposed to building solutions on drag-and-drop platforms where you wouldn’t normally have access to the code itself. From the clients’ perspective, this also means visibility over the code which they can review at any point to satisfy any data security policies or audits for example.
I missed to clarify at the start that Capto is a service company that provides not only the consultancy on what and how should be automated but also builds the robots and then hosts and maintains them. All our clients praise us highly for the fact that we provide an end-to-end process that gives them comfort that the entire automation project sits within one company as opposed to having multiple counterparties involved which is often the case.
Sebastian: Can the Capto solution be deployed in any industry and a company of any size? Or do you have a sweet spot in terms of target customer? Marchela: One of the biggest advantages of running a service company that keeps the entire service process in-house is that we can develop solutions for companies of all sizes, industries, and use cases. Having said that, however, we have established that the companies that need us the most (at the moment) are mid-sized businesses with an abundance of manual tasks that take up a lot of time that could otherwise be invested in technical work and new clients. When it comes to the industries we serve, we predominantly work with law firms, as well as companies from the logistics and manufacturing space. As you can imagine, this makes work extremely interesting and personal for us which keeps us excited about the service we provide and the clients we work with.
Sebastian: Software companies as of today do benefit from the availability of quite a few Open Source libraries, that hold also for machine learning: Tensorflow, PyTorch and so on. How would you describe your architectural approach in order to achieve fast feature output, sustainability of the technology stack and robust performance? Marchela: This question is exactly why we built Capto exclusively on the idea of open-source robots. We wanted to deliver solutions that are robust, sustainable and backed by the support of the open source community. When you look at automation today, most of the solutions have a closed architecture that is not update-resistant and depends heavily on the maintenance provided by one company or even one single team. This results in a lot of bottlenecks that we wanted to address and avoid. For all these reasons and to ensure the best possible service for all our clients, we adopted the model whereby all our robots are open source and hosted on a cloud architecture with local data storage. This enables us to deliver automation that is robust, secure and fully visible and controllable by the client.
Sebastian: What were the biggest challenges in coming up with the software design for your robots? Marchela: The biggest challenge has been finding the right talent with the technical knowledge of python but also the required business understanding in order to deliver a solution that is user-friendly, easy to review, understand and use by the client.It has been difficult to find developers who not only focus on on the one technical outcome they are working on but also deliver the required quality and robustness of a code that can be leveraged later on for other tailored automations. In other words, building generic libraries for ultra tailored solutions is still the challenge that we work on daily in order to be able to continue to offer our solutions quickly, and at a fair price.
Sebastian: If you go by Gartner reports and articles in CIO magazine, automation is on top of IT managers agenda. However, seen through the eyes of a salesperson, things sometimes turn out to be different. What’s your take on that point, how much time do you still spend convincing business owners about the need for automation and digital transformation? Marchela: That’s a very good question and one that all of us in the automation industry can relate to pretty well I think. If you read the reports and talk to business owners, you wouldn’t wait long before you hear about the importance of automation and how it’s within the top 5 priorities of businesses especially after the pandemic. The reality however is quite different in that it does take a lot of effort to convince budget holders that a particular process or task is worth automating or can really! be automated.
I think a lot of business owners believe in the need for automation but have preconceived ideas about what can be done with automation, how fast and for what price. This requires a lot of education on our side to update people on how quickly automation is evolving and how easy, inexpensive and powerful automation can be at solving not only complex but also small (yet highly repetitive) processes and tasks.
Sebastian: What’s the roadmap for your company in the next 5 years? Marchela: The automation world is changing too fast to predict how technology will develop in the next 5 years but what’s sure is that we’ll keep working hard towards our goal to save 1 billion hours for our clients and allow them to grow their pipelines, teams and revenues with the help of our handy robots. We’ll continue to focus on building strong relationships with our clients, developing our expertise across industries and continuing to educate businesses on the importance and viability of implementing automation across the organisation.
Sebastian: Dear Marchela, that sounds very exciting, I will certainly continue to follow the development of Capto. All the best and also the necessary bit of luck for your company and for you personally!