Steve Burke – Innovating Business Models

Steve Burke Co-founder & CEO DigiBlu


To put it in simple words, intelligent automation is the amalgamation of the two very familiar technologies that have been around for quite a long time now- Artificial Intelligence and Automation. Artificial Intelligence includes things like machine learning, language recognition, and vision. And automation is something that includes all the industry-related things.

The applications of intelligent automation are vast. With the use of intelligent automation, one can convert a huge amount of data into information that can be easily processed and synthesizes into a usable format and it sometimes also recommends a course of action.

Using this to accelerate organizational performance, Steve Burke’s DigiBlu has helped many organizations transform from just traditional workspaces to being digitally abled. 

In an interview with The Enterprise World, Steve Burke unfolds the journey of DigiBlu.

Talking about DigiBlu, its inception and the challenges encountered, he says –

DigiBlu specializes in using Intelligent Automation technologies to create digital workforces that operate automated processes.

DigiBlu’s journey to Intelligent Automation began back in 2005 when its antecedent, Southpaw Solutions, was set up to specialize in Business Process Management. Acquired by PwC then spun off in 2014 to create DigiBlu, our projects included the design and implementation of lean-based approaches, the development of a Banking Reference Model in ARIS, the design of core banking processes for a start-up digital bank, and the design and implementation of a Process CoE.

 The initial challenge was ‘selling’ the concept of digital workers – a new, 4IR paradigm

The core offerings of DigiBlu are-

  • Digital Workforces – we help our clients create digital workforces on their premises, at scale. To do so, we provide consulting, delivery and capability services
  • Business Processes as-a-Service – we automate specific business processes and provide them as-a-service, over the cloud
  • Managed Services – we provide clients with the specialists required to run automated processes remotely, from our Robotic Operations Centre (ROC) in Cape Town

With challenges at hand, the point that triggered the growth of DigiBlu was-

The first trigger was successfully delivering automated processes at a prestigious retail bank, which gave us early credibility

Then we scaled a huge digital workforce at an insurance company, which gave us international recognition (including a Blue Prism Partner of the Year award)

Then we set up a Robotic Operations Centre which leverages an Intelligent Automation platform to provide automation services to international clients, remotely, from Cape Town.

Standing strong through the challenges, on what paved way for DigiBlu’s success, Steve says-

We grew from 16 members of staff in 2017 to 65 in 2019 and revenues by 650% over that same period.

We have continuously innovated to sustain competitive advantage; we focus relentlessly on building differentiated competencies; have a highly motivated team who coalesce around our vision and, most of all, we have delighted customers who we partner with on the journey to the digital workforce.

With such a successful timeline, when we asked Steve what would be the next step, he had a clear vision of it all-

The opportunities to leverage Intelligent Automation are seemingly exponential as organizations progress from automating as-is processes to reimagining their business and operating models and as they explore different service delivery models – from on-premise to as-a-service. We stick to our core – of implementing and operating digital workforces – and seize new opportunities that derive from that when they seem compelling.

We are currently developing an offering for a virtual front-office, delivered as-a-service, with Antworks. This uses Cognitive Machine Reading capabilities to capture data from all sources, ingest and structure it, and then inform decisions that are executed in the back office, using RPA.

Steve has had a diverse and an impressive professional experience. In brief-

After university, I was commissioned as an officer in the British Parachute Regiment and served 16 years in sometimes challenging scenarios. Our modus operandi was to be clear about the ultimate objective but to be flexible in execution because the situation always changes, and to seize opportunities as they arise. This is a core feature, I feel, of successful entrepreneurialism. After the army, I went into management consulting and have spent the last 20 years strategizing and delivering transformational business change for large organizations.

The highlights of his entrepreneurial journey include-

What we’re doing is world-changing – changing the workplace by taking the robot out of the human. It is cool to be leading a fast-growing business at the cutting edge of 4IR and mapping the unchartered territory.

We say to our clients, “when it comes to automation, no one has all the answers and no one knows where this journey will end, but let’s go there together.” It is very satisfying to be taken into their confidence and to achieve material success.

Leadership is something that is not everyone’s cup of tea. Steve says-

To create a compelling vision and identify opportunities to realize it, that profitably grow the business. The entrepreneur must align the team with the vision, motivate and inspire them and build the capabilities required to successfully deliver it.

We are on the journey together and have created a learning organization so that we capture learnings and improve our methods so we fulfill our potential, both individually and collectively as an organization.

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

Competition is always around the corner; dealing with it is the true leadership. Steve’s thoughts on this are-

Observe the environment and be open to constant change, to seize the initiative and stay two steps ahead of the competition. I’m a keen boxer and own a boxing club. Boxing is transformative: we say, “we’ll get you fit, we’ll give you skills … you bring the heart.” The ring makes you strong and prepares you to win the rat race. Some dogged determination helps too!

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