4 steps to prepare employees for robotic process automation

After the 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds proclaimed “the Martians are Coming,” reports alleged that people ran panicked into the streets. Today, something not too dissimilar is happening with the adoption of robotic process automation – software robots that execute processes in the same way a person does.

But this is no hoax. In fact, research from ISG Insights finds that more than two-thirds of business operations leaders plan to deploy software bots by 2020. And the potential for impact on employees is huge.

Yet the prospect of automation doesn’t need to be met with panic. The fact is, when properly explained and launched with employee involvement, automation can greatly benefit both employees and the companies they work for.

Sadly, most initiatives that are designed to improve business performance fail because the organization doesn’t adequately prepare its employees for the change. To make this type of initiative work, here’s four key steps:

Demystify the Robot

Let’s face it: people are terrified that robots will take over their jobs – and take over the world. How could employees not be suspicious of robots? Help employees understand what RPA is and what it is not. RPA software is configured to eliminate mundane tasks associated with many business processes – the tasks most employees would gladly relinquish.

Few people relish the “swivel chair” rekeying of information between and among applications or extracting data from one system to validate it against another. Employees should view RPA “bots” as teammates, willing and able to perform repetitive tasks without complaint and with unmatched speed and accuracy.

Use Employees for Their Brains

Business leaders can create enthusiasm and support for RPA by engaging employees in developing the RPA strategy and including them in evaluating opportunities for automation. Employees know precisely where bottlenecks or redundancies occur. Their imagination and vision can be a means to rekindling the creative capacities that may have been stifled while performing recurring processes.

Adhere to the adage that involvement leads to commitment. Involving employees at a higher level creates excitement around what is possible and helps them understand where and how they might fit into a changing organization.

Identify Talent to Guide the RPA Journey

Unquestionably, the quest for cost reduction is a driver behind automation adoption. And with good reason. The ROI on a typical investment is more than 500 percent. Yet, many don’t understand from the outset the impact automation can have on speed-to-market and revenue cycle improvements and how it can lead to new opportunities for employees to perform higher-value work.

Train and reskill employees to become process assessment experts and help them acquire skills related to managing virtual workforces. Case in point: a premier insurance company recently deployed RPA and was immediately able to bind more policies faster and more accurately simply because it could process broker requests for quotes by eliminating tedious work that underwriters had been performing.

Ultimately, management retrained and redeployed workers to accommodate the increased demand for policy binding.

Communicate Early and Often

Including employees in defining the impact of RPA on their jobs and the related upskilling opportunities is critical. It should be non-negotiable. The possibility that RPA will eliminate human workers is not a definitive and inevitable outcome.

Give employees the opportunity to self-identify the roles within a process that are likely to be eliminated. Typically, RPA is deployed as part of a larger business process made up of a series of mundane or repetitive tasks that do not fall to individual employees. When employees and their managers begin to understand the operational complexities of RPA, they can work together to identify opportunities for creating new jobs that require new skills.

While RPA may start in a specific business unit, its impact and operating results will spread rapidly once it is proven. Formalize a communication strategy and structure for discussing RPA and be prepared to take the message company-wide. Stay in front of the message. Failure to do so will result in employees coming to their own conclusions and creating their own networks to hypothesize the impact of robotics.

Cutting costs will always be essential for competing in the global economy – and robotics are here to stay. But along with the opportunity to automate and streamline processes comes the responsibility to prepare employees. Who better than existing employees to help lead the charge into RPA?

Source: information-management.com -4 steps to prepare employees for robotic process automation


Industry and academia – the recipe for AI innovation

Academia and industry at first glance appear to be strange bedfellows. One focuses on the theoretical and conceptual, whilst the other is driven by the practicalities of deadlines, goals and ultimately, profit.

I’m in the privileged position of working on both sides of the fence. I’m Professor of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco as well as Chief Scientist at SnapLogic, a provider of application and data integration software. I have worked on AI in both of these roles, and throughout my 20 year career I’ve come to the realisation that, when it comes to driving innovation, these two distinct spheres need to work together.

AI promises to be the most important technology of the future, and if the lofty ambitions and out-of-the-box thinking of academia can find synergy with the can-do attitude, urgency and resources of industry, we’ll see an explosion in its applications. In fact, I believe that AI and ML technology won’t just be a nice feature but will be a requirement for all applications go forward.

Data, Data everywhere

This collaboration between industry and academia has been growing for some time and, like most things in technology, it all boils down to the data. For the first 10 to 15 years of my career I was on the traditional academic track, and whenever we were undertaking research or publishing papers, there was always one consistent stumbling block – we lacked real world data.

That all changed around 10 years ago with the emergence of social and search. The Google’s, Twitter’s and Facebook’s of the world were challenged by data growth problems that exceeded the capacity of conventional database technology, so they built custom solutions to house their vast datasets.

Of course, the large search and social companies didn’t curate all of this user and behavioural data for the distinct purpose of fuelling AI development, but they saw the potential that it held. The tipping point came when the likes of Twitter first invited academics to analyse this data. Suddenly and unexpectedly, a treasure trove of real world data was made available to academics. All that theoretical machinery that we had been developing in academia could be realised as real recommendations and meaningful predictive applications. Ph.D.s in academia started going into industry and working with real data, fuelling further theoretical developments and so on and so forth.

Many of the latest and most promising developments in AI have been forged through this symbiotic relationship, and if it can be strengthened, we’ll see many more breakthroughs in the pipeline.

Cultural Cross-pollination

The positive effects of academia and industry’s relationship aren’t solely limited to datasets. Cultural cross-pollination is, in my opinion, a vital aspect for driving further innovation in the field.

I’ve briefly alluded to this above, but it’s hard to imagine cultures much more different than industry and academia. As someone who was, for the majority of their career, primarily an academic, I’ve experienced first-hand how these two worlds differ, and how, on an individual level, being exposed to the other side of the coin is an enriching experience.

This is perhaps best illustrated with an example. I first joined SnapLogic in 2010, when it was a much smaller company than it is today. This was my first foray into industry, and I was tasked with building a prototype for a machine learning project to be implemented into our data integration platform. The prospect of putting my code in front of my new colleagues, industry veterans, unsettled me.

As someone who had been coding since the age of twelve or thirteen, it wasn’t a lack of skills or experience which caused this reaction, rather the prospect of doing so in a wildly different environment to that which I was used to. In academia, code is rarely reviewed. There isn’t an audience, it’s just an aspect of the job you complete. In industry it’s much more purpose-driven. There are goals and deadlines and milestones. Your work must deliver value for customers.

In the end everything was fine, and that code I wrote still exists in the platform to this day, but it shed some light on how sheltered we are in academia from the realities and stresses of industry. By spending time in industry I learned how to adapt to a different type of coding environment, and am a more well-rounded professional as a result.

These cross-cultural benefits are something I’m bringing into my classroom to better prepare my students for a career in industry. I’m now teaching some of the realities of building production software, which many academics might forego. We’re also bringing some of my students to work on-site at SnapLogic, on real-world AI projects, for course credit.

By exposing these younger people to industry in the earliest parts of their careers, rather than far later on as I did, the next wave of computer scientists will be equipped with not only the curiosity of the academic, but the practicality and work ethic of industry. This, I hope, will spur the next great developments in AI.

The AI future

I strongly believe that AI will have a huge impact on the world of business in the years to come. It will make companies more efficient, freeing up resources to be invested in other areas to enhance existing products or develop new ones. It will change job roles and allow employees to focus on more human tasks that rely on human skills, such as emotional insight, rather than burdened with rote, repetitive tasks.

However, it’s going to be an incremental process, and it won’t happen overnight. If we’re to have any hope of accelerating the timeframe, we’re going to need academics and industry pulling in the same direction, pooling their talents and resources and working in sync. The building blocks for this relationship are already in place, and both sides stand to benefit.

Source: itproportal.com-Industry and academia – the recipe for AI innovation

Is the legal sector embracing the tech revolution?

Dan Taylor, director of systems at Fletchers Solicitors, explains how the legal sector is opening its mind to the innovations tech has to offer.

At the start of 2017, the Law Society (guardians of the UK legal profession) published a report on the state of tech in the nation’s law firms. In his opening address, Robert Bourns, head of Law Society of England and Wales, expressed the belief that the reputation of lawyers as technological Luddites was undeserved and that the sector was “one with energy and ideas, ready to promote a revolution in how we deliver legal services.”

In the same report, however, research into the awareness of lawyers regarding a range of tech innovations revealed a slightly more realistic picture; a sector where innovation is being led by a select few, with the remainder following in their wake.

This is, perhaps, understandable and not too dissimilar to many other professional services, where the emphasis is on human judgement and skill – rather than efficiency and scalability.

However, what is clear is a growing appetite for innovation and an increasing realisation that technology isn’t replacing professional skill and judgement, but instead enhancing it by enabling lawyers to focus their energies to best the effect.

What tech is currently capturing the attention of lawyers?

The Law Society found that, at best, a quarter of lawyers are unaware of emerging technologies (in areas such as artificial intelligence), rising to 38 per cent, 64 per cent and 75 per cent for Big Data analysis, IBM Watson and RAVN respectively.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, the sectors’ innovators are focusing on a range of potential solutions, with artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) being most closely followed by 14 per cent to 20 per cent of the most innovative firms. These areas of tech are narrowly ahead of other appealing solutions, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and expert systems.

A key reason why these are being singled out and gaining the most attention is that they are seen to be most closely aligned to improving client services, making the administration of legal services smoother and quicker, while maximising the quality time with their lawyer.

The report also singles out the desire by firms to use tech to become more agile and stimulate growth. In particular, firms are looking to increase collaboration – with those both inside and outside the firm – and use technology to access new markets, particularly by better serving the needs of international clients.

What specific solutions are lawyers looking for?

In 2015, there were 600 legaltech start-ups offering new solutions to legal clients. Despite this, the report by the Law Society found that there is still suspicion over the extent to which these can currently replace tasks carried out by lawyers and their human assistants.

Instead, the interest appears to be focusing on the future development of ‘augmented workforces’, where computers and humans form a true partnership. Machines will be capable of following basic human-to-human social interactions and lawyers will possess more computer skills to better tailor and utilise technology to support their day-to-day work.

The role for AI

AI programs and solutions have the potential to be invaluable when it comes to coping with the increasing amounts of data that lawyers have to handle, making it easier and quicker to sift through and analyse large collections of documents. It can also be used to automate a number of time-consuming tasks, particularly when it comes to legal research.

Greater use of intelligent systems could allow lawyers to focus more of their time on more complex, high value tasks like the core legal analysis, driving efficiencies and helping lawyers to make quick and accurate decisions. Such systems also have the potential to reduce overhead costs and increase profits.

Optimising online legal services

Law firms have operated online for many years, but at the moment, many firms only offer a small selection of their services online. A large number of legal services offered online merely comprise of external links to communication services, such as Skype, or online forms to be completed for primary legal processes, such as conveyancing or probate matters. Very few legal firms offer “end to end” fully integrated online services, which have long been adopted in other sectors, such as insurance or financial services.

At some point, law firms need to acknowledge that the legal expertise that’s long been the preserve of lawyers is becoming more freely available to the public. Once this is accepted and embraced, law firms will need to start offering their services both in the traditional way in order to survive, while also offering a variety of different online-based options to allow the client more flexibility in how they purchase legal services.

Introducing intuitive management systems

As of yet, such an intuitive case management system isn’t currently available, even though the technology exists and we all use it. This would reduce the time spent on case management significantly and would free up more time to get through more of the core legal work. The development of such a system will surely dominate the market, and those law firms that adopt these systems would see huge efficiencies in productivity and cost savings.

The Law Society’s report reveals much about where tech and law with combine and thrive. Most notably, it is those areas where tech isn’t seeking to replace the human element, but instead to enhance it – augmenting rather than replacing the skills and judgment of lawyers to the advantage of their clients.

Source: itproportal-Is the legal sector embracing the tech revolution?

How Service Providers are Adopting Robotic Process Automation Internally. Part 2

In our last post, we discussed how service providers were using robotic process automation (RPA) to dramatically change the way outsourcing is designed and delivered. This technology, which allows companies to automate support processes, data manipulation or any other transactional activity, is revolutionizing the outsourcing industry and provides an attractive alternative to combat the growing costs of offshoring. This can dramatically improve the way outsourcing service is provided and offer many benefits to clients.

We have already discussed how RPA can improve scalability, offer better support and improve efficiency. Today, we will continue describing the benefits of adopting RPA, why outsourcers need an alternative to outsourcing and how service providers will continue to use RPA in the future to lower costs and deliver better service to their customers.

A new model for global service providers

Although the cost of labor in Asia is still significantly lower than in the U.S. and Europe, it is rapidly catching up. Wages in China have consistently risen by 12% each year since 2001. [1] This, coupled with mounting political pressure to bring jobs home is making many outsourcers reconsider their past strategies.

In order to be successful in the coming years, it is important for companies to rethink the way they design and deliver their services. According to industry consultants at the Everest Group, there are three principles for reimagining global services and automation comes first. “Automation and intelligence lie at the heart of our ability to reimagine technology services, because automation helps us deliver breakthrough outcomes without blowing the cost model out of the water.” [2] Taking an automation first approach that focuses on delivering innovation while maintaining costs allows companies to stay competitive in dramatically changing global markets. This is driving an unprecedented adoption of RPA, with the market seeing an expected annual growth rate of 60.5% between 2014 and 2020. [3]

Benefits of adopting RPA

By giving service providers the ability to use automation to mimic human actions and complete tasks in the same way that a person would, automation can reduce operating costs while allowing the organization to stay agile and responsive. Our last post discussed several of the high-level benefits of adopting RPA. Today, we will discuss some of the more specific benefits the technology can provide to outsourcers.

  • Deeper insights & analytics – RPA can be leveraged to provide automated in-depth logging and reporting, allowing users to gather data more efficiently. This can allow the company to gain insights into processes, improve efficiency, reduce errors and lower costs.
  • Rapid ROI – The efficiency of automation allows companies to roll out new features faster. This can dramatically increase the speed with which they attain a positive ROI for new solutions.
  • Reduced redundancy – Human workers often perform redundant tasks and do unnecessary work. Automated processes can automatically identify these redundancies and eliminate them, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Better management ability – RPA naturally lends itself to better governance and compliance. Managers can look at statistics in a dashboard, easily turn off or adjust processes with the click of a button and generate reports and visualizations quickly. This allows them to gain finer control over day-to-day operations without investing more time or energy in the process.
  • Leverage human employees – Although many workers are afraid that automation will take their jobs, it can actually allow companies to assign their workers more rewarding and stimulating jobs. Creative roles and management roles still need to be performed by human workers and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Outsourcing providers will only continue to find more applications for RPA, using it to make their services more efficient, more reliable and better able to meet the requirements of their clients. As the need to find alternatives to increasingly costly and politically difficult offshoring increases, a greater number of companies must turn to automation in order to stay competitive.

Source: Softomotive-How Service Providers are Adopting Robotic Process Automation Internally. Part 2

How Service Providers are Adopting Robotic Process Automation Internally. Part 1

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is rapidly changing the way outsourcing service providers design and deliver their solutions. As this technology evolves and becomes more powerful while an emerging global middle class, demanding middle class wages (i), drives up offshoring costs, service providers are being forced to consider alternative solutions to keep their costs competitive and deliver better, more efficient services to clients. One of the primary areas they are looking to is automation. Automation is quickly becoming a dominant force in the global economy. It currently accounts for 10% of GDP growth and 16% of labor productivity growth annually, and will continue to become more important in the coming years (ii). Service providers are looking to harness this power, allowing them to take advantage of the growing capabilities of automation solutions to augment their services and deliver competitive pricing to clients.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

RPA is any technology that allows companies to automate support processes, data manipulation and other transactional activities. It allows service providers to significantly improve their response times and deliver better, more cost-effective services to clients. It can encompass several areas, including business processes, IT support, accounting, administration and workflow. Some areas can be almost entirely automated. For example, studies show that 69% of the work currently done in data processing by human workers could be automated. This work accounts for 16% of the total time spent working in the United States (iii). The ability of automation to adapt to such a wide range of roles and take the place of so many human workers gives service providers the flexibility they need to reduce their reliance on offshoring and reimplement jobs in onshore locations while maintaining costs and improving service to clients.

What advantages does RPA give service providers?

RPA offers many advantages over traditional outsourcing. It allows providers to leverage the power of automation to augment their human workforce, improve cycle time and increase accuracy. Other benefits include rapid scalability, better support, and greater efficiency.

  • Scale to meet demand – One of the greatest advantages of using RPA is that services can quickly scale to meet current demand. Without the need to hire additional workers, source physical locations and perform all associated HR tasks, there is much less overhead and infrastructure associated with scaling. Service providers using RPA can simply allocate more virtual resources to a process with the click of a button, allowing companies to maintain optimal resource allocation while always meeting the demands of end users.
  • Deliver better support – Automation solutions allow service providers to bring up information, answer questions and solve problems faster than ever before. It is now possible for routine issues to be automatically resolved, dramatically reducing human workload while increasing end-user satisfaction.
  • Increased reliability – Humans are naturally prone to errors. The very abilities that allow human workers to be incredibly adaptable to new situations also means that they are never perfectly suited to any one particular task. RPA, on the other hand, can be tailored to the task at hand, performing it at multiple times the speed of a human worker with little to no risk of error.
  • Improve efficiency – The costs of labor in many traditionally affordable markets have risen dramatically in recent years. In order to deliver better cost efficiency, service providers are turning to RPA to allow them to improve productivity with a smaller workforce. This dramatically reduces costs while making it possible to repatriate jobs.


The automation revolution is already here. It is estimated that currently available technologies could replace approximately 50% of the of the world’s work activity (iv). Companies that ignore this coming trend will inevitably be left behind.

RPA offers many benefits to organizations looking to improve speed and reduce costs without sacrificing accuracy or reliability. However, in order to be implemented successfully, it is important that it be a high level strategic decision with buy-in from business and IT leaders. Stakeholders across the organization must be able to provide the necessary support and resources to make the initiative a success. It is also important that client organizations choose their service provider organizations wisely. Partners should be able to work with the client to meet their unique needs and deliver a comprehensive proof-of-concept before deployment. This allows clients to reduce their risks while investing in a forward-thinking strategy. Ultimately, with the right service provider partner, companies can realize the full potential of automation by repatriating jobs, increasing reliability and reducing costs.

Source: softomotive-How Service Providers are Adopting Robotic Process Automation Internally

Clear goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

“Automation” is a scary word for many IT workers — who contemplate images of robots, software and the like stealing their jobs as it becomes the norm.

But according to speakers at the annual Automation Innovation conference in New York last month, the short-term goal for an IT automation strategy should be to empower knowledge workers — not simply replace them.

“If you do the integration and infusion [of automation technology] correctly, you will expand [knowledge workers’] capabilities; you will not detract from them,” said conference speaker R.G. Conlee, CIO of Conduent. “We are not out to just replace people.”

More than 300 attendees packed the Bohemian National Hall in New York City for the conference to discuss IT automation strategy and potential roadmaps to make this strategy successful. Conference organizers noted that the goal was to help attendees “transition from traditional labor to RPAintelligent automation and cognitive computing.”

But to realize the great business potential of IT process automation and attain a positive return on investment, it’s important to start with concrete goals such as improving price points or a particular process.

“It pays to focus on a specific purpose for automation rather than thinking of it as a broad platform with extended capabilities,” said Bill Galusha, senior product marketing manager of software provider Kofax.

Automation innovation challenges

Conlee noted that many companies have experienced “digital disillusionment” when it comes to the latest technological fads. CIOs and other members of the C-suite, have gotten tired of chasing the latest shiny new technological toy, Conlee said, and are seeking definitive results from these investments.

“They are saying we want it to be practical, something we can use, and we want it to make a difference,” Conlee said. “In other words, we want to improve the way work is done; we don’t just want new ways of doing the work.”

It’s important to remember that moving to automation takes patience, Conlee added, because many IT and digital systems actually negatively impact productivity while they are being integrated with company processes. Implementation of automation is a big challenge, and a plan is required that takes speed to market and complexity into consideration, he added.

We want to improve the way work is done; we don’t just want new ways of doing the work.

R.G. ConleeCIO, Conduent

“There is a training curve for digital systems that does not elicit better work in the short term; it takes time to get there,” Conlee said.

An IT automation strategy can be a huge help when it comes to one common issue facing modern digitized companies, Galusha said: process and data complexity. Because these companies are responsible for many systems with numerous internal/external data sources, it is difficult to connect all that information to the company’s processes.

A robotic process automation strategy can help with consolidating data for analytics purposes, Galusha said, and apply unique business rules to information contained in these numerous data sources.

“Your processes, and how you are making decisions, [is] only as good as the information,” Galusha said. “If you are doing it manually, it’s slow, it’s inefficient, and you’re probably making errors along the way.”

Galusha was quick to point out that obstacles to the automation revolutionremain. Robots still have difficulty with distinguishing visual content such as invoices, purchase orders and email correspondence, for example.

“We also have to understand the complexity, really understand the use cases and how more sophisticated learning technology can be applied,” Galusha said.

IKEA’s automated customer service

Speakers at the conference also noted that automation will bring cost savings in the long run, but it could also expand business opportunities and help provide better premium service to customers. One company that is seeing these types of benefits is IKEA, which uses process automation to improve customer experience and engagement.

Martijn Zuiderbaan, Solution Owner at IKEA Retail AB, noted that IKEA is responsible for its entire supply chain, so prior to its implementation of automation, there were several potential areas that could have benefitted from it. The company decided to start small, by implementing automation processes into its customer call centers, with the goal of making its online customer service more efficient, engaging and effective.

“I think most enterprise companies are working towards a perfect future where all their solutions can talk to each other and everything works together, communicates and shares data,” Zuiderbaan said. “The reality is not really there.”

IKEA receives 20 million customer inquiries per year via voicemail, chat, mail and social media, Zuiderbaan said. The company is using automation to keep up with this demand and help it engage with customers in a smarter way.

In short, Zuiderbaan said the automation solutions were used to meet IKEA’s need to bridge gaps in the existing IT solutions to improve both customer and worker experience at the furniture giant.

“We tried to be more efficient, we tried to make our co-workers more engaged, and we tried to make work more effective,” Zuiderbaan said of IKEA’s automation efforts. “By combining these three, we tried to get a better customer experience.”


Source: searchcio.techtarget.com-Clear goals, patience required for successful IT automation strategy

7 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself Before Taking On A Big Project

Seven years. That’s how long filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos plugged away at Making a Murderer before they partnered with Netflix, and the series became a true crime sensation. While the idea of being an overnight sensation is nice, most big ideas need lots of time to develop. But how can you tell whether your new business idea or project is worth sinking months or years of your life into? Here are seven questions that might help you set your sights.

1. Can I State My Specific Goal For This Project?

While turning a profit (or at least breaking even) is a straightforward goal, some projects require a more specific finish line. For Chicago writer Jonathan Eig, he initially had the idea for a biography of Muhammad Ali in the spring of 2013 but would need to craft a solid proposal in order to sell the idea. “I knew there wasn’t an authoritative biography of Ali out there. I’d gotten a sense that I’d get his ex-wife to cooperate, and I believed that there was a ton of new material out there that hadn’t been seen before,” he says. His eventual proposal netted him a contract by February 2014, and his book, Ali: A Life, comes out in October 2017.

Minneapolis painter Megan Rye began working on a large-scale series that documents her brother’s time serving in the Iraq war in 2003, which led to her first solo show in 2007. For her, the convergence of critical and collector interest is “the gold standard.” While just one or the other, she says, is “nice,” it’s not sustainable to only have critical interest, but “if you only have financial support, your work isn’t necessarily going to be remembered.”

Being able to articulate your goals is also essential for raising money as you go. Rye likens grants, which should be applied for before a project is completed or even fully begun, to the lottery: “You can’t win a grant unless you apply.” And the grant you apply for now may beget more funding down the line. Chicago documentarian Margaret Byrne received a $120,000 MacArthur grant for her film Raising Bertie, which she filmed for six years. The grant hooked her up with the Chicago production company Kartemquin Films and put her on the radar to receive other grants, including one for $50,000 from the Ford Foundation. “I wouldn’t have stopped making the film, but I don’t know where I would be without the support of MacArthur. That’s what made the film expand and enable me to work with Kartemquin.”

2. Can I Break It Down Into Milestones?

When a project is sprawling, it’s important to build in milestones, if only to avoid freaking out. Eig was excited but also terrified at the prospect of writing a definitive biography of Ali. “It seemed like more than one person could handle, because there’s so much information on him out there, with so many people to talk to. You have to follow your heart but also be analytical about it.” To avoid feeling a sense of overwhelmed panic before starting a project, Eig starts small. “I just start with reading some books, and file some FOIA requests.”

For Byrne, the shorter-term goal was to have a 10-minute demo of Raising Bertieto sketch out her characters and the intention of the film. “That will give funders a solid idea of what you’re trying to do, even if you’re in the beginning stages.” She was able to pull one together in four months.

Rye kept her eye on the prize by keeping exhibition deadlines in mind. “Without exhibitions, I don’t know how anyone would ever complete a body of work. You can endlessly improve and tinker.”

In mid-2012, Steve McFadden quit his job as a mechanic to find a more meaningful career. He started Revolution Coffee Roasters that opened in summer 2013. It’s growing and doing well, but slowly. He maintains his sanity by scheduling six-month check-ins. “We’ve planned this in short-term increments so we can evaluate, ‘This is where we are right now, this is what we can budget for, and this is how lean we’ll have to be this period.’”

3. Do I Have Trusted Sources That Will Provide Me With Valuable Feedback As I Proceed?

Katie Mehnert wasn’t sure at first that her idea was a good one. In April 2014, she left her job as the director of competence, capability, and culture at BP to take a career break. She tinkered with an idea she’d had the year before, and in March 2015, created Pink Petro, a social media platform created for women professionals in the energy industry. “The more I started taking ideas from my head and really putting them out there, people were like ‘Yeah!’ And before you knew it we were on. People were calling and saying, ‘I heard you have a new gig!’ and I was like, ‘We haven’t formed a company yet.’”

While it can be tempting to play your cards close to your vest on a project that’s not a guaranteed success, Byrne says, “It’s important that you do not make your film in a bubble.” Getting other perspectives is key for her, because ultimately, “You’re not making the film for yourself, you’re making the film for an audience.” For her, showing several rough cuts of Raising Bertie in Chicago and North Carolina elicited key feedback that helped shape the film.

Rye agrees. “If you’re applying for shows, talking to curators or collectors and no one is interested, you’ll know, ‘Is this going to be a passion project where I’m alone in my basement slaving away and no one will see this?’” Had she not shared her work as it went, her entire life might have been different: The immediate interest her work garnered led to artistic representation. “That project changed the trajectory of my whole career,” one she had assumed would lead to a life in academia, and not as a working artist.

4. How Long Can I Get By On Little To No Money?

“I think I’m a horrible business person,” Byrne admits. By necessity, she chose to turn down other jobs in order to devote herself to Raising Bertie, which didn’t receive funding until four years into filming. While she was able to take on a few freelance projects while filming, making money wasn’t her priority. “In some ways it can’t be if you are taking the time and the patience to tell these stories.”

Eig’s projects involve a leap of financial faith as well. “When you’re in the proposal phase, you don’t know if somebody else might come up with the same idea, or maybe nobody wants to buy it at all.” Even when a project is bought, he says, “There will be years when I’m between signing the contract and delivering that I don’t get paid. One year I made $10,000: That was my contribution to my family.”

With Pink Petro, Mehnert went two years without pay. “I wanted to demonstrate the passion I had for the business. I’m taking a salary now–I’m not earning what I was earning before, but I didn’t set out to replace my income. I wanted to do something that was meaningful. I’m a firm believer that when you’re passionate and you have meaning in your life, the payback comes.”

5. Is My Family On Board With This?

Every married person interviewed for this story cited their supportive spouse as a reason that they were able to chase their dreams. McFadden’s wife has provided both emotional and financial support. “I’ve seen many other business where it became too much pressure on somebody’s marriage and they had to make a choice–either this is going to be destructive to my family, or I have to call it quits. Fortunately, I have somebody that is solidly in my corner and believes in what I’m doing.”

Mehnert’s husband was a little incredulous when she told him her plan for a career change, but she said that the challenge actually strengthened their relationship as they evaluated their finances and needs. “I tell young women all the time, ‘You’ve got to marry right because this is a sacrifice for a longer term opportunity.’ To my husband’s credit, he saw way more in it than I did.”

6. Could I Walk Away If I Had To?

Nobody wants to spend time on something only to have it lead nowhere, but it’s better to pull the plug rather than try to force it halfheartedly. Byrne had to walk away from a source on her current documentary project after following him for six months. “I decided it wasn’t the story that I needed to tell,” she says.

Eig similarly pursued a biography proposal that he ended up dropping. “That was painful,” he says, but a dearth of material, a less-than-promising sales prospective and a simple lack of fondness for his source ended his relationship with his project. He likens a long-term project to dating. “You have to decide, am I going to stick with this girl or not? There’s things you like and things you don’t like, and at some point you get to a moment, I can’t take it anymore, I’m out of here.”

7. Can I Handle A Rough Ride?

Perhaps you just had a baby or endured the death of a loved one. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that perhaps it’s not the best time to take something on that might cause heartache or stress.

With a long-term gamble, Eig says, “You have to embrace the uncertainty, and to come up with a good idea, you have to go through a lot of bad ideas. You hope those bad ideas don’t take you too far astray, but they do sometimes.” For his 2014 book, The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, Eig persevered despite his agent telling him people thought the book would be “small to medium-sized” at best. He reasoned, “They could be right, they could be wrong, but it’s an important enough subject, and I will feel good for telling the story, because I think it needs to be told.”


Source: Fast Company-7 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself Before Taking On A Big Project