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Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is focusing on automation and business process improvement as the company seeks to gain ground on cloud computing competitors.

Speaking at the virtual Automation Anywhere Imagine Digital conference, Kurian said a shift in focus to business processes as a service will define enterprises’ future cloud migrations.

The traditional on-ramp to the cloud was about technical integration. That meant migration of enterprise apps to virtual machines, data to cloud databases, and refactoring apps to scale more efficiently with microservices, Kurian said. Now, business executives’ traditional focus on practical business problems — the search for new opportunities, improving customer experiences, and reducing the costs — will come more into play.

“By abstracting the underlying technology, and making it easier and more efficient to get the business process, you can accelerate time to value,” Kurian said. “People really want to find places where they can unlock value. And the places where they unlock value are in every touchpoint with the customer.”

At the conference, Kurian weighed in on how ongoing efforts will strategically shift the on-ramp to the cloud. He said enterprises will work to streamline the way that they can define, execute, and operate a core business process, whether that is a loan origination process in a financial institution, an accounts receivable process in a traditional company, or an order to cash process in a manufacturing institution.

One of the daunting things about moving to the cloud is that businesses discover they are putting an “internal mess” on display for the world to see, Kurian said. Companies capable of cleaning up a business process mess will improve their time to market, predictability, and customer experiences.

Migrating processes to the cloud

Kurian expanded on the three-step processes involved in migrating business processes to the cloud.

The first step is to use data to understand what the most valuable processes might be to automate. This may be driven by cost reduction or seeking competitive advantage by speeding up, for example, the process of originating a loan compared to competitors.

The second step lies in finding the best way to automate the business process. Process mining and process discovery can find ways to reduce certain steps from the process. These can be implemented with RPA and low-code tools.

The third step lies in using analytics on the processes that have been automated to understand how the company could get even better, said Kurian. Process analytics tools can assess the value of automations, prioritize them, and calibrate the estimates with actual results.

He said the combination of better process automation and analytics tools using Google’s AI will allow executives to track the efficiency of the processes they have instrumented for constant improvement.

Expanding the territory of AI

Kurian argued the combination of better process tools with AI will support the next level of abstraction for natural language processing (NLP), one of Google’s strong suits.

Google started off by enabling NLP to understand and translate words, Kurian told the conference attendees. Then the company’s engineers saw there was more value in translating sentences. When they started applying these tools to customer service, they realized it was important to be able to interpret the ongoing conversation people were having about an issue, so that customers did not have to repeat themselves each time.

Kurian said that bringing business processes into NLP will extend the boundary of what AI can do even further. For example, an expert involved in approving loans may have focused on understanding and comparing certain fields in the application in making the loan. Once this process is digitized, the company can scale that particular person by capturing their process and decisions into an RPA bot. Kurian positioned this as “the core to streamlining how organizations function, and how organizations can improve the efficiency and speed of their core processes.”

Working together toward RPA advancement

For now, Google appears intent on pursuing alliances and partnerships in such key technology areas as RPA. That has occurred as players including Microsoft, IBM, and ServiceNow have acquired RPA-oriented startups.

Both Google Cloud and Automation Anywhere have made significant pivots recently to meld business services with cloud infrastructure. Just this year, these pivots aligned around a new partnership between the two to accelerate the adoption of RPA on a global scale. This included technology integration, joint solution development, and aligning sales and marketing efforts.

Google hired Kurian, a seasoned Oracle exec, to infuse a pragmatic business focus into its technology-centric commercial cloud undertaking. Meanwhile, Automation Anywhere took an extended pause on product development to migrate its core robotic process automation (RPA) platform to a native cloud architecture.

“Digitization requires complete front-to-back automation, not just for efficiency, but for competitive advantage, and that’s the vision that both our companies share,” Kurian said.

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