By: Simon Wu and Jason Chen
In the last year, the massive shift to remote work and the urgent need to accelerate digital transformation has shone a spotlight on major gaps in existing processes for organizations big and small. With an even greater need for businesses to optimize resources, performance and resilience, it seems that one of the less obvious lasting legacies of COVID-19 will be how it was the catalyst to mainstream adoption of automation.
However, automation should not be seen as the silver bullet to all inefficiencies. At Cathay Innovation, we continuously speak with our corporate partner ecosystem to better understand the digital transformation and automation journey while facilitating greater collaboration with the emerging startups that make it possible. While many large enterprises are prioritizing business continuity and automation, with some investing millions into technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), real life implementation often struggles to meet expectations.
With maintenance being difficult and costly, which destroys ROI and prevents scale, CIOs are now recognizing that automation is not always the answer. The larger issue at play is the lack of clarity into existing processes with one executive recently noting, “how can we properly automate when we don’t know where to start or how work is done?”
With this in mind, we’re happy to announce our latest investment in Skan, an AI-powered process discovery and intelligence platform that takes a security-first approach to giving enterprises the foundational visibility and transparency needed to launch digital transformation initiatives. In leading Skan’s $14M Series A, we’re looking forward to joining the mission to revolutionize work within the enterprise and enable operational leaders to optimize processes.
“Beyond capital support, as the founding team, Manish and I found that Cathay demonstrated a firm belief in our mission and our team. We saw in them a value system that we immediately recognized. A solid work ethic, a ‘can do’ attitude, and an uncomplicated approach to life and business. We are delighted to have Cathay as our partner.” — Avinash Misra, Co-Founder & CEO, Skan.
Process Discovery: “Look Before You Leap”
The automation market is still in its early innings but has been picking up speed with $6.7 billion in venture capital funding pouring into RPA alone (according to pitchbook). However, successfully implementing automation is reliant on first being able to fully understand company processes. This is why we’ve seen many corporate executives shift to focus first on process mining and discovery — that is platforms and technologies that digitize the process of visualizing how work is being done today and how it can and should be done in the future.
Process mining is increasingly being used as the verification layer that empowers better decisions around if and where to implement automation software or if other solutions are better suited. Historically, many companies leveraged consultants and log-based process mining tools to visually digitize their workflows. However, log-based process mining provides an incomplete view into business processes as not every application produces event data to be analyzed. In addition, event data only shows a portion of the business process, leading to incomplete mapping.
More recently, we’ve seen some start to leverage computer vision to augment traditional methods to provide greater accuracy. Thus, with process discovery being an essential foundational block to any larger digital transformation efforts, we anticipate a significant market opportunity as the tech platforms empower users to better decide where to implement automation software, redesign their processes, and/or increase employee training.
Enter Skan: Redefining Process Discovery with AI, Security & Privacy
Skan is transforming traditional process discovery as one of the few solutions that leverage computer vision to provide a granular view of business processes and productivity. With computer vision abstracting data from the many streamed pixels, Skan automatically maps all versions of a completed business process in a graphical view of all used applications, time spent on individual tasks and all interdependencies. Operational leaders now have a holistic view of overlapping patterns, outliers and duration of how work is done without needing to create APIs to integrate applications or event logs.
The analysis is more than just highlighting potential candidates for automation, but optimizing work as a whole (systems, processes, compliance, employees, and management) — essentially becoming a system of record for work and every process. This kind of visibility gives enterprises the power of choice — with automation not always being the answer. Organizations can analyze an existing business process’s efficiency and decide whether 1) a redesign of the business process is necessary, 2) employee training needs to improve or 3) automation is essential.
Importantly, what makes Skan stand out is the security-first approach they take in architecting the platform. Many of our corporate partners echoed the unwillingness to let their workflow blueprints leave their premises, but were willing to engage with solutions that allowed them to keep their data on-premise or in their virtual private environment.
Skan offers two types of deployment models — cloud and on-premise via virtual private cloud (VPC). This allows companies to maintain their mission-critical data locally while Skan leverages their own cloud to run algorithms. Additional security features include data masking and blacklisting applications. We have seen Skan pass several intensive security checks with financial institutions and found their deployment methods give customers comfort in handling sensitive data.
Parting Thoughts: A Strong, Secure Foundation for the Future of Work
Avinash, Manish, and members of the Cathay team virtually celebrating the closing of the investment
While spending time with Skan’s founders, CEO Avinash Misra and CPO Manish Garg, we have come to respect their thoughtfulness in constructing the platform. Avinash and Manish are two industry veterans who formerly led digital transformation projects at global professional services firm Genpact. Previously, they co-founded Endeavour Software, which also provided digital transformation solutions to small to medium size enterprises.
To our team, it was abundantly clear that Skan’s vision for the future of work is very much aligned with the goals and needs we’re seeing arise from our corporate partners. The power of Cathay’s global platform lies in bringing together investors, startups and leading corporations across industries for mutual benefit: startup growth and corporate innovation. By working with Skan, we’re excited to introduce them to the many potential customers within our ecosystem who will find significant value in their solutions while helping our corporate partners push forward innovation within their organizations.
As Skan looks to revolutionize work within the enterprise, we are humbled and excited to welcome them to the Cathay family. We look forward to playing our part in helping scale Skan’s innovative technologies that will solve critical pain points hampering optimization and digital transformation efforts across the world.