Kit Cox is the founder and CEO of UK-based BPO software company Enate, and a long-time observer of and commentator upon the international outsourcing space. He's also, now, the latest professional to come under the microscope of our Life Lessons series: we're in your hands, Kit...
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career, and why?
Globalisation and offshoring have unquestionably been the biggest impact. In the early days of Enate I predicted (wrongly as it happened) that companies would automate before they offshored. Even now, as Enate is helping to power the automation journey for our clients, globalisation continues to be a massive influence, now so more politically than practically. Practically, it is now just one of the joyous facts of life that every day I work with people on almost every continent.
Similarly, what one factor has most profoundly changed the way you personally work since your first day in your first job?
I started work as a coder, where success was defined by doing, solving problems quickly and getting your head down. The same was the case in start-up mode, when you are doing every job in the company. As the business matures however, for me, the shift from success by doing to success by creating an environment in which others do has been profound.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today – and how would you solve it?
The biggest challenge facing the sourcing and business services industry today is the adoption of AI and robotics in organisations that are almost defined by the volume of people that they employ. This people inertia, coupled with phrases like "cannibalise revenue" make it obvious why the traditional sourcing providers are struggling to create a cohesive narrative around the deployment of intelligent automation. They are also faced with clients who are suspicious that a large volume of staff may be added into a deal focussed on automation.
The solution here requires bold and decisive action. Firstly, to gain the trust of the market, vendors need to create clear demarcation between their legacy, people-based, BPO businesses and their automation operations. This may involve acquisition and differentiation by brand. Secondly, they need to bring a clear suite of intelligent automation solutions to bear that cover all of the key automation capabilities: service orchestration, robotics, and deep learning. Finally, they need to adopt results-driven commercial models and not run automation as one-off consultancy or transformation projects.
Who has been the most influential figure in your professional life, and why?
When you are an entrepreneur the line between your professional life and personal life blurs to virtually meaningless. So, my wife, Sally, has been the most influential person in my ‘professional’ life. She has given me the freedom, support and encouragement to take Enate forward in new and exciting ways.
What’s the biggest mistake, work-wise, you’ve ever seen – and what were the consequences?
The biggest mistake work-wise is one that is all too easy to make. I worked very closely with an organisation with great technology and great people who made one of those all-consuming landmark sales that we all love and loathe at the same time. Succeed and it will make the business for the next 10 years; fail and disaster looms. The mistake however, was not being ruthlessly honest with the client throughout the programme on what was and was not possible. Two programme managers later, four times over deadline and suffocating under terrible losses and threat of legal action a new programme manager arrived and levelled with the client. The effect was extraordinary: trust returned and along with it pragmatism and a genuine sense of quid-pro-quo.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
Putting together the team at Enate. I’m hugely proud of the fantastic bunch of people that I work with and I delight in seeing them grow, change and excel.
What’s your biggest (as-yet) unfulfilled ambition – and are you going to achieve it?
I would love to take my kids out of school for a year and spend it experiencing as many different corners of the world as we can. I can think of no better education for them … watch this space.
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Energetic, smart and friendly.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give your younger self at the very start of your career?
Don’t get yourself into something you can’t get out of… Does that sound rather too much like Robert De Niro in Heat?
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