What I learned about RPA & AI at an Ed Sheeran concert
As I looked across the 60,000+ Ed Sheeran fans situated throughout MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the second of two nights of record breaking sellout shows, I began to wonder what motivated me to donate one of our date nights to attending a "pop" concert when we are both hovering around 40 years old. No offense to Ed, he is a great performer and has amazing talent, however these concerts are primarily chalk full of teenage girls, a very atypical venue for "kid free" date night.
What I came up with in my pondering is that it was the Geek in me that ultimately caused me to pay an obscene amount for tickets to the show. As I held strong against the criticism of my male group of friends when they found out I was not only going, but going without children...I determined I was ultimately intrigued on how one guy and one guitar can fill and energize an entire stadium full of concertgoers for hours on end....with no band. No backup singers, no drummer, no bassist, no percussion, just one guy and a one guitar and some technology.
It was an amazing show, the crowd couldn't be more engaged, the sound and quality was on point, Ed was great and truly connected with the audience. It was like the typical supporting cast were not even missed. Ed announced and validated early in the show that "all you'll be hearing tonight is me, this guitar and this loop pedal." His mastery of that loop pedal, in a live format without missing a beat, is truly astounding and has been a part of his live concert approach for over 8 years. So, the inner Geek in me left completely satisfied, witnessing and holistically enjoying Ed's performance, which was truly enhanced with technology.
As I returned to work the following Monday, I began to think further on what I witnessed at the show. We are in the midst, as many organizations are, of a digital transformation at my organization. I've been piloting and rolling out robotic process automation (RPA) solutions to assist in that journey, and have been working through the first few use cases while trying to garnish stakeholder buy in on these tools for a broader roll out. Unbeknownst to myself, I'd just witnessed during my date night a near perfect demonstration on the power of RPA and AI at Ed Sheeran's concert.
His looping pedal was automating the work of at a minimum 3-4 resources, in a scalable (clearly 60,000 people paid to see it) manner, eliminating risks (a drummer coming down ill. etc), and at a much lower overhead cost than would be typical of a stadium concert of that size. Not only was Ed's digital band incredibly effective and efficient, but it was just really cool to see in action! This is ultimately what had me so interested in the concert, should he have had a full band I likely would've chosen a comedy club in NYC over this show.
I also don't think it would've been as exciting if he had a sound engineer doing all the looping behind the scenes or playing a track over the music. Even further, if he hadn't announced he was in control of the entire show himself, I think the effect would've been minimized. But seeing that level of the mesh of a musical talent like Ed, with technology, and it literally blowing the doors off of a massive stadium was an amazing experience as a Geek.
This approach leads me to believe that it is crucial as you are rolling out RPA in an enterprise to ensure that you are not just focused on building scripts, but also on demonstrating regularly the scripting in action so people get a feel for that impact. It's also crucial to not tuck the technology away in a corner, or be afraid to socialize what is being done to accomplish the great things that RPA can accomplish for an enterprise. To truly get the results similar to 60,000 people on their feet at once, you need to have built a comfort level not only with the digital solutions that go to production, but also build that comfort and confidence with all of your key stakeholders.
So, the cherry on top of a great concert, on a great September night with great company in my amazing wife, was some real life context that I wasn't expecting to also obtain around working with AI. Big thanks to Ed for the lesson, someone who has been leveraging RPA for a majority of his career, and of course for the great music.