INFOGRAPHIC: 22 Benefits of RPA

This infographic is a window into the world of Robotic Process Automation. If you are interested in exploring RPA opportunities in your industry or want to know more about implementing RPA in your organization, please contact us for a free no-obligation discussion. We look forward to hearing from you.


29 Cutting Edge Applications of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. These tasks include visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and language translation. Systems capable of performing such tasks are steadily transitioning from research laboratories into industry usage.

AI technology is unique in that it is flexible in application. It can be used to improve processes, enhance interactions, and solve problems that, until recently, could only be performed by humans. AI’s advanced abilities include natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, machine perception, and enhanced analytics.

The list below details 29 cutting-edge applications made possible by AI technology.



Natural language processing (NLP) is a sub-category of AI that attempts to bridge the gap between human and computer communication. AI-enabled systems such as IBM’s Watson use NLP to understand and respond to the nuances of human language. This allows for more accurate analysis of data sets and communication of insights.

  1. Customer interaction chatbots — Chatbots are computer programs that are commonly used to interact with customers by audio or text. Conversica, for example, is a virtual sales assistant that communicates persistently and politely with prospective sales leads. Conversica uses email to engage, qualify, and follow-up with leads, allowing the sales team to focus their efforts on closing deals.
  2. Financial chatbots — In the financial industry, chatbots such as aLVin are used to interact with brokers. They can answer questions, understand intent, and direct brokers to their desired products and information.
  3. Virtual assistants — Beyond chatbots, AI can power more complicated virtual assistants that can recognize client needs and complete various tasks. Expensify‘s virtual assistant, Concierge, assists in the automation of expense reports and travel arrangements for companies. It can inform clients of real-time price changes and can even file receipts on their behalf.
  4. Communication systems – AI-powered communication systems can also be used to manage relations between peers and stakeholders. CrystalKnows, a personality detection software, uses NLP to evaluate LinkedIn accounts and develop a profile of how to most effectively speak to, work with, or sell to an individual. Crystal can even draft emails to anyone based on the preferred tone suggested by his or her online presence.
  5. Legal assistants — The language processing capabilities of AI assistants can be tailored to a specific industry. LegalRobot’s AI assistants are designed to review legal documents and make suggestions for language clarity and strength.
  6. Cognitive retail – Virtual assistant capabilities can be integrated with other customer relationship management products to provide in-person levels of service via online platforms. The North Face‘s personal web-shopper, XPS, uses NLP to understand customer need as would a human representative. It then uses machine learning to make informed product recommendations based on customer history, location, and other data.
  7. Personal assistants – AI can also be used on a personal device to simplify daily tasks. Gluru technology, for example, is used to power a task management application that uses NLP to analyze a user’s conversational data, such as their email. This app can identify tasks, generate a personalized to-do list, and even provide actionable buttons to complete each task.
  8. Web speech – New language-based technological advancements in AI can improve the web navigation and searching experience. These web speech APIs integrate voice recognition technology, syntactical analysis, and machine learning to seamlessly convert voice to text and vice versa. This click- and typing-free internet interaction can improve information accessibility for those with a disability or low technological acumen.



Machine learning is an application of AI that allows systems to process data and learn to improve the performance of a specific task without explicit programming.  Deep learning is a form of machine learning that mimics human learning patterns to gain an understanding of unstructured data sets and generate intelligent decisions.

  1. Medical decision making — Deep-learning programs such as Enlitic can optimize physician decision making by analyzing a patient’s past medical history, diagnostic information, and symptoms to provide actionable insights. These programs learn as they process data, improving their ability to identify diseases and provide treatment planning.
  2. Healthcare analytics — Deep learning can also be used to compile, analyze, and interpret collaborative data. Flatiron, for instance, has developed a cloud-based platform for healthcare professionals that compiles insights, empirical data, and patient experiences to improve oncological care on a real-time basis.
  3. Bioinformatics – In the field of bioinformatics, scientists use AI-software to identify patterns in large data sets, such as sequenced genomes and proteomes. This analysis can help in the development of new drugs to tackle diseases by determining which proteins are encoded by a certain gene. Atomnet is a deep-learning technology that analyzes the structure of proteins known to cause disease and designs drugs accordingly.
  4. Emotional detection —Emotional detection systems powered by AI can detect human emotions without visual input. Researchers at MIT have developed EQ Radio, a system that learns to identify human emotions based on heartbeat data collected by wireless signals. This technology may one day be used by smart homes to detect if a resident is experiencing a heart attack.
  5. Fraud detection — Fraud prevention has always been a major challenge for the financial industry. PayPal and other eCommerce companies have started to use deep-learning fraud-detection algorithms to monitor customers’ digital transactions and identify suspicious behaviours. A study by LexisNexis found that this deep-learning approach to security has reduced PayPal’s fraud rate to 0.32% of revenue, a 1% improvement over the industry average.
  6. Cyber Security — AI-enabled cybersecurity programs analyze and organize internal network data to identify potential threats. The security program RecordedFuture uses machine learning and NLP to contextualize information and provide actionable analyses.
  7. Procurement optimization – Companies can use AI internally to enhance business operations such as procurement. Tamr, a data unification software, uses machine learning to clean, analyze, and sort procurement data. It identifies savings opportunities, bundles spending across business units, and exposes supplier risk.
  8. Customer interactions — While NLP allows virtual assistants to interact easily with customers, deep learning allows them to locate and provide the desired information. The AI model DigitalGenius analyzes historical customer service transcripts in order to recognize successful customer interactions. This allows the model to predict meta-data for new cases and provide suggestions for automated customer responses.
  9. Optimized gaming — The gaming industry, previously focused on the level distinctions of “easy,” “medium,” or “hard,” is now using AI technology to develop self-optimizing and -evaluating games.  These new AI-powered games keep players engaged by continuously adjusting difficulty and strategy to suit player ability.
  10. Military planning — In a military setting, AI can be used to increase deployment efficiency. Autonomous machines (including drones and satellites) share data in real time to develop actionable strategies. The U.S. military AI system JADE evaluates historical data, combines information with learned reasoning, and presents suggestions to execute large-scale plans in minimal time.



Machine perception is the ability of a system to simulate human perception of the world. AI uses machine perception to extract information from different data sources. Computer vision is a type machine perception that allows AI to extract information from images.

  1. Medical imaging — Computer vision represents a huge technological advancement for medical imaging and preventative care. The diagnostic program Zebra Medical Vision collects and analyzes medical scans for various clinical identifiers. It then accesses a database of millions of scans, enabling it to provide critical information such as the location of a tumour or a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
  2. Manufacturing — The manufacturing sector is increasingly turning to robotics to speed up repetitive tasks. AI-enabled robots use computer vision to complete tasks and to adapt to changing environmental conditions, broadening the types of tasks available to robots and preventing costly mistakes on the assembly line. Fanuc‘s Gakushu robots use computer vision and a machine learning software to collect and evaluate data for path, speed, and task optimization in aerospace manufacturing.
  3. Service industry – Some AI-enabled robots can not only understand human language but can recognize human emotions. Using computer vision, Softbank‘s humanoid robot Pepper can interpret facial expressions as human emotions and generate responses accordingly. Pepper can also recognize and remember individual faces and preferences. It is primarily used as a greeter in Japanese office buildings, restaurants, banks, and stores.
  4. Financial industry — In the financial industry, AI programs can learn to identify potential high-yield customers, to recognize fraud, and even to forecast changes in stock trends.  To further reduce fraud, the financial application Face++ uses computer vision for facial recognition to secure users’ financial transactions.
  5. Autonomous delivery – Companies are increasingly using AI for commercial navigation purposes. Autonomous delivery systems, such as Amazon‘s delivery drones and Domino‘s Robotic Unit, use computer vision to efficiently navigate obstacles and optimize routes. Beyond commercial delivery, Matternet’s autonomous drone network in Switzerland aims to reduce medical testing times by flying diagnostic materials between hospitals and labs.
  6. Transit safety — AI technology is paving the way for autonomous cars and accident-free transit systems. The combination of deep learning and computer vision allows cars to observe and safely interact with the surrounding environment. Road safety can be further increased by AI-enabled navigation systems, which alert drivers to potential accidents and suggest alternative navigation routes.
  7. Geospatial analytics — Geospatial analytics use computer vision to gather and compare satellite imagery with historical data in order to develop insights. Using these insights, AI-enabled satellites can track economic trends from space. Orbital Insight, for example, predicts retail sales based on satellite images of retail store parking lots.
  8. Childcare — AI devices use computer vision to recognize faces and navigate around obstacles, but a new Google patent suggests they can even be used to provide childcare.  Google’s AI babysitter system learns to recognize different features of a home and to differentiate between family members. The system can recognize when a child has been left alone for too long, or has wandered dangerously close to a socket, and alerts the parents accordingly.



Predictive analytics are used by programs to analyze historical data in order to predict future outcomes. When combined with AI platforms, analytic ability increases in speed, scale, and application.

    1. Marketing — Some predictive models can be used to analyze consumer data and inform marketing decisions. Magnetic, for instance, can predict the most effective advertisement to present a particular consumer and can choose to present the selected advertisement to the consumer without human supervision.
    2. Data extraction — Data-extraction programs use AI to analyze and extract specific information from documents. Xtracta, for example, allows various retail applications to extract data from receipts. This information, combined with predictive analytics, generates useful statistical reports and relevant buying suggestions for the application user.
    3. Social Network Analytics — Social networks can provide valuable marketing data, but also produce linguistically complicated datasets. In order to produce usable information, user profiles must be semantically analyzed using NLP. Companies can then use predictive algorithms to identify a customer’s preferences and web navigation patterns in order to provide targeted web advertising.

Development of AI technologies is actively being encouraged through projects like Soar—a cognitive architecture project aimed at developing computational building blocks for intelligent agents—and OpenCog—an open-source software project intended to create a framework for artificial general intelligence. Through such collaboration, AI capabilities continue to advance, thus expanding application potential.


 By: Jenya Doudareva, Associate & Lokesh Patil, Associate

EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype

On January 15th, 2018, The Burnie Group hosted EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype, the potential application of blockchain technology to business practices. The keynote was delivered by Don Tapscott (CEO, Tapscott Group; Executive Chairman and Co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute; Co-author, Blockchain Revolution). A panel discussion followed, moderated by Doug Heintzman (Head of the  Blockchain practice, The Burnie Group). Panelists included Dr. David Jaffray (EVP Technology and Innovation, University Health Network), Dr. Marek Laskowski (co-founder, Blockchain Lab; Professor, Information and Computing Technologies, York University), Dr. Atefeh Mashatan (Professor, Ted Rogers School of Information Management, Ryerson University), and Chris Owen (VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank).


Blockchain: Solving Problems for the Digital Economy

In 2008, a person, or group, known as Satoshi Nakamoto, published a paper describing the first blockchain database. Three months later, it was used by Nakamoto to launch the bitcoin cryptocurrency network. Since then, interest in cryptocurrency investment has exploded, but industry experts insist that crypto’s true value lies in its underlying technology: blockchain.

A blockchain is a distributed ledger technology. Its core value lies in its ability to provide a reliable common version of the truth to members of a business network. Digital records (transactions) receive a unique signature (hash) of a fixed length.  Transactions are then bundled and stored in time-stamped “blocks” that are “chained” to the blocks of previous transactions. This chain of blocks is synchronized across a network of distributed “nodes.” By comparing the last hash in a chain, nodes find consensus on the contents and integrity of the blockchain, making it virtually immutable.

This new technology was the first real solution to a problem that had plagued digital transactions since their inception: the double-spend problem The issue being that a digital payment was merely a copy of a token of value. Tokens could be copied multiple times and spent in more than one location. With blockchain’s continuous validation and replication of transaction history, single-use for digital tokens can be guaranteed. This, in turn, positively affects the trust deficit.

Another valuable characteristic of the technology is “smart contracts,” which can be stored and executed on a blockchain. This coded feature enjoys the same immutability, and therefore trustworthiness, as the data it manipulates. It allows for the use of business logic with automated transaction attributes, solving, amongst other things, the renege problem. In this situation, a customer might leave a queue (reneging) for various reasons before completing a transaction. When a smart contract is introduced, the customer is no longer disengaged by redirection to a banking intermediary to complete the transaction. The smart contract easily completes the transaction by triggering and validating payment securely and independently.

These problem-solving characteristics are representative of blockchain’s many potential advantages. The following will explain how blockchain can generate value, enhance business efficiencies, and bring about the new era of the Internet.


The True Value of Trust and Data

Business networks are built on top of available infrastructure, which inherently contains deficiencies that can introduce friction into business activities. Many business networks, therefore, engage third-party intermediaries to mitigate deficiencies, such as trust deficits between parties.  These third parties can take many forms: banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, PayPal, Alibaba, auditors, and regulators. However, this centralized intermediary system is hackable, infamously slow, and costly.

Because a blockchain network addresses the trust deficit problem it allows for peer-to-peer transactions (P2P) completely independent of intermediaries. Individuals become owners of their own data, and that data an asset, protected on a blockchain from theft and fraud by immutable, time-stamped record keeping. In a blockchain-powered world, an individual’s medical records, financial records, academic degrees, voting history, professional history, and consumer history, can all be stored in encrypted transactions. A musician’s intellectual property might be stored on a blockchain, with smart contracts triggering automatic payments every time a song is featured in a film. A patient could allow a government temporary access to medical records to help identify and prevent possible outbreaks of disease.  The sharing of this information with specific people for a fixed duration is the choice of the individual, un-beholden to the delays, rules, privacy exposure, or costs associated with an intermediary.


Rethinking the Firm

According to Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm, companies only exist due to the high cost of transactions within markets. Traditionally, performing activities in-house has kept these costs low and companies strong. The Internet, created as a network of information, began the process of unbundling the firm. With the creation of blockchain as an entirely new network of information, these transaction costs are so greatly affected that companies have no choice but to evolve as the underlying rationale for their existence is altered.

Blockchain features, such as smart contracts and autonomous agents, can cut costs by enhancing business efficiencies through automation. The scale of this automation can alter the very concept of what constitutes a company; a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), for example, is a company run entirely through computer programs with next-to-no human participant. This model uses business logic and decision making embedded in smart contracts to automatically execute actions when triggered by pre-determined situational criteria. This new platform dramatically reduces business network friction, and eliminates nearly all traditional transaction costs, paving the way for distributed companies that resemble networks rather than centralized firms.


The Second Era of the Internet

Blockchain is a new paradigm that addresses the very purpose of computing: to automate business processes with the goal of reducing headcount and friction in business networks. It provides unprecedented peer-to-peer trust and can enhance business efficiencies in nearly any industry. When the existing Internet of Things—which is currently held back by the available software infrastructure and related trust deficits—is combined with blockchain’s new “ledger of things,” a partnership is formed. This partnership represents a second era of the Internet, in which discrete devices can confidently engage and contract each other to accomplish a goal. With widespread blockchain implementation, intermediary functions become redundant, companies more automated and decentralized, and the individual consumer more autonomous with improved privacy and increased control of their information assets.

Working with an experienced partner can help you harness the full potential of blockchain technology for your business. As a leading professional services enabler of blockchain strategy and implementation in North America, The Burnie Group will help you to identify areas where blockchain can increase your business’s security and efficiencies, set the right strategy and build the right foundation to substantively advance business goals.

Contact us to learn more about blockchain.


Key insights from the #EDGEtalks panel of speakers:


“This is nothing less than the second era of the Internet”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“This is not about bitcoin. It’s not even about crypto assets. It’s about something much bigger”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“What if there were not just an Internet of information. What if there were an Internet of value. Some kind of vast, global, distributed ledger where anything of value, from money to stock to votes to music could be managed, transacted, stored in a secure and private way.”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“I think this is a new paradigm, and a paradigm is a mental model. And they create boundaries around… assumptions we don’t even know that they’re there.”

-Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“the biggest problem for me…today, the net effect of all this digital on our economy is that we have growing wealth but declining prosperity. Our economies are growing but in most OECD countries the middle class is shrinking. We have a bipolarization [sic] of wealth”

-Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“For the first time in history, people have can now trust each other and transact peer to peer. And this is creating a great opportunity for… people in the middle to rethink their whole value proposition and the way that they operate, to deliver better value to customers at a lower rate.”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“Blockchain is no different than any other technology that preceded it. What happens with new technology is that people think about that, they digest it in the context of what they know and understand today. How can I take that technology… apply it to what I do today, and make it faster and cheaper?”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute


“It’s your data. It’s your history. You should own it, and you should grant permission and access to whoever you think of as an authorized user of that accumulated suite and wealth of data.”                                      – Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank


“People need to roll up their sleeves and invest the time to understand it… They need to sit down and understand what is this, how does it work, and then how does it disrupt your industry and the way we manage data.”

Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank


“Little by little, increment by increment, we’re going to migrate into a world where people are going to operate differently, and it’s going to be a weird and wonderful place.”

Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank


“The promise of blockchain is a disruptive technology and disintermediary technology…These monolithic business models based on exploiting the data of their customers are going to have to change.”

Dr. Marek Laskowski, co-founder, Blockchain Lab


“I think that’s one of the biggest decisions that need to be made is which data can you share into this commons of data, and in what cases does it make economic sense to do so? And I think that where we discover those golden points where there’s economic sense and it’s feasible to share that data in a way that the entire ecosystem benefits, I think it’s a matter of finding those. It takes work.”

Dr. Marek Laskowski, co-founder, Blockchain Lab


A Performance Culture…Don’t we already have that?

Why does culture matter, and what exactly is it?

Many companies today are so focused on their product and customers that thoughtful management of employee culture falls by the wayside. Despite this lack of attention, those same companies will often assert that their culture is one based on high performance. How is that possible? Performance cultures don’t grow organically, they take thought, planning, and care. Does your company walk the walk or just talk the talk?

According to a BI Worldwide survey, 55% of employees who self-identified as unhappy in their jobs said that they would still be willing to work hard to please their company’s customers. Although this is not a drastically low number, the percentage grew to 87% amongst employees who were happiest in their jobs. The notion that engaged employees are more likely to improve customer relations is also supported by the findings of a 2017 Gallup report. The report went on to add that this behaviour could result in a 20% increase in sales. These findings are illustrative of the value of employee engagement within a well-managed company culture.

“Company culture is a collection of well-established values and habits in the organization that dictate how the company functions. It is strongly influenced and driven by senior leadership.”

David Burnie, Founder and Principal of the Burnie Group

High-performing employees are engaged in their work. They are aware of and encouraged by their performance record. They also have a strong working relationship with both their peers and managers, and a clear understanding of their department or team’s purpose. Realizing these workplace attitudes is just one of the ways in which your company culture can go from low-pace to high-performance.


Corporate culture: Low pace versus high performance.

Corporate cultures can vary greatly from business to business. Some emphasize a more traditional, low-pace culture, whereas some recognize the benefits of adopting a high-performance culture.

A high-performance organization is not afraid to try new things. These companies are often early adopters of innovative new technologies. However, they achieve their business goals not only by looking to the newest technologies but by looking at what they can do to improve employee performance through adjustments to company culture. A workplace that allows for seamless collaboration, access to necessary tools, and staff empowerment is a high-performance organization, with satisfied employees and customers alike.

Low-pace corporate culture

High-performing culture

Lack of staff enablement

  • Lack of trust in staff decision making.
  • Staff have little access to necessary tools and skills.


Staff are truly enabled

  • Staff can make decisions within defined limits.
  • Staff can easily access necessary tools and skills.
  • Staff are motivated to make the right decisions.
Failure is unacceptable

  • Staff are afraid to make mistakes.
  • Staff are not encouraged or motivated to try new things.



Failures is seen as part of the learning process

  • Management sees mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Staff are expected to learn from mistakes.
  • Staff are not reprimanded for mistakes made while trying new methods.
Tenure is used to support advancement

  • Only the highest-producing employees are promoted.
  • Limited leadership skills and formal management training.
Staff are advanced based on merit and ability

  • Staff are motivated to develop their abilities.
  • There is a sense of “fair” recognition.


Productivity is evaluated by a direct supervisor

  • Subjectivity is highly prevalent.
  • Limited or no objective data to evaluate performance.



Staff are assessed using accessible, and trackable performance data

  • Staff performance is evaluated without bias.
  • Leaders can act quickly when performance is subpar.
  • Leaders are equipped with data to effectively discuss group performance and provide due credit to individual employees.
Training and coaching are not top priorities

  • Rigid standardized
  • Little specialized coaching or training for staff members.
  • Training sacrificed in favour of other priorities.



Capable and skilled staff is an organizational priority

  • Comprehensive initial and regular training on relevant themes.
  • Personalized training and coaching where needed.
  • Encouragement of career and skills development.
  • Support of personal development through direct managers. This could include access to resources or actionable feedback.
Lack of transparency during execution

  • Managers only see the final output. There is no established method for them to influence the result during the process.
  • Limited opportunity to instruct staff on process topics due to lack of process visibility.
Full transparency into each process stage

  • Managers have a line of sight into staff capabilities as well as the status of each process.
  • Managers can identify areas of inefficiency and provide staff with the coaching necessary to make improvements.


The Burnie Group Case Study on Culture Change

Recently, The Burnie Group assisted one of the largest North American workforce management (WFM) software providers in implementing a plan to overhaul its organizational culture. The project involved the design, introduction, and institutionalization of a new, high-performance company culture. To achieve these steps, the following goals were identified:

  1. Increase collaboration across all groups.
  2. Build higher performing teams.
  3. Make group performance more transparent.
  4. Increase support for coaching.
  5. Facilitate one-on-one conversations between managers and staff.

The results of the implementation were immediately evident. The sales teams, for instance, became more knowledgeable of the innovations created by the development team, thanks to increased best-practice sharing and knowledge transference. Facilitation of coaching and one-on-one conversations ensured that all team members were aware of group priorities, resulting in targets being met more often. Attentive change management resulted in the accomplishment of these project goals.

How did The Burnie Group help to accomplish these goals?




  • Collaboration and communication between groups were poor and highly isolated.
  • Expertise was concentrated in certain groups and was not shared with others. This reduced the efficiency and efficacy of staff.
  • Collaborative meetings, like “lunch and learns,” were firmly ingrained into the new culture.
  • Groups now routinely meet to share learnings across the organization so that no one group holds all the relevant information and updates.
Clear Targets and Accountability
  • It was difficult for employees to ascertain if a group was or was not meeting organizational This lack of understanding was rarely addressed.
  • Through daily discussions around the visual control boards, it was discovered that standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not in place in several areas, resulting in uncertainty, inefficiency, and lost time.
  • A well-defined set of key performance indicators (KPIs) was decided on and used to determine progress.
  • Progress was discussed daily at visual control boards and team huddles.
  • SOPs were designed and deployed to clarify expectations and increase consistency.
  • Coaching sessions and one-on-one conversations were often seen as negative events and were rarely scheduled.
  • An agenda was developed to help managers direct conversation. It included topics like performance metrics, escalations and issues, and career development.
  • Regular touch points are now scheduled between managers and staff. Such conversations are no longer seen as negative in nature.


How to begin your own company culture transformation

While large-scale cultural shift programs can yield impressive results, proper planning is paramount to successfully changing company culture. Below are some ways in which you prepare your organization for a successful transformation.

  1. Take time to plan your program
  • –  What level of rigour can your staff handle, given the current and projected workloads and service level agreements?
  • –  How will you deliver learnings and materials? This can be challenging for companies with distributed workforces.
  1. Communication matters: plan your messaging
  • –   How will you frame the reasons for this change?
  • –   Who will become the face of change?
  • –   How frequently will communications be issued?
  • –   How can you ensure communications are understood?
  1. Form the ‘right’ team
  • –  Form a team to conduct the day-to-day work that comes with a large-scale cultural shift. These responsibilities may range from managing communications to following up with complaints.
  • –  Define team roles and responsibilities.
  • –  Establish a shared understanding of the process and a clear vision of the end state.
  • –  Facilitate clear lines of communication between team members and senior
  1. Be prepared for pushback
  • –  Have a management plan for potential dissent.
  • –  Address concerns and incorporate concerns into solutions.
  1. Involve senior leadership
  • – Ensure senior leadership is heavily and visibly involved in the process.
  • – Ensure all leaders have a common understanding of the opportunity, the desired outcome, and the rollout method.
  • – Have leaders clearly communicate project expectations with the staff.
  • – Encourage leaders set expectations of behaviour and lead by example.
  • – Have leaders be vocal proponents of the change, communicating the organization’s reasons for making the
  • – Establish effective methods of top-down communication to assist staff in the prioritization of tasks.
  1. Identify and empower Change Agents
  • –  Enlist people who are resourceful and eager for change.
  • –  Ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly
  • –  Empower agents to be positive ambassadors for the change.
  • –  Ensure agents have frequent touch points with each other and with the project management team to keep messaging and priorities aligned.
  1. Manage for desired results
  • –  Adjust current SOPs, KIPs, or incentives as needed to fit the new company culture.
  • –  Measure results of the project using data to ensure the identified opportunity has been correctly addressed.
  • –  Make metrics visible to publicize positive effects of the project.

We hope that these ideas and insights will inform your future company culture transformation. Although there will always be challenges implementing a pervasive change, having a set plan for communications, timelines, and staff responsibilities, increases the level of transitional success. If you are interested in learning more, our project leaders are ready to share their extensive experience and insights with you.



 By: Shane Nightingale, Associate

4 Industries About to be Forever Changed by Blockchain

Blockchain captured attention and made headlines for much of 2017. The trend remains strong in 2018, with entrepreneurs, governments, and banks looking to effectively and efficiently harness this emerging technology. Throughout it all, leaders want to know two things:

1. Why is blockchain getting so much attention?

2. Why should they care?

Blockchain is a highly reliable, encrypted transaction record that cannot be changed. As a distributed database, manages coordinated and reliable consensus over a record of events. This is particularly valuable if participants have different motives or interests. Early adopters understand it’s these characteristics make blockchain a game changer. Here’s how these four industries can take advantage of it and how stakeholders can benefit.


1. Insurance 

Mobile computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are already changing how insurers interact with customers and bring in new offerings, and are lowering the barrier to entry for new and innovative entrants.

Blockchain is laying the path to some of the insurance industry’s largest disruptions. By getting ahead of this technology, insurers can overcome existing pain points, and improve operations in:

  • – Fraud detection and risk prevention
  • – Claims prevention and management
  • – Product development / Underwriting
  • – New distribution and payment models
  • – Reinsurance

Read 3 Blockchain use cases changing the future of insurance to find out more about how the insurance industry can use blockchain.


2. Finance

While finance has received the most attention within the blockchain ecosystem, many believe 2018 will see institutional capital injected at scale to take development beyond proof-of-concepts.

Blockchain stands ready to transform high volume, laggard and costly processes. It is also poised to impact intermediaries such as clearinghouses and credit card payment processors. Some of its biggest opportunities in finance are in creating smart contracts and facilitating easier cross-border payments, as well as:

  • – Trade platforms & processing:
    • – Lower cost and operational risk
    • – faster turn-around
  • – Crossborder payments:
    • – Lower cost and fees
    • – Increased security and speed
  • – KYC / AML management
    • – Reduced duplicative efforts in on-boarding customers
    • – Improved transaction monitoring
  • – Identity
  • – Fraud reduction
  • – Payments


3. Government

Governments have  generally been slow to prioritize blockchain’s potential. At present, Canada is one of more than a dozen countries that are examining its uses and running pilots. The public sector should examine the benefits of security, efficiency, and speed.

Potential benefits to putting a solution in place include, increased and eased compliance, improved data quality, greater transparency, and optimized processes.  Blockchain offers the following opportunities to governments and public sector organizations:

  • – Land registration
  • – License and registry processes
  • – Voting
  • – Identity management


4. Healthcare

Blockchain’s features offer innumerable benefits in healthcare. It can improve accessibility and accuracy to patient data, open doors to better and faster treatment, and improve patient safety. It can also create a common, secure health information database that medical staff could access seamlessly. With less time spent on administrative tasks, more time could be allocated to patient care. Healthcare can evolve to be more patient-centric, and allow individuals to control access levels to information.

In transforming healthcare, blockchain technology can also address issues, including:

  • – Medical Data Management
  • – Drug Development and Supply Chain Integrity
  • – Claims and Billing Management
  • – Improve trust in scientific research
  • – Medical Research
  • – Data Security
  • – research results to facilitate new drug and treatment therapies for disease

Contact us if you have questions about how blockchain could impact your industry. The Burnie Group will help you to set the right strategy and build the right foundation, to help you become a pioneer in this emerging technology.



 By: Madison Wright, Senior Business Analyst

PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group hosts #EDGETalks: Executing on the Blockchain Hype

TORONTO, Jan. 09, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Burnie Group is pleased to announce #EDGETalks: Executing on the Blockchain Hype. Featuring a keynote address by Don Tapscott, Executive Chairman, Blockchain Research Institute, and Co-author Blockchain Revolution, this event will look at the dimensions of the Blockchain disruption and the business opportunities that it will create.

“This event is an opportunity to bring together industry leaders to share their diverse insights and use case experience on the ever-evolving blockchain industry,” said Doug Heintzman, Blockchain Practice Leader, The Burnie Group.

#EDGETalks: Executing on the Blockchain Hype will take place on the evening of Monday, January 15th 2018 at MaRS Discovery District Auditorium. Don Tapscott’s keynote address will be followed by a panel discussion led by industry thought leaders, academics and practitioners, including:

Dr. David Jaffary – EVP Technology & Innovation, University Health Network
Dr. Marek Laskowski – Blockchain Lab co-founder, Professor of Information & Computing Technologies, York University
Dr. Atefeh Mashatan – Professor, Ted Rodger school of Information Management, Ryerson University
Chris Owen – VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms – Blockchain, TD Canada Trust

Blockchain technology has been the subject of great interest and investment. The potential of universal distributed ledgers to dramatically reduce transaction costs and reconciliation times has been well understood for some time, but only very recently have we had the ability to embed trust into business networks at a technology level. This evening looks to answer questions about where Blockchain technology is today, what its impact potential is, and how businesses are beginning to invest and implement it.

For tickets visit:


About The Burnie Group –
The Burnie Group is a highly specialized operations consulting firm that helps clients improve their businesses through the application of innovative strategy, rigorous analysis, world-class technology, and top-tier domain expertise.  The Burnie Group specializes in Strategy, Operations, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, and Workforce Management (WFM).

Media Contact:
Bruna Sofia Simoes, Marketing Manager


Source: The Burnie Group


Transformation with RPA: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

On November 20, 2017, The Burnie Group led a panel discussion on enabling Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the workplace. Moderated by David Burnie, Principal and Founder of The Burnie Group, panellists discussed their reasons for automation as well as key learnings from RPA implementation projects. Panellists were Erik Kalin, VP & COO of Retail Operations at Empire Life Insurance Co., Michael Marchuk, Chief Technology Evangelist at BluePrism, and Dan Semmens, Managing Director of Transformation-Process Automation at ATB Financial. 

When looking for ways to boost efficiency, improve service quality, or increase customer satisfaction, many companies turn to RPA to transform their businesses.

Through automation, clerical tasks usually executed by people (for example, recording a change of address) are done more quickly and accurately by software robots. By removing mundane repetitive work, employees can be better engaged and contribute meaningfully to the company’s core mission.

In this article, we’ve summarized some best practices step-by-step, and following that, some key learnings shared by the industry experts at our recent panel discussion.

Eight steps to transforming your business with RPA:

Like any change project, successful adoption and implementation are the results of good planning.  These steps will help ensure your company’s RPA project goes smoothly:

Step 1: Identify the opportunity

Every solution begins with a problem. Ideally, the issue should tie to the strategic plan or core business function. It could be people-focussed (such as issues related to high turnover or poor customer experience) or operations-focussed (such as evolving compliance requirements or complicated processes rooted in legacy systems).

Step 2: Gather information

Engage your subject matter experts—including IT, risk, audit, and security—to develop a good high-level understanding of the processes and their related issues. You need to determine not just if automation is a viable solution but how much automation is needed for the best results. Here, RPA practitioners can build your knowledge (technological and otherwise) and provide resources to support your proof-of-concept.

Step 3: Develop the business case and win executive buy-in

After determining scope, create a business case by defining the project’s objective(s). Recruit a senior level champion and socialize the plan amongst executive stakeholders. After the project is green-lighted, shortlist RPA process candidates based on stakeholder needs. Select an RPA practitioner to help manage your project.

Step 4: Build your team

Build the team needed to put the transformation in place and support it, through the processes of change, implementation, and post-implementation. Your change team should include those functions needed for a smooth transition (such as communications, HR, and ER). A post-implementation team will need to deal with unexpected issues that may affect the robots after putting RPA in place (such as a vendor-initiated upgrade).

Step 5: Capture the processes

Often companies do not have fully-documented processes, as tasks and behaviours may reside with the SME, but not on paper. Create well-documented, end-to-end understandings of full processes instead of spotlighting particular aspects. Develop thorough baselines. Find out who and how the final outputs are used. This step can be time-consuming, so be sure to budget sufficient time for your subject matter experts to thoroughly capture pre-RPA details.

Step: 6: Build and test the automated processes

From Step 5, identify tasks (or entire processes) that do not add value, and those that can be harmonized or re-engineered to be improved. Build a Centre of Excellence and an object library. Stakeholders should also identify unexpected problems and find solutions. Schedule your development and sprints and adjust accordingly.

Step 7: Implementation

Before going live, your communications resource should have developed and launched a communications plan targeting managers, staff, and other groups impacted by the RPA transformation. Ensure those who will be working with the new processes and those who are being redeployed have the appropriate training. Build in the necessary safeguards and checks to ensure all processes are being handled correctly.

Step 8: Evaluation

After the RPA is installed, objectively evaluate its performance. Conduct a gap analysis and determine if the business case’s goals were met. When monitoring stakeholder satisfaction, differentiate actual from perceived problems, and address them appropriately. Compare project costs and benefits against expectations. Capture lessons learned for future RPA (and other) implementations and document findings and recommendations.


Key Learnings

One of the things that we’re starting to do now is to supplement the whole program with better support around transforming our workforce, so it’s easy, whether it’s measuring customer experience or measuring benefits. How do we tie those numbers back and really get true value from the investment back into the organization? Having better baseline data can really help and give you a better understanding of not just goal setting, but those true opportunities that lie across the companies.

– Dan Semmens, Managing Director of Transformation-Process Automation at ATB Financial.


I think you have to build in a lot of time for testing. We underestimated the amount of time our subject matter experts would need to do this. We thought we could just ask them few questions—I walked down the hall and tapped them on the shoulder. Well, that ends up being a lot when the subject matter expert knows everything—especially when a lot of your procedures are undocumented and your test cases are just growing, growing, growing over time.

– Erik Kalin, VP & COO of Retail Operations at Empire Life Insurance Co.


You look at some of these things and think, ‘Do we really do this?’ You’ll find you actually really do and you realize that you made some optimization goals. Maybe you do something different, maybe just change and tweak the process a little bit, so you can automate some of it. But the reality is that there will be a lot more attention to the whole thing.”

– Michael Marchuk, Chief Technology Evangelist at BluePrism.


Working with an experienced partner can help make your RPA business transformation a success. Choose a partner who can efficiently lead the project, keep it on track, and who will build your internal capabilities. As a pioneer in North American RPA, The Burnie Group will help you to set the right strategy and build the right foundation. Contact us to learn more about robotic process automation.



PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group Ranks No.1 amongst Professional Services Companies and in the top 100 in 2017 PROFIT 500

–Canadian Business unveils its 29th annual list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies –

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Sept. 14, 2017) – The Burnie Group is pleased to announce that it has ranked No. 87 in the 29th annual PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by Canadian Business. Published in the October issue of Maclean’s magazine and at, the PROFIT 500 ranks Canadian businesses by their five-year revenue growth. This is the first year that The Burnie Group has been included.

The Burnie Group ranked No. 1 in the category of Canada’s fastest-growing professional services companies for 2017, and No. 87 overall on the 2017 PROFIT 500 list with five-year revenue growth of 831%. 

“It is never easy to earn a spot on the PROFIT 500, but this year’s applicant pool was the most competitive yet,” says Deborah Aarts, PROFIT 500 program manager. “This year’s winners demonstrate the resilience, innovation and sheer management smarts it takes to build a thriving business today. Canada—and the world—needs more entrepreneurial success stories like these.”

“We’re thrilled to be included in this exclusive ranking alongside some of Canada’s best and brightest companies,” says David Burnie, Principal and Founder of The Burnie Group. “I really believe this recognition is a testament to the hard work and innovative ideas of our team members, as they are the driving force behind the growth and success we’ve managed to achieve.”

Ranking Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by five-year revenue growth, the PROFIT 500 profiles the country’s most successful growth companies. A joint venture between Canada’s premier business media brands, the PROFIT 500 is published in the October issue of MacLean’s, Canadian Business and online at




About The Burnie Group

The Burnie Group is a highly specialized operations consulting firm that helps clients improve their businesses through the application of innovative strategy, rigorous analysis, world-class technology, and top-tier domain expertise.  The Burnie Group specializes in Strategy, Operations, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, and Workforce Management (WFM). Our programs deliver measurable, transparent, and guaranteed results, including:

» 10-25% reduction in operating costs

» 5-10% increase in employee engagement

» 10-20% top-line revenue growth


About the PROFIT 500

For 29 years, the PROFIT 500 has been Canada’s most respectable and influential ranking of entrepreneurial achievement. Developed by PROFIT and now published in Maclean’s magazine and at, the PROFIT 500 ranks Canadian companies on five-year revenue growth. For more information on the ranking visit or


About Canadian Business

Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-serving and most-trusted business publication in the country. It is the country’s premier media brand for executives and senior

business leaders. It fuels the success of Canada’s business elite with a focus on the things that matter most: leadership, innovation, business strategy and management tactics. Learn more at


Media Contact:

Bruna Sofia Simoes

Marketing & Sales Manager




From coffee shop to Bay Street consulting firm in 6 years

An interview with David Burnie, Founder & Principal, The Burnie Group

David (centre) and just a few of The Burnie Group team members. From left: John McKay, Max Lan, Alexey Saltykov, Karen Sun, David Burnie, Jenya Doudareva, Hugh Frost, Bruna Simoes, Darshan Jain

Winning the PROFIT 500 award has been a great milestone for The Burnie Group.  Started 6 years ago in a coffee shop on Queen Street West, David Burnie and his group have come a long way in a very short time. Today the company occupies an entire floor right in the core of Toronto’s financial district on Bay Street.

I joined The Burnie Group just over a year ago as Marketing and Sales Manager, and in that time I’ve watched the company grow exponentially. Propelled forward by a shared commitment to our core mission of combining innovative management consulting with world-class technology, 30 people walk through the front door every morning ready to create meaningful impact for our clients.  Earlier this month I sat down with David over lunch and we talked about how it all came to be.


Did you always want to start your own business?

Growing up, I had a strong drive to build and pursue projects that were entrepreneurial in nature—creating something that was my own, and being able to look back and say “hey, I built that” or “hey, this didn’t exist before, and now it does”—that has always been a great motivator for me.

When the time came for me to leave McKinsey, doing something entrepreneurial was my next logical step. I was in a position where I could give it a shot and if things didn’t work out I could always go back into industry. So, I committed 12 months to get ‘The Burnie Group’ off the ground, and nearly seven years later, here we are.


Why start a consulting firm?

When I decided that I was going to give this a shot, I explored a few different options, but what I always came back to, was building a consulting firm. I had the skills and capacity, and I believed, based on my experience, that there was a gap in the market. Consulting firms are really good at analyzing and dissecting problems, coming up with solutions, and then providing recommendations to clients. However, where they frequently fall short is in taking those recommendations and helping clients to move forward into execution and implementation.

The Burnie Group was founded with the intention of combining the best of what I’d learned in consulting with the tools and technology that would allow clients to execute and get results.


Tell me more about technology, how does it fill in that execution gap?

One of The Burnie Group’s first projects was to build Operations Excellence (OE) at a Big-5 bank. In the pursuit of bettering practices and behaviours, we’ve found that the integration of technology—in the case of an OE project, Workforce Management software—ensures that behavioural change can happen organically for the employees being impacted, in a way that is sustainable over the long-term for the company, while simultaneously opening up a whole new world of workforce data that allows managers to manage more effectively.

We constantly strive to be at the forefront of what’s new, and what stands to have incredible influence. We were the first consulting firm in Canada to adopt and embrace Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and we’ve been very successful in building this practice. We’re now doing the same with Blockchain because we understand the massive opportunity and impact this technology will have in the very near future.

We have, and will continue to invest time, energy, and resources in becoming fluent in these and other technologies so that we can always offer our clients the best possible recommendations and solutions to meet their needs.


Every now and then someone will mention your past as an athlete, but I’ve never actually heard the whole story. You were drafted for the CFL, can you tell me about that?

Growing up I loved sports and played basketball, football, volleyball, and track and field. Football happened to be a sport where I excelled. I had the right skills, capabilities, and size to do well. In university, I enjoyed being able to pursue both my academic education at the Ivey Business School and the comradery, fun, and excitement of playing football with the Western Mustangs.

I was fortunate to have great coaches and a great team to support me and I ended up winning the All Canadian and Academic All Canadian awards (recognizing both the academics excellence and my capabilities on the field). As a result, upon graduation, I was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.

The draft, while a dream come true, was also very conflicting. I had done well at business school and there were a number of businesses looking to hire me, and I found myself torn on which dream to pursue.

As luck would have it that conflict was resolved for me. I was drafted, I went to training camp, I had a really amazing experience, but I’d had recurring problems with my neck due to neck injuries sustained in university, and training with guys who were bigger, faster, stronger, brought those issues forward. Soon two of my vertebrae were being compressed and damaging the nerves through my left arm and part of the muscles in my back. So, while I probably could have gone through life without one arm, I decided I wanted two of them and gave up the football dream to start my business career.


Does your passion for sports influence the way you approach business?

Definitely. There are a number of parallels between the two.  The first is drive and determination. In football and in business, you can’t sit back and relax and take a day off, if you do, your competition is going to get ahead. During the season and in the off-season, you’re always working hard to be the best that you can be. I employ that frame of mind with The Burnie Group.

The second is to always be one step ahead. You need to consider everything that’s happened before, the plays and the outcomes of those plays, and then take that knowledge and strategize different ways to do things. The strategic thinking you employ in football is very similar to business.

Finally, the whole team spirit and competitive nature of sport translate well to business, and I like to think of The Burnie Group as a team made of people with different skills in which they excel, who’ve come together to achieve a common goal.


The Burnie Group started with just you in a coffee shop, did you always know it would end up a Group? 

I actually felt a bit weird using the name The Burnie Group, when it was just me. But I always had the aspiration that it would be a collection of like-minded individuals who would come together and create impact for clients.


Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?

The person who has been a role model and whom I greatly respect as a leader is Alan Sellery. Al is the former CEO of, and currently leads a private equity firm that he founded, Ironbridge Equity Partners.

When I worked with him at, he demonstrated a solid combination of leadership and effective decision making. In particular, I admired that he doesn’t make decisions just because he’s the leader, he consults others, asks his team what their opinions are, ensuring the very best of an organization goes into every decision.

I think of some of the stories he’s told me about starting his own business, his drive, his determination to not give up, his faith in himself and his team, have constantly been an influence for me.


What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Compassion. I think that if you can’t put yourself in the shoes of others, it’s difficult to be a good leader. You can be a taskmaster or a dictator who just tells people what to do; but to be a truly good leader you need to have the capacity to understand how people are feeling, what their priorities are, and how can you engage them to do their best work. If you can understand that and connect with people, then you’re going to get the most out of them.


What do you love about what you do? What concerns you the most about what you do?

I love being able to drive impact with our clients, especially because we’re doing it in really innovative ways. The Burnie Group does not just re-apply cookie cutter solutions, we think about new ways to help our clients achieve their goals. Whether that’s through Automation, Artificial Intelligence, or Blockchain, it’s fun to always be thinking about how we can help change the world.

What concerns me the most is the uncertainty. Someone once told me “a consulting firm is always 6 months away from going out of business” because you just never know. Right now, things are going great, but what will January look like? If there were more certainty it would be nice, but unfortunately, it’s just the nature of the business.


How do you handle failure?

I like to view failure as an opportunity to learn. What did we not do that would have resonated more with a potential client? What is it that we could do differently to get better? My football coach, Larry Haylor, at UWO, always had a saying “you’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse” and so, those opportunities of failure are a chance to get better, to learn, to see what was done wrong, what can be done differently, and get better.


How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

I had a manager at Procter & Gamble early in my career, Maureen Poile, who I would frequently go to with problems. One day she said to me “Dave, I never want you to come to me with a problem again. You can tell me what the problem is, but I want you to think through a possible solution and then we can work on it together.” Asking people to show up with solutions and not just problems pushes them to think independently. This is a practice I’ve tried to employ as a leader; it’s about asking the right questions so you can get better answers.


Seven years ago, you were just planning to start The Burnie Group, what did you imagine it would be now?

People frequently ask me: Are you where you expected to be? And Where do you expect to be in 5 years? When I started The Burnie Group it wasn’t with the goal of having a certain number of employees or a certain amount of revenue. What I wanted to do was build a company that does great work, where team members have fun, and, above all else, makes an impact.

My belief is that as long as we deliver results, continue to delight our clients, and enjoy what we’re doing, nothing can stop us.


What’s the next step for David Burnie, and The Burnie Group?

I’m really excited about where we’re headed. We’re doing some really interesting things when it comes to Strategy; our RPA practice is a leader in Canada; we’ve begun doing some really innovative work around Blockchain, and our Operations Excellence and Benchmarking practices are industry-leading. So, I’m looking forward to continuing to build on this work.


What does winning PROFIT 500 mean for you?

I’m very proud of this moment. It’s a manifestation of so many things—doing a great job serving our clients, continuing to find great people to expand our business, growing both with our clients and individually as an organization—and all those things come together in PROFIT 500 as recognition for the hard work that we’ve put in.


By: Bruna Sofia Simoes