As long as my encounters with automation stick at the level of continuing improved UIX, rather than mindblowing developments, I'm inclined to say: Not really... But in some aspects, yes.
Of course there are quite some technological breakthroughs, but I consider these being in the early phases of what we might want to refer to as a new era of automation. The biggest challenge IMO is the alignment of new available technology and our reptile brain; more and more you will see a growing gap between what's technical possible and "human acceptable" both from a moral as legislation perspective. Obviously the example of fully automated cars is the most concrete example in this context.
Which brings me to the " in some aspects, yes" part of my answer: When automated cars start to hit the road, it will definitely impact the way we are looking at automation. Suddenly it is very visual that there is really no human interaction involved. These systems of course do already exists to some extend (e.g., look at our financial systems), but are less visual to the average person and thus go unnoticed (well, until something goes wrong of course).
Pega recently published an excellent White Paper written by an expert in customer experience called Mica Solomon called "How-to-Win-Over-Millennials". What comes over loud and clear is that millenials want and need to be dealt with as an individual in a personalized way. But at the same time this needs to be at scale with very little margin.
That is the new challenge for BPM / automation. And this is not optional. Millenials aren't going to go away. They aren't going to comply. This is ushering in the new era of automation.
Business Process Automation, when done correctly, allows a company to automate office activities and focus more on the customer. I agree that the focus on age is over done so I believe the ability to better focus on the customer has nothing to do with age. It's just better customer service. For years we had horrible automation - automated customer service with no ability for the customer to speak with a real person. Good companies have seen the error of this approach and realized there are better places for automation than putting an unintelligent computer voice between the company and the customer.
Most companies still do not even have any business process management or automation in departments like AP where it is a very good fit. If there is a new era approaching it may be that companies are finally seeing the correct benefit of automation and where it fits best in the company. Like the ability of automation to reduce accounting clerk headcount and increase the customer service headcount.
There's still a big gap between email and products or services addressing a specific use case. Roughly speaking, everything in between meant custom coding, which is expensive, time consuming and risky. There is a huge need for solutions that allow quicker delivery of basic software solutions. Workflow is positioned right in that sweet spot. In the new era, vendors integrate over the open APIs on the cloud. Solutions like IFTTT.com show this category is not limited to typical BPM or workflow. Too much time is waisted today using email and even paper for recurring work. Quickly composing practical solutions for recurring work will become a vital part of every professional organization going forward.
Yes and the focus will be to support people in their day to day work where all information is created. This is dynamic environment requiring constant change to be supported and removal of repetitive tasks which can be automated. The entry of information only once the only version of the truth! It will be a new journey as business users regain control over their processes and become empowered to deliver a better outcome. The mess of legacy will over time be rationalised as it becomes the slave to this new people driven BPM supporting software.
Looking to the future automation will include intelligent processes which will evolve and help engage all users in particular the customer to help make the right decisions. There will be fewer managers needed.....as they say management transformation starts with management and therein lies the real challenge?
Absolutely we are entering a new era of automation, consumer driven rather than business led.
Depending on who you ask apparently 26bn smart devices will be connected to the Internet by 2025. Human attention however is a limited, scarce resource. Do we really want to be alerted and prompted on a regular basis by multiple, sometimes frivolous devices competing for our attention? We are already seeing mobile app fatigue.
Successful IOT solutions will be for the most part invisible and to do this automation will be essential. A more interesting question would be "are low wages and rising inequality slowing the rate of automation?"
I agree mainly with Peter and David: we ARE entering a new era of automation. But rather than using digitization instead of automation, the real change focus is the customer.
BPM used to be a discipline implemented in larger companies, where processes were complicated and involved multiple steps and participants. The processes were modeled and automated by the solution provider rather than the client himself and that lead to big confusions and dissatisfactions.
Now, we understand that the client should design and model his own processes (with our help and assistance, of course) and only by doing so will the organizational transformation be well received.
We have newdemocratizing automation technologies, which thankfully make BPM available to small businesses.
Not only complex processes should be automated, but also those repetitive tasks that waste our time and resources.
I don't know if it's a "new era", but I do know there's plenty left to automate. And not just in the fancy ways we've been discussing so far, what with your Internet of Otherwise Brick-like Objects and such. Every day I talk with companies that are still using Foxpro or Access to "manage" their processes. They create spreadsheets and mail them around. They allow invaluable institutional knowledge to be held solely in the mind of a single employee—usually the one whose retirement party is already on the calendar.
So, yeah, while we're all busy with goal-seeking, ad hoc, analytics-driven, case-style, pattern-sensing processes, somebody is still out there wondering why they haven't gotten a response yet on that request they sent via inter-office mail two weeks ago. Maybe the new era is just the old era refusing to die.
Even before we get into any discusions about fancy-pants 'New Automation' scenarios, there's already quite enough confusion about 'Plain Old Automation' in my experience!
Quite often when I encounter resistance to the idea of using BPM techniques and tools to improve work and business processes, it's because someone is worried about the impact of automation - and assuming that some kind of master system is going to automate massive chunks of work. Still, it seems that significant numbers of people confuse the automation of a process (the mechanisms by which work and information flow between actors and resources) with the automation of the tasks that need to be undertaken as a process unfolds.
It's entirely possible to automate a process without automating any tasks; to automate tasks without automating the process; as well as, of course, doing neither or (in some edge cases) doing both. I say 'edge cases' because even in scenarios where the work in question is really service orchestration - straight-through integration processing - it's quite often the case that human resources need to be employed to unravel error conditions, etc.
Yes, some task automation is inevitable, but real value-adding tasks tend to resist complete automation in my experience. I think something more subtle is happening. What I'm starting to see (as Scott from BP3 pointed out above) is something more akin to 'task augmentation' where next-best-action recommendation agents augment knowledge-rich task work by suggesting optimal paths or decisions.
Speaking of new eras of automation, how about a retread of screen scraping? It's now called "robotic process automation" (or "RPA") and there's a whole cadre of specialists for both business and technology sides. The home of RPA is not surprisingly found in the world of BPO (i.e. "Business Process Outsourcing").
By the way, BPM technology is quite complementary to RPA . . .
I agree with most of the points provided above and my personal view is the close to what Tom Baeyens said. However I am wondering if we can talk about the new era of automation if most of companies and organizations are still using e-mails and paper, even when they already have BPMS on board.
It seems to me that although it is possible to significantly reduce use of e-mails and paper (in context of business processes), at this point getting rid of them completely is not going to happen. There will always be some contracts requiring handwritten signatures and e-mail requests from important clients.
So by following the famous saying "If you can't beat them, join them", what organizations can do, is to handle those as efficiently as possible. The video here shows how business processes, Outlook and Word-related work can be optimized.
I agree with Neil - I don't know what to make of all these technology "eras" that just seem to come upon us every two weeks. I'm not clear what automation used to mean until now and how increased connectivity and increased sensor density will usher something materially different.
Yes, until now it was more about internal orchestration and from now on it will be more about external choreography, simply because more systems are talking to each other.
But for a pervasive, consistent automation context we need an unnatural condition: a singularity (a single world operating system - tech / business / culture wise). And this comes in stark contrast with all the concepts dear to the free world: diversity, inclusion, free market, free will etc.
So this new era will be a long time coming.