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Keith Swenson raised this question in this blog, and quotes:
Automation turns us from actors into observers. Instead of manipulating the yoke, we watch the screen. That shift may make our lives easier, but it can also inhibit the development of expertise..
So what is the right amount of automation with BPM?
Thursday, January 30 2014, 09:47 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 10:07 AM - #Permalink
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    What is the right amount of automation in BPM? In my opinion it comes down to the objectives and budget of the organization. If money were not a factor, organizations would only be hindered by the capabilities of the technology they are using to automate business processes. Having money as a hindering factor, organizations need to select the most costly items to their overhead and automate those portions of the process. When it comes to not being able to maintain or develop expertise, how can this be avoided? If I had a customer presenting me with this argument, I would strongly recommend that the documentation be developed in a way that employees can become trained on what is happening in the background. They need to know this information in case they need to do the process manually in the future or modify the process to meet changing business needs. Having documentation available will further allow the team of employees to further refine and streamline the process in the future.
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    Thursday, January 30 2014, 10:11 AM - #Permalink
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    First two sentences imply that automation is a bad thing. Really? Whether a BPM application or the blog author's employer's product, is not the goal to do things better, implicit within which should be faster and easier? Furthermore, where does that expertise for the automation, to whatever degree, come from to begin with? End-users and SMEs exist without technology and the efficacy of any technical implementation is driven directly by our ability to draw that knowledge out from them in the form of the solution. For that last sentence, the operative word is "can." Still more innuendo. The entire blog post is subjective opinion only. As to the "right" amount of automation? Also entirely subjective, as defined by the users, the SMEs, the clients. Here's the question - "Would the client ask you back again for phase II, a second project? Would they do it again, or would they do it different?" If 'yes,' that's the "right" amount of automation.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 10:44 AM - #Permalink
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    Simply put: you should automate everything you can. But not everything is automatable. Only routine, repeatable tasks are automatable, and everything else requires a real, thinking human being. The context of this comment was simply to introduce the "crisis inducer" concept as a tongue-in-cheek idea for exercising workers. There is some very interesting physchology behind this, but you should not take it to mean that automation is a bad thing. It is just to remember that automation should not be used to avoid things that give people exercise, and drill their skills. Those manual actions have value in their own right.
    • Patrick Lujan
      more than a month ago
      I would disagree with the following sentence - "Only routine, repeatable tasks are automatable, and everything else requires a real, thinking human being." Decisioning and rules engines are making that intersection very... gray.
    • Keith Swenson
      more than a month ago
      Rules can only be used in repeatable situations. Think about it - a rule selects a specific condition which you could anticipate (because it is predictable), and enables a specific response which you figure is the best response (based on experience). Rules can not be used for situations that you can not anticipate. Rules allows for a convenient and powerful way to handle a wide variety of conditions, but all of those situations are routine in the sense that you have a well understood response for every condition.
    • Patrick Lujan
      more than a month ago
      Current rules engines can be updated on the fly, by the user. #ThatIsAll
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 11:08 AM - #Permalink
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    Automation problem is older than BPM. Some pre-BPM ideas are in http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/search/label/automation In my experience, there are neither only human processes nor only automated processes. Each automated activity within a process should be encapsulated into an "error-recovery loop" which may include a human activity. For example, a fully automated conveyer at a car factory has some side lines to "do" some cars manually. A fully "automated" process may have a human task to watch the process - in the same way that an observation window allows one to observe the workings of a turbine. Each human activity is surrounded by automated activities - similar to a good secretary who prepares documents for a boss and later takes care about them. Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 11:26 AM - #Permalink
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    Patrick is right on. The amount of automation that is "best" will vary. Organizations exist at different levels of BPM maturity. Different processes and business cases are suitable for different levels of automation. Some customers interactions should be automated for maximum efficiency, other interactions should allow for large amounts of human engagement. Automation should be a capability that businesses can use where they need to strike the right balance between efficiency and human judgement and interaction. As a BPM vendor, our goal is to ensure that customers to dial-up the level of automation they need: from tracking of manual or ad-hoc processes, to intelligent guided processes, all the way up through true "STP." The technology ensures the customer doesn't run out of runway, and provides opportunities for automation, driven by rules or predictive analytics (remember that discussion?) that customers may not have thought possible.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 11:36 AM - #Permalink
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    This is a really great question: but I think I know a better one! Here are the guidelines I try to follow: If a process step requires that a user inspect data from another computer system in order to complete an online form try to obtain that data automatically to eliminate the user step. Example: user enters the customer phone number, automatically populate the form with the user's name and address details. If a decision is based in inspecting data from another computer system try to automate the inspection and eliminate the need for the human to make the decision. Example: user needs to check inventory levels before approving an order. If a spreadsheet is routinely mailed amongst three or more people put the data online in a simple workflow with edit rights as needed. If a document/presentation is passed amongst three or more people use an online process to manage versions and approvals. The better question is, I think: is there anything that should not be an automated business process?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 12:03 PM - #Permalink
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    Kevin's examples are good - enter data only once and there after presented as required to the right person at the right time all automatically generated likewise external data orchestrated as required. So one version of the truth flows through the business the way business works. Same applies to automated creation of documents including e-mails as standard communications that can be readily modified/customised by the user. Replace spreadsheets that contribute to the outcomes with BPM software to automate and thus reduce errors and improve efficiency. Encourage users to think of ways to do things better and automate where relevant. All this frees up the user to be more creative and as a result empowered. Limits? Well just applying common sense should be the guide?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, January 30 2014, 02:06 PM - #Permalink
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    Sex robots. Sorry, just can't do it. Beyond that... Nobel laureate Arno Penzias spoke of the phenomenon of "running errands" on behalf of your computer. Traditionally, BPM has been good at handling exactly the kind of tedious, unnecessary human action to which Penzias was referring: entering data that could be obtained automatically; tracking on-time statistics; determining who is next in line to act in a process. Now that BPM is much more sophisticated, can it go beyond the errand-running stage? Of course. Intelligent, automated decision making (sorry, I refuse to use "decisioning") takes the necessarily arbitrary dimension of human judgment out of the loop where it is not really needed. And, as we get better at processing and interpreting large amounts of data, that decision making can only improve. At the end of the day, though, at some point you need a human to decide when it's OK to push the button. ...not that that always turns out so well either...
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, January 31 2014, 05:52 AM - #Permalink
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    Automation's (and technology's in general) only purpose should be to enhance our own humanness. We should delegate to machines everything that prevents us from doing profoundly human activities: loving, creating, inventing, learning, feeling, sensing. This should be the framework that defines the limits of what should we automate.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, January 31 2014, 11:18 AM - #Permalink
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    It is also a mistake to think that Automation only does things that we (humans) could do, but is repeatable and boring, for example. On an airplane, when the pilot moves the stick, all kinds of automation causes parts of the airplane to react in order to follow those instructions. I suppose you could argue we could fly planes the way we used to sail ships, the captain calling out an order, which is repeated down the line until someone moves the rope or sail... but in flight, that isn't realistic :) People focus too much on how automation limits and constrains, and not enough on how much it enables and frees us.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, January 31 2014, 04:04 PM - #Permalink
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    For me this question first asks us to define what automation as - and many have commented on that. I think it's great to use technology to speed things up, allow more visibility, standardize - and these are all part of automation. But when can the worker provide value that an automated step cannot - that we have to be cautious about. So yes for technology, but be thoughtful just using automation just to remove the costs of the worker.
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