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A point Kevin Parker brought up in this discussion, What Are the Limits of Automation, what business process do not lend themselves to automation?
Thursday, February 13 2014, 09:41 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, February 13 2014, 10:14 AM - #Permalink
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    Anything that is in dire need for human touch. e.g. Customer Care - Look at the disaster that is Google support.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, February 13 2014, 10:35 AM - #Permalink
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    Every job has a routine aspect, and an unpredictable aspect. We have to be careful when we talk about a "job" because over the past 50 years many jobs have been tremendously changed by automation, but they are still there as jobs. Martin Ford, in his book "The Lights in the Tunnel" tries to make the case that we are running out of jobs. Automation is taking over jobs, and there are no new jobs. How does he attempt to prove this? By looking at list of occupations with at least a million workers categorized by the US Department of Labor. On that list, there are 28 professions. Of those, 27 of them existed in 1930. He uses this as evidence that there are no new jobs, and as a result of automation, humans will have less and less to do, and he suggests the radical idea that the government will have to pay people to "not work" so that there will be enough jobs for the working part of the population. (I am not exaggerating, he actually claims this is the answer.) I don't view the world this way. If I look at those jobs I see a very different story. Consider "bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks" which makes up 1.4% of the population. In 1930 the main part of this job was actually writing numbers in books. Every transaction would be entered in exactly two places in the books. At the end of every time period (month/year) the columns of numbers would be manually added together, and the results from the two parts of the book compared. If the job is done accurately, the books balance. To say that accountants do this today would be laughable. ERP systems and less sophisticated accounting software do all the writing and calculating. Accountants then spend the bulk of their time on more creative aspects of accounting: how should we structure the business accounts? What is the best way to represent a particular transaction? Where can we get the best return for an investment? What additional detail can we get telling us which parts of our business are doing well, and which are falling behind? Jobs are not eliminated, but they have been radically transformed in many cases. The routine aspects have been automated, which leaves the worker to spend more time on the creative aspects. This question was about "processes" not jobs, but the same principle applies there. Look at any process: there are aspects of that process that could be automated, and probably will some day be automated. There are other parts that rely on true intelligence, and those parts will continue to done manually. Consider the process to hire a new employee. We can automate the handling of applications and resume, but it comes to making the key decision -- hire or not hire -- people will continue to do that manually. After making that decision, and after the candidate has manually accepted, the process of "on-boarding" can be largely automated. So I would not say that you can divide processes into those that can and can not be automated, I would instead suggest that more and more powerful automation, will allow processes to be transformed dramatically, but that the creative aspects of the process, the part that takes real intelligence, can not, and will not, be automated. The trick is to be able to identify the difference. Automation is elevating workers, not eliminating them: http://social-biz.org/2013/10/26/automation-elevating-workers-not-eliminating/
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    • Scott Francis
      more than a month ago
      One of the interesting trends is to use computing for pattern matching - something traditionally humans are pretty good at (e.g. Watson diagnosing cancer rather than the doctor). They're attempting to apply it to call centers for example.

      The question is whether use of things like Watson will be assistive (as it is currently used, one more data point to help the Doctors decide course of action), or whether it will be assertive (because of the pattern matching and intelligence, you MUST do this course of action) where the doctors effectively take orders or use it as CYA.

      Let's hope for the more optimistic outcomes!
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, February 13 2014, 10:48 AM - #Permalink
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    Technology has reached the point where you can automate just about anything. The decision of what to automate is a reflection of the company culture and strategy. With BPM and Case Management, there are really three levels of "automation" we can deliver: Straight Through Processing (STP). This is full end-to-end automation. Organizations deliver this where the process is predictable, there is little value-add for a human touch point. For example, health care providers are using BPM and business rules increase their "first pass rate" for claims processing, reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction because claims just get paid without paperwork. Guided Processing. Personally, I think this is the new sweet spot for BPM. Using predictive analytics, we can suggest actions to the user or the customer to drive the best process possible. In many of our customer service processes, this is exactly what we are doing. We aren't automating the human out of the process, but we are guiding the human towards a consistent experience, ensuring that customers get great service while reducing the costs associated with rework and training. Outside of customer service, guided processing works well even in "knowledge worker" processes, where the BPM tool might present likely root causes to an investigator working an incident management case. Tracking. Some processes we can't or won't automate. Financial fraud investigations are performed by highly trained (often ex-FBI) investigators who won't take kindly to being automated or told what to do by a piece of software. Sales people drive their sales processes on the fly as they learn their accounts and refine their strategy. But even so, organizations want to track these activities so they can ensure compliance, measure milestones, predict future events, etc. These tracking apps should make the user experience painless to ensure they collect the data they need. Again, which processes an organization chooses to automate has to do with the strategy and culture of the organization. As practitioners of BPM, I believe our job is to help them understand the possibilities, the risks and benefits of each task, and design effective BPM applications that achieve these goals.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, February 13 2014, 11:40 AM - #Permalink
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    Agree with Bogdan but in particular customer services automated phones systems that do not address your requirements with in 10 seconds....!
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, February 13 2014, 02:49 PM - #Permalink
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    2 votes
    If you go to Paris, you see that it is designed and supported for appreciation. Appreciation of the sights, sounds, tastes, thoughts. Appreciation needs to be prolonged and amplified, like good music. Things that are unpleasant, difficult, painful, inconsistent, confusing, and worrisome may be best automated if they cannot be eliminated. Perhaps we can think of music. The notes and tones that are intentional are to be savored, and the noise to be dampened. So let us expand the pleasurable processes, and automate the others that we can't optimize or eliminate further.
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    • Scott Francis
      more than a month ago
      Great analogy - going to have to use this one in the future :)
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, February 18 2014, 02:16 PM - #Permalink
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    I keep going back to job titles. How many Directors actually direct, how many Managers manage, how many Team Leaders lead, and how many Supervisors supervise? Daily I meet too many captains charged with navigating the business who spend too much time (frequently all of their time) emptying the bilge, stoking the engines and plugging the leaks to do the job they are en-titled (my hyphen) to do. The naval metaphor is chosen deliberately. Process optimization has been at the core of the naval service for centuries. The ship that could fire and reload the fastest would win. The crew that could make the best use of the wind would catch and take the prize. Everyone had a job that was well defined, expectations were clear and exceptions dealt with (alas) harshly. Efficiency, accuracy and optimal use of resources were, and are still today, a matter of life and death. When the process machine is running well there is time to reflect upon what can be done to improve. When the status telemetry alerts us we have time to re-balance the resources and coach those who need it. When the data points us we can shift our business around the storm or catch the breeze before anyone else. For the crew it is the "what am I doing?": process automation for them is about delivering products and services with the utmost efficiency and accuracy. For the officers it is the "why am I doing it?": it is about having the time to think about where they are going and how they can get there safely, quickly and cheaply. "What" should always be automated. "Why" can never be automated.
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