1. Peter Schooff
  2. Sherlock Holmes
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  4. Thursday, 21 December 2017
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With computers taking over more and more of our daily tasks, what role do you see us humans playing in the future of business?
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Batteries :-)

(I just told some millenial founder dude on LinkedIn that he sounds like Agent Smith, thinking humanity habits - e.g. greed - are a disease that technology - e.g. cryptocurrencies - will cure)
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
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The decisions that really define each business will still be made by people. Algorithms are better at executing decisions, but the "secret sauce" that differentiates a special business from the run of the mill is still the domain of humans.
Founder at John Reynolds' Venture LLC - Creator of ¿?Trules™ for drama free decisions
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Merry Christmas.
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Only the dumb, ignorant and inept try to automate people out of the the business interaction with the customer. No computer or algorithm -- machine learned or otherwise --- is better than a human in making decisions and they never will be. Yes, it will happen anyway but it is not an improvement except where it replaces repetitive mechanical work without any human interaction or creative component. Most of this intentional AI-Automation panic is political just like climate change. Even Tesla's autonomous driving is utter rubbish and a misrepresentation. 90% of Siri or Alexa interactions are completely useless. So don't hold your breath ...
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My surely boring approach would be aiming with BPM to achieve an "excellence" degree of services (on a ladder of commodities over products to services) for standardized and repeating tasks, while the human element focuses on providing unique experiences (with everything that this entails: R+D, "human touch", personalized adaptations of already excellent products and services).
I have seen both extremes, and both fail: trying to automate the entire value chain, which still, sooner or later, always fails to address the real desires of the human customer vs. everything manual and personalized in the pursuit of the special something for the customer (or using that argument as a cheap excuse for not putting in order the companies processes AND people), which then also fails due the lack of a sound, rigid and well organized foundation of repeatable and automatable tasks from which the "human personalization" can be based upon.
So, it surely is still a matter of putting both, the technical as well as the human elements, into the right balance.
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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This is a tough question.... almost any human action I can think of can be automated or simulated when we have computer power enough. Of course this depends also the time span, but even in our life time 40-50 years ahead our society will change a lot in western countries... and the rest of people in world will follow some decades later... if the development goes peaceful (not so sure).

When the society changes, the way we do business will react to this. The transition period (40-100 years) will be full of conflicts and tensions. Some work as they do now, some find their passion in science, art and all kind of creative activities, some use drugs and other kind of addictive means to ease their anxiety.... People will find their path to act and to contribute in the society and their neighborhood. This creates all kind of opportunities for businesses and services.

In the long term and some what also near future we need to rethink the "work". May be in future we just float in the sea of different services and build short and long term relationships with each other.

Merry Christmas to all, Kai
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  3. # 6
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People will go up-stream – higher quality services, more creative work, unique activities. However, some human-facing jobs (e.g. assisting services) will be human for some time. And, only people who want to work will work.

Happy New Year,
@Alexander - what about "reaching level of incompetence:? This happens. People in rote tasks do not overnight become creative.

I get it re "human -facing jobs" - we will continue to need these folks. We will need humans as well for "robot-facing jobs" - someone has to apply the emergency brake.

Except that the two train engineers in the state of Washington apparently did not have a GPS to show the upcoming 30 mph slowdown section, with disastrous results.

The two US Navy captains were similarly "asleep at the wheel" in the Pacific ocean. Unless visibility is reduced, anyone on board Navy ships could have seen the very large cargo ships coming toward them.

Those of us working in BPM have little to worry about, in my view.

I have a long list of customers who hire us because they are unable to "think" process.

What is most perplexing is they, alone, know their processes and having someone say little more than "... and then what do you do next?" seems like a minor contribution but it actually is key to whether they get their processes working for them versus chaos.

Let's not lump in knowledge workers in the class of people who seem unable to "think" process - we hire knowledge workers because they know what to do, when.

They don't need "stupervisors" looking at what they do but what IS needed is resource allocation, leveling and balancing ACROSS all workers (and machines).
We will also continue to need "Case Managers" to dynamically tweak Case objectives as corporate plans change. (i.e. you have a team working on "next generation" whatever, and the corporation all of a sudden discovers it has been leapfrogged).

The key role of a Case Manager, once a Case has been set up, is to know when to close the Case. ("it's over when the fat lady sings")
Alex, I agree with Walter - people cannot go up-stream as fast as technology makes them redundant in their current roles. It takes significant education, removal of resistance to change, dealing with uncertainty etc. Most people suck at these.
Karl and Bogdan, RE " people cannot go up-stream as fast as technology makes them redundant in their current roles." - there are people and people. Many of current people are at their "up-stream" positions for various "subjective" reasons and they will not able to handle new technologies. The technological wave is an objective filter to remove the existing "foam" thus capable people will be able to move up-stream much faster.

Karl, "Case manager" is is a typical "unique activities" option.
@Alexander . . .The term "Case" is unambiguous in healthcare, law enforcement incidents, and, I believe, court appearances. In all three, the activities are indeed "unique" (consisting of a mix of ad hoc and structured interventions). Common to all three is the overall objective of "closing the case"

Repair of aircraft "cases", on the other hand, don't close until the unit is taken out of service i.e. the unit comes in for service, leaves, then comes back, again and again. Here, the Case is the unit but the person who releases the unit is not called a case manager. It seems convenient though to introduce the term "sub-case" so that data relating to each servicing of the unit can be clustered.

In b2b, where a customer routinely submits multiple orders that get serviced, the Case typically is the "customer", and "sub-case" again is a useful concept.

In engineering contracts, there is an initial SOW, followed by one or more Change Orders. Here, the Case is the Contract..

I have a need for help with an app we are now rolling out dealing with "Homicide Investigations" - here a 911 call sets up a crime scene for an "incident" and you can, of course, have several victims. You can also have several crime scenes.

The Crime Scene is an "Incident" and the workspace for managing the incident is, again, a Case.

Except that Investigators like/use the term 'Case' per victim. They want Crime Scene to be called "Incident".

So "management" starts off with a crime scene (a Case) with attributes victims, witnesses, suspects but once the crime scene is released, victims are no longer attributes of a crime scene - the focus shifts to one Case per Victim and the Case objective is to get a guilty verdict for one or more suspects.

You can see that we quickly get to the need to connect-the-dots across Cases because a suspect for Case A could be the same for Case B. The suspect for a 5-year-old Case could be the same as the suspect for a new Case.

Gang Tracking is different - here you collect info on the gang with sub-cases being Incidents they may or may not have been involved in. The Gang is the Case.

Can you suggest a better term that could be used across many domains without having, in some domains, to explain the term?
@Karl, this is a good and inspiring collection of "unique activities". In healthcare we use the systems approach and we consider "patient health and well-being records" which is actually one long "unique activity" per patient. It is similar with aircraft servicing. All depends of the scale of your system and the life cycle of its primary beneficiaries.
For example, elderly people, who need comprehensive assisting services, will be serviced by assisting robots as well.
@Alexander..Interesting. . . Let's advance this more after Christmas
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Agree with Max it has been over hyped but yes automation and intelligent process will evolve to the benefit of most workers. They will become empowered as digital transformation gives real time feedback with many repetitive tasks automated and change readily supported. The likely victims will be in the reduction in need for "managers"! All this helps improve productivity which is going to be an important contribution to country economic growth.
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The answers above, to the question about automation, are to be celebrated! I count 13 references to "work" in the body of replies and comments ( and more for "tasks" ).

Why celebrate? Because BPM is about work, it's THE technology of the work-of-business. And business itself is all about work, which is purposive effort. Oddly enough we have often been "shy" about emphasizing the fact that BPM is about work (I wrote a blog post on this topic back in 2011, in response to a call on LinkedIn for a one-sentence definition of BPM -- basically all the entries avoided the question of work.) In my write-ups here on BPM.com, work is at the core of the meaning of BPM technology. Acknowledging the centrality of work leads to better technology (" we can focus on what BPM technology is all about") and to better sales ("we know what BPM technology can do for you" ).

The question of the future of work in the face of automation is now a question in constant circulation. Families worry about outsourcing and being laid off, and for the future of their children. And we all wonder about the social relationships that will result as the march of automation continues. One can find everything from Utopia to Dystopia. Oddly there are more visions of Dystopia and they seem more imaginative.

Likely we have all seen various prognostications in reputable sources showing that across employment sectors, anywhere from 30% to 50% or more of jobs will be automated by . . . 2030 . . . pick a date. This kind of technological determininism can be depressing. So it's worth noting a different view, that of MIT economist David Autor as expressed in his 2014 paper Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth.

Dr. Autor says that a "key observation of the paper is that journalists and expert commentators overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities that increase productivity, raise earnings and augment demand for skilled labor". Worth considering. There is room for human agency to make a difference between Utopia and Dystopia. And BPM will probably be at the center of any changes.

Happy New Year!
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The evolution of technology historically started with tools for elementary mechanical tasks, which are difficult or impossible to do by hand. These simple manual tools gradually evolved to a state of perfection where some tasks were possible to run without direct involvement of humans. This stage marked transition to the era of automated production.

Recent advances in computer technology opened new horizons of automation by introducing tools replicating cognitive and decision capabilities of a human brain. In this way, not only physical but also mental tasks became possible to automate. This impacted business practices always considered previously as prerogative of humans.

All previous steps of automation in human history were marked with a growth of social freedom. First, automation of mechanical tasks killed slavery due to demand for skilled workers. Similarly, automation of cognitive tasks kills mental slavery where people had to exhaust resources of their brains for boring routine operations.

This gives everybody more time and resources for development and creativity. Automation is principally capable to cover only routine repetitive tasks. True personal development and intellectual growth cannot be automated. Of course, it also requires humans meeting new creativity opportunities, which computers open for all of us.

Happy New Year!

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Re @John’s "BPM is about work" – good, I suppose, to see a count of 13, but hasn’t BPM always been about “work”?

BPM contributes to work efficiency via orchestration and impacts work effectiveness to some extent via governance (i.e. pre-conditions upstream from steps, rules at steps, post-conditions immediately downstream from steps).

BPM doesn’t need much help in the area of work efficiency, except for once-through projects, where CPM (an antecedent of BPM) is needed.

A lot of the governance needed for effectiveness, though, has to come from outside of BPM.

Reverse John’s statement to "Work is about BPM" - and we need to go to a broader definition of “work” (i.e work within Cases assisted by BPM AND work across Cases, not assisted by BPM), and say " "work” is not only about BPM".

Why bring Case into the picture? Because Case is about the management of work i.e. ability to handle any mix of structured and ad hoc interventions. It’s where the rubber meets the road for achieving Case-level work efficiency and achieving Case-level operational effectiveness.

What lies beyond the reach of BPM at Cases is the ability for most work to manage time,

The thing is, without predictive analytics, it is difficult at Cases featuring background BPM to provide time estimates for steps downstream from the steps that are current.

The next-in-line step ata Case could be the next-in-line step along a BPM template instance OR it could be an ad hoc step.

If we agree that most Case-level work (aside from totally automated work) is a combination of ad hoc interventions plus structured interventions, with branching decision boxes, we have to face the fact some of the governance needed to achieve “work” effectiveness needs to come from outside of BPM.

Example: Corporate issues a directive that all in-process implementations must cut back costs by 20% resulting in the possible trimming of objectives, skipping steps etc., at most Cases.

Example: Customer priorities change - supervisors direct staff to suspend certain Cases and redirect resources to other Cases. Suspension of in-progress tasks stretches timelines and adds to costs because of the "S" curve effect (time & effort to suspend/ time & effort to later resume).

Bottom line, we need to look to predictive analytics to improve work efficiency at Cases and we need a run-time workflow/workload platform (capable of hosting multiple tasks across multiple Cases) featuring additional methods such as a) 3-tier scheduling (RALB) and b) non-subjective means for assessing progress toward meeting Case objectives to achieve “work” effectiveness.

I figure "work" = run time workflow/workload management platform capable of hosting tasks from any number of active Cases, each Case having a set of objectives + background BPM + Cross-Case Scheduling (i.e. the right things, the right way, at the right time/cost).

Does anyone see any holes in the above logic?
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@Karl, "I figure "work" = run time workflow/workload management platform capable of" - do you mean a digital and AI-ed foreman? Who/What is fully in control over the whole team?

Th "platform" is nothing more than a task InTray (to-do list) plus a reference calendar.

Tasks from multiple Cases post to the InTray thanks to background BPM, supervisors insert tasks, auto-agents post tasks based on local rules firing and incoming data triggering other rules.

The user micro-schedules the tasks he/she sees (I will do these three tasks before my meeting at 1000 hours, after the meeting I will make progress on a large task before my next meeting at 1400 hrs, I will put this task back in the resource pool because it needs to get done today and I am too busy).

I suppose the platform is a "digital and AI-ed foreman". Any individual worker at his/his InTray will be a member of one team but they can be a member of several times.

e.g. An investigator goes to a crime scene, takes on various tasks. Whilst at the crime scene the crime scene supervisor is in control but the investigator can easily have 50 cold and active cases that he/she is working on. The investigator can be the Case Manager for some of the Cases, he/she can be a contributing team member for other cases.

Once you have specialists that require a lot of training, they tend to dwell in silos and come out to work on Cases as needed and then go back to their silos.

This type of work is very different from upgrading a manufacturing assembly line where you have a team and the team works together for months as opposed to a day or so.
  1. John Morris
  2. 11 months ago
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[email protected] for addressing the issue of work. I emphasized the original question because too often discussion of BPM software technology avoids the "why" of BPM. The why of BPM is that BPM is the technology of work. Only in BPM technology are the concepts of work first-class citizens of that technology. It is helpful when considering BPM technology (as both software artefact and/or methodology) to keep the idea of work top of mind.

As for broadening out the definition to case patterns, i agree. (If one considers that case is just one special and important sub-pattern of the more general idea of process, then "BPM" is a proxy for all technology of work.)

Let's note again the definition of "work": work is "purposive effort". The terms of work are those parts of language which enable human discourse about purposive activity as work specification and as work performance. Thus work is a bridge or or lingua franca between the real world of enterprise, the technologies of automation, the super set of enterprise as economics, and a general theory of actors and enterprise (i.e. systems theory).

Business has little time for the abstract. So why should one care about noting the centrality of work and BPM as the technology of work?

Because if BPM is sold as just another technology, along with AI and UX and CRM and collaboration and supply chain and situational application software etc. etc., then business will have little time for BPM, which is seen as just YAT ("yet another technology").

The promotion and adoption of BPM is a lot easier when one can say "BPM is the technology of the work of business". You can't say that about any other technology. Start with the bold claim and then build the case, as in "get your business processes right, enhance it with any technology, but build your business on the foundation that has a future". And "do more with less because your'e working with the technology that's all about more output with less work." "Bury yourself in code -- or work directly with your ideas of business and automation". "Be truly agile, adapt faster. Because your working with the technology that is all about the work of adaptation." These phrases just scratch the surface for what can be the sales pitch for the future of BPM.
@Karl, Agree about "platform is a "digital and AI-ed foreman" ". Also, such a platform may act as a foreman for all foremen in an organisation.

RE "This type of work is very different from upgrading a manufacturing assembly" - yes and no. As we are moving to customised and digital (at least partially) products, assembly lines become virtual and unique for each "instance" of the product. In other words, it is necessary to build a configuration of the assemble line to produce only one "instance" of a requested product. This may be another potential area for BPM.
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Business is all about people. Anytime you hear otherwise, its a yellow flag.
At the end of the day, it is human consumption that drives business, regardless of how much automation we introduce.
If Starbucks automated all the coffee, and Tesla automated all the cars, we wouldn't need a drive through because no one would be drinking the coffee :)
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