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With so much being automated, is continuous process improvement still possible with automated processes? If so, how do you achieve it?
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Yes! There's always another aspect to automate...
And at some point you can make improvements by automating away legacy systems to save licensing costs, etc if you can find a less costly way to get the same functionality.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 1
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Absolutely! Just because a process is automated doesn't mean it cannot be improved upon. I have been working with a client where we have automated about every aspect of getting work to the business end-user and while it worked fine, there was still room for improvement. We constantly rehashed and re-evaluated the processes and automation and have recently improved performance time by about 80%. The improvement doesn't have to be a big change or even doing something different. Process improvement around automation can be done in terms of shaving seconds off the process. In a high volume environment, every bit helps.
Managing Director
ClearCadence, LLC
http://www.clearcadence.com
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 2
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Of course. SixSigma peeps will probably say it will even get easier.

And automated processes probably produce more data to understand the performance of a process, which can be a trigger for improvement.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 3
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Great question, important area of BPM to get right . . . .

There is no need in a BPM workflow to distinguish between a manual process step and an automated process step, Anyone who thinks otherwise should re-visit their architecture and run-time platform implementation.

Therefore, improving an automated task is NO different from improving a manual task.

Caveat: Since rule sets are not as smart as humans, do not build auto-execute-commit rule sets that fail to cover ALL eventualities - the likely outcome is the processing will sit there until escalation takes place OR the process will exit with an error message.

i.e. if you have an entryfield at a step\form that accepts characters, or one or more blank spaces, or nothing, your rule set needs to cover all of these, not just the usual data pickup/processing you want the rule set to carry out.

What counts toward making things easier versus more difficult is the architectural and implementation setup.

In the three platforms we roll out to our customers, all process steps have assigned roles (performance skill attributes) and you can have "electrician", "plumber", . . . . . or "system".

When a task becomes "current" it loads to the InTray of all users who have matching roles. Users with non-matching roles do not get to see the task.

Since "system" never "logs in" in the normal mode, we cause the "system" InTray to "load" in the background and execute tasks that "post".

End of.

The only plan-side setup needed when encoding a task to "system" is to designate that task as "auto-commit" .

Anyone see any holes in our logic/approach?
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
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The new BPM tools make it easier to create automated processes - so therefore it should make it easier to change / improvem them. The challenge of continuous improvement is cultural not technical.

What is the process for process improvement and is is written down and automated?
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 5
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Yes Continuous Process Improvement on Automated Processes is crucial - it is like a software/app upgrade or patch that will help in improvizing efficiency, reduce cost in terms of maintenance (resource usage) and equip it with new fancy features (making it future ready).
It can be achieved by augmenting with continuous monitoring (a proactive one than a reactive one)
"Continuous Improvement is the only constant in the Process World - this ensures your enterprise is breathing and is Alive!" :-)
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 6
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Of course, we automate to enable further improvements. And, this must be in your architecture, by definition.

Thanks,
AS
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
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Should it be done? Yes. It is done? No. A fully automated process is a form of programming and like a program it can be improved. It is not really BPM but misuses its tools to develop applications. Continuous process improvement was always meant to be a cycle of creation, building, monitoring and optimization which clearly can happen with automated processes too. The question is what the drivers are and what your metric is to trigger improvement. Only a very small portion of processes are automated without human intervention, Things get really tricky when we are no longer talking about purely automated processes such as RPA but adaptive processes that consist of a dynamic mix of automated and manual tasks. You know processes ought to be improved when you do not hit your goals and targets ... and no they are the same. Goals describe the business outcome and targets the process and service metrics to be applied. Ooops, virtually all mainstream BPM tools lack the ability to define and monitor goals and targets WITHIN the process definition but require fairly complex and manually intensive tools to gather and monitor process data. Rigid flows don't need goals. Targets can also be customer satisfaction being reported during process execution. Ouch, most BPM tools lack that, making it hard to implement and improve customer journeys. Years ago we discussed the differences between BPM and ACM and the above are the the main ones. So yes, clearly one can do process improvement for automated processes but in reality it does not happen much because unless something blows up in their face 'never touch a running process' applies. No one knows and everyone is too worried to break something in the flow-diagram spaghetti code. Architectures also won't help unless they are described within the process environment. So, still a lot of room for BPM being finally improved or becoming obsolete! Exciting times!
Comment

Karl Walter Keirstead
@Max

I am curious about " . . . flow-diagram spaghetti code". Can you provide an example?

i.e. What is it that is essential to a flow-diagram aside from 1) nodes, 2) directional arrows, 3) branching decision nodes, and 4) loopback nodes?

Attributes like task routings, task-specific data display/data collection forms, and rule sets can be hidden, so these do not contribute to clutter.

Assuming mapping is done with time flowing left to right, there IS a tendency to see directional arrows that need to travel long distances but these can be eliminated by the use of ''go to" and "came from" nodes.

I think where flow graphing goes off the rails is when flowgraph designers try to thread together process fragments plan side - much of the time run time data can cause linking across process fragments i.e. a "ship" process fragment with a wait state attribute at its start node can pick up on the fact that some other process fragment just recorded "QA Analysis Complete" and cause the "ship" process fragment to launch.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 8
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It absolutely is and will continue to be possible! The purpose of executing a process is to achieve a certain (preferably predefined) outcome using a sequence of activities, being executed by either humans or machines (in any form). Having an automated process means nothing more and nothing less than that the actors, executing the activities, are not human, but machines (either physical machines or packets of source code executed by a computer).
If the underlying design of the process is not optimal, the only thing you will achieve by automating it, is that you get to the same crappy result quicker compared to execution via humans. Process improvement aims primarily, to my believe, on the design of the process in relation to the desired outcome, hence you could state that continuous improvement should always be possible and strived for.
BPM is all about mindset first and toolset later....much later
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
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I would like to add to this what has already said, that most of the automated processes are designed to do predetermined set of tasks or process. When the environment, requirements or the goals change, there is in many cases a need for change of the automated process.... this is rather normal change management and some time we may call it improvement.

An other aspect of improvement of automated processes is that we may design features into the processes, which enable to improve the process such as monitoring the performance and some analytics.

The third approach might be to use AI so that the automated process is able to fine tune or even learn by it-self such as modifying algorithms to run the process.

br. Kai
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 10
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+1 to all those already saying 'Of course!' especially Emiel for the comment that it should in fact be easier with more data.

So why does the question even arise? I'd speculate that with all the current rush to business automation many have forgotten long experience of even semi-formal modelling that a model can be 'true' at many levels. Placing the automation too high in this hierarchy of models will make for brittle implementations more prone to 'rip and replace' than continuous improvement.

A question for the BPMN proponents: how often do you see call activities in your models. If the answer is rarely or never I'd suggest you may be building something brittle.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 11
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Yes but perhaps automated process is the wrong tag.....tasks are automated which are part of the end to end business process. Supporting process continuous improvement is both quick and in the hands of business with the right platform. Whilst business task automation usually can be included where automation undertaken by machine or say algorithm embedded in the task then will be more complex but change should be possible with clear instructions from the business to the technical/programming people. Suggest BPM principles should ensure the new automated task is correctly implemented.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 12
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Continued improvements are part of the original value proposition of why to engage in BPM and invest in BPMS, to begin with.
An automation effort, driven by a “proper” BPM discipline and backed by a BPMS, should by default afford the user access to a semi standardized set of measurable process data, comprised of variables like response times, reprocessing efforts, workloads and many others. That in turn should enable any current company, having automated a business process via BPM, with at least a minimum input of data, to engage in continued process improvements.
That hasn’t changed till this very date, but has in fact become even more intuitive and “enriched” than ever before.
Designing processes with SOA standards (including microservices), extending process data to BI and AI via API or RPA, have enabled businesses to detect patterns, engage in enhanced and dynamic simulations and, to a certain degree, even automate iterative policy and process enhancements. From that point of view: yes and more than ever before.
References
  1. http://www.nsisoluciones.com
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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