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From Karl Walter Keirstead: As automation has been around for a long time in a lot of different forms, how would you define automation?
Max Young
Blog Writer
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Successful Automation has the following characteristics.

  1. The ability to remove manual work, and to measure the value added by that removal
  2. The ability to recover the opportunity cost of that manual work in some other capacity
  3. The KPI-driven qualification of the reliability of the automation: Automation that is unreliable is worse than the manual system it's replacing.
  1. http://www.capbpm.com/iq
  2. http://www.capbpm.com
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 1
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Automation as a part of BPM, in its purest definition, I would say, is the substitution of micro and macro human activities by intelligent services that are embedded within the process flow and/or process form, hosted in an BPMS. It can be something as simple as automated process routing, task allocation or something more complex, like a calculation that takes place in a form field as a result of an automated, contextual case analysis which takes into account statistical predictions in order to present a specific result or some sort of a decision threshold.
This definition also begs to keep in mind that automation is supposed to be a part and not the whole of what’s BPM. A logical result of process discovery, analysis and continued improvements.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 2
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Automation refers to the substitution of machines and other equipment (e.g., computers) for human beings.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 3
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
The intent was to put a focus on “process automation” - I can’t think of one example of automation that is not automation of a process.

So, the question becomes what processes can/should be automated?

Let’s exclude continuous industrial processes where core software consolidates alerts from remote devices that have been calibrated to keep data within a range of values (i.e. 70% to 85% PSI), acceptable rates of change (no more than 5 RPM per minute increase/decrease., etc.). The usual scenario is very few humans and the main role of the ones who are there typically is to press a stop button or make a phone call.

This leaves b2b, c2b, b2c etc. where a few of the processes are end-to-end, but, for the rest, what we have are knowledge workers, systems and machines threading together process fragments at a Case environment (all under orchestration provided by background BPM, with governance provided by rule sets that pick up on data arriving at the Case). Manytimes no two Cases execute the same steps in precisely the same order. As and when rules suspend the processing, in some cases the user-in charge overrides the rule (i.e. we don’t have time to make yet a third prototype; this package has to be hand-carried to the airport ).

The reason we need Case as THE run-time environment for ALL work is :

1) to be able to set specific objectives (you may never have another Case with these exact same objectives).

2) to accommodate the occasional ad hoc intervention by a knowledge worker (suspending a step, skipping one or more step(s), inserting a step),

3) to act as a receiver for incoming data from local and remote systems and applications – we want rules to pick up on the incoming data and cause some steps to auto-execute (launch a process fragment), cause some suspended steps to resume processing, keep other steps in a state of suspension.

4) to auto-build a Case History where each step results in a date/time stamped recording of data, as it was, at the time it was input, on the form versions that were in service at the time.

5) to publish to a data exchanger, data at the Case that the Case Manager/the organization is prepared to share with need-to-know subscribers

So, what do we mean by automation ?

Is it building a flowgraph; compiling a flowgraph; streaming patients, insurance claims, orders onto flowgraph templates; auto-posting of steps to users, software or machines; auto-execution of steps, etc.?

Is the purpose to get rid of people?

Is it to help workers better manage their workloads (eliminate mundane steps; bring tasks to workers as opposed to workers having to search for tasks; reduce errors/reduce omissions)?

To what extent can automation of processes increase efficiency, increase effectiveness, improve Case and Corporate outcomes?
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 4
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Automation - the use or introduction of automatic (including computers) equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility. Of course as everything is becoming digital we have to automate more phases in the life cycles of many artefacts. Some digital twins become more important that their material counterparts.

For example,
- money are replaced by cryptocurrencies (you even can’t touch and see them!)
- contracts become digital contracts (formal, explicit, machine-readable and machine-executable [REF1] - please do not touch it by your hands! );
- ownership is in the blockchain;
- documents are electronic,
- etc.

Finally, we will move to the primacy of the digital representation of practically all existing artefacts. Thus we are forced to automate their life cycles.

  1. http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2016/07/digital-contract-as-process-enables.html
As for money cryptocurrency destined to be in hands of illegal activity.....nothing backing it and no accountability tracking....the sovereign currencies at moment be what is called "fiat" with no underlying asset initiated under Nixon reign.. but watch this space change is coming back to asset backed...Whatever most day to day transactions are not physical as "automation" clears payments! As for blockchain just a method to control and track banking transactions so corruption comes to an end...just look at the global high level "arrests"! All this may well bring accountability supported by BPM discipline to prominence?
@David, "Fiat" money are also used in illegal activities. Currency and concurrency are parts of the society and its economy. I wouldn't blame currency and concurrency for faults of society.
Again, corruption is a "feature" of society (and its economy) thus just a super technology is not enough to address the problems of corruptions. (Especially, the blockchain which is just a multi-user digital archive with excellent integrity and availability because one add any rubbish into such an archive. https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-12K4t3bXMms/V2lMbILGh3I/AAAAAAAAGTs/84F5GjF3TGk_VVpqexK_C_Uva6kH0qnfQCKgB/s1600/BC-pic1.png )
Corruption is a systemic problem which must be addressed systemicly. I think that a combination of modern methodologies and technologies may help to reduce the level of corruption. For example - http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2016/07/digital-contract-as-process-enables.html
@Alexander Yes corruption widespread...some say represent some 15% of world economy.....! This must come to an end and getting back to controlled asset backed currency will help as will new technologies that track all activity with blockchain and adoption of BPM discipline. Interesting those criminals hoarding old currency might have some explaining to do to exchange or use! I have projecting coming up to distribute significant amounts of funds for humanitarian projects....every cent will be accounted for as we adopt this new outside in software supporting the BPM thinking.....
@David, Humanitarian projects are lacking the systems approach, unfortunately. For example, some humanitarian organisations receive more funds for emergency operations than they are capable to spend! Also, a lot of duplication among competing humanitarian organisations. But their accounting is well done.
@Alexander. Another good point about systems thinking which requires the front line to drive results with real empowerment. However such empowerment only safely delivered with real time monitoring and feedback of activity. To deliver in the computerised age puts BPM and automation as a desirable if not required capabilities. My plan to deliver with our humanitarian projects which includes infrastructure and innovation support will be such a case management system based upon a shared service delivery allowing use across the globe with each project monitored on spend locally and a total global view at the office of fund distribution allowing any authority to be satisfied on full accountability.
@David, From my experience (working with the several humanitarian organisations in Geneva), it is mandatory to have a humanitarian core platform for numerous (250+) humanitarian organisations. otherwise the donors are paying many times for implementation and maintenance of the same functionality. This is an architectural (less) and organisational (more) issue.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 5
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
In some ways automation in business was the what the early computer systems were designed to deliver. Unfortunately the silo inside out approach failed to deliver tangible operational business benefits. However this is now being addressed with digital and BPM thinking delivering the outside in systems focusing on people where all information is created....yes even machines that create data are built by people! Perhaps the most significant automation delivery is the adaptive capability which dynamically delivers the UIs to users for specific instances with required data to help create new information to achieve business outcomes. Linked to this is the automation of delivery of real time feed back on activity helping to empower people. Such automation will continue to evolve with routine automation of decision making based upon passed actions and appropriate rules. All this frees up people to use their irreplaceable human skills that truly make any successful business.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 6
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
We say a machine replaces a person. And we argue about whether this is a good thing or not. And who benefits. And what about the fellow who now has to retrain?

And we say this is "automation". But what exactly is automation? And why would we care?

We start with "work". All business concerns the performance of work, i.e. the expenditure of effort and resources in support of objectives. If we ignore either work or objectives, we won't have a helpful discussion.

Humans have, probably forever, employed technology to help get more work done. From primitive bone tools, to earth-moving equipment to computing, we accomplish more work with the help of technology. Technology multiplies our physical and mental powers. Humans can be more productive when using the artefacts of technology.

But not all technology concerns automation. Automation, as the word implies, concerns the "automatic". A shovel is a force-multiplier, but is not automation. An accounting system is automation at a certain level (adding and balancing ledgers). But human bookkeepers and accountants still perform some accounting work "manually", even though they are using accounting software. Accounting is not "fully automated". Automation can assist with either physical work (e.g. an auger automatically feeds something from one place to another) or mental work (BPM presents one task after another to a call centre rep).

In this context then, we can say that work suitable for automation should be repetitive and it should be possible that work task sequencing can be performed automatically.

Now we can answer the questions, "why should we care about the definition of automation"?


1) USE CASE -- The automation use case is where technology is applicable in enhancing human productivity, but specifically in circumstances involving repetitive work.
2) BUSINESS CASE -- The all-in cost of the automation is absolutely less than the value of the increased output due to improved productivity.
3) INVESTMENT CASE -- The investment opportunity ranks higher than alternative uses of capital.

BPM is THE technology for automation. Because BPM software technology is the technology of the work of business. As I have shared elsewhere on BPM.com, only in BPM software technology are the concepts of work and process first-class citizens of that technology, by definition. BPM is all about organizing repetitive work ( and this includes "fuzzy repetition" a.k.a. "case" ).

When we have a clear grasp and excitement around the automation use cases and business cases for BPM software, then we can successful pitch a BPM-based automation investment. Why will understanding automation help us make successful investments? Because the definition of automation helps us focus on scale (and customization at scale) and helps us turn away from automation-as-magical-thinking. Automation is itself hard work; and the work of automation is always very domain specific. Business analysts and industrial engineers especially are at the forefront of automation programmes.
Any "the technology of the work of business" must cover the whole life cycle of any unit-of-work and, thus, such a technology must define and link "what work", "how work", "why work", "who work", "where work", "when work", etc. Obviously, it is a "bit" more than current BPM (especially because of its current miserable state - see "Laws of BPM" https://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2015/07/laws-of-bpm-business-process-management.html ).

"Business analysts and industrial engineers especially are at the forefront of automation programmes." sounds for me as focusing on the tip of the iceberg. A lot of "invisible" work must be done by architects and business owners before to guarantee the success of automation.
+1 Alexander... "The work of business" indeed needs to include "define and link "what work", "how work", "why work", "who work", "where work", "when work", etc".

This clearly is beyond the boundaries of traditional "BPM" BUT a Case run-time platform where workflow/workload & Case objectives are in the foreground and where BPM is providing background orchestration and governance throws any issues with "what/how/why.." out the window.

The thing about Case is it's a "bucket" - It can contain anything (unstructured data, structured data, including documents, that, in turn, include .doc. .pdf, ..prn, .mp3, mp4 . . . ). All you need on retrieve is the right app to display each.

The way I explain Case is it's just a cursor position in a post-relational RDBMS.

Next week, I will publish a blog article "Take it to the limit - (BPM)", detailing what BPM can contribute and what BPM cannot contribute to a corporation.
The motivation to write "Take it to the limit (BPM)" came from observation that I have one app with 200 "best practice" workflows where only a handful have more than one step each. It is the users and business rules that thread these workflows together at run-time. Each "process of one step" has a data collection form with 3-25 data points and some of the users will elect to add more data points as they "customize" their data collection forms. This is a fairly big app by our standards (potential of 17,000 users)

You can look at a 10-minute video describing the app - not one mention of BPM anywhere, as I recall, but our view is that it is core to this app (i.e. homicide crime scene investigations).


Karl, Considering that case management is more "tactical" than BPM then some "amount" of business architecture is always mandatory for automation.
Alexander, Agree, absent a platform that handles workload across Cases and provides inter connectivity, nothing sustains.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5032
+1 Alexander and Walter for the focus on work.

Here's a proposition: Consider all the context of work ("what", "how", "why", "who", "where", "when" etc. etc.) and let's see if we can delineate between automation, BPM-as-methodology and work on one hand -- and the entire body of management knowledge on the other. I'm reminded of Carl Sagan's quip "if you really want to make a pie from scratch you have to invent the universe". In other words, there are real distinctions to be made between domain and universe, distinctions that are helpful to the cook in the kitchen -- and to the business analyst and the industrial engineer.

This is the overall theme of my BPM.com article series "BPM Technology as Revolutionary Enabler". Specifically, there is an important aspect to BPM technology which is unique and distinct from all other management technology. This uniqueness is important because it concerns work. And because work is at the core of the business, we can now make the statement that BPM is the technology of the work of business. This statement is satisfying intellectually -- but more importantly it's an incredibly powerful statement that business people can appreciate. When business people are buried under opportunities to lever literally 100's of media-approved technologies it can be liberating to say "let's focus on BPM, because it's all about the work of my business". BPM is not "just another technology", it is THE technology of the work of business.


Consider the perspective of the business analyst and the industrial engineer, who will become the champion practitioners of BPM. They have very specific skills and a purview. I think we are tying their hands by not acknowledging the centrality of their work in supporting business transformation. For example, certainly the "why" of any given corporate programme is absolutely essential. And lots of projects fail because the "why" was poorly defined. But by saying this, we should not therefore ignore the opportunity to get "inside the black box of work". The black box of work is where business analysts and industrial engineers build the future.

For much of more recent business history, the actual work of business has been invisible. We didn't want to know "how sausages were made". I think we are beginning to see a change whereby the work that happens inside the black box of value creation is now being exposed for management and market scrutiny. That's very much what business transformation is about. It's a very exciting time in business (and government and non-profit), and BPM technology, and business analysts and industrial engineers, can be at the front of this revolution.

@John... Very interesting contributions at this Question.

I support "BPM is the technology of the work of business" with the caveat that management of work requires workflow management ( orchestration and governance) at Cases from BPM plus workload management (allocation/re-allocation of scarce resources or RALB across multiple Cases) PLUS yet a third capability which is the ability to set and make periodic non-subjective assessment of progress toward Case goals/objectives, and that has to come from Figure of Matrix or equivalent.

So, my take in all of this is Case or equivalent (some run-time platform capable of hosting BPM, RALB and FOM) is the place where we manage work.

As we have more and more remote devices, apps and systems participating in "work" we quickly get to a need for interoperability so that no Case becomes an island.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5037
Thanks Walter! As for your case-oriented comments on definitions of work inside the black box - absolutely!

@Boris can provide a formalization. And sales and marketing people, along with business analysts, industrial engineers and IT (maybe?) can bring this technical-business vocabulary into business discourse. You can't win at business transformation unless you have the words you need to discuss what's at the core of transformation, which is the transformation of work.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
It is often believed that automation concerns replacement of humans by machines, in general, and by computers in IT scope, in particular. However, in its fundamental sense, automation is not an exclusive prerogative of computers and machinery. Rather, automation addresses a fundamental level of functional formalization of any activity.

Automation aggregates a knowledge about necessary artifacts, skills, steps and their interpretation necessary to fulfill specific task. The fact that this formalized know-how can further be optionally implemented as an algorithm, computer system or dedicated machinery is a practical manifestation of automation but not its definitive essence.

For instance, a division of two numbers can be done in mind, on paper, with abacus, on electronic calculator or in computer. Notably, in all these cases a human or various machines perform one and the same automation defined as an abstract formula for division of numbers. Therefore, automation is purely algorithmic term equally applicable both to machines and humans.

Excessive interpretation of business automation or BPM as purely computer execution domain erodes this universal appeal of automation. It often comes unnoticed that business automation principally targets automation of human behavior in business environments where computers and machinery serve only as tools to fulfill this goal of efficient human collaboration in business.

Due to this interpretation of business automation as of an abstract formal sequence of business actions in human organization, it becomes evident that business automation is the literal equivalent of BPM, which solves exactly same problems of formalization of business environments for the purpose of better corporate governance and business process execution. The ultimate goal of BPM is automation of humans, not machines.

Illustration: 300-Year-Old Chinese Abacus Ring From The Qing Dynasty

@Boris.. Why can't BPM automate a mix of tasks, some performed by humans, some performed by algorithms, some performed by machines, some performed by remote systems and applications?
@Karl Walter, I mean exactly the mix, where human alignment is, however predominant. Thank you.
I think, it is not a question about "automation of human", but about "formalisation" (all aspects, not only functional one) of work. Let us consider that there are three types of work: intellectual (final beneficiary added-value), verification (business added-value) and administrative (process added-value). Obviously, the third one can be 100 % formal (thanks to BPM). The second one can be formalised to great extent (up to 80-90 %). The first one can be slightly formalised (e.g. only collect some information around needs of a human). Then somebody takes a decision - if a particular work is formal enough then it is automated. So, something formal will become explicit, machine-readable and machine-executable.
@Dr Alexander, Yes. My primary accent was exactly on formalization. I highlighted automation of human actions because it was not mentioned in previous discussion here and is neglected in general in favor of IT automation. Thank you.

  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5027
Bravo automation as "functional formalization" of any activity (or "work" perhaps). It's not a criticism of this insight to note that most business people just left the room. Except Jeff Bezos (see "second phase automation"). Concerning automation of human versus automation of machines, this is an important question, especially given the IoT wave. I think it all comes back to work (and before long economics and investment decisions too).
@John, Thank you for valuable observation. I m sure that this well pointed negligence of business to its own algorithms makes companies especially vulnerable in evolving business conditions. Any change of business platform without its structural understanding given by BPM invites for a disaster. Automation is too often pursued as a goal, while it is only a business tool and manifestation of deeper entities.
@Boris.. Bad idea, indeed to allow "change of business platforms without its structural understanding given by BPM"

My take is the folks who evolve strategy should not sleep well at night unless they know there is an infrastructure in-place hosting BPM, RALB and FOM for the management of "work".

Bridging between strategy and operations should be easy but it typically is not.

One problem is the false notion that corporations "execute" strategies.

Corporations never “execute” strategies - strategies are expressions of desired future states (where, when), with only high-level indications of “how”.

What gets “executed” are “initiatives” (the results of prioritizing scarce resources),

Initiatives have a close relationship with “work”. They are best executed in a run-time Case environment. The goals/objectives of initiatives are expected to advance one or more strategic goals/objectives.

Except that some initiatives are needed to maintain compliance - these only contribute to the overall corporate objective (i.e. “the purpose of a business is to remain in business”).

I only know of two ways to go from strategy to the execution of initiatives a) ROI submissions b) annual budget allocations.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 8
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Industrial automation is the use of control systems, such as PCs or robots, and information technologies for handling different processes and machineries in an industry to replace a human being. It is the second step beyond motorization in the scope of industrialization

What are the benefits of Automation?

The primary focal points of mechanization are:

1.Increased throughput or productivity.
2.Improved quality or increased 3.predictability of quality.
4.Improved robustness (consistency), of processes or product.
5.Increased consistency of output.
6.Reduced direct human labor costs and expenses.
7.Installation in operations reduces cycle time.

Significance of Automation:

Automation in the assembling business is the process of incorporating industrial machinery to automatically perform tasks such as welding, material handling, packing, palletizing, dispensing, cutting, etc. Utilizing hardware and software automation increases productivity, safety and profitability.
working as a business analyst and having 3+ years of experience in business analyst field.
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