1. Peter Schooff
  2. Sherlock Holmes
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  4. Tuesday, 07 August 2018
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From a comment Boris Zinchenko made, what would you say are the biggest challenges automation is creating for companies today?
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
This challenge was, is and will be forever in front of companies but it has been successfully ignored so far. Companies have to express their work in a formal way. In the absence of necessary formalism IT departments have to "invent" it thus introducing errors and increasing complexity.

Using explicit, formal, machine-readable and machine-executable description of work (processes, rules, decisions, policies, roles, strategy, etc.) is the way to successfully address this challenge.

Unfortunately, the vast majoring of “business” people are not properly trained to do this.

  1. Caspar Jans
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5604
That last sentence is certainly true and will be forever true as well.

I agree with your statements and I think that as a result of this, you can always only automate a portion of the business processes and never all. Certain parts of your business can simply not be written in a formal way that is understandable for a machine.
RE "Certain parts " - sure. Ideally, if you invent a product or a service for some group of people then the rest (design, produce, operate) must be fully automatable.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5607
How important is the claim that "Companies have to express their work in a formal way"? Extremely important.

Why? Consider an analogy. Have you ever tried to do accounting via a spreadsheet? Maybe for personal books or for a family?

Sure, spreadsheet-based accounting works, in the simplest of cases. However, very rapidly a spreadsheet is revealed as completely inadequate for accounting purposes. Keeping track of revenues and expenses becomes a sources of anguish. So one adds more "macros". Complexity grows. Cognitive load ensues. And eventually one re-invents accounting. Except not as well. And important things like budgeting or cash flow are particularly challenging.

One is missing the deep formalism of accounting, starting with debits and credits. Formalism is not mere theory, but the foundation for the application of any technology in any domain of endeavour. We live in a world where many systems are constructed without formalisms, but rather on folk understandings and pragmatism. Sure lots of wonderful things have been achieved. But folk understanding and pragmatics are not scaleable. And not transparent. The call for formalism is revolutionary in practice and revolutionary in result.

Note that formalism is not necessarily easy. It's usually the case that folk understanding and pragmatics precede the formal. And certainly one does not deride "pre-formal" (I am a champion of the tacit, too, which is substantially experiential, folk and pragmatic.) Ontology is probably the most salient, even extreme, example of attempts to evangelize for formalism. But we note that ontology is also very difficult, and except in narrowly defined domains, the mention of ontology is likely to get one ejected from a business meeting. Yet, ontology continues to develop. I think of ontology as an attempt to make domain modelling scientific. It will take time.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 1
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To my opinion the biggest challenge for companies striving to automate things is the fact that companies seem to blindly automate their current processes without asking themselves if the process is suitable to be automated.

If you automate an ineffective or inefficient process, the only thing you will have is automated trouble. One of the major tasks any company that wishes to automate processes must do is to take inventory of the currently used processes, determine if they are suitable to be automated, determine if they are already optimized and if all is yes, then decide if you want to automate said process. If any of the questions is no, stay away from automation.

A great example of how this can go wrong is the blind implementation of RPA everywhere within the organization without a structured BPM approach behind it.

In the end, automation is for 90% nothing more than replacing a human actor by a computer or code. It typically does not change the content or context of the process.
BPM is all about mindset first and toolset later....much later
Difficult to understand why they do this.

After all, an automation initiative is no different from any other initiative that consumes time and resources, accordingly, top management should ask for an ROI submission for each initiative of significance\ and require that it include goals/objectives.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 2
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One of the biggest roadblocks we have encountered for BPM implementations, is the incorrect scoping of the initiative and undersizing the associated budgets.
This almost in its entirety translates into the designated project teams skipping out on the none technical, assessment and process optimization activities, before ushering straight to the automation portion. That, of course, produces underwhelming results and prohibits the formation of the basis for continued process improvements.
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
What exactly is wrong with the folks who "plan" and "manage" these initiatives?

They would never get away with this in the engineering/construction business - two bad estimates and the team is fired.

Scope requires experience (obviously not present with some of your clients) and undersizing of budgets means they don't understand risk and contingency.

They need to listen to consultants like you who have "been there- done that"

I had an interesting fail recently - we helped a client scope out their project, the scope was right, the timeline was right, the budget was right and no issues getting the project approved .

The client then failed to hire a project manager with the result that the timeline extended, there were important deviations from the scope and the system never achieved liftoff.

  1. Kay Winkler
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5617
Exactly, Karl!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 3
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
The biggest challenges Automation is creating for Companies:

  • No Standard rule book to refer
  • - Year-on-Year, organization-to-organization, product-to-product & from person-to-person the perceptions of the word "automation" varies (thanks to the technology advancement/disruption)
  • Business feels everything has now slipped to IT
  • - Creating a sense of collaboration and joint effort with the reigns of the process/functionality still owned by Business will create a healthy environment
    - A Control Room or helicopter cockpit kind of setup with levers to turn-on or turn off the bots/automation jobs based on business needs/priorities/employee sentiments is just one approach to build a better workplace
  • Every process is not an automation candidate
  • - Every business functionality or operation should not be viewed through an Automation Lens
    - A detailed scrutiny of the process has to be done based on business priority / feasibility analysis & suitability analysis to identify the right candidate for automation
  • Every Automation ≠ Artificial Intelligence or RPA
  • - Automation should not be just viewed from a RPA / Cognitive / AI / ML standpoint
    - Even basic scripting or steps to overcome multiple manual steps can be considered as step towards automation
    - Preaching Nirvana State of Artificial Intelligence from Day-1 is not the right mantra - automation should be viewed as a journey
  • Considering Automation as a Separate Project altogether
  • - Considering Automation as a separate project is not always right
    - Things like STPs (straight through processing) are also process automation features
    - Anything that improves the efficiency of the process can be considered as incremental automation
    - There are exceptions, in case of total transformation projects which demand for dismantling the existing system
  • Automation is not a Magic Wand & It's not a fantasy world
  • - It's good to hear and see how companies have adopted and got benefitted by Automation with a RoI rocketing high
    - Focusing on OWN Business OWN Priorities OWN Landscape OWN Users OWN Challenges OWN Solution OWN Roadmap & OWN RoI to get benefited is the key - everything has to be contextualized/personalized
    - What is good for others or what worked well for others may not be the right solution for me at this point in time.
  • Setting up the Automation Foundation right
  • - Every company wants to do Automation @ Scale. But in order to do that the previous elements or components should be built in a scalable / flexible fashion adhering to the architectural/design principles
    - A tactical approach for Automation will not suffice
  • And lastly, fear factor in some instances about labour elimination
  • - It's important to understand the pulse of the business and handle the sentiments accordingly (may be with small increments of automation or bots on the floor)
    - Labour Efficiency should be the precursor to Elimination (if need be or moving to new roles) not the reverse
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 4
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Getting rid of the bodies.

Actually, this will be initially a problem of the governments.

Who will then pass it on to your average pseudo-automated company as increased taxes, wiping away the automation savings.
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5609
Aha! The elephant in the room where automation is concerned. Mr. Nafornita leaps ahead to a future dystopia where everyone has free time and government doles out a "social wage" based on taxing automation. Before we get there though, competition and automation drive the hollowing out of corporates, which lose all the tacit knowledge which was the purview of middle management. Costs are lower, certainly, but the richness of corporate products cannot be maintained. And on the other side of the fence, former employees explore new careers rather unlike their old careers. Automation is an imperative; publicly-traded companies don't have any choice as tacit knowledge is massively discounted. So process automation continues, even if (as aficionados of BPM.com know) process automation is difficult. Results, both local and global, may vary.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 5
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Great replies above concerning the challenges of automation (applicable to corporates, N4Ps and governments all).

Here's another challenge, having to do with the rate at which automation can be implemented. Automation tools (hello especially BPM and rules software, but also hardward such as IoT sensors) are themselves highly automated. A BPM software platform is a platform for "manufacturing the artefacts of process automation". Another way to put this is that the cost of automation itself is decreasing.

So automation itself may be accelerating. This means that organizations can evolve faster.

And now we have a new set of automation challenges, which is the executive/management bandwidth for change management.

Whereas previously, executives could be confident that the basic structure of an organization was stable and evolving only slowly, today's organizations appear to be evolving faster. This is a challenge, because most executives work hard and are already completely committed in terms of work hours. And change management and strategic guidance (or just plain opportunism) all take cognitive and social bandwidth. Where will the leadership bandwidth come from to guide faster and yet successful corporate evolution, an imperative driven by competitive pressure and the possibilities of automation?

[Note that it's possible to exaggerate the current rate of corporate change; this is an on-going debate among business historians.]
  1. Caspar Jans
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5610
I like the way you reason, John. Especially this sentence: completely committed in terms of work hours. Given the fact that you can use every hour exactly once, this automatically becomes a matter of priority, making difficult choices. You rightfully state that change management is becoming a major challenge and without change management any attempt to automate anything is doomed to fail, so the main question in the board becomes: where do we spend our time on, (and more importantly), where do we NOT spend our time on.

From Russel Ackoff in "A Concept of Corporate Planning" (1970) - "Planning is the design of a desired future and of effective ways of bringing it about"

Change is built into the definition and automation is difficult to consider without change.

Dr Ackhoff predicted the need for fast pace planning, real-time monitoring and control (read automation if you like). He identified three types of planning - satisficing, optimizing and adaptivizing.

In respect of the latter, he stated that we did not (at the time) have the wherewithal to do "adaptivizing".

Operational methods ACM/BPM, in my view, have been and are doing a good job reducing "fire-fighting". ACM/BPM gives top management a bit more time " . . .to guide faster and yet successful corporation evolution".

Methods for carrying out strategic planning have evolved as well over the past 50 years.

One of these, 3D graphics, allows top management to "see" all corporate assets/capabilities when considering new initiatives. 3D graphics makes strategic methods such as RBV or Resource-based View - Edith Penrose (1959) practicable.

You can see that there have been important advances both in the area of strategic planning methods and operational effectiveness/efficiency.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5614
+1@Walter for references to Ackoff and Penrose. These days technology make the practice of strategy so much easier than before. Alignment and quality are always questions; but implementation at least is conceivable.
  1. John Morris
  2. 2 years ago
  3. #5615
+1 @Caspar for highlighting the importance of what we don't work on, a.k.a. opportunity cost. Ironic maybe given our usual focus on BPM.com on work. Along the lines of opportunity cost the American poet Robert Frost famously noted concerning "the road not taken" that "that has made all the difference".
  1. more than a month ago
  2. BPM Discussions
  3. # 6
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Automation within processes has huge opportunities to improve outcomes and efficiency; I would add aided by empowerment of users. Business face challenges where to start to safely embark upon an initiative with out tinkering with "legacy" which can be costly with high possibility of failure. Empowerment to be safely implemented does need real time feed back reports on activity but does have benefit of significantly reducing the need for middle management which in itself may be a challenge! In addition there is a need to truly understand the end to end process and with the inflexible legacy silo systems and the gap that exists between people in their real work and such systems represents a real challenge that needs to be addressed if automation is to achieve tangible results. This is where BPM thinking is a good start as long as there is understand just "how" delivery will be achieved.

Another barrier is a single focus in the UI often tagged "user needs" which whilst important lacks the emphasis on the end to end support required i.e. the business process! The other distraction is being side lined by the "cloud" hype which frankly is simply the outsourcing of infrastructure where significant saving could well be achieved but it is not addressing the "process" automation opportunities. Just on this linked up thinking it is very important that business always "owns" and controls their salient business processes and not locked in to only data ownership!

Obviously with such process automation there may well be opportunities to see "machines"/IOT take over some tasks. However they need to be seen in context of fitting into the bigger picture of the end to end process. Add to that is the need for business to have confidence such machine outcomes are correctly built (just look at the cost to VW on their failures in their fuel monitoring!). I think home health care has significant opportunities for tangible benefits but does require the joined up process activity across all interested parties.

Just a few thoughts on the challenges companies and governments face with automation but as I have said understanding the power of people AND the process thinking is a sound start to plan automation....and BPM is a discipline ready to deliver sound thinking in where to start.
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
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