1. Peter Schooff
  2. Sherlock Holmes
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  4. Tuesday, 09 April 2019
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As Intelligent Automation will be the central focus at next week's bpmNEXT, what would you say are the key problems that Intelligent Automation solves?
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As mentioned in my reaction to the question on RPA, I still find it difficult to put intelligent and automation together in one sentence without cringing.

Even the most advanced commonly used RPA tools are, when you bring it back to the core essence, nothing more than a preprogrammed sequence of actions. When there is someting slightly more complicated decision taking required than going left or right in a process model, RPA tools can no longer handle it.

Since everything is now becoming intelligent, I do not have high hopes yet for Intelligent Automation (IA).

To be brutaly honest, this sounds like one huge marketing fad so they (have no idea who 'they" are by the way) can sell more RPA and potentially link it to AI (which is IA in reverse, what a coincidence) #nottryingtobesarcastic
BPM is all about mindset first and toolset later....much later
The question speaks to "intelligent" automation. I think that pretty much rules out RPA by definition.
  1. Caspar Jans
  2. 1 year ago
  3. #6034
Fair enough, but could you give me an example of actual intelligent automation (or did I miss the fact that you were being cynical? ;-) )
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Scott Francis
Blog Writer
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what problems do you want to solve? Most of these systems are likely Turing complete so we can potentially do whatever we need to. (or leverage outside services to do what is inconvenient or repetitive or unable to execute. I agree the use of the words intelligent automation feels bit trite, like intelligent BPM :) But I understand the intent to signify the inclusion of ML into the solution and that's well and good (but machine learning automation sounds... wrong... ) :)
+1 for "Turing complete"
  1. more than a month ago
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I liked the link to the definition provided by Layna --- gave me hope that at last a recognition a need for a truly holistic approach to enterprise software bring many IA opportunities. However Casper is right to express his brutally honest opinion!!!

So here are my thoughts drafted initially to respond to Layna but I would love to be challenged now!!

Ever since the 80s it has been a dream to bring flexibility and simplicity to enterprise software which supports operational business activity without the need to code. Early research with a business driver established how this could be achieved putting build into hands of business and delivering automation of many routine actions supporting users in real time all in one holistic environment supporting a future proof investment for users. One of the issues is this approach was being radically different and not fitting any existing industry tag was what to call it, but reading the definition suggests “Intelligent Automation” is an appropriate description?

Build where Intelligent Automation starts with a "click"
The focus to build next generation applications needs to adopt the “outside in” BPM approach with the focus on where data is created by people and their processes at work. It should allow business to be the driver in creation and cover all needs yet contained in a single “Platform”. It recognises that in reality business is simple when analysed down to the basics and early research established some 13 generic task types (including the UI) which could be pre coded expressed as data and ready for customisation. The next step was to allow build to take place in a Graphical Build Designer where using a declarative technique at a "click" the customised application was ready to run. This effectively removed need to code business applications which supported not just quick build but any required future proof changes. This could be regarded as the first step in holistic automation in delivery of flexible future proof applications? This has now been well proven by early adopter UK Sport now running for over 18 years their Case Management for allocation and payment of Grants to UK Elite athletes and supporting programs. A quote from a member of staff sums up the power of such a change supporting long term value; “Great to meet with you this morning and see the work you have done. It captures all my weird and wonderful ideas and all done without telling me that I am expecting too much!”

2 Capabilities within a data centric architecture can deliver that “holistic” approach

The architecture managing all the tasks and of course the linking together (some call workflow?) has surprised even us as it delivered on all the technology needs of enterprise software in a single environment. This includes multiple RPA and AI opportunities with real time insights into all activity. These all emerged from the core business logic thinking supporting the needs of users with nothing off the agenda as articulated by the UK Sport user. Seems to fit the holistic requirement where the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts?
The following capabilities are inbuilt within the data centric architecture
1. Process engine - to ensure all works to plan.
2. Rules engine - reflecting real world of work and compliance.
3. Calculation engine - automating system work.
4. State engine - Real time feed back from any point.
5. Workflow - everything connected in right order.
6. Audit trail, events, escalations - = control with empowerment.
7. Rapid prototyping - user involvement in build no need for a final spec
8. Time recording - supports activity based costing.
9. Real time reporting - becomes predictive.
10. Build mash ups - one screen multiple data sources.
11. Linked intelligent Ajax grids - enter data only once.
12. Roles and performers - people and machines recognised.
13. Management hierarchy - see who does what and when to reallocate work
14. RPA / MDM Orchestrating legacy with business processes as required - recognition of valuable legacy data and functional systems
15. Call Web Services - wrapped up in a process.
16. User interface dynamically created linking people, roles, task type and data via forms for specific instances - supports adaptive capability
17. Content handler and in memory work capability - to ensure high performance.
18. Pre-built templates for custom documents, letters, e-mails, messages etc dynamically populated with instance specific data and edit capability in browser - recognition of external communications documents etc
19. Process and task versioning control – ensures minimal disruption, if any, to implementation of changes

3 Intelligent Automation leads to operational efficiency

The Realtime feedback to all authorised user ensures both empowerment of employees and supporting both human and automated required actions. This new approach to enterprise software opens the door to new business models where tangible benefits can be gained from improved productivity and employee satisfaction.

4 The Future of this new Intelligent Automation journey?

Intelligent Automation from build to future proof deployed adaptive solutions must be the future as the final step in evolution in enterprise software? It has been pioneered and well proven but ignored for over 20 years which just highlights this new Intelligent Automation approach is very “disruptive”. Whilst the benefits for users are significant the real challenge as we all know is the existing supply chain as it has evolved where it is dominated by some very large players. It is good to see many others now emerge with this new way not least of which will be AWS with its project! https://www.geekwire.com/2019/aws-everyone-new-clues-emerge-amazons-secretive-low-code-no-code-project/ I see this as evidence that will bring enterprise software into the commodity arena yet will support custom solutions and indeed encourage Intelligent Automation not necessarily to replace people but bring in a new era AI assisted jobs. It will need that holistic supporting software to bring simplicity in build yet deliver any required complexity exactly as required for business and also deliver at last that long term future proof value?
David, a bit of feedback, the quote I provided should be attributed from the bpmNEXT program - https://bpmnext.com/ - taking place in Santa Barbara April 15-17.

And I really like your post here - it presents the basis for a very good chapter in the upcoming book on IA. Please do submit an abstract at http://futstrat.com/books/IntelligentAutomation.php

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Our terms are getting a little confusing here, but:

  • If we're talking about robotic process automation, the “problem” it solves seems to be that we're currently utilizing low-level employees to double-key information between two incompatible systems. The machine learning component, as currently available, adds minimal value.
  • If we're talking about digital process automation / BPM, the technology addresses a huge number of business problems, both directly (“I use DPA/BPM to deliver approved estimates and change orders to my customers”), and indirectly (“We've empowered our business units to meet their challenges themselves, without having to hire programmers or wait until IT gets around to helping them”). Machine learning capabilities are potentially very powerful, in that ML supports decision-making at any scope, from enterprise to individual task.

Hope to see all of you (well, most of you :o) next week in Santa Barbara!
Scott's opinions only. Logo provided for identification purposes only.
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I look at it this way, we should be asking/presenting the problems intelligent automation solves, but instead ask what problems are present and only then, determine if it is the right fit to solve that specific problem.

All too many time I here that technology this or technology that is the cure-all for every business problem. Then I hear from consumers that it only did part of the job and they are still wrestling with how to address it. The underlying reason being that no one really identified the true business problem in the first place.

What problem does intelligent automation solve? It is safe to say there are many organizations implementing it successfully, and in those organizations it was realized that the technology alone would not solve a business problem that was misunderstood. If the consumer asks about it solving their problem, I would be inclined to say there is a high possibility but first we must truly uncover and understand the real problem.
Bob Larrivee
President and Founder
Bob Larrivee Consultancy
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It answers the question, What words can I string together in an over-hyped market that might get me some attention? The result, we join together the two hottest tech issues, AI and Automation, and since AI Automation isn't clear we'll use the word 'Intelligent'.

Having lived through the 'BPM that never was' hype that Peter Fingar book-ended with BPM The Third wave (2003) and BPM is Dead (2009), I'd like to think we could ditch the sales hype and focus on addressing the issues that still stunt the ability of BPM Automation to transform productivity in general and thereby lift living standards.

The potential for Automation is huge. In 2003 Bill Gurley heralded BPM as having the potential to revolutionise business. But since then BPTrends has rehashed the same words so many times I no longer dare to look.

Forget the hype, the real question is, why, with all the potential BPM Automation has to offer, haven't we increased productivity within business at large by at least a factor of 10 since 2003. ...especially since there are good exemplars.
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Slightly off-topic :) but I'd really appreciate feedback on three concept covers for the upcoming IA book. See bottom of the page at http://futstrat.com/books/IntelligentAutomation.php. Which one represents the proposed content best?
Rather than clutter up this thread, pls email me at layna@FutsStrat.com
  1. http://futstrat.com/books/IntelligentAutomation.php
Oops . . . I responded, but it came back . (extra 's')
The correct address is
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To be honest I have no clue how to properly define/explain what intelligent automation is, so I think the main problem it solves is the cash shortage of vendors who succeed to sell it to companies as the next need to have medicine for their insecure managers.
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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Before rushing to "intelligent automation" of an enterprise we have to have some "formalisation" of the enterprise. Otherwise, we are following the well-known negative pattern which is expressed differently in different cultures, e.g. "theater of shadows", "first shoot then ask question" ,"taking pills instead of changing the lifestyle", etc.

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OK, the book preamble tells us that "Intelligent automation is about real business change and long-term value".

What I get out of this is that IA is a methodology for making best use of scarce corporate resources capable of taking on automation initiatives.

The methodology presumably makes selection of initiatives that are more, as opposed to less, attractive (i.e. good ROI, extended contribution to revenue/benefits beyond ROI crossover).

Out the window would go "smarter" automation - who cares once one or more steps have been automated, how the steps were automated, assuming stable ongoing operation?

Risk analysis/ROI assessment picks up the time and cost to implement the automation and sustain the automation.

Clearly, you cannot expect good return, long-lasting value from automation without real/significant business change, so we need 1) Risk analysis, 2) good ROI and 3) good change management.

Automation and worker apprehension go hand in hand. One interpretation is you lose your job, the other is your job quality improves as a result of elimination of mundane activity.

None of this reasoning/lack of reasoning prevents an organization from offering an award for automation that is more innovation than other automation.

Am I missing something here or is it just too early in the morning?
  1. http://www.kwkeirstead.wordpress.com

It turns out that management and workers DO care about IA strategy initiative implementations for operations-level partially-automated tasks.

Here are two examples:
1. Predictive analytics overlays at branching decision box tasks can provide valuable decision support to actors i.e. they went this way 40% of the time, that way 50% of the time and yet a third way 10% of the time).
2. Upon exit from a process fragment (either as a result of completing the "last node" along a process fragment OR as a result of user exit from process fragments), IA can provide valuable decision support to actors re the logical/appropriate next process fragment(s) to be engaged.

The challenge for #1 is to ensure that predictive analytics overlays at branching decision boxes are context/situation appropriate (i.e. filtering data to a subset that only picks up past Cases that are similar to a Case that has the focus).

The challenge for #2 is to avoid possibly time-consuming platform-wide scans of all process fragments to see which ones can reasonably be invoked (e.g. easy to have a menu of services at a user task InTray that comprises 10,000 process fragments)
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Intelligent automation solves the problem of dumb automation, which used to be the prevailing automation method until some marketing dude/tte gave up and cried: "that's it, I don't know how to market your junk BPMS anymore! Oh wait..."
CEO, Co-founder, Profluo
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Found very interesting and relevant article "RPA is dead. Long live Integrated Automation Platforms" Like it! Think "Integrated Automation Platforms" (IAP?) good description of what next generation software needs as I have frequently articulated.....
  1. https://www.horsesforsources.com/rpa-dead-integrated-automation-platforms_041519
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