Modern Times, Modern Methods: As Business Models Become Increasingly Complex, More and More Processes Are Shunted to Automated Systems. but the Best Examples Never Lose Touch with the Human Element

By Lager, Marshall | CRM Magazine, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Modern Times, Modern Methods: As Business Models Become Increasingly Complex, More and More Processes Are Shunted to Automated Systems. but the Best Examples Never Lose Touch with the Human Element


Lager, Marshall, CRM Magazine


Workflow automation conjures images of assembly lines, factories, and robots, but we deal with the concept all the time even if our jobs don't involve manufacturing. Just as organizational charts show how responsibility flows throughout an organization, workflow automation (WFA) governs how information and work move from start to finish. An element of a newer and broader concept known as business process management (BPM), WFA's a subtle but powerful concept that can have far-reaching effects on the success and survival of your business.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There's been a long-running argument regarding where WFA and BPM overlap, according to Jon Pyke, CEO of The Process Factory, a consultancy that specializes in the topic. "Where they are different [is in] which mathematical models to use, which standards are applicable to which part of the technology stack, and all that associated puff," Pyke wrote in Beyond BPM: Knowledge Intensive BPM, a November 2006 white paper. "The problem stems from the fact that most workflow products were flawed and as a result, the problem in the gene pool has rippled through to the new BPM species."

The simplest statement of workflow automation's value comes from Jim Manias, vice president of marketing and sales for software engineering firm Advanced Systems Concepts: "Imagine if the financial industry processed payments before deposits." The world would be awash in overdraft fees because of that tiny transposition, taking funds from accounts that didn't yet have them because the relevant checks were not yet processed.

Workflow automation is supposed to simplify and streamline business. "Historically, everything was date- and time-based for workflow," Manias says. "There were built-in wait times at every step to allow people to account for problems that might crop up, whether they did or not. Now we can use events to trigger workflows, including triggering them on the completion of the previous step." Technology lets us remove unnecessary waits and mismanaged handoffs.

There's more to WFA than just technology, of course, and thinking of it as such would miss the point, says David Straus, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Corticon, a BPM vendor. "BPM is a behavior, a discipline. It's thinking about, in a structured way, how information moves through your company," Straus says. "There are tools for enablement, but it's consciously thinking about how work moves, and how you can guide it."

The key elements of workflow automation are the decisions made regarding activities and tasks. "There are two ways to handle decision-making," Straus says."Either you give control to a person who reviews the company policies and clicks the approve/deny button, or you give it to a computer that has the policies programmed into it."

People cause problems, whether through misremembered training, simple errors in looking at data, or even through malicious intent. Computers drive down costs and are more reliable if programmed correctly, Straus says, "but they don't deal well with sophisticated processes, or with change." The best answer here is a combination: Automate decisions when doing so improves throughput, and make sure humans are handling anything that requires interpretation.

This hasn't always been properly addressed, in Pyke's experience. "I'm oversimplifying things, I know, but it does seem that BPM is becoming a technology solution as opposed to the business process solution it was meant to be," he writes. "Somewhere along the way, one of the key elements in a business process--a person--dropped off the agenda. "He quotes Forrester Research's finding that 85 percent of business processes involve people--"carbon-based resources" is Pyke's phrase--but that figure has been overlooked. "Many vendors will tell you that their BPM products support human interaction, but what they are talking about will be simple work item handling and form filling," Pyke writes--features that are a long way from collaboration and interaction management. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Modern Times, Modern Methods: As Business Models Become Increasingly Complex, More and More Processes Are Shunted to Automated Systems. but the Best Examples Never Lose Touch with the Human Element
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.