Monday Feb 22, 2010

The problem with Process Automation is Automation itself

Automation - (Noun) the use of machines to do work that was previously done by people

Replacing people with machines makes it possible to tremendously increase the capacity of a process, which has obvious economic advantages. Automation has been successful in replacing people's work and improving many aspects of the process in addition to the capacity. For example, automated process are much more uniform processing of units.

So what is wrong with Automation? Nothing really, but the fact that there are a few things that people do better than machines. My two favorite human characteristics that tend to be lost with automation are:

  1. The Capability of the process to learn
  2. The capability of people to discern between different cases
With automation we are able to run the same process, again and again, sometimes repeating the same mistake, again and again. With automation we tend to treat every unit the same way.

Lets take the simple example of automation of answering the phone. Most companies today use IVR software to answer the phone, but how many differentiate between callers? If a valuable bank customer who is approaching retirement age calls the bank after not calling for 5 years, how many banks will actually do the right thing with this customer, which is to kidnap the customer from the IVR and connect them directly with the best agent? How many companies are setup to discover that a problem that affects 1% of their callers is not possible to solve in the IVR, but these customer still have to go through a frustrating tree of options to get to talk with a person that can actually help them?

If there was an actual human that was capable of watching all the interactions in the IVR, and seeing the short and long term results of these calls, and had the capability of affecting the way decisions are made in the IVR the results from automation would be much better.

RTD was designed to infuse these missing elements into business processes. Learning and differentiating (sometimes called "personalization"), thus taking us a step further into better automation of business process, not yet matching all the capabilities of humans, but at least bringing some "common sense" into it.
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Issues related to Oracle Real-Time Decisions (RTD). Entries include implementation tips, technology descriptions and items of general interest to the RTD community.

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