Making the Computer Do Work
But there is one more critical factor to consider. The computer itself can also do work. It can’t replace all of your people and that is not the goal of automation. A computer cannot make a car. But it can manage the robots, people and assembly lines in the most efficient manner to get the car made.
Enforcing policy and improving communications are examples of the computer doing work and are probably the most important ones. But there are other areas where this can be done. A computer can compile reports, it can track statistics and make recommendations based on historical information. Look at your organization and ask “Of all of the functions that my organization is involved in, which of these can the computer do itself?” Your people are there to create products, come up with ideas, generate policy, invent, interface with your customers, investigate, evaluate, and manage systems and other people. They should not be doomed to entering the same old numbers into a spreadsheet cell or transcribing orders from form A to form B.
Most computers to date have been used to do nothing more than store information and allow retrieval of that information in various ways. This is a perfectly valid use of computers. But it is also a very limited use compared to their potential. Entire companies, governments and maybe even planets could be administered using computers.
Here is a great example of making the computer do work that I ran across many years ago. A custom project management application was built to facilitate the successful completion of the company’s major projects. Projects were run from management’s headquarters to offices around the world. The steps and details were entered into the system along with completion targets and who was responsible for their completion. Once the project was started, the system e-mailed all responsible parties their orders and when they were to be complete. When the steps were complete the responsible parties sent compliance reports to the project manager who logged them into the system. If a target date was approaching, a reminder was automatically sent. When a target date was passed, a nudge was sent with a CC to the person’s boss. If the target date was way overdue, a report with a request for investigation was sent to the appropriate parties. Project timelines would be automatically adjusted based on non-compliance, unexpected circumstances.
An archive was kept of all of the projects, worldwide, along with compliance reports, progress reports, statistics and other important information. This allowed the project managers to effectively manage projects at great distances. They could track successful projects and evaluate unsuccessful projects. They could also track who did a good job and who did not along with detailed statistics.
The system enforced company policy on project management and project prosecution as well greatly facilitating communications.
The system had many effects on the company. First and foremost, project managers were able to get projects done faster. The success rate of projects improved dramatically. It pointed up successful projects managers and pointed out unsuccessful ones. It showed who habitually failed to get their targets done and who did a good job thus the company was able to promote and demote efficiently. The reporting capabilities of the system gave management an accurate, up-to-the-minute view of all ongoing projects. This allowed them to manage more effectively. The archives allowed management and project managers to learn from past successes and mistakes so they could continue to improve.
The company started expanding rapidly.
I have outlined the primary benefits of process automation in this paper. There are other tangible benefits I would like to address.
Requirements and Characteristics of Process Automation