Free the Humans with Digital Business Automation

Free the humans, you say?  What if I like my work and want to continue?  Sure, I am a bit tired of the repetition sometimes but it’s good overall.  Help me understand this new business that’s digital and automated!

I am looking forward to my trip to NYC on 18 Sep 2018 for IBM Automation 2018 NYC (more at https://www.ibm.com/events/B8CR8XES).  Our event in Chicago earlier in 2018 was a meeting of the minds, from IBMers and analysts to clients and IBM Premier Business Partners, all sharing thoughts, ideas and actions on IBM Digital Business Automation.

IBM-DBA
IBM Digital Business Automation Platform

But really, how is this digital business automation freeing humans?  Let’s take a look at each word…

  • Digital: the conversion, storage, collaboration and management of data on computer systems (simple enough!).  We all do this every day from mobile phones to motion sensors, electronic health records (EHRs) to online booking systems.  But is the digitization helping us humans, not only improving but creating a new workflow, better than the old.  Read more from Gartner here: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/digitalization-or-automation-is-there-a-difference/.
  • Business: the non-technology aspects of work including what, when and who but likely not how.  All too often we technologists (yeah, that’s me) forget to think in business terms, solve business problems.  We see an issue on the surface, register it in GitHub, locate and assign an owner, find a technology product that will fit the “hole” and fill it.  But is this the right problem to solve or is there another more important to the business that would provide greater value?
  • Automation: the conversation of manual work requiring human input, to work that is completed in part without human intervention.  This sounds scary (I just watched the 2004 movie I, Robot again to remind myself; yes, that was before the iPhone release!) but it does not have to be!  Would it be nice to remove repetitive work so we could be more creative, personal and engaging?  I hope the answer is yes!

If we all agree that Digital Business Automation is a valuable goal for humans, how and why does it fail to live up to our expectations?  I posit at least one of the three is not present.

An example, I recently worked with a group that was creating a new system (configuring and customizing COTS software) to replace a largely manual and technical workflow with an easier, friendlier one.  Many of the users felt their world was improving but some asked questions about why some requirements were not addressed in the new design.  Cost, time, resources, all reasonable responses.  However, stepping back, you see that the primary goal of the project was digitization, a great goal, but not alone.  The business aspects were also improving but not all of them as some tasks in the new system would take longer than the old even though they required less skill.  In addition, automation was not included throughout the project with some key portions missing.

You may say that the project would get there eventually and was using agile to provide a minimum viable product (MVP) and iterate with user feedback.  Good, that may work.  But if all three legs of the stool (digital, business, automation) are not represented from the start, one cannot be sure the project decisions we make will meet our end goals.  What is the technology chosen can never provide for a key user requirement?  What if we are just digitizing a “bad” workflow when we could create a “better” workflow to accomplish the same goal?

Challenge yourself to evenly consider all three aspects and then you will be ready to free the humans!  Now, it’s time for a human vacation, let me get V.I.K.I. to take over my work while I am gone.

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Credit: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0343818/mediaviewer/rm3767944448

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