Back to Automation Life

It has been too long since I posted here, did I lose interest (no) or time (well, yeah)?  To be honest, communicating the value of business automation got the best of me, there is so much to do.  From meetings with customers to creating compelling demos to speaking with industry leaders and analysts alike, I did not come back and make time here to share.

This was a mistake and generated two epiphanies as June comes to a close: 1) sharing is important, more important than we often realize and 2) both individual and team based business automation have impact.  Let’s unpack those ideas:

  1. Sharing: defined in a more traditional sense as “experiencing with others” (or a modern/trending definition as “posting on a social media platform, such as a blog!)”, I feel strongly this must be two-way.  When I benefit from other’s insights by learning and improving myself, I am indebted to share those insights myself.  When I share anything (insight or fact, statement or opinion), I hope that my audience will return that share (especially if it is to disagree or review what I said because they have their own opinion!).  We are not alone in the animal kingdom here, many animals share.  All too often I feel the world misplaces its drive to share, to work together and solve common challenges.
  2. Individual and Team: focused on specific opportunities in my business automation life, I delivered great strides for teams (companies, organizations, governments).  This was fulfilling and valuable.  I did not focus enough on automation for individuals (myself or teammates) and this made for a long road (and lonely at times).  If we expand our focus from what is in front of us to also include what is down the road a day, week or month, we will produce great business value over time.  I find the idea of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comes up often in (and out) of my business automation life and is another viewpoint that the world seems to misplace.

So what can we (what should we) do?  That is too broad, allow me to stick to what I will do.

  • I will remember the long term, checking that what I do now will be reusable whenever possible for as long as is feasible.
  • I will spend the time (however brief) to model in an effort to communicate what I find valuable.
  • I will focus on both “the greater good” and “individual happiness”
  • I will expand my communication sphere and keep it two way, listening and sharing
artificial intelligence (AI) brain

I believe strongly that business automation will bring about change (yes, that means some jobs will no longer be available) and innovation (new jobs will be created). As Jacques Bughin mentioned in Why AI Isn’t the Death of Jobs, “…companies using AI to also drive innovation are more likely to increase head count than reduce it.” I also believe that business automation gives individuals the time we need to get more done, more checked off our list; our lists are long so what if we could automate the boring items and get working on those that required our attention? Come here, robots, and help me with the busy work!

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 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.

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

IBM Automation Platform for Digital Business Demos

As you probably know if you are reading this, I currently work at IBM in the Automation group with software including RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and Digital Labor, Workflow (BPM and Case Management), Decision Management (Business Rules), Content Management (ECM) and Cognitive Capture (Data Capture and OCR).

Sometimes, IBM offerings takes a bit longer to understand and consume given our heritage in enterprise software and our emphasis on strong runtimes.  In recent years, an IBM Design shift with a new Design Language vastly improved not only user interfaces but overall offering consumability (ease of use and time to market).

With this in mind, check out what my team is delivering in digital, self-service videos, demos and hands-on labs!  Learn, experience and try IBM Automation in 5-15 minutes and let me know your feedback!


We are on a journey, give us feedback and let’s iterate and improve!

Business Systems Thinking

Next a broad post before we get specific and deep. Let’s start with “Systems Thinking” and then add “Business” to find the intersection that maximizes value.

First, an expert in Systems Thinking for some guidance on the topic. While I studied Software Systems Engineering in College and feel I can apply the concepts of Systems Thinking well, I believe the perspective of an expert will provide the best learning. @LeylaAcaroglu wrote a great series called “Tools for Systems Thinkers” and in the first article she provides an easy to understand set of core concepts: Interconnectedness, Synthesis, Emergence, Feedback Loops, Causality and Systems Mapping. Using these core skills provides the systems thinker a viewpoint not otherwise available and reveals a perspective on the world around us that promotes evaluation and improvement.

Source: https://medium.com/disruptive-design/tools-for-systems-thinkers-the-6-fundamental-concepts-of-systems-thinking-379cdac3dc6a

While the Systems Thinker is classically an individual with a technical background, it does not have to be. In my travels around the world, working with businesses of all industries, I meet individuals that focus on the business side of their organizations while leveraging their problem solving and analytical skills to bridge a common gulf between IT and Business teams. Adding “Business” to “Systems Thinking” necessitates a deep and personal understanding of your business (be it banking, insurance, healthcare and life sciences, retail, etc.). What if you lived the workflows and decisions of care management within a clinic? What if you capture and collaborate on content to perform and automate tasks? And what if you then took the necessary time to step back and look for Interconnectedness and Feedback Loops within your workflows? Actually, the more opportune question is: what if you had time to apply Systems Thinking to your Business?!

Trust me when I tell you that time will literally be created when your organization realizes automation through a Business Systems Thinking approach. I find Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a difficult concept for first line managers and administrators to focus on depending the their personal viewpoint and top line management support. My guidance, find the time. I know that is a bit harsh but if you find the time to perform Business Systems Thinking, you will find the space for automation and can then make the case for business value to your management. This may start with an hour here and there of your own time to visualize and map small systems. Then, ask for some time from your manager by showing some tangible results. When ready, leverage your vendor’s help to create a Business Value Assessment (BVA); from my personal experience in companies like IBM, we have deep automation and cross-industry expertise available to help.


Now, your quiz: are you ready to apply Systems Thinking to your Business? The concepts and tools include Interconnectedness, Synthesis, Emergence, Feedback Loops, Causality, Systems Mapping. Applying these to your business requires taking a step back from your day to day workflows and deciding what is connected, why and how, and then map it! Trust that it will provide a dividend of time once automation takes hold.


Welcome to a new endeavor for me; one that I have thought about starting for years, have contributed to a few others before, and will keep to monthly as best I am able. In my current role at IBM, I evangelize the software platform for digital business worldwide and work with clients and partners from all industries. With this lens and others from past endeavors, I hope to provide a perspective both IBM specific and broad across all enterprises. The commentary and postings on this site are my own (or a partner’s) and do not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

I feel the message of IBM Automation is a turning point in an area of digital business transformation that I have worked around my professional career. First, in systems engineering: requirements elicitation, system and user design, model first, measure always and iterate. Next in software development: iterative and agile platform, nightly build, user experience. Then in software support: process consistency, repeatable virtual images, automated testing. And now in solution architecture where I work with clients to design operational solutions that bridge between IT and business to deliver automation and drive customer value.

Please give me a moment to define the bold terms above in my words (everyone has their own!):

  • Design: creation of a system that is centered around the users (participants) of that system and uses SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Participants, Outputs and Consumers) to ensure complete and delightful experience
  • Agile: a combination of user centered design and iterative delivery with a constant and quick feedback loop that involves business sponsors and users (participants)
  • Consistency: the first step toward automation, delivering the same, personalized experience to internal and external users (participants) throughout operational systems and workflows
  • Automation: The culmination of consistent and agile design leveraging enterprise capabilities across the following pillars (in alphabetical order): analytics, business modeling, content, decisions, human and system workflow and master data

Stay tuned for more as I cover business automation topics and how they relate to the operations of all enterprises. Keep the dialog coming and thank you for collaborating with me!