People Automation and Virtual Management

People Automation and Virtual Management

Just as early attempts at assembly line manufacturing predate Fordism by over 100 years, so too there have been attempts at implementing automated Business Process Management systems since the early days of networked computers. These attempts were necessarily hampered by the limitations of early computer networks, the lack of a standardized means to outline business processes and the need for open source software in which the groundwork had already been laid. Today these pre-requisite technologies are in place and, as a result, in recent years automated Business Process Management has become not only a realistic option for many companies but increasingly it has become required in order to remain competitive.

The advantages of a well-engineered automated BPM solution are many, resulting in greater efficiency and freeing management from day to day monitoring of work flow and thereby allowing managers to focus on those areas which will serve to increase productivity and profitability.

Before automated BPM, management was required to spend the majority of their time monitoring workflow – the simple day-to-day tasks which each department needed to complete in order to keep a company functioning at a basic level. This of course meant there was very little time left over to focus on strategy and growth, to assist in addressing unexpected problems that might be encountered by employees in the course of doing their daily tasks, and perhaps most importantly, to simply think about the bigger picture; to engage in the kind of top-down analysis that leads to innovation. Instead managers spend time monitoring each employee, checking in to see that required tasks are being completed in a timely manner so that other employees farther down the task chain can do their jobs, and so on in a never-ending circle.

Now imagine that same manager able to simply check an on-screen checklist, often from anywhere – the office, home, or on the road – and see at a glance what tasks have been completed by each employee, see where a bottleneck in workflow may be forming, or even assign priorities to pending tasks. The same system will notify each employee, automatically, when a pre-requisite task by another employee in the chain has been completed and flag a new task ‘pending’ as a result, then monitor that task in turn and notify yet another employee, and management, when the task has been completed and so on in a never-ending circle – all without the manager ever needing to step outside their office, send an email or pick up the phone.

Another obvious advantage of this technology is the ability to make an organization ‘leaner’, especially those companies that are very task heavy and that, as a result, have traditionally required mid-level managers whose sole purpose is to monitor daily workflow. Some of these positions can now be eliminated as the automated BPM system will replace them with a more efficient and tireless ‘virtual manager’. This not only saves the company money but has the potential to remove levels of obfuscation that make it difficult for upper management to see where an organization may have room for improvement or innovation.

In addition, many companies have compliance requirements which must be adhered to. A well implemented automated BPM solution will control workflow ensuring that all required tasks are not only completed but completed in time, while ensuring that any associated or pre-requisite tasks are also completed and while simultaneously keeping a record of these tasks. A system such as this will greatly reduce the likelihood of a company unintentionally violating compliance regulations.

All of this is now not only possible, but is already coming in to widespread use now that the pre-requisite technologies are in place. Networked computer systems are not only robust and reliable but also standard in most companies. Open source software which can be efficiently customized for a specific company or department is available and in the hands of capable BPM engineering teams and we now have a standardized method of describing any business process, no matter how complex. This method is known as BPMN, or Business Process Model and Notation and is currently in version 2.0.

In the next article we’ll take a closer look at BPMN modeling as well as one of the better open source software solutions available and how the automated Business Process Management team uses these tools to implement custom BPM solutions.