The Human Touch 2

Contrary to what some might think, automation will likely increase the frequency with which humans must interact with business processes. How can you make this essential connection efficient and effective? Business process coordination offers a smart way to address the challenges.
This article has focused on business efficiencies to be gained by augmenting the traditionally automated portion of business processes with their manual counterparts. Given current trends enabling BPC, people now have the means to participate in processes otherwise carried out mainly by computer systems — and these means will mature in the years to come. Process descriptions for Web services will come to include conversation patterns that support more natural interaction between humans and computer programs. On the other hand, IM and chat clients will become more common in mobile devices, thereby enabling better real-time interaction with process flows anytime, anywhere.

With BPC improvements, the array of details contained in the automated section of the process becomes visible to the process participants — and much easier to act upon. This improvement is especially helpful in a large, one-off process, such as a loan process that contains a set of deadlines, regulations, and forms, and consists of process participants with varying skill levels and understanding of the underlying process.

BPC improvements will also prove critical to conforming to government regulations and standards, such as those presented by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA. These recent regulations demand that businesses align forms and unstructured data with their associated automated processes so that information may be routed and analyzed in timely and efficient manner.

As this article has described, BPC enables processes and tasks within processes to be routed and escalated according to business rules that lie within the process. With the additional data captured and made available for reuse by those drilling into processes for analytic purposes, greater efficiency and effectiveness will be within reach of both human and computer applications.

Robert Eisenberg [[email protected]] principal of RE Associates, consults, speaks, and writes on business process management and service-oriented architecture. He has owned two software companies, sold one, and held a senior IT position at a public corporation.

Santtu Toivonen [[email protected]] is a research scientist at VTT Information Technology. He specializes in software agent communication, ontologies, and the semantic Web.