Episode 520: What is Automation of Business Process (Part 3)

Monday, January 30, 2017
In the article before the last, "Episode 518: What is Automation of Business Process (Part 1)", I mentioned about two aspects regarding automation of Business Process, such as;
  • [A] Automation of handing over of Issue information between Processes
  • [B] Automation of processing in certain Step

Also, in the last article, "Episode 519: What is Automation of Business Process (Part 2)", I mentioned about the scope and implementation method of "[A] Automation of handing over".

In this article, I would like to organize the range to which "[B] Automation of processing" can be applied and the implementation method.

What kind of "processing" can be automated

Complete automation (Auto-Step)

Likewise the idea of "[A] Automation of handing over" is that leaving the delivery of Issue information from a certain Step to the next one to a computer, it leaves the "work inside certain Step" to the computer in "[B] Automation of processing".

Even in "Quote Creation and Approval" which is a Business Process with a high degree of human dependence, for example, it is possible to leave processing in Steps to the computer, such as
  • creating Quote PDF file,
  • sending email with file attachment,
  • posting summary of the Quote to Enterprise social network.

* Incidentally, it may be easy to understand with an expression that (instead of using the term of 'automation') "part of Step of Business Process to be unmanned", as long as it is not necessary to contrast with "[A] Automation of handing over."

Partial automation

On the other hand, there are some Steps that not to be automated completely.

For example, in the Step of "Creating a Quotation" in "Quote Creation and Approval" Business Process, supporting function such as
  • Calculate total amount
  • Calculate consumption tax amount
would contribute to labor saving of work. However, in this case, the Step of "Creating the Quote" is not unmanned, as some human input (human interface) is necessary. Therefore, it can be said that such Steps should be classified as "human Step".

[Quote Creation and Approval]

Classification of Steps

By the way, in the international standard notation "Steps" are classified into the following 7 types.

* "Send Step" and "Receive Step" in the following are almost synonymous with "Send Event" and "Receive Event" respectively. Therefore, it can be considered as five types.
  1. Service Step: Auto-Step that is set by only parameters
  2. Script Step: Auto-Step in which custom codes have been set
  3. Business rule Step: Auto-Step which is processed by Rule engine
  4. Send Step
  5. Receive Step
  6. User Step: Step which there is information transaction with User
  7. (Manual Step: Work Step of human that system cannot detect)

And, in this classification, Steps of 1 to 5 correspond to "Automation of processing" (Auto-Step).

At an Auto-Step, the Workflow system itself (Workflow engine itself) performs
  • referring to Issue data or external data
  • computing which is required
  • updating Issue data or external data

There is no human involvement in those Steps. (That is, there is no "human interface" such as an input form.)

Specific example of Auto-Step

In recent business systems (Workflow / BPM / ERP), it is possible to incorporate (design) various Auto-Step.

In Cloud-based Workflow "Questetra BPM Suite", for example, the following Auto-Steps are available. Any "Auto-Step" is represented by a gray icon. (On the other hand, "Human Step" that requires input by User is represented by a light blue icon.)
  • Arithmetical operation of numerical data
  • Addition and subtraction of date data
  • Merging string data
  • Generating PDF file with Issue data inserted
  • Saving files to external storage such as Google Drive
  • Generation of random number (extension by Addon)
  • Generation of password (extension by Addon)
  • Counting number of characters in string data (extension by Addon)
  • Conversion of date data to Japanese calendar (extension by Addon)
  • Automatic posting to Enterprise social networking (extension by Addon)

What kind of setting automates the processing

When the workflow system is "Web application type", the Auto-Step is "processed on the server".

In the Cloud based Workflow "Questetra BPM Suite", it is realized by placing Auto-Step icon on the Business flow diagram and setting the properties of the icon. As you can see the captured images in the pages below, you do not need programming knowledge for setting up "service Steps" (Service Task).
  • "Service Task (Data Assignment)" M227
  • "Service Task (PDF Generation)" M228
  • "Service Task (Google Drive)" M229
  • "Script Task" M230
  • "Service Task (xxxx)" M415 ← Extended with Addon

After it is operated as a Workflow system, it will be processed automatically every time an Issue arrives.

[Modeling screen: "PDF generation" setting screen]

[Modeling screen: "Approval notification" setting screen]

[Modeling screen: "Post to OpenChat" setting screen]

Auto-Steps in the near future

In recent years, discussion on improving productivity is very active in Japan.

Certainly in the future, if artificial intelligence (AI / Artificial Intelligence) is put to practical use, there is a possibility that Steps such as
  • Summarize long sentences
  • Write answers to questions
will be carried out to be "Auto-Steps" one after another.

However, automation cannot be realized unless we know what kind of Steps exist in the first place.

It can be said that first of all, there is a need to develop a system that can constantly capture what kind of input and what kind of output it is in "Steps" which is repeated on a daily basis.

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