Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Customer Journeys Show the Trouble with Organizational SIlos

Every organization practices labor and skill specialization because of the limits of what people can do, organizations of people can do and the constraints of systems. The basic tenets of problem breakdown feed right into creating silos of activities and the skills that support them. We were all taught to break problems down into their smallest components. Isolation of tasks and functions are the basis of the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age. It becomes obvious when your study customer journeys that they do not fall into neat little containers of tasks or organizational and software boundaries. Will this be any different in the Digital Age? It should be and here is why.



The Abilities of Human Workers Will be Extended:

We now have the ability with AI to augment workers so that their knowledge and power can be extended. LIke robots on a modern production line, knowledge can be leveraged for workers to expand beyond their degrees of speciality and experience base. Over time people can become generalists to service customers across a number specific domains of tasks and work. This allows for better customer journeys as handoffs almost disappear except in the most difficult of situations. The side benefit of this approach is that workers can keep learning and not become speciality drones.


The Ability to Customize the Customer's Unique Journey is Here: 

Right now we force customers down standard paths that they have to self select with precision. Imagine the ability to handle multiple customer requests with one service stop with a generalized customer communications savvy support person. This support person, with the help of AI & Bots could handle the customers needs in a one stop fashion for a majority of the cases. The customer's history, likes and disposition at any specific point in time could be taken into account for a customized experience. This will create customers for life most likely.


The Constraints of Process /Tasks Will No Longer Hinder:

Right now, processes that guide the customer experience are rather rigid and slow. With the advent of case management and real time speed to knowledge, bot assisted or not, the software and the processes controlling that software no longer have to be rigid. They can be pliable and speedy, so the time to resolution can be reduced. "Flex, Fast and Ever Learning" should be our new motto for software assistance as well. Software can get a similar boost in intelligence and intelligence gathering in the context of flexible processes or cases.

Net; Net:

Don't let your customers or your employees for that matter, suffocate in your silos.
The Digital Age presents a great opportunity to change the way we treat customers while still being operationally effective and efficient. We would be foolish to fumble this opportunity. While the we will have to live with temporary bridges and transformations as we head to these targets, it is now possible to break down or dampen the effect of silos.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Are Bots the Second Coming of BPM?

Right now RPA (bots) are the talk of the digital world with the promise of the replacement of low level tasks initially and the assistance of human activity later. "Bots got the hots", right now and process (BPM) scares off folks with high levels of investment and commitment implied. This post will make the case for both sides of this argument and hopefully settle this question.




The Case for Bots:

Bots are gaining momentum as they show great promise in proof of concepts projects. As organizations ramp up larger bot projects, the benefits will multiply. This is a the same phenomena as workflow and BPM had shown early in their roll out to organizations. The difference here is bots can be leveraged and scattered quickly while independently scooping up benefits and rapidly displacing low level and redundant work. Making these bots smart empower them even more useful and can feed off the AI frenzy going on simultaneously starting with applying machine intelligence to point problems. The issues of bot management and updates don't show up for a long period of time, so bots put down roots way before the problems emerge. It's hard to turn down tactical benefits and keep the big picture in mind, so the impact of bots will last.


The Case for BPM:

Processes are essential to represent the flow and balance of work and of course they go across organizational and technology boundaries. The problem comes in instrumenting a flow to handle multiple technology and software stacks while trying to deliver on the complex goals of multiple job roles and organizational units. This takes more start up time and doesn't necessarily deliver short hit benefits right away. While these kind of efforts deliver later, they are necessary to support great customer journeys and other necessary cross organizational flows. The benefits here can be significantly higher, but they take longer. Combine this with the fact that BPM is no longer attractive as a term, it seems like BPM is the long shot. The impact of workflows and processes are here to stay and the benefits flow to the patient.


The Case for Convergence: 

We really need both of these technologies working together. The tasks that complete work have to be as automated as possible and work does flow from speciality to speciality in most organizations. There may come a day where one person or bot can handle all of the knowledge, data and work necessary to complete a business outcome, but right now we need both cooperating intimately. There may be a day that independent and intelligent bots cooperatively bid to complete outcomes, but swarming agents/ bots are not ready for prime time yet. The proof of cooperation is the near recent buying and partnering activity. Kofax bought Kapow, Pega bought OpenSpan, Blue Prism is partnering with Appian and IBM is partnering with Automation Anywhere.


Net; Net: 

BPM & Bots will work together skillfully over time and will eventually participate in or as a digital business platform (DBP) to create timely and complex outcomes with great visibility. This will become obvious over time as organizations deliver on their paths of digital transformation with positive business outcomes.

Additional Reading: 

Elastic Workforce
Bots R Us
Swarming Agents

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stretching the Elastic Workforce

Today if you want an elastic workforce, you hire consultants in good times and let them go in down times. If your work mix changes you can either hire new folks, hire temps or consultants. These are still good coping mechanisms, but with robotic process automation (RPA) and the resulting bots, there is another option. Bots can eliminate very low level and repetitive tasks, they can assists humans in more challenging tasks and can quickly calculate and bid on work that is waiting for assistance. Organizations now have a new tool in managing work to further leverage an elastic workforce with bots.




Low Level Work:

Nobody enjoys low level work except in rare cases. Now there have been those days after a good party, but those are unusual in my case. Bots can assist with various inspections, decisions and actions. Nobody likes to re-key data or checking multiple systems while trying to service a customer. partner, employee or vendor. Why not let a bot look up all the data that is necessary to service your constituents? There is just no need to do mindless work. Manufacturers have figured this out a long time ago. It's time to let this kind of work go.


Assistance with Challenging Work: 

Sometimes getting an assist would be helpful. We can't live without the calculators on our phones or our contact lists. Imagine a bot calculating probabilities for your next action after listening to a customer and taking their best shot at a good set of alternatives leveraging your wisdom and experience. If you are missing the experience, research or wisdom. bots can help. We have all seen the ads for bots suggesting patient treatment plans under the guidance of a doctor or a group of doctors in concert with the patient.


Predicting Work Influxes:

Smarter bots that leverage deeper calculations and can look at multiple and fast changing data sources, can actually predict outcomes and anticipate waves of work arrival. There will be management bots that can suggest how to balance your workforce between bots and humans. In fact bots may bid on work on your behalf whether you own the bots or not. Things are going to get super flexible over time.

Net; Net: 

We should use bots for work that needs to be done without complaint or issues and save the human efforts for the final say or inspection of work. Creative work has been the bastion of human endeavor, but as an artist I use software in some of my work and search for methods a techniques on the web. The elastic workforce will get even more flexible and manageable over time.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Unleash the Bots !!

Organizations have a number of sources for productivity, but bots look to be one of the most promising source for productivity. Bots that offer a friendly face / voice that are aimed at customer service seem to be the first off the launch pad, but there are more coming. They will be be both software and hardware aimed at assisting all of us humans. I for one am looking forward to it, even though my "Alexa" enabled Echo frustrates me at times. I am looking for organizations to serve me instead of them outsourcing their labor and keying to me. In fact over time, I won't be able to sense when a bot is serving me. (Other names for Bots are Agents, Cogs & Smart Services)


Chat Bots:

These pleasant bots really help in simple tasks such as looking up and responding to simple requests. I like just asking for a particular music group, the daily weather and the latest news.  Since these are first generation complexity of the questions confuses them, but over time they will get better. Imagine if these bots would help me get service from an organization without me traversing their frustrating voice response systems of today. These kind of bots will make or break the bot movement. I do however, lose a wink of sleep or two to their ability to listen to all conversations and interject when they are not wanted (happens in rare situations). I think the risk is worth it.

RPA Bots:

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots are usually under the covers doing dirty work for organizations or customers. Typically the kind of work that RPA does today is traversing different systems and data sources to come up with a integrated set of views and data necessary to support customer and business outcomes. As RPA matures, it will broaden in scope and increase productivity. It will likely start with the integration of user interface, systems and structured data. Over time RPA will reach to unstructured data and add analytics, machine learning, deep learning and grow to become the knowledge workers best friend in particular specialties.

Digital Assistants:

Digital assistants will evolve like RPA and become smarter to the level of calling on other bots to resolve an inquiry, a specific goal or a complex set of outcomes. At first these assistants will bond to individuals or individual specialty work pools, but over time these assistants will be able to be general in their skill capabilities.  There will still be deep specialty assistants, but the emergence of general purpose genius bots will happen too.

Net; Net: 

Bots are here to assist us and will be prospering in the foreseeable future. Will they take our jobs? I think they will be aimed at assistance unless the job is very low level. The challenge will be to find the sweet spot for these bots and the logical combination of many of them. I believe bots will free us up from drudgery. The balance of human / bot / machine will change over time and be one of the biggest challenges for the next decade.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Let's Meet at the Duce !!

Looking for something to do in Phoenix on the night of September 14th between 5:00 PM and 10:00?  If so, I will be showing some of my art along with another 20+ artists at the ever eclectic "Duce". The Duce is a strange brew of unique food and drink, games. music & and shopping. Just check out the video near the top of the Duce website. (TV Icon)



There is a $20 entrance fee ($25 at the door) for the art show.  Just scroll down on the Conception Phoenix page to the buy tickets button and select my name. I am so looking for ward to seeing you and mingling with the other artists. The food and drink menu looks great. If that doesn't tempt you, you can see some of my latest pieces up close. If you can't make it, check out my website here

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Future of Business is Smarter Digital

For the last few years we have been pursuing digital through taking advantage of better emerging methods and technologies applied to customer interactions, operational productivity and even new digitally enabled usiness models. While these efforts will continue at full speed, they will not be good enough without AI. There are three major thrusts of AI from a business perspective that need to be considered by the CX levels. There is Entity AI, Process AI and Interaction AI, all of which will contribute indivdually or in concert to new ways of doing business while increasing productivity of most every thing and everyone that contributes to business.



Entity AI:

This is where intelligence is applied to each and every person place or thing. Each entity will have the advantage of intelligence apllied to it over and above it's base intelligence. This will be the dynamic and real time application of incremental intelligence as new intelligence emerges or entities are put into new and different contexts. This will be true for knowledge workers as well as each participant of the internet of things (IoT). With programmable GPUs, TPUs and CPUs, intelligence can either be determined at the source (edge) or in aggreagate and pushed to the source (edge). Entity AI alone will increase productiivty greatly.

Process AI:

Process AI is where intelligence will be appiled to pulling in the right resource at the right time and equipping that resource additional intelligence to complete tasks as effeciently and effectively as porssible. Often new diigtal processes witll be goal driven and smart enough to adapt themselves and pick / enhance the resources needed to atain a proper level of goal attainment even if the goals are complex and conflicting.

Interaction AI:

Interaction AI will be looking at what context entities and processes are operating in and apply intelligence that will help them adapt to changing conditions from simple to complex and will help balance between operational and strategic goals. Interaction AI will be looking for the patterns of emerging events to make key decisions, give advice on actions and even take independent action, if given a high freedom level.

Net: Net:

Eveything and everyone will be getting a smart boost from time to time in the new digital business eara. For the new and unititiated, it will be more often than for the more expreienced. However in today's changing world we all will have to play the learing resource role. Let's get digital smart as fast as we can.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stepping Up to Real Digital

It's time that organizations step it up to digital in ways that help everybody win. What I see, out there, is a goodly number of organizations going mobile and declaring victory without looking at the real journey they put their customers, employees and partners through. What I see is the sharpening of internal organization efficiencies for the short term. While these things are all digital baby steps, I'm not seeing people racing to digital in a balanced way. Yes most organizations are increasing productivity and increasing revenues, but few are leveraging digital in a creative and balanced manner. Let's look at the three giant steps that organizations can take to step it up.



Most organizations are stuck in incremental mode leveraging low hanging digital capabilities, while increasing profitability to keep their CEOs and boards off their back. We know digital works, it's time to commit to digital as a business / IT team. Traditional processes and applications are aimed at inward productivity at the expense of customers and strategic advantage. Most organizations are looking at tactical "ME WIN; YOU LOSE" approaches. It is time for  for everybody to win something. If you doubt me, call up one of your favorite utility companies and ask for something other than making a payment online and to visit their web site to defer people costs. When you get to their web site, it's not optimized for real customer journeys. There is basic decision organizations have to make. "Do we shoot for a new business model or do we incrementally get to a more balanced approach?"

Competitive Advantage: (Committed Digital) 

This is a "shoot for the moon" approach that basically causes a significant shift in values, goals and competencies that considers change as a fact of life. There is a deep analysis on new business models and/or radical ways of supporting the existing business model. It is focused on value to the customer, employee and partners while value to the organization builds slowly over time. At the same time care is taken to plan for future change and scenarios that would cause changes in goals or behaviors of people, processes and machines. Most organizations don't start here, but end up here evenetually.

Try Balance First: (Balanced Digital)

This is more incremental, but not easy approach that interjects outward value and digital capability into processes. This delivers happier customers, employees and partners that considers each parties journey and optimizes on the intersections and touchpoints of all participants. There is no advantage to one party over the other. It causes the internal organizational model to change to serve the customers goals along with the organizations goals in a balanced fashion. This is a huge shift in mentality that can in turn add digital to enhnace the experience for real instead of paving over existing cowpaths. This approach sets the table for natural set of steps to competitive advantage and strategic advantage leveraging business and digital change. This is not a bandaide approach to digital; it is a planned approach.

Keep Optimizing: (Bandaid Digital)

Organizations that are run by "bean counters", old school CIOs and lawyers will try to stay put and outflank their customers and competition through savvy internal optimization. This is a bet that says incremental improvement of existing products and services leads to survival over the long term expecting to evolve to something better.  Digitial is used as a bandaide in this approach. This is a very inward facing approach that leads to exposure to competitors with new business models. The optimized and abused will revolt when given a chance.

Net; Net:

No organization can sit still. It's a matter of picking a proper target and making smart adjustments. Stepping up to digital is a reason to become more outwards focused and strategically agile. Digital Business Platforms (DBP) are ideal for supporting incremental digital apporaches that focus on agile adaptation to balanced internal and external goals.