business and office automation for people empowerment

As a design engineer, I am interested in people, in businesses and how information technology can work for both. In that specific order.

My primary goal when designing automation infrastructure is to provide people the means to get the best out of themselves. To let them do their job as efficiently and comfortably as possible. To unburden them so they can focus on their real task instead of being distracted by operational or procedural noise. So they can effectively put to use their energy, talent and skills and positively add to the organization’s success.

People aren’t cheap, though, neither are they flawless nor always aware of (or paying attention to) the bigger picture. Automation solutions ought thus help prevent errors without becoming a yoke, should enforce business rules without losing sight of their ultimate purposes, should warn and inform about consequences yet stay clear from Big Brother, should delicately and slowly revolutionize working habits.

Projects are finite and automation implementation projects even more so, whereas operation and consumption of those solutions evidently are not. In order to successfully adopt information technology in an organization’s business processes, instead of only telling how to build something, designs should cover how to operate and maintain it equally well. The organization around an implementation should not be left up to supporting parties alone but form an integral part of the design. Costs of ownership, in all its forms, should not come as a surprise, neither should durability.

The very nature of information technology inevitably causes interdependencies between solutions and on all aspects of it: legal, security, licensing, usability, support, availability, cost, et cetera. To remain in control it is paramount that development is guided by a thorough understanding of the overall interplay between solutions whilst considering the technical consequences and trade‑offs; constantly travelling back and forth between these levels of detail.

Developing a vision of the end‑user workplace realm, intimately working with the backend and infrastructure supporting it, and derive from it corporate strategies and design guidelines requires the assessment of all forces shaping the near and far future, taking into account an organization’s past and culture and making politically sound diplomatic moves. Paradoxically, most innovations must evolve to survive so backing has to be earned, detours taken and compromises sought.

Nowadays, corporate employees face the challenge to fulfill their increasingly complex duties in an ever more customer driven, tenaciously interactive world. Of great importance in many businesses are the soft- and hardware tools with which employees justify and administer their actions, calculate and fulfill orders, communicate and defer agreements. These tools, being as specialized as they are to answer specific business needs, are more than often complemented with endpoint office automation functionality such as communication, document sharing, reproduction and presentation. Yet all of this functionality is consumed via channels or interfaces supplied and supported by their corporation, such as corporate desk- and laptops, virtual private networks, cloud and extranet services.

The effectiveness of and efficiency with which each employee carries out his or her tasks, ultimately impacts the quality and timely delivery of products to end-customers. Red tape, task decimation and over‑automation do not exactly improve scores on these quantities. On the other hand, personal skills and experience are not the only factors that positively impact named quantities: comfort and pleasantness, as opposed to irritation and frustration, heavily influence both as well  [1]Ford’s Giant Green Roof Started Ten Years Ago; How Things Have Changed [2]Herman Miller: Creating a Culture of Sustainability.

It is my strong belief that end‑users, id est: people whose production outcome is an integral and significant part of an organization’s success, as well as the core business processes that encompass them, are to be treated as the primary source of directives for the design, implementation, support and life-cycle management of automation systems used by them.

At the same time, corporate foci such as security, corporate identity, sustainability and maintainability, competitiveness, social responsibility and public accountability, form and intricate field of forces in which automation implementations, their respective maintenance and support plans and roadmaps are to be developed adhering to financial, quality, functional and durability objectives.

It is in this area of often opposite requirements that I feel most at home trying to achieve solutions that are beneficial and valuable to both end‑users and organization.



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