Agents are powerful in many ways. in this post I would like to highlight the interchangeability of agents. Before we progress to that key feature of agents, one needs to have an operating definition of an agent. What’s an agent?
Backing away from technology for a moment, the everyday term, agent, provides a starting definition: “one who acts for, or in the place of, another.” A software agent is a software package that carries out tasks for others, autonomously without being controlled by its master once the tasks have been delegated. The “others” may be human users, business processes, workflows or applications. See http://jimsinur.blogspot.com/2013/09/harnessing-business-complexity-with.html
Agents, like SOA, have the ability to dynamically aggregate, orchestrate sequence of utilization and have focused actions. The similarities start to fade when one considers true interchangeability of agent types.
Agents are not Limited to Software:
Agent interchangeability is quite heterogeneous. Agents can be software, but they can be skilled human resources, machines or process snippets that already exist. This makes agents quite useful in managing resources in real time and dynamic modes. If an agent resource is busy or not available, another form of the same agent can take the action on behalf of another. For Instance, if a human resource can't deal with a task in time, a machine intelligent agent can take the persons place with proper checks and balances. This is seen in unmanned aircraft.
Agents are not Limited to Central Control:
Agents can self organize when necessary. The interchangeability can be managed by goals (desirable business outcomes) and constraints (undesirable business outcomes) independent of central control. This does not mean that agents can't play well in a centrally controlled situation, but agents add the extra dimension of autonomy and independence when desired. Agents can live in a mixed mode as well. This becomes important when complexity inhibits a centralized response.
Agents Do not Have Limits to Collaboration:
People collaborate well with other people in their network and technologies collaborate well within their architecture and technical environments. Take them out of their designed and established environments and business limitations and timing incompatibilities start to emerge. Agents can go beyond traditional boundaries in that they can leverage excess capacity in human capital pools foreign to organizations. Agents can also collaborate across technical boundaries like no other technological architectures unless vendors put artificial limits due to revenue issues.
Agents are quite flexible in their ability to interact and interchange with intelligence. For complex outcomes and processes, this is very desirable feature.
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