Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Go Big or Go Home Part III: Agent Infused Processes are a Game Changer

Trying to keep your business edge in today's change prone world is a constant challenge.  See http://jimsinur.blogspot.com/2014/01/2014-go-big-or-go-home-part-i-business.html
In order for organizations to flourish, there is a premium on becoming a digital tech savvy organization.
Organizations that have started business transformation efforts are turning to business processes to incrementally transform their business. Since processes represent the "face of the organization" to customers and prospects, businesses are investing into agile and smart processes. Some strategic case studies below:



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These kinds of processes have to smartly manage people, systems and machines. To participate in the digital economy, the business tasks we must ask of computers move from back-office record-keeping to the front line operations of the business. We are automating very different kinds of things: business processes and workflows that are human, knowledge-based phenomena; and opening our core business systems for direct interaction with customers, suppliers, and sometimes with competitors (i.e., the airlines industry). New forms of pervasive communications have allowed forward thinking business people to blur industry boundaries and create virtual corporations, whose core competencies are information and knowledge management, taking much of the operational information once in workers’ heads and codifying it into executable software. This creates complexity that is hard to handle centrally. 

To manage the inherent complexity in enterprise or value chain business processes, smart companies will demand smart processes that go far beyond today’s typical business rules engines. But “smart” doesn’t mean some Orwellian thinking machine; it means agent technology.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. A basic software agent stands on three pillars, three essential properties: autonomy, reactivity, and communicationability. The notion of autonomy means that an agent exercises exclusive control over its own actions and state. Reactivity means sensing or perceiving change in their environment and responding. And, even the most basic software agents have the ability to communicate with other entities: human users, other software agents, or objects.

Add to this definition the ability to plan and set goals, to maintain data and data models (often called “belief models” in academic literature) to reason about the actions of itself and other agents (including humans), and the ability to improve its knowledge and performance through learning, you then have the core ingredients of an “intelligent agent.” An intelligent agent represents a distinct category of software that incorporates local knowledge about its own and other agents’ tasks and resources, allowing it to operate autonomously or as a part of a community of cooperative problem solvers (including human users), each agent having its own roles and responsibilities. Agents can be integrated into process (BPM) frameworks that contain, in one package, specific problem-solving functions, data, and control. Intelligent agents support a natural merging of BPM and knowledge-based technologies. Intelligent agents can facilitate the incorporation of reasoning capabilities (e.g., encapsulation of business rules within agents). They permit the inclusion of learning and self-improvement capabilities at both infrastructure (adaptive routing) and application (adaptive user interfaces) levels. Intelligent user interfaces (supporting task-centered user interfaces and intelligent assistance to end-users) can be a boon to productivity in a complex world of multi-company business processes. With the complexity of tasks inherent in multi-company business processes, we will certainly need a little help from our knowledgeable friends, software agents. These agents can be embedded into existing processes for support or collaborate to create situational processes. See supporting blog posts below:


Net; Net:

To handle the growing challenges of keeping businesses and their supporting processes in synchronization with goals and customer needs, intelligent agent infused processes will be a game changer. This trend is starting in 2014 and I expect agents to be crucial in big change for the foreseeable future.