Using Workforce Automation as the method for Enterprise Architecture

Written by James R. Lord

I met with Dr. Leon Kappelman a couple of weeks ago at Starbucks where we enjoyed a wonderful conversation over non-coffees. Dr. Kappelman is the chair for SIMEAWG (Society for Information Management's Enterprise Architecture Working Group) and as such is doing some very interesting and good work on the issues facing Enterprise Architecture (EA).

His article, "Bridging the Chasm", states the vision of EA as being the bridging of the gap between strategy and implementation.

As Enterprise Architecture is to Dr. Kappelman, so Workforce Automation is to me. In our discussion, we realized that our two areas of expertise meshed beautifully - Workforce Automation is the method by which Enterprise Architecture may achieve its goals.

Think about that phrase above defining the vision of EA: "...bridging of the gap between strategy and implementation."

In other words, the strategists come up with a direction to take the company, now the workforce has to implement it. But between those two easily-said steps may lay uncontrolled costs, huge delays, misinterpretation and conversion risk. And ever more often these days, the strategists are in a position of having to change direction again before the previous edict has been fully implemented.

Prior to workforce automation (and I’m not talking about the pseudo-workforce automation of the last decade), we have always been up against a natural and lengthy process – that of the requirement to evolve an operative paradigm in order to transfer the knowledge of how the strategists and visionaries saw to do a thing into the heads of the larger workforce that would actually perform the tasks (I’m using “operative paradigm” here to mean a cultural view of how to do a thing (process) as opposed to the broader Khunian paradigm world view – and the “operational paradigm” is the entire business process model that the workers must carry around in their heads to know how to function in their workplace).

New methods being taught to the workers must compete with the current operative paradigm – often creating a friction that leads to misinterpretation and turbulence. The instruction set for a new methodology must await the evolution of a new operative paradigm to reduce resistance and increase efficacy. And because paradigms are contextual (low in specific detail) in nature, there is still a limit to the organizational benefits a newly evolving operative paradigm will bring about. This is why, even over many generations of learning, operations are still “messy” and not actively formulative.

With this understanding, I feel we arrive at a reason for actual urgency in EA. Since the law of accelerating returns is driving increased rates of change throughout human society, we can see a time coming (or are we already upon it?) where the increasing rate of industrial/technological change is driving a needed similar increase in the iterative evolutions of operational methodologies. To the point where the time between any two subsequent methodologies, the latter being a necessary evolution of the first, does not leave time for a corresponding operative paradigm to evolve. As a result, we must find a replacement for what operational paradigms provide and ideally a replacement that is not contextual but explicit. Such a replacement must be able to take any strategic change of operations and immediately confer it to the workforce effectively without waiting for an operational paradigm to evolve. This is what workforce automation is really all about – removing the need for an operational paradigm to even exist.

We want to remove the timelines, low granularity and frictional effects of the operative paradigms from the equation. The trick to replacing the need for an operational paradigm is to remove the need to transfer knowledge of process from the strategists to the workers. Do so and we remove the source of friction between the implementation of new strategy and any current operative paradigms (we also remove the need for the operational paradigm altogether).

Workforce Automation is the implementation of process without the requirement of the worker’s knowledge of the process. I believe the heavy lifting of EA will be the creation of a Workforce Automation methodology (including interpretive modules) that transfers policy directly from the strategic leaders of an organization to the workers on demand and without distortion (the negative effects of current operative paradigms).

Today, the QBOS Tradespace platform is probably the most innovative Workforce Automation system in existence. Our partners have the ability to implement Workforce Automation for their clients directly into the very applications they simultaneously build for their clients, significantly increasing the value of those applications while simultaneously reducing their total cost of ownership.

I look forward to seeing more of Dr. Kappelman and SIMEAWG's work as it progresses. If you would like to learn more, click here to obtain a copy of "The SIM Guide to Enterprise Architecture".

Jim Lord, CEO
QBOS, Inc.