Is automation the only way to people-centric operations?

Some time ago I talked to you about People Centric Operations. The idea that operations and processes should be rebuilt around people and not the other way around seems to me, in some sectors of activity, as interesting as relevant and I decided to start digging into the subject.

But for the moment the subject seems to be embryonic and if there is an excellent research work from INSEAD it is more about the “why” than the “how”.

Besides that I came across this white paper that I read with interest.

The art of successful automation

I’ll tell you right now if you are looking for a detailed and exhaustive approach on the subject you will be disappointed.

This document is nothing more or less than a quick state of the art on automation practices. Very interesting for those who are interested in the subject but in my opinion it misses a part of the topic. Not surprising, however, from a vendor that sells automation solutions.

It assumes that for a business to become “People First” is to give anyone the means to automate a process.

This is an excellent thing because, in my opinion, a “People Centric” culture should allow everyone to focus on the tasks where their added value is greatest and therefore automate those, often routine and repetitive, where it is weak.

This is important but it does not answer all the questions.


I come back to a subject that was dear to me when most of my concerns revolved around collaboration.

In a business, you have two types of processes: those that are easily repeatable (ERP – Easily Repeatable Processes) and those that are not (BRP – Barely Repeatable Processes).

The first ones are easy to identify, document, improve, the human contribution is quite low and it is urgent to automate them. But I think it’s so obvious that the question doesn’t need to be asked and that limiting ourselves to this perimeter is tantamount to overlooking the essential.

But what about the latter? They are more like case management and if they follow general principles, they must be adapted to each case and it is precisely those that lend themselves best to this reflection. And they constitute the core of the daily life of knowledge workers.

Unanswered questions

So at this stage it remains to

  • clearly define what is meant by People Centric Operations
  • in what way can people act on a given process
  • with what limits and control.
  • what is the respective role of people and the organization
  • how to identify or intervene and the impact of the intervention

Or do we say that the only answer is to automate what can be automated and leave the rest as is? This does not satisfy me.

Bottom line

Today, the impact of human behaviors on operations is more a research topic than an operational reality, and that’s a pity because it corresponds to a real situation where the nature of work has become more service-oriented, requires an increased use of knowledge and is evolving rapidly.

But that doesn’t stop us from continuing to ask how to make operations more agile and people-centric in the knowledge industry.

Image: automation from EtiAmmos via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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