Automation — another long tail


Descending frequency of different tasks moving left to right — and the who and what performs these tasks

Jason Kingdon illustrates what types of tasks are done by different parts of an organization and argues that that more use can be made of “Software Robots” to handle those many different types of tasks that occur with low frequency, aka in the long tail — stretching out to the right. (That is, each particular type of task in this region occurs with low frequency but there are many of these low frequency task types).

The chart shows how often particular tasks are carried out, ranked in descending order left to right, and who (or what) does the task — an organization’s core IT group, its support IT group, or end users.

  • Core IT has taken on tasks such as payroll, accounting, finance, and HR
  • Support IT has taken on roles such as CRM systems, business analytics, web support, and process management
  • People still staff call centers to work with customers and people are still used to correct errors, handle invoices, and monitor regulation/compliance implementation.

Kingdon says that Software Robots mimic humans and work via the same interfaces that humans do, thereby making them forever compatible. That is, they don’t work at some deeper abstracted systems logic, but rather via the same interface as people. Software Robots are trained, not programmed and they work in teams to solve problems.

I think there is something to this and look forward to hearing more.

One thought on “Automation — another long tail

  1. David Mattes

    I think Jason brings up a great point about Operations struggling to work with IT for these custom one-off solutions… for anything in the long-tail. These struggles lead to increased organizational friction. My expertise is in the area of networking for industrial automation (ICS) devices, and I’ve seen exactly this kind of friction at nearly every organization that has to support standard IT and ICS connectivity. In order to achieve the kinds of automation Jason proposes, vendors (and standards) need to step up and provide tools that support these automated work flows. This is something I’ve been working on for 10 years in the area of secure networks.


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