The Problem with User Tasks in Process Analysis
A user task is a task that is performed by a human with the help of a software (e.g. typing a document into MS Word). As you know, the human behaviour, in its uniqueness, is plagued with characteristics such as errors, bias and delays– all of which systems and automations are immune to. This write-up aims to showcase the problems faced with humans executing mundane business processes, in place, as opposed to automations/systems. You could revert back to my post on Process: The SI Unit of Business to better understand this.
What is an Ideal Process?
An ideal process should consist of a combination of human and automated activities/tasks. However, the ratio should be 1:4 respectively, where the number of automated tasks can be more, but the number of human tasks should always remain relatively less than 30%. What do I mean by the gibberish above?
Now, looking at the Process below:
Keys to aid interpretation:
this is a user task
this is an automated task
(how many of these have you spotted?)
So, what are the problems with having humans in a process?
user tasks are prone to errors (of course, to err is human…)
user tasks will be processed based on subjectivity/bias, experience/lack of.
user tasks leave room for variation. Users can decide to perform a task in whatever order they want. E.g. Grace can put the milk before the coffee, while Mark would put his coffee before the milk.
the execution of a user task is dependent on available time. The only time Grace would respond to that email to thank you for registering, is if she has the available time to do so.
tacit knowledge (know-how) is lost when the user leaves the company and new staff may struggle to work as exceptionally as the previous staff.
user tasks are affected by mood, which means that the user can decide to make more effort, less effort or no effort to get a task done (example is the ability to go above and beyond for a customer, not all staff would care to).
user tasks rely on expertise, i.e., a new staff may execute a task slower than an old staff.
user tasks subconsciously evolve/adapt processes. The problem with this is that it leads to inconsistency when other people perform the same tasks/process.
An ideal process is a process that can be easily quantified, and controlled. With the addition of the flaws noted in all of the above, it prevents tracking and auditing. These make it difficult to measure the amount of time it takes to get work done. If the Process time cannot be measured, then improving it will be even more difficult.
Your job as a human is to create and approve tasks, while computers are to execute those tasks. Humans are not built for mundane activities; they are built to author and manage the computers that should do the mundane activities. This is why automation is MOSTLY the answer.
If you need a professional to come into your organisation and validate your Processes, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Author: Nnenaa Stevenson