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For example, CUNA Mutual’ s pilot program focused on automating transactional activities for its claims adjusters. Not only did the pilot meet the strategic goal to increase capacity without increasing headcount, it also gave claims adjusters time to be more strategic in their assessments of claim payments and denials and allowed the finance team the opportunity to be more strategic in executing their process. This level of satisfaction is a rarity for many IT applications. Meeting expectations may be easier for automation and robotics given they often have a clear process to automate and a measurable business case.
“When I started, my job literally took me eight hours a day,” an early self-automator, whom I’ll call Gary, told me. He worked for a large corporate hotel chain that was beginning to computerize its workflow in the ’90s. Gary quickly recognized that he was spending a lot of his time repeating the same tasks, so he started learning to code after-hours. “Over the course of about three months, I built a piece of code in Lotus [1-2-3, then a popular PC spreadsheet program] that not only automated individual repetitive tasks, it effectively automated the entire job,” he says. He didn’t tell his bosses exactly what he had done, and the quality of his working life improved considerably.
“Selenium is the go-to UI automation tool. The other credible open source tools are essentially a wrap-around tool around Selenium. For web service testing, I prefer REST Assured. SoapUI is another option used frequently and offers a professional version in addition to open source. Testing G and Junit are popular for verification tools. For BDD, Cucumber and Specflow are popular with the Microsoft stack of development tools.”
If stepping up is your chosen approach, you will probably need a long education. A master’s degree or a doctorate will serve you well as a job applicant. Once inside an organization, your objective must be to stay broadly informed and creative enough to be part of its ongoing innovation and strategy efforts. Ideally you’ll aspire to a senior management role and thus seize the opportunities you identify. Listen to Barney Harford, the CEO of Orbitz—a business that has done more than most to eliminate knowledge worker jobs. To hire for the tasks he still requires people to do, Harford looks for “T-shaped” individuals. Orbitz needs “people who can go really deep in their particular area of expertise,” he says, “and also go really broad and have that kind of curiosity about the overall organization and how their particular piece of the pie fits into it.” That’s good guidance for any knowledge worker who wants to step up: Start thinking more synthetically—in the old sense of that term. Find ways to rely on machines to do your intellectual spadework, without losing knowledge of how they do it. Harford has done that by applying “machine learning” to the generation of algorithms that match customers with the travel experiences they desire.
Let’s assume that computers are going to make their mark in your line of work. Indeed, let’s posit that software will soon perform most of the cognitive heavy lifting you do in your job and, as far as the essential day-to-day operation of the enterprise is concerned, make decisions as good as (probably better than) those made by 90% of the people who currently hold it. What should your strategy be to remain gainfully employed? From an augmentation perspective, people might renegotiate their relationship to machines and realign their contributions in five ways.
There's plenty of failure in that combination. First of all, the feedback loop from development to test is delayed. It is likely that the code doesn't have the hooks and affordances you need to test it. Element IDs might not be predictable, or might be tied to the database, for example. With one recent customer, we couldn't delete orders, and the system added a new order as a row at the bottom. Once we had 20 test runs, the new orders appeared on page two! That created a layer of back and forth where the code didn't do what it needed to do on the first pass. John Seddon, the British occupational psychologist, calls this "failure demand," which creates extra work (demand) on a system that only exists because the system failed the first time around.
Authors Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster wrote the field's seminal text, Software Test Automation, which has guided many organizations toward success. Now, in Experiences of Test Automation, they reveal test automation at work in a wide spectrum of organizations and projects, from complex government systems to medical devices, SAP business process development to Android mobile apps and cloud migrations.
The centrifugal governor, which was invented by Christian Huygens in the seventeenth century, was used to adjust the gap between millstones. Another centrifugal governor was used by a Mr. Bunce of England in 1784 as part of a model steam crane. The centrifugal governor was adopted by James Watt for use on a steam engine in 1788 after Watt’s partner Boulton saw one at a flour mill Boulton & Watt were building.
“I see it as a grassroots effort by office workers and others who use a computer as part of their job,” Al Sweigart, the author of Automate the Boring Stuff With Python, told me in an email. Even those with little or no familiarity with programming are now seeking out his work, driven by the ease of automating modern jobs. “I get emails from readers who tell me that they’ve freed up several hours of their (and their coworkers’) days with a collection of small programs,” Sweigart writes.
Support includes the tools that testers use to move faster or extend their reach. Software to generate random names to use for input, or test data in general, falls into this category, as well as software to create screen captures and videos. This type of software exists to record all of the interactions that a tester has had with various fields, simulators for mobile devices, and developer environments that blend into the background and pop-up on command to record notes.
I know a little about “Process Automation”, but I work in Flokzu, a cloud tool in the second category. So if you were looking for BPM, I suggest to take a look at this tool that implements the 4 basic stages of BPM: Modeling, Deploy and Automation (with 1 click, no coding), Measuring (using KPI's) and Improving your process. It also provides a free ready-to-use process library that will let you understand what kind of processes can be automated.
Some will step up to even higher levels of cognition, where machines can’t follow. Some will step aside, drawing on forms of intelligence that machines lack. Some will step in, to monitor and adjust computers’ decision making. Some will step narrowly into very specialized realms of expertise. And, inevitably, some will step forward, by creating next-generation machines and finding new ways for them to augment the human strengths of workers.
Alex Colon is the managing editor of PCMag's consumer electronics team. He previously covered mobile technology for PCMag and Gigaom. Though he does the majority of his reading and writing on various digital displays, Alex still loves to sit down with a good, old-fashioned, paper and ink book in his free time. (Not that there's anything wrong wit... See Full Bio
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Stepping up may be an option for only a small minority of the labor force. But a lot of brain work is equally valuable and also cannot be codified. Stepping aside means using mental strengths that aren’t about purely rational cognition but draw on what the psychologist Howard Gardner has called our “multiple intelligences.” You might focus on the “interpersonal” and “intrapersonal” intelligences—knowing how to work well with other people and understanding your own interests, goals, and strengths.
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BPA supports your knowledge workers and helps minimize operational costs, freeing up personnel to perform higher-level tasks. Clients are happier because you can assist them immediately and cut down on human error. In organizations where relationships are king, BPA can significantly enhance human interaction and decision-making, as well as create real-time transparency.