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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Insufficient Automation Of The Posting Process & Over-Automation Of The Support Process

Tom Evslin's note on the problem he faces set me thinking in terms of online companies ability to meet exceptions. He writes ,”If you have pre-ordered hackoff.com from Amazon as many people have, you may have recently received a confusing email from the bookseller saying that your order was cancelled or that shipment has been delayed”. Tom points out that he is not sure why this is happening and records that Amazon is not able to provide a response on this and I am surprised when he writes that “If you get the "delay" mail, please follow the link back to Amazon and reconfirm your order so they don't cancel it”. While Amazon has an infinite book rack and is willing to sell almost any title an author or publisher can make available, clearly it has done a poor job of automating the process of posting books for sale and absolutely refuses any phone contact with a human being to straighten out things that get fouled up. There is email support but it is probably highly robot-assisted. Answers are only semi-responsive and problems like this one just don't get fixed. Tom is at his best when he says that he understands why the process of dealing with small publishers must be automated but wonders why Amazon can't just give small publishers the tools need to manage own listing pages. Right now we have the worst of both worlds: there is insufficient automation of the posting process and over-automation of the support process.
My Take : From a BPM perspective, exceptions are a result of unexpected disruption of automated processes – which when encountering insufficient/erroneous data owing to structural data issues/handoffs/incorrect business rules and most of the routine management mechanisms are largely symptomatic and are more of an art.The answer lay in good predictive mechanisms , robust investigative processes and automated resolutions and expert interventions orchestrated through well understood collaborative frameworks – Wherever context provides an association to a defined framework – the processes come into interplay more than ever and people talk about end of process. Until the difficult problems of data cleansing, integration, and supplier relationships are solved, strategic benefits from RTE technologies will be limited. As they say, in a real time enterprise, the need is clearly to have real-time access to the most granular level of detail in a business process for better resource management and handle exceptions and decisions.Am sure in the case of Amazon – it is not the limitation of technology - but certainly process mechanisms contribute to issues like this.

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