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Automation: Challenges and Opportunities

This article breaks automation down into degrees, from fully human-controlled processes to fully computer-controlled processes.

What is automation?

Automation is the process of replacing manual activities with automatic ones. This can either happen for individual tasks or for an entire workflow. Automation helps us with ensuring that a process is easier to execute, faster and reusable.

It can be helpful to think of automation in degrees*:

  1. The computer offers no assistance, and the human must do it all. This is effectively the absence of automation.
  2. The computer suggests alternative ways to do a task.
  3. The computer selects one way to do the task and then either executes that suggestion if the human approves;
  4. or allows the human or restricted time to veto before automatic execution;
  5. or automatically executes, then necessarily informs the human;
  6. or executes automatically, then informs the human only if asked.
  7. The computer selects the method, executes the task and ignores the human.

When it comes to designing our process in a continuous and agile context, automation can become essential to allow for localization to keep up with development and release cycles. In order to decide where automation is appropriate in a particular context, it can be very useful to first clarify the nature of the task that we are trying to achieve and whether this particular task is best suited for automation or for human intervention.

Article by Tabea De Wille, University of Limerick, Dept. of Computer Science & Information Systems

*List adapted from Sheridan, T.B. (2002). Humans and automation: System design and research issues. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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