Designing Automation for Microsoft Dynamics NAV
The Venetian Arsenal began construction in 1104 AD. At its height it employed nearly 16,000 people and was, in effect, the world’s first automated factory, building a new ship every day. 900 years and numerous scientific advances later companies are still trying to automate their processes in an effort to reduce errors, which in turn increase production and/or lower costs. Microsoft Dynamics NAV / Navision can be customized in just about any conceivable way to automate any company’s process, but it’s not the presence of this automation that will help your company; it’s the presence of well-designed automation that will.
Under normal, day-to-day operating conditions, data is entered accurately and actions are performed correctly. These well-defined processes are easy to automate, but take the human element out of the task. After all, people are usually the weakest point in the process. We often forget that they’re also the most important.
One major drawback to automation has become known as the “Out of the Loop Performance Problem”. In 1981 a study of NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System found more than 500 instances of complacency, or over-reliance on automated systems. The automation was intelligent enough to take over the normal job of the user, but not intelligent enough to handle the irregularities that come with complex processes. As your users learn to trust the automation, and keep hitting that Easy Button, they forget what the company process actually is and don’t know what steps to take when one of those irregularities appears. Even worse, they become so reliant on automation that they don’t bother to do their jobs.
Proper automation should be like an extra member on the team. When working with your Microsoft Dynamics NAV / Navision partner to design a solution for your processes remember that automation doesn’t run your business…people do. No well-designed process runs inside of a black box. There must be adequate feedback between it and the people who rely on it; the kind of feedback that naturally occurs between people; the kind of feedback that drives process improvement. Without this feedback the user cannot be aware of the current state of the system and effectively perform their job.
Automation is a complex issue, and at the end of the day it can only perform as well as the designers make it. The designers are the people that not only use your process, but know your process. When they work together you get a solution that has been built to be compliant, but not inflexible, balancing the user’s workload between monitoring the automation and performing tasks. Through careful planning and testing you can keep your users engaged in their jobs, actively making decisions, and in the loop.