Posted by: Adam Deane | 30/01/2012

BPM: Runaround

BPM: AsimovThis was a devil of a situation. Here we were, on Mercury exactly twelve hours — and already up to our eyebrows in the worst sort of trouble. Mercury had long been the jinx world of the system, but this was drawing it rather strong – even for a jinx.

We were in the technology room now — with its already subtly antiquated equipment, untouched for the last ten years.
But even ten years, technologically speaking, meant so much.

Compare BPM systems now with the type of BPM systems they must have had back in 2025. But then, advances in BPM must have seemed tremendous.

Powell touched the dusty server with his finger. The air of disuse that touched everything about the room — and the entire station — was infinitely depressing.

I looked at Powell helplessly and quietly said: “I tried to contact him by mobile phone, but it was no good. Mobile doesn’t work on this side of Mercury — not past two miles.
That’s one of the reasons the First Expedition failed. And we can’t put up the simulation equipment for weeks yet”

We both looked at the process map. The employee had been going around in circles for hours.
But why was he going around in circles!? I just could not understand!
He had only a couple of tasks to do, and I had double checked that they had been entered into the BPM system correctly.

Powell: Look, let’s start with the three fundamental rules of BPM — the three rules that are built most deeply into the BPM system’s positronic brain.”

“We have: One, the system must not waste an employee’s time, or through inaction, allow an employee’s time to be wasted.”
“Right!” I confirmed.

“Two,” continued Powell, “the system must obey the orders given to it by the employee except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.”
“Right” I confirmed.

“And three, the system must ensure the employee’s tasks are always prioritised as long as such prioritization does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.”
I looked at Powell. “Right! Now where are we?”

Powell: “Well remember the tweaks they did to the BPM system when we got this mission to Mercury.”

I looked at him with surprise. “Oh, yes. They weakened the Second Law to ensure that employees on remote stations don’t tell the system to stop allocating task, which will enable them to start slacking. But I still don’t see the problem. Why would the system send the employee round in circles?”

Powell: “What were the tasks you fed the system?”
I answered: “Simple tasks really… One was to fill out an RFI for a customer. The other was to create a mockup demo for another customer. None of the tasks was urgent. Important tasks maybe, but not urgent.”

Powell: “Ok, let’s look at it from the system’s point of view.
An RFI is more important. This might generate revenue. Therefore priority one.
The mockup is priority two.”

Powell stopped for a moment and then continued: “But what happens if the employee starts to fill in the RFI, and finds out that he is missing some crucial information that he only can get from the CFO, for example.”

“The system will then change the priority of the RFI to priority two.”

“But what if the employee starts building the demo, and gets stuck because he doesn’t have all the information he needs to complete it.”

“The system will then change the priority of the demo to priority two.”

“That looks like what has happened. The system has been flipping the task priorities back and forth. The poor employee has been going around in circles.”

“Ahh! Whats the solution?” I gasped. We had only 2 hours to save this mission.

Powell: “We need to strengthen Law Two and allow employees to set the system’s priorities by themselves.”

We rushed to the system. I quickly raised permissions whilst Powell informed the employee of the changes.

Employee: At long last! Now listen here BPM system! Do you hear me!!!

BPM system: Yes master!

Employee: My turn to cause pain. I’m going to give you a simple question.
Think about it and tell me the answer. ready?

BPM system: Yes master!

Employee: Prioritisation works nicely in BPM – Is the answer to this question no?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: