ServiceNow Aims to Apply Machine Learning Algorithms to Workflow

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    Although most people inside organizations are loath to admit it, the primary reason things are done the way they are is because that’s the way they’ve always been done. Codified in some dusty binder hidden away in a cabinet somewhere are the rationales for various business processes that made perfect sense a decade or more ago.

    ServiceNow is aiming to help organizations update those processes by acquiring DxContinuum, a developer of data models based on machine learning algorithms capable of observing existing workflow processes and then finding ways to automate as many of the tasks associated with them as possible.

    Dave Wright, chief strategy officer for ServiceNow, says that while there’s a lot of interest in machine learning algorithms, very little of that research is being applied to improving the way people work. Many people are frustrated by the processes they need to implement every day. They know those processes are somehow inefficient. But putting their finger on exactly where all the bottlenecks and inefficiencies in a specific process are eludes them. The machine learning algorithm created by DxContinuum will be embedded into ServiceNow workflow applications to make it simpler to understand what tasks make up a particular business process.

    Taking advantage of machine learning algorithms to make processes involving machines more efficient is one thing. Applying that technology to create a better work experience for people involves a whole other set of issues and challenges. Some people naturally resist change. There’s also no telling what the motivations of the management team trying to automate a set of process really are.

    “It really comes down to company philosophy,” says Wright. “A lot of people are going to end up with completely different jobs.”

    At this point, it’s no longer a question of whether the way work is performed changes, but rather when. Obviously, that can be scary. But approached in the right manner, it also creates new opportunities to eliminate a lot of day-to-day drudgery that many people complain is sapping their souls. In fact, there’s probably no better time for employees to start defining new roles for themselves inside the organization than the present.

    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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