Humans in the Loop...Ugh!

Sean Chou

Sean Chou

· 2 min read

digital-transformation future-of-work

Humans in the loop.

In the automation industry, this phrase is actually a thing. A widely-used and accepted phrase. And it’s so cringe-worthy.[1] It sounds like something from a dystopian future where our robot overlords think of humans as an intrusion in their environment. An undesirable disruption to an otherwise flawless system.

This would be just be a wry comment; except that it points to a very real, deeply-rooted problem in our industry. The problem is that this phrase is actually symptomatic of a mindset where the end goal is, in fact, to replace humans with bots. Sure, we may use nice sounding words such as “augmenting people” but there is a wide gulf between that mindset and ours at Catalytic. There is a profound difference in philosophy and origin that has practical implications.

At Catalytic, we put people first, not as an intrusion. Not as an afterthought.

Our mission is to dramatically improve our customer’s operations by elevating people through technology, freeing them to focus on more meaningful work. We started Catalytic by building a modern workflow engine that orchestrates tasks and streamlines handoffs between people. And, as a result of talking to task doers, we quickly realized that automation can be a great way to supercharge operations.

We don’t think about putting humans in the loop. In fact, we think quite the opposite. We think about about putting bots in the loop.

This important difference in mindset has resulted in a number of differences in platforms. On our platform, everything starts with people. Our platform natively and effortlessly manages workflow by helping people work better together, automating low-value tasks with bots, and integrating with systems. In our experience, these are essential ingredients to being a world-class leader in operations. With Catalytic, these capabilities are not awkward bolt-ons as they are in many automation, integration, or business process management platforms. They are an integral part of our platform – purpose-built for process excellence.

The Catalytic platform puts people first, and makes us people the best we can be. Sure, there will be some processes that will be fully automated (and consistently so), but those are the low hanging fruit that will prove to be the exception. Most processes will be a combination of people, bots, and AI working together. The future workforce will have bots and AI doing the things that they’re good at, allowing people to focus on the tasks that require creativity, human empathy, higher-level thinking, general-purpose problem solving, and – well, to be honest, the list of things that people do better is still ridiculously long.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if our people could spend more time with colleagues, customers, and suppliers. Or spend more time studying problems and coming up with out-of-the-box solutions. We could improve experience, innovate, and create rather than rush through transactional quotas.

That’s the sort of future we imagine. People having the freedom to do the things that people do best, and looping in bots to do the things we designed them to do!

[1] Yes, I reference cringe-worthiness in my blog on Why the world needs Pushbot as well! The AI movement creates so many moments that make me, as a technologist that still actually likes people, cringe.