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Frugal Engineering to digitalise Standard Operating Procedures

Frugal Engineering is the science of breaking up complex engineering processes to reduce the complexity and cost of producing products, without compromising quality.

One example of Frugal Engineering is the use of emergent tools designed for people to build and deploy chatbot products without the need for software engineers. Within these authoring tools are high degrees of automation that reduces the complexity and cost of producing conversation-as-a-service.  This category of Frugal Engineering has the potential to be game changing and disruptive. It also means this type of digital transformation can be co-developed with traditional software developers who would undertake more specialised work, such as deploying cognitive sciences, data science, machine learning and robotic process automation.

Chatbots augment humans: citizens, customers, employees and suppliers - everybody.   

The very nature of conversation means the opportunities for conversation-as-a-service are highly diverse and impact every public and private sector.  

One niche, albeit very large, is the area of standard operating procedures. Traditionally, these procedures are documents covering instructions for people to undertake tasks, which follow the rules such as those found in policies, regulation and best practices.  It has been long argued that procedures in documented form are not fit for purpose, because they are difficult to use and easy to misuse. Think about this: procedures contain choices, pathways and outcomes, which means they are algorithms.  Regardless to the controls and audit of standard operating procedures, the reality is that at least 95% of procedural documents contain weak algorithms. This systemic weakness is further compounded as there is no transparency and traceability of the user decision journeys through the procedural documents.

Let’s rethink procedures. They contain a wealth of knowledge that is applied in practice. Frugal Engineering provides the means for the digitalisation of standard operating procedures into conversations-as-a-service. The process to create, share, measure and evolve procedures as working, measurable knowledge assets is now achievable at scale.  

For too long, standard operating procedures have been the poor relation of wave after wave of transformational models. Yet, standard operating procedures are one of the most important instruments for governance, compliance and productivity.  Their importance will be amplified with the wholesale change being driven by Brexit, and the ongoing transformation of heavily regulated industries such as health, finance, pharmaceutical, construction etc.    

This is not a technology challenge.

This is simply a mindset challenge.   




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Freddie McMahon

Freddie McMahon

Director Strategy and Innovation

DF2020 Ltd

Member since

04 Aug 2017



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