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One of the early architectural choices will be the location of the automated boundary. The choice will be some where on the line:

           Fully                                          Fully           
  Manual                                        Automated
Although the trend is to move the automation boundary out to the system boundary in an attempt to achieve full automation, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to completely automate an information system.

The manual vs automated decision can be made on an event by event basis. In order to completely automate an essential event, the stimulus must arrive as digitial media and mode, the update responses must all update automated state, and the message responses must be delivered using digital mode and media. If any part of the essential event involves human processing, then at least part of the essential event will need to be processed using manual processors.

Automation Boundary (Top)

Figure 1 illustrates the impact of adding a boundary that separates a system into a manual partition and an automated partition. In most modern information systems, this boundary will split an essential event that can not be completely automated into two practical events, one in the manual partition and one in the automated partition. Note that the introduction of the boundary will require the design of appropriate interfaces including infrastructure and administrative controls.

Figure 1: Splitting an Essential Event

Practical Events (Top)

Figure 2 shows a general architecture for an enterprise application. It involves three basic types of events.

Figure 2: General System Architecture

Note that these events are categorized by the boundary that the stimulus crosses. It is quite common to have a manual event respond by generating an operator event which responds by generating an automated response back to the actor. It is also not unusual for an automated event to generate a manual response.

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Prepared by David L. March -- Last Revised on October 25, 2002