On Supporting the Use of Procedures in Office Work

Richard E. Fikes, D. A. Henderson, Jr.

In this paper, we discuss the utility of AI techniques in the construction of computer-based systems that support the specification and use of procedures in office work. We begin by arguing that the real work of carrying out office procedures is different in kind from the standard computer science notions of procedure "execution". Specifically, office work often requires planning and problem solving in particular situations to determine what is to be done. This planning is based on the goals of the tasks with which the procedures are associated and takes place in the context of an inherently open-ended body of world knowledge. We explore some of the ways in which a system can provide support for such work and discuss the requirements that the nature of the work places on such support systems. We argue that the AI research fields of planning and knowledge representation provide useful paradigms and techniques for meeting those requirements, and that the requirements, in turn, present new research problems in those fields. Finally, we advocate an approach to designing such office systems that emphasizes a symbiotic relationship between system and office worker.

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