They allow you to record a situation at a particular moment
(for example, how many people visit your website ?). As
the interpretation of the results can only be carried
out by people, the agent can only present facts as far
as they are measurable.
Working on certain established programmes, these agents
can put forward recommendations and influence management
decisions. As defining the work is the phase where human
intelligence is most needed, for the moment the agents
can only intervene marginally if the problems are complex.
On the other hand, for simple tasks, agents can prove
to be extremely efficient (in cases where the phase of
analysis and consideration is easily standardised).
The agent takes over the execution of a list of predefined
tasks, to replace a human operator. The programmes which
run automated production lines in car factories are this
type of agent. They can carry out linear, parallel or
recurrent tasks. The agent can be programmed to change
or halt the list of tasks according to external events.
The majority of the previous phase's results can be measured
by certain variables. These could apply, for example,
to an online advertising campaign : how many advertising
panels were displayed, how many mouse clicks, how many
sales took place, the average amount spent on each order,
In order to set up a system of agents to carry out a
particular task, these four steps (audit, preparation,
execution, control) must be identified and standardised
(try to break down each step into a series of very simple
actions linked together). Next, you must analyse the feasibility
and cost of developing a specially adapted agent.
At present, however, agents can only be used for a limited
number of tasks. A few crucial points should be taken
into account when trying to evaluate whether an agent
could be useful.
The idea of vital tasks should be considered : how serious
would be the result of the agent system's breakdown ?
The more vital the task, the higher should be the level
of dependability. Agents belong to a group of programmes
which are particularly susceptible to viruses, so a careful
evaluation of the risks involved is essential.
The system must be able to adapt to cope with the a rising
volume of work, anticipate new needs, change over to a
new, more powerful system if necessary (in other words,
avoid being limited to one type of technology which is
incompatible with other agents' systems).
According to the tasks required of an agent, the result
can vary considerably : the higher the amount of analysis
required, the more essential a human presence is, the
more difficult it will be to use an agent.