Automation Reality Check

Dont_wait_automate

1 min read

Too many organizations fall into the trap of investing heavily into automation only to have it fail to return expected value. This typically boils down to misguided leadership expecting automation to magically fix messy broken operations. It won’t.

Successful leaders apply the following hierarchical mindset to their operations:

Eliminate work that is unnecessary.

Optimize the work that is necessary.

Automate what is automatable from optimized processes.

Automating something that could be eliminated is not a win, it’s a waste of time and money. Automation also works best on things that are consistent and repeatable.

Use automation as a means to further optimize necessary work in already optimized operations—not as a means to try and avoid fixing broken processes. In response to a presentation on how much automation existed in a data center I once observed someone seeing through the numbers quip:

“So basically the ship is staying afloat, but only because you have a lot of automated duct-tape-appliers running around below deck patching the holes that keep developing. That’s impressive, but shouldn’t our objective here be to build a ship that doesn’t keep developing holes in its hull?”

They clearly got the necessity metric concept and saw right past the glowing presentation they were being asked to sit through.

If an organization boasts about high automation but is thin on details about fundamental improvement efforts (including challenging the necessity of that automation) then this should be a big red flag! It’s also likely a sign that the automation program is not achieving the real financial impact promised in the business case justifying the program’s expense.

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