Common Mistakes in Automation Implementation

When businesses look to automate processes to help their business be more efficient, it easy to start off with the best intentions and end up with a system that is truly FUBAR. The three most common mistakes when implementing automation are: making machines do things the way humans do them, not understanding when it’s time to get rid of tech debt, and not trusting the process.

Humans function in a vastly different manner than machines. Computers are capable of handling up to thousands of different tasks simultaneously, while the human brain can only handle about five. And even when humans try to handle five things at once, when our attention is divided like that, we are not efficient. A machine does not operate that way. It doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t get hungry or need to use the bathroom.

Trying to make a machine handle a task in the same way a human handles is inefficient. It’s inefficient because a machine might be able to cut out half of the steps in a process that a human needs because that’s how our brains function. The point of automation is for a machine to handle something for a human so that human can then focus his/her attention on another task that a machine cannot handle. Don’t make this mistake. Ask the questions, “Why a process is done this way? Are all of the steps really necessary?” When you have those questions answered, you will know the best course of action.

Another mistake when implementing automation is not understanding when it’s time to eliminate tech debt. When a process is implemented, it’s usually done in a way that the technology of the time allows. Now that we’re in an era of rapidly changing technology, when processes are updated or automated and old tech should be eliminated. Having aging tech hanging around bogs down systems and builds up tech debt every day it gets older. When implementing automation to make your business run more efficiently, keeping old processes and tech defeats the purpose.

The final mistake is not trusting the process of implementing automation. As humans, we fear change, we fear losing control of things. So when automation comes in and we have to learn to trust a machine to do something we previously had eyes on, it’s difficult to let that go. However, in not letting those things go, we counteract the purpose of automation. Automation is intended to relieve bottlenecks caused by human limits, making repeative and ritocal processes smoother. It is not meant to eliminate humans. If we constantly have to go in and have a human do something as part of the process, that bottleneck isn’t going away. Let the machine do what it’s created and coded to do, and it can spit out a report at the end of the day with items that actually need your eyes. It’s a hard thing to adjust to, but if you want your business to run efficiently, you have to let go and trust.

Automation has been around since the advent of assembly lines and conveyor belts, it’s not new. The way we use it today, though, is different than 100 years ago, it’s different than even 20-30 years ago. In order to make your business run more efficiently automation is necessary. So when you implement it, trust the process, pay down the tech debt and remember machines may do it differently, but if they are doing it, then you don’t have to.

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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