The concept of “automation” has long been a mixed bag of emotions and opinions that it elicits, both positive and negative. Some of the first thoughts I remember having about automation as a kid (as I heard from adults) was the specter of robots replacing humans in factories, essentially eliminating blue collar jobs. So the idea of automation for the President of GM had a slightly different connotation than it did for an assembly line machinist at GM. Great for stockholders, terrible for workers. That idea is still pervasive, and not unfounded, either.
Automation in the technology space carries similar praise and concern, although maybe a bit less dramatic than the human vs. robot conjuring. The possibilities (and potential concerns) around tech automation have definitely been amplified in the past few months with the release of ChatGPT and a spate of other AI platforms.
So what is “IT Automation”, exactly? (definition from ChatGPT, because we appreciate irony around here)
“IT automation typically refers to the use of technology to perform routine IT tasks and workflows without human intervention. The goal is to reduce the amount of time and effort required to manage and maintain an IT system while improving its overall efficiency and reliability. IT automation can be used to automate tasks such as software updates, network configuration, backups, and security monitoring.”
You’ll notice that this somewhat narrow definition focuses almost exclusively on purely IT functions, but that severely discounts the ability of technology to automate processes and workflows within every other function in an organization, and perhaps even more importantly, across those functions.
There are two schools of thought around the value proposition of automation, as I see it:
- Same output, requiring less human power (and human costs)
- Same human power, but greater output
If growth is a primary objective of an organization, as is typical, then the second option should be appealing. IT automation can give your people the ability to shift their time and efforts from mundane, repetitive tasks to more forward-thinking growth activities. This is true even for back office operational functions. What if your finance and accounting teams spent less time entering transactional data, and more time on building accurate market forecasts and projections? What if the donor coordinators in your Not-For-Profit organization spent less time managing existing donor accounts, and more time developing new marketing content, donor demographic strategies, and outreach efforts?
What are some of the obvious benefits and advantages of IT automation?
- Increased efficiency: By automating routine tasks, employees can focus on more complex, challenging, and forward-thinking projects.
- Improved accuracy: Automated processes are less prone to human error, resulting in more reliable and consistent outcomes.
- Cost savings: Automating tasks eliminates the need for additional personnel to perform them, reducing labor costs and increasing overall efficiency.
- Better security: Automated security processes can detect and respond to threats more quickly and accurately than human operators, reducing the risk of security breaches.
- Faster response times: Automated processes can be triggered instantly, providing faster response times to critical events.
There are literally thousands and thousands of examples of technological automation in businesses, but here are just a few that show tangible benefits:
- Healthcare: In the healthcare industry, IT automation can be used to streamline patient registration and appointment scheduling, allowing staff to focus on patient care.
- Retail: Retailers can use IT automation to manage inventory levels, optimize pricing, and automate the checkout process, resulting in a more efficient and cost-effective operation.
- Banking: Banks can automate their loan approval process, credit card applications, and fraud detection systems, improving their overall efficiency and security.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing facilities can use automation to manage inventory, monitor production lines, and improve quality control processes, resulting in increased productivity and reduced costs.
- Education: In the education sector, IT automation can be used to manage student enrollment, course scheduling, and grading, allowing teachers to focus on student instruction.
There are countless software companies that make entire spectrums of automation-based products and tools for practically every existing industry (and probably even some that don’t exist; some address specific pieces of operations, and others are end-to-end solutions, like CRM and ERP suites. So how do you untangle the mass of information and sales pitches to figure out what’s best for your team, or your organization? By FAR, the most common mistake we see is teams and functions in an organization operating in a vacuum, with a thought process resembling “we need to be able to do X, have IT find some software that can do X, buy it, and install it!”
The reality is that most or all of a function’s inputs come from somewhere else, whether internal or external, and all of that function’s outputs go elsewhere for further operational use, or reporting, or customer handoff (to name a few). Without strategic coordination across all of these operational functions, an enterprise will never truly be optimal, and you can be assured that at least some of your competitors are doing it better. This is where companies like TechFides excel in guiding our clients towards trans-organizational optimal processes and workflows. It’s not easy to shift to that mindset, but the value in being able to think and strategize at the organizational level BEFORE addressing functional-level needs is unmistakable and irrefutable. Automation for the sake of automation doesn’t necessarily equal effectiveness, and technology without strategy isn’t a solution.
Curious what you might be missing? Reach out to us today for a quick chat, and let’s see if some of the challenges you’re facing may actually be opportunities.