There’s a lot of concern around the automation of work and the implication this process might have on employment… your employment, specifically. While the natural response might be to try and stop automation to save your job, we all know what happened with the Luddites. Sure, they may have won one or two battles (in unpleasant fashion – smashing ‘the machines’) but they most certainly did not win the war. That’s why we have mechanisation on a massive scale today – mechanisation which, truth be told, makes our lives enormously more convenient.
Instead of attempting the impossible and holding back the new tsunami of automation, a better way is to look at how automation can work for you, rather than against you.
In other words, it’s time to automate everything that can be automated; whatever remains is where you actually create value. It may be a generalisation, but those aspects of your work which are not easily done by a machine is probably where your competitive advantage lies.
Here's one way to do it...
Look back in your calendar and classify your top 10 major work streams/tasks/projects over the past month. Assess them against on two criteria:
1. Standardisation: Is this task routine or non-routine?
2. Effort required: short or long term?
Routine tasks requiring longer-term effort are natural targets for automation. On the other hand, non-routine tasks that require long-term effort are not as easily dealt to by software, computers or R2D2 (yet).
As an example:
In data science, building and tuning models is becoming routine, and will eventually be fully automated (we are already there in some cases). That’s why data science can be offered as a service – because the models are designed and put on the virtual shelf, ready for you to access and use.
The more important part of what data science can do for your business, however, is another matter entirely. Determining how and where to apply it: not routine. And that’s where the value YOU can add lies. Not in creating the model, but in applying it (and that’s the beauty of automation: it frees you to think about what can be done, rather than how to do it).
Bringing it back to the world of an SME – What are we doing to automate at Lancom
As an SME, we can relate to the typical thinking “I don’t have time to even work on the day to day tasks, how can I set time aside to think about automation?”. The reality is, time will never be there if you don’t make it happen.
So, to bring a practical touch to this post and get you thinking about your reality, we thought we’d expose an example of how we are automating repetitive tasks in our own business.
Our help desk works with tickets. As humans, we made a lot of mistakes when entering our timesheets. So, we needed someone to check it at the end of each working week (and sometimes daily). But, that person could also miss a lot of these mistakes! (think about thousands of time entries to be reviewed). We were spending a lot of time on this task, nobody enjoyed doing it, but… it had to be done!
So, we put our tech thinking hat on and found a way of automating it in such way that our engineers were notified upon submitting the incorrect timesheets, allowing for an instant correction without the need of a supervisor manually reviewing the timesheets. Good huh?
LOTS of time saved to focus on things that we actually enjoy working on (such as solving problems for our clients).
And even better? Our peers in the IT industry loved the idea so much that we are taking the product to market! If you are reading this blog and work for an IT provider, you might want to stay tuned for the launch of Time Sanity.
...and here is a teaser of what's coming
We are not stopping with Time Sanity. We are currently working on saving the planet by automating our monthly account management reports using a combination of Power BI dashboards and some other exciting tech (can you spot the geek side of me?). Enough said on this… I will save the story for another blog post 😊
One last piece of advice: Focus your efforts
Chances are you, like anyone else, face a combination routine/non-routine projects/tasks on any given working day. Don't let automation happen to you; rather look to how you can make the most of it. Assess where you are and how you can make it happen to your advantage. That way, it benefits rather than costs you.