mary’s blog

(where mary is always write)

Automating a Process That Sucks Will Only Make It Suck Faster

A lot of people are easily misled by greedy software vendors to think that automation solves everything. Now everyone who wants to “innovate” and “improve efficiency” are fooled into buying overpriced software solutions that create more problems than they can solve.

Since most leaders would rather walk through the city naked than admit that they paid lumps of gold for something that doesn’t work, the vendors continue to run free, looking for the next gullible CEO to sell their software to.

We need to be able to spot these vendors and avoid them like the plague.

How to tell if a vendor is eeevil and what to do about it

If the first words out of their mouth are: “Buy this amazing software we have”, run away.

If they like talking about themselves rather than your company: “I’m a graduate of Illustrious University, I have ten thousand degrees, spoke at a hundred conferences, and I met with the President yesterday.“, run away.

If they answer all your questions with dizzying words like: “Fast! Innovative! Latest database technology! With great scalability and integration!“, run away.

Next, make sure that you know what automation is and what it isn’t. This way you can make sound decisions and avoid being fooled.

What is automation?

In a nutshell, automation is just collecting a set of boring, repetitive actions and saving them in a computer. Like computing grades:

  1. Average the exams.
  2. Multiply by 50%.
  3. Average the quizzes.
  4. Multiply by 50%.
  5. Add results of 2 and 4 and display the grade over 100%.

This used to be an error-prone process because humans get bored and tired of doing the same things over and over.  But if we put this set of instructions in a computer, we can ask it to repeat those steps for a hundred, a thousand students! No more computation errors, no more students waiting too long for their grades to show up, no more wasting professors’ time which could have been used on research projects instead. Win-win-win!

What is automation NOT?

Take note that automation doesn’t change the steps. It just feeds those steps into a computer which is programmed to perform those actions quickly, with no deviation from the instructions.

This means that if your processes sucked in the first place, automating them will only make things suck faster, not change how things work.

Let’s go back to the grade computation process. What if you have a really weird way of computing grades?

  1. Average the exams.
  2. Multiply by 40%.
  3. Average the quizzes.
  4. Multiply by 50%.
  5. Add results of 2 and 4 and display grade over 90%.

If you have a grading system based on a perfect score of 90%, your greatest problem is not how to compute a thousand students’ grades, but how to choose a grading system that doesn’t invite people to hunt you down and kill you for your poor administrative choices.

Automating this process will not solve your faculty and students’ biggest problem, it will only make them come to an earlier conclusion that your grade system sucks, thus giving them more time to organize a witch hunt for you.

To improve life for people in your university, fix the grading system first. Then you can automate, computerize, combobulate or whatever you want to call it.

If it ain’t working yet, don’t automate it.

A lot of decision-makers miss this vital part. They’re all eager to be that next visionary who installed new things and saved the company. What they don’t know is other visionaries didn’t succeed because they installed high-tech systems, they succeeded because they had good, effective processes to stand on. Or they squashed those problems in the process before any automation took place.

So don’t be lured by false promises of “quick improvements”. Just bide your time, hone your processes, and call in that vendor when you’ve got nothing else to improve. Everyone will thank you for it.

Ω

This tall tale is filed under Opinion.

No comments yet, leave yours below?

Leave a Reply

All fields marked with * are required. Don’t worry. Your email address will not be published or entered into internet lotteries.

Get mary’s tall tales right in your RSS feed. Share this epic tale of lies on twitter! Read in the dark. Ack! This cursed pinkness! Manlify this blog!