Software provides the speed, the accuracy, the repeatability, the security – they all exist because of automation. These in turn provide the “real-world” benefits or “bottom-line justifications” to a business. But these benefits are just an effect of the primary benefit of software – automation. Software automates tasks, processes, behaviours in a business. This automation is justified if and only if it brings in increased productivity to the business.
Lot of software projects fail today, and the reason for them is improper or insufficient automation. A business invested heavily in a ERP software to find out that it lacked the flexibility of workflow management that was required. The business had to change its own workflows so that they could be handled by the software. This in turn caused decrease in the productivity, finally hitting hard on the revenue. The root cause of this lies in the incomplete information, flexibility in the workflow management was not considered when the investment was done.
Let us look at definition of automation: “automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human organs of observation, effort, and decision“, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. This definition implies that successful automation depends on:
- complete information about the process or system to be automated.
- the appropriateness of the process – a good automation of a bad process will still result in undesired output.
- implementation of the automation.
The first two points focus on the information or requirements gathering activity, if not done right, it will result in an unsuccessful automation. Before the automation starts, the appropriateness or correctness of the processes involved should also be assessed. Businesses should realise that investing in software is an automation initiative, for which a second look at the processes might be required.
In the real world, some supplementary information should be considered
- perceived ROI
- business constraints like budget, existing skill set, maintainability
- future roadmap
This information can factor not only into technical decisions, but management decisions like whether the automation initiative should be phased out. All these factors can help in deciding path for the implementation. With the tremendous number of options available in technologies, these factors can help in making a better selection.
Last but not the least, the software itself does not provide the benefits, its usage does. It is of paramount importance to make sure that the business uses the software in the right manner. Training is as much a factor in the success as is the implementation. A good help documentation and training can really make the automation successful.
Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.