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  • Writer's pictureDan Beck

The problem with automation

The problem is automation, not that automation itself is the problem, but rather that automation is seen as the solution to a problem that is to take the stuff we don't want to do and do it quicker. So quick that no-one does it anymore, and no-one on your team needs to worry about it.

“What’s the problem, sounds ideal! Of course I want to automate all the stuff I don't want to do manually!!”

The problem with automation comes down to two factors:

  • Should you?

  • And, can you do it effectively?

Should you automate a task?

I am not against automation, after all it’s at least 50% of what we do day-to-day. The problem I have with automation is that many businesses automate the wrong tasks.

Let me give you an example... We’ve watched a business automate sales reports, these reports looked beautiful, every hour they gave the team an update to where they were at! It was fantastic! But very quickly became a demotivator. People stopped opening the reports as most of the time they were saying the same thing - “EVERYTHING IS OK”.

Is it possible to automate a sales report? Absolutely! Should it be automated? No!

What we did to improve this system was simple. Rather than alert people when everything was ok, we turned it into an exception report - we automated an alert to help rather than pester!

We often say to people, "if you automate the wrong things all that happens is that you do is the bad stuff quicker! Don’t automate dumb things, find the right things and automate them instead. Get rid of the dumb things instead!”

Can you automate a task effectively?

This is my favourite and the real reason most automation projects fail or lead to less than desirable results or even embarrassment. The data you are automating is dirty! (Read this article here about keeping your data clean.)

For instance, suppose you are an accounting firm that is running a marketing list of all your clients who earn over a certain amount and have no income protection insurance. There are multiple potential failure points in your data:

  • Do you record dates of birth? (your target market is people aged 25 to 55)

  • Do you record their email address?

  • Do you record a salutation?

  • Do you record if they have income protection insurance?

  • How do you keep it up to date?

No-one likes receiving an email that has been addressed to “Dear <ClientName,> and lets them know they should consider an income protection policy when they already do - it’s just not with your associated financial planner!

So what do you do? The following seem to be the options people choose:

  • Not send any information with the fear that they might be missing some information across their client base, doing their client a disservice by not offering them a service they might desperately need;

  • Say it’s all too hard and do nothing;

  • Send the information and hope (FYI, hope is not a strategy);

  • Do something about the integrity of the data; or

  • Better yet, work out if you are automating the right things, and make sure you have the clean data required to make it work.

The choice is yours when it comes to automation, but most people get burned not because the automation is bad, but because the execution is misaligned to what really adds value to your clients and customers!

So how can we help you?

Close to 50% of the work we do with clients is automation, or automation-related tasks like cleansing data for automation. We’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and where you are pushing a heavy load up a very steep hill.

Have a chat to us (click here to book a time) if you need to:

  • Automate parts of your business; and/or

  • Get your data clean and ready for effective automation.

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