Hackernoon logoAutomation is the New Black: What’s There For You? by@ElectroNeek

Automation is the New Black: What’s There For You?

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@ElectroNeekSergey Yudovskiy

CEO at ElectroNeek

I wrote this article for my fellow CEOs and all the rest of us in order to discover how to lead the organizations and teams who are challenged by these turbulent times.
Last month, you probably read dozens of articles on how to improve the work-from-home productivity of your teams and companies or on how to increase a runaway of your business (layoffs!), or how to apply for PPP (or, if you live outside of the U.S., your local business stimulus package). While I do not consider myself an expert in any of these areas, I have run a company that is remote from day one, and all of these concerns seem to address the same question: “how can I do more with fewer resources?” I firmly believe that organizations that are unable to find a solution to this question will be extinct within 2-3 years, and to this end, I propose an answer: Automation. Let me explain why.
As CEO, I’ve always been aware of the routine nature of some of the many tasks which my employees must perform and neither the astonishing number of times that they must rely on Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V nor the significant amount of time they have to spend updating spreadsheets surprises me. Even in my own experience, I have personally had thousands of worksheets to monitor, manage, and audit. But here’s the deal; all of these tasks are nevertheless essential for business performance if you want to be able to see the big picture of business activities. 
Luckily, we are not in The Office U.S., and our computers don’t have to be managers’ enemies, they can actually help them strive and succeed by performing tedious tasks (that people don’t like). 

What is the meaning of automation?

Generally, automation is referred to the application of machines to tasks that are typically performed by human beings, or functions that would be otherwise impossible to accomplish (Britannica). However, several decades ago, this definition changed when people began implementing automation to save time and energy from hard, unpleasant operations. Instead, these tasks were transferred to computers, and the now-free human time was applied to more analytical or entertaining activities. As the demand for productivity soared, human time became comparatively more valuable than the hardware and software is now used for tedious, repetitive tasks. The same thing is happening in workplaces all around the world.
Automation is no longer a tool just for replacing people; it is a digital assistant that helps you achieve your goals faster by focusing on them without distraction, without delay, and without you. This is especially obvious in IT because, with the mind-blowing speed of technological acceleration, we’d all like to have something like Thor’s Mjölnir to help us get through loads of new data pouring from every corner (Batmobile works too if you ask me).

Why now, really? 

The new reality we live in has its own rules, and those who can’t compete now face serious problems. The viral article from Washington Post states that the disease will start doing to businesses what it does to people — imperiling the elderly ones who have preexisting conditions but also ravaging some younger targets with previously unidentified vulnerabilities. This is harsh but true. The YPO survey found 64% of executives anticipating lower revenue continuing at least one year from now; 16% believe their revenues will actually be higher. 43% of CEOs expect revenue to be down by more than 20% in a year. 
Only a handful of sectors are thriving, including the video game industry and online education (even Netflix had to stop the production of the new content). You’ve probably heard about the digital transformation a million times before, maybe even considered trying it. But the time for an ultimate test is already here, and you have to do something.
Here’s where the perception of automation shifts: before COVID-19 crisis automation separated winners from laggards, now it draws a line between dead from alive.

What to do with this ‘superpower’?
Automation provides opportunities to reduce processing costs and increase the productivity of employees by freeing people from tiresome tasks. This opens the door of possibilities for people to take on more exciting, challenging assignments, fulfill their potential, and successfully achieve business goals.
You can find more benefits from automation in this article.
If you’re like me, you like specifics. So I’m going to share with you two scenarios of automation implementation that saved 24 jobs, ~410 hours of work, and $11.700 on average to the owners.
Competitive Analysis
In February, the restaurant in question had to switch to strictly delivery-service and also had to update their main website. In order to stay relevant in the market, they calibrated their new menu and boosted social media activity. However, to win clients, they also needed to do a complete analysis of the competition they faced. Since every other restaurant in the city was a competitor, that analysis got complicated quickly and the scope of the work was massive. 
One software robot extracted the menus and prices from all known restaurants in the city, consolidated them into a single spreadsheet, and organized them into predefined criteria in under 1.5 hours.
As a result: No layoffs. The next day, they reopened online and kept making deliveries of their delicious Pho.
Extra: The restaurant owner repurposed the software robot to streamline payments and invoices.
CRM Contact Database Enrichment
An insurance company is looking for new ways to find potential clients. With programmed robots, this process can be done in the background while the managers focus on more urgent tasks. After the bot is launched, it goes into the CRM system and finds deals that were put on hold or frozen. Then, it goes to LinkedIn Sales Navigator, finds additional key decision-makers, and creates an email to send to the prospects. 

For a person, it is a process; for a bot, it’s a workflow that has to be performed accordingly.
As a result: Reopened deals.
Extra: After the task in Sales Navigator, they also repurposed bots for automatic reporting.

Where do I start?

It might sound like a bit of a cliché, but you should always start small with the most automation-ready processes. 
I know the first question will be about what exactly is ‘automation ready’ and how these processes are found. From my experience, there are a handful of strategies to accomplish this:
  • Talk directly to the people involved. Don’t ask people if they simply have processes to automate. At first, they might be scared of the possibility that robots will take over their job and make them obsolete. Instead, ask them about what they spend the most time on, and which tasks are the most repetitive. Of course, this isn’t always fail-safe; if they’ve done something a thousand times manually, they might be so caught up in their routine that automating that task isn’t even a blip on their radar. 
  • Find a real example with your project team. The value of a Proof-of-Concept is that it helps people identify gaps within a process that might interfere with your success. A specific example always helps because it allows the individual to consider where they have seen something like that before - and enables them to recognize the tasks which typically look small and unimportant but equate a significant drain on time. 
  • Automation consultants. There are specialists in automation that would be happy to jump on to your implementation process and make sure everything works perfectly. However, it’s not that much of a possibility right now, since the price of such service acts as a financial barrier and the ongoing self-isolation prevents peer-to-peer contact.
  • Use the automated process search in the ElectroNeek Calaveras release. This tool allows you to learn how users interact with specific software, study patterns, and automatically analyze whether the task is automatable or not. Within the platform, you can also find the Orchestrator tool useful to control all your bots, the People Dashboard useful for individual performance, and more features to come. Create an account today to reserve a seat in a front row!
The relationship between humans and technology has never been easy. Nevertheless, the events of this year remind everyone that the world we live in today is not going to wait until someone is ready to move forward and implement modern technology. Instead, it will move forward on its own, and you have to be prepared for it when it does.
As Albert Einstein once said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Our world is changing, and our ability to change with it will determine our success. 

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