Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who Needs to Automate?

I forgot to elaborate on one of the arguments I’ve heard about automation.  That argument is: who stands to benefit most from IT automation, big or small companies?

Small companies

Big companies are usually hamstrung by Step 2 (broken processes).  As one of my former colleagues used to say “If you automate a broken process, you have a broken automated process”.  It’s kind of like HDTV.  Say what?  Yes, it’s like the pores on actors’ skin.  If you’re going to do long-frame close-up shots on HDTV, you’d better have good skin.  Otherwise your audience is going to puke their dinners all over their nice flat panel TV screens.  If you intend to impress the audience with high quality detail, you better have high quality stuff to show the detail thereof.  Same for processes.  Don’t EVER think that shoehorning a broken process through an automation project will magically fix it.  It won’t.  It never does.  It never has.  I’ve been there and seen the ugliness done a hundred times. 

It boils down to human nature.  Human nature is fucked up.  It is.  Humans protect rice bowls and mini kingdoms.  They refuse to throw in the towel on a failed game plan.  They tie emotion to business when emotion belongs outside the office, usually in the parking lot or at Chili’s.  Big companies are rife with rice bowls, kingdoms, agendas, failed game plans, and politics galore.

Small companies are the last to consider automation, yet they are the perfect environment.  Small IT staff sizes, orchards of low-hanging fruit, tight budgets, fierce competition.  Exactly who needs to automate the shit out of their operations in order to stay afloat and man the guns for the battles ahead.  The cost-benefit ratio for a small business is enormously, no, ginormously bigger than for a large corporate business.  Sure, a large business can benefit from automation.  But for them it tends to be icing on a big cake, whereas for the small business it IS the cake and the icing too.

So, if you work for a small IT shop (or you are the ONLY person in the IT shop) you need to get to work.  The clock is ticking. Start the 8-step plan, and don’t forget steps 9 and 10:  9=save time for a personal life, 10=forget step 9.

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