When you think about obstacles to automation, without fail, our brains go to the hard stuff. The mind jumps to actions like the lack of financing, investors not getting on board, not having the right technology, etc. In reality, what keeps companies from diving into the deep end of automation has nothing to do with any of these reasons and everything to do with another fact. The business simply doesn’t think they’re ready to make the leap or realize how easy it can be to get started. Look at the four obstacles to automation, and get over them now. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Four of the most common reasons companies don’t automate. Read and realize how easy it is to get the process started.
1- You Think It Takes Too Much Time
I’ll always remember the first time I wrote an automation script in Excel. I had been doing the same mundane data entry task over and over until I thought, “there has to be a better way.” Through a little bit of pain, I learned how to create some automation in my job. It eliminated the small task and led me more time to focus on the insights after the data entry. The automation made things better once I mentally removed the obstacle. Sometimes automation can cause a little bit of pain upfront but lead to dividends in the end. In a recent call with Zapier, Kim Kadiyala, we were amazed at some of the automation hacks they use – hello TextExpander. What we were more surprised with was that we didn’t think to use them ourselves, especially since CloudApp + TextExpander makes the perfect, automated pair.
“Most people think it just takes too long to learn,” Kim said.
So they keep doing what they’ve been doing. We get by simply because we can type quickly or get through the task quickly. In actuality, those “quick’ and repetitive tasks can add up to full work weeks by the time the year is out.
Our advice? Invest the hour it takes to learn that app or feature that promises to save you time. The hour or so invested will shave days and weeks off your entire year. It can also be helpful to look at your schedule and see what is taking the most of your time. Ask yourself what can I eliminate, and what can be automated? You’ll be surprised at the amount of time you can save.
2- Don’t Worry About The Tech
When most of us think “automation” our brains go straight to the platform we’ll use, how it will run, how many engineers we’ll need etc. When you’re planning automation, thinking about the tech first is paralyzing and can stop you from the planning process. Don’t let your brain go straight to robots and machines. There are so many tools out there that are begging for your business.
During my time at Adobe, we purchased a company called Marketo. They are a great example of a tool that can be a little painful to setup. Once you have Marketo humming, it’s a solid basis for any automation. Tools like Marketo and HubSpot provide a great way to keep in touch with your existing clientele. These tools, used as your new-found abilities, will also help you with nurturing your new customers. There are also great tools like Calendar, Sprout, CloudApp, and other top productivity apps. These productivity solutions will also layer nicely onto your existing base, and be an additive to your automation, requiring little, if any time in terms of setup.
- Start with a solid plan.
- Determine what exactly you’ll automate.
- Decide what the desired workflow will look like.
- Decide how this automation will improve your product and customer experience.
- Track and improve on the process along the way.
3- Does Your Strategy Support Your Goals?
A significant factor in removing obstacles to automation is planning your strategy. If you feel that automation is “oh-so-hard,” don’t take the time to plan. Seriously, don’t. You know that automation will make life easier — but when you sit down to plan, the details we all get hung up on have nothing to do with our main business objective. There is no way to objectively analyze how the plan will play into our business goals. Even worse, unless we’re connected to the goal, automation seems like it’s adding work instead of relieving it.
To fix this thought-error, you’ll need to work backward. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you trying to accomplish by automating?
- How many more customers are you looking to serve?
- How many hours are you looking to strip from your work week?
- How will I build my strategy with the end goal in mind?
- What issues do I want clarification about in my plan?
At this point, the plan will start to make sense and become clear. Some things to keep in mind as you make your automation plan.
- How will automation improve my goals?
- What are some quick win automation areas?
- How can automation improve team morale?
- What are some quick automation wins to build momentum?
- What tools can I use like Zapier, that bring automation without heavy lifting?
4- Don’t Expect It To Be Magic
One of the biggest obstacles to automation is simply the all-or-nothing mentality. This mindset doesn’t allow for inevitable errors and growing pains. Is automation worth it? Absolutely. But to think that automation is the answer to all your business prayers is a mistake. As with all aspects in your business, automation is only as good as the team you hire, the strategy you deploy, the content you produce, the data you analyze, etc. In other words, there are a lot of “quality” factors at play to truly get the best out of automating.
Automation is a process, not a magic pill, but it may shine a light on where you need to improve. Automation isn’t going to mask or solve long-term product issues, but it surely can be a key to your future success as a business. Adding automation can expand your resources and reach without adding more salary. It can also improve morale for data-heavy jobs and create a reliable infrastructure to build upon for the future.
Last but not least:
Creators of automation in the workspace can take many different roles. You don’t need to be management or an executive. Every employee should feel enabled to create opportunities to automate their workflows. From your primary SEO marketing person up to your CEO. To find the best results in automation as a company, you’ll want to make sure your culture supports it.
- Reward automation.
- Show how the company is automating.
- Show best practices for automating.
- Provide training on automation.
- Remove any barriers for automation.
When you take the time to train your employees to self serve, you’ll find it creates a culture of automation, which will lead to better customer experience.
VP of Marketing
Joe Martin is currently the GM and VP of Marketing at CloudApp, a visual collaboration tool. He has more than 13 years of experience of marketing in the tech industry. Prior to his role at CloudApp, Martin was the Head of Social Analytics at Adobe where he led paid social strategy and a research team providing strategic guidance to organizations within the company. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Utah and a digital marketing certificate from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and other top tier outlets.