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January 4, 20238 min read

Fearless Automation: 7 Steps to Success

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Practitioner-Header-No-NumberMany companies remain hesitant to incorporate automation into their IT workflows. Reasons range from resistance to organizational change, lack of understanding how to implement, or fear that it would be too complicated to set up and use. Automation doesn’t have to be intimidating. Let’s look at how to become fearless in automating.

In our world of enterprise endpoint management, the thought of NOT using automation is laughable at this point. Limited resources and massive fleets mean we would be doing the same dull tasks hour by hour, day by day. When I implemented automation at a company I worked for previously, even those who pushed against the idea saw how much their work lives improved once we let machines do the things we didn’t want to do in the first place.

In my experience at various organizations, the case for software automation has far outweighed the questions and concerns others may have had. I sought out to create solutions for every day repetitive tasks. Recognizing the benefits, in exploring what was possible, I leaned into how much time automation would free up for colleagues and how it could help our business. The reality is, automation drives innovation. It doesn’t prevent it.

So why was I able to advocate for adding automation to our workflow while people at other companies have either dismissed the idea or couldn’t get traction for their ideas? In some cases, people tasked with automating may not know how, have mistaken ideas about what it entails, or worry that avoiding automation will equal job security.&

Automating the right processes thoughtfully, however, can help companies produce more for less and achieve higher efficiencies, thus greater profits – resulting in more jobs, not fewer. And by doing the bulk of the tedious, frustrating work, automation can give employees more time and space to innovate and create – better for them and for your organization.

To make the most of modern-day automation, though, you may need to look beyond your potential concerns and those of your people. In my experience, when you’ve put the technology to work for you, you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without it.

Understand what automation does

Because media and entertainment often muddy the waters between automation and artificial intelligence (think of sentient robots, or manufacturers replacing their workforce with robots) it is important to define what automation does and doesn’t do.

Automation has been with us for a long time already, and it isn’t going away. The fact is, some jobs are so tedious, time consuming, or even dangerous that it’s advantageous to have machines doing them rather than people. When we use machines to do the drudge work, people can concentrate on what we should be doing – planning and implementing creative and imaginative strategies to improve productivity. Software engineers can design new products rather than having to spend hours manually pushing out updates, for instance. Other departments can focus more deeply on customers, products, or services.

Ghosts in the machine: Three automation myths

Yet resistance to automation persists. I see it all the time, and I’ve lived it. I once worked at a company that deployed operating system updates manually, a process that took an inordinate amount of time. One co-worker managed 160,000 endpoints using manual processes!

I knew this company needed to automate their updates. But when I suggested it, I got a lot of push back. I persisted because I knew what automation could do – how much time it could save and how it could improve customer satisfaction by allowing us to monitor the updates and remotely resolve issues as they came up.

It took many meetings and a lot of frustration for my ideas to finally take hold. Then, we pushed out 200 to 300 GB of content in a single weekend – an unthinkable pace achievable only by automation. Using the old manual processes, we’d still be waiting for those deployments to finish.

I understand the reasons for automation resistance. Fear of the unknown is a natural human instinct. But so many of the concerns I hear are based not in reality, but in misperceptions.

Here are three of the most common misperceptions:

  • Automation will cause workers to lose their jobs.

    This fear has long been used to try to slow or stop progress – even as progress inexorably marches on. Studies show that automation creates, not hinders, job growth.

    Researchers for The Economist found that a 1% increase in factory automation in France increased employment by 0.25% after two years and, after 0.4% after ten. The reason, they believe, is that automating manual processes increased production at the plants and, therefore, profits. In turn, these companies grew, hiring more people. Because they produced more goods, they could lower their exporting prices, and sell more products.

    Slow adopters could find themselves lagging in competitiveness, as well, resulting in fewer sales and downsizing their staff. So, failure to automate could be the job-killer, not the other way around.

  • Automation is expensive.

    Where quarterly balance sheets and short-term profit drive decision making, up-front costs can feel like a giant expense. The CFO may balk; the board may hesitate.

    But the costs of automation are often a drop in the bucket when compared to the savings it offers. For every dollar spent now, you’ll reap rewards in time, overtime, and personnel costs; contractor costs as you augment staff to meet the demands of short-term projects; customer satisfaction; worker productivity; and worker satisfaction. Your employees, freed from routine monotony, will be positioned to fulfill their intellectual potential, a win-win for them and for your enterprise.

    And as already noted, automation has been seen to increase production and profits, enabling companies to grow their business. As you do so, offering employee training can help you retain the workers you have so you save on recruitment, hiring, and onboarding expenses.

  • Automation is difficult.

    Automation does require extra work up front. It can be a big and complex task, especially if you try to automate everything at once.

    So it does involve a series of tasks, which novices might find intimidating.

    As an automation veteran, though, I can assure you that it is nothing to be afraid of. The hard part comes in the decision making and teamwork, but these issues can be resolved if you’re willing to step up and lead the process.

Automating with finesse: 7 steps

Let's imagine that you want to automate some process at your organization, due to a technical issue or a system in need of refining. How you manage the situation from the start can make all the difference between sailing through or struggling through the process.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Expect the unexpected, and don’t be afraid to lead. Everyone at work is busy. Typically, no one wants to step forward and take charge of a project. If you feel strongly that automation is the best solution, be ready to seize the moment and drive change.

    And if you’ve been brought into a company specifically for the purpose of automating, know in advance that you’re the one they’ll look to. Don’t be afraid to flex your leadership muscles! Following the steps I outline here can help you get the results you want.

  2. Do your research. Know before pitching your ideas what’s possible and what’s realistic for your organization, where you want to go with automation, and what the caveats and benefits are.

  3. Build relationships before doing anything – you’ll need the support. The creators of the “Rebels at Work” website and book suggest that, to effect change in your organization, you’ll need the support of 10 percent of your team. Build your coalition strategically with thinkers, doers, and planners.

  4. Break it down into parts. Automation requires many steps and, as we’ve seen, that can be off-putting. For the best chance of success, present your project as a series of tasks to be tackled one at a time.

  5. Log everything you do in case there’s a problem. Like automation itself, entering tasks into a log requires time and commitment up front, with considerable time savings and hassle if something goes wrong later.

  6. Be prepared for setbacks and conflict. Not everyone will agree with your ideas or approach to automation. Some will push back or have ideas for a different approach to the project. For the best results, keep your eye on the prize: solving the problem. Really listen to feedback and be prepared to start over; make tweaks in your initial plan; or calmly discuss and explain why your approach is best. At this stage, having your coalition can be especially helpful.

  7. Get help if you need it. Don’t reinvent wheel. Look for software that works with the solutions you’re already using, that’s easy to install and deploy; that’s customizable; and that comes with dedicated support in case something doesn’t work the way it should.

Adaptiva’s OneSite Anywhere, OneSite Health, and our new OneSite Patch enable IT administrators to refocus their energy on strategy, improving systems, and solving more complex problems. The automation built into our applications, powered by the Adaptiva OneSite Platform, makes Windows endpoint management nearly effortless. Just set your parameters, configurations, and schedules at a broad or granular level and the software takes over the process. No matter your role, you can begin leading change in your organization today.

This is the latest entry in our new Adaptiva Practitioner Blog Series. In these blog posts, we share what we know about managing endpoints. Stop by to hear from our own in-house subject matter experts. We are excited to discuss best practices, technical how-tos, and other topics we think you'll find valuable. Our solution architects, product experts, and own IT practitioners have seen and done it all. We are adding new content regularly and are happy to have you here.


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