Finding your enterprise automation sweet spot

Automated digitally-driven efficiencies are being applied at every level in the business world, but how do we know where to stop?
25 July 2018

How much is too much automation? Source: Shutterstock

There’s a reason why your car speedometer dial might have been replaced with a digital numerical readout but your number plate is still made of metal.

It’s because both makes sense.

We now have the opportunity to apply digitization and technological transformation to every aspect of our lives, but there is a point at which (for now at least) we must logically stop.

Digital number plates are silly

Digital speedometers make sense because a) they’re arguably more accurate and tuned into the increasingly digital subsystem now running the entire car, and b) we’re not in 1945 anymore and most of us are used to looking at digital numbers more regularly than dials.

Digital number plates, on the other hand, are a really silly idea.

They’re tough to waterproof, they drain battery power, are harder to clean and they smash when you hit a stone chipping on the road.

What we have found here is the automation sweet spot, that is – the car management system should be electronic, the speedometer should be electronic and the door locking system and a whole heap of other central functions should be electronically digitally controlled through the application of software automation that handles essential functions for us – but we have to stop at the number plate.

This is Descartes first law of equitable moderation for software automation – okay it’s not, he died in 1650, but he’s (arguably) the coolest philosopher and if he were around today he would probably be laying down these kinds of guidelines for us.

The law of automation moderation works the same way in business.

The automation opportunity

Managing a contemporary ‘stack’ of software applications and database functions has never been more complex. The rise of connected ‘composable’ cloud-based services and dataflows now sits at an intersection point with hybrid application services all being brought together as one.

Because of this interconnected reality, we need enterprise software automation to shoulder the burden of complexity and connectivity.

Once it is intelligently applied, automation can ensure that data A gets to user B in application C during scenario D i.e. it’s all about pre-programming logic into our systems to ensure they can serve us for the specific use cases in hand.

“Application leaders face increased challenges in driving costs down while using traditional methods to manage growing application portfolios,” said Pete Marston, research director for application development testing and management services at technology analyst house IDC.

“Leaders need to transform the way they manage their application estates and examine ways to transition from opportunistic to systematic automation.”

 The automation sweet spot

Technology commentators have been trying to put their finger on the enterprise automation sweet spot for some time now. Irrespective of industry vertical, we know that automated digitally-driven efficiencies are being applied at every level… but how do we know where to stop?

“Repetitive tasks, known parameters and specially designed environments are great for automation. Having lights switch on when you enter a room and switch off when you leave the room automatically is a good thing,” writes the curiously named Locutus on ToolBoxTech.

Locutus argues that some tasks are not right for over-automation. He says that it makes people complacent and they put too much trust in the automation. Then, when something does go wrong the reaction is too slow to be able to save the situation.

Other guidelines towards the sweet spot include any point at which the user themselves starts to feel a loss of engagement with the process or function that they are connecting to.

The bottom line is… if enterprise automation doesn’t make users’ lives easier, then it may not be efficient or a good idea in the first place.

If you feel like there’s too much automation in some aspect of the enterprise systems you use every day, then let your manager know that you’re about to shout the ‘safe word’ and that you want out.

Didn’t we mention the safe word or phrase here yet?

Oh, right, sorry – it’s digital number plate!