By Mark McGinn
Managing Director, MarXtar June 2019
Automation: It Means “No Worries”
We live in an automated world that we take for granted. Almost everything we buy or consume comes to us at the end of powerful and automated processes, the existence of which barely even registers with us because it is embedded so naturally into these processes. To me, this is the real genius of automation; the process is virtually invisible to us as the consumer.
Automation done well becomes so embedded into our lives that when it isn’t present we find it an almost painful experience, so when we are then forced to jump through hoops to get what we need from other businesses or even the company we work for, we form a poor impression of that business or service for daring to make us do this.
When “AI” Was a Young Warthog
I am old enough to remember what it used to be like shopping around for car insurance by phone. I remember the hours spent researching car insurance companies, calling them up and providing the same information time and time again all in the hopes of finding a cheaper deal. If you are familiar with this experience, or one similar, it’s probably a solid bet that it’s one you’d rather not return to now that price comparison sites are have made their mark.
Taking comparison sites as the example, at their core they take standard information, highly repetitive actions, and knowledge about where these actions will apply and wrap them all up in automated routines to give an experience that far exceeds that of yesteryear. It’s a pretty simple concept that most of us get real benefit from and those businesses that embraced this early on achieved great success. They are so successful that comparing providers by phone is something that most of us wouldn’t even consider these days.
So why is it that we don’t embrace automation in our normal work lives to anywhere near the same extent?
Artificial Intelligence, or AI as we know it, is getting a lot of press recently relating to the potential it holds to change our lives for good or bad. Some embrace it, others fear it, most don’t really understand it at all. That’s no different to how we often think of Automation and we’ve been having difficulty with that since before the days of the Spinning Jenny.
Are AI and Automation really that different then? Is it that Automation just doesn’t grab our attention because it doesn’t have the glitz or glamour associated with AI?
In the IT Service Management world, we see AI presented as a way to interact more intelligently with our customers in order to better serve them. At the core of AI though is automation; AI is simply acting as a new user interface and holds very little benefit if what our users want still requires huge amounts of manual effort to deliver.
You Got to Put Your Behind in Your Past
We know just from a few examples that Automation is a game-changer and those that don’t Automate get left behind. Take the time to look at your business processes and consider how many have been truly automated. If someone makes a request, how is that fulfilled? How many manual operations are still required for fulfilment to take place? We’ve had tools that deliver software installations to remote devices for decades yet there are still many organisations that require someone in IT to initiate the delivery. Today, too many have yet to learn from the success of others and are failing to take the IT technician out of the IT activity.
This failing isn’t because we don’t know how to do it, in many cases it’s simply that we are too busy doing our jobs to look around us and see a better way to do things (and some people are very reluctant to let go of the past). By focussing solely on what we must do today we forget to consider that we are part of a chain of information and process. Quick wins exist all around us if we are only “lazy” enough to take the time to look for them.
Lazy? Why Lazy?
Lazy probably isn’t a term we’d normally think of as a positive, but lazy people find ways to avoid effort and maybe we just need to be the right kind of lazy. Constructively Lazy is perhaps a better term, one that recognises that we have a Natural Intelligence capable of identifying positive change.
If we have a job to do, we have all of the information we require to do that job, and we have to keep repeating that job, then we should always be asking ourselves, “Why exactly am I the one having to do this job? How can this job be done without me or anyone else needing to be involved? Can Automation help?”
It sounds simple, and it is, but is this what you are doing? When you are asked to set up another new user for the business, how many manual steps are involved in that process? How many consoles are you using? How many individual activities do you or others have to perform in order to deliver what that person needs? When you look seriously at this you might find that you have all the information you need and all the tools that you need, but you are missing the way to leverage the information automatically. You may have all the pieces to build with, you are just missing the glue of automation to hold it all together.
Everything You See Exists in a Delicate Balance
Automation isn’t glamorous or sexy because it’s something that we’ve been taking advantage of for over a century from manufacturing through to comparison websites. Yet for something that is so powerful and pervasive, it’s so familiar to us that we can simply forget that it exists and miss out on the benefit to our business that it can bring.
At MarXtar, we work every day with organisations that want to improve the service that they offer to their internal and external customers through IT Service Management. We see the repeating themes and from these identify the most common Quick Wins that our customers can take advantage of; breaking down the walls that separate areas of business that should be working together and helping to reduce or remove the unnecessary manual touches in those processes.
At MarXtar we believe that before you can consider Artificial Intelligence you first need to identify the Natural Intelligence that already exists in your business and help it to grow. AI is worthless without Automation, but you can’t Automate what you don’t understand, and you can’t understand if you don’t take the time to see.
Let’s use our Natural Intelligence to help us evolve instead of just expecting the machines to think for us.
To find out how MarXtar can help you automate your business ask us about our Automation Quick Win packages.