When is the right time to automate?

Just had an interesting conversation with a long time friend/former colleague (who left the corporate life to focus on her startup) about choosing automation/digitalisation at work via upgrading to systems/platforms/softwares however you want to classify it or as simple as using formula/macro on excel as opposed to doing things manually such as recording customers data, finance or portfolio information, checking inventories, recording claims, etc

Doing all these things manually can be very daunting especially if it is repetitive and looks trivial or worse, menial. It’s a painful process but most of the time, we complain and do nothing about it. We would rather endure the pain because the time required to change or automate will be more than just spending another hour to manually do it. But what we don’t realise is the cumulative hours that we spend doing it and the rate of time spent increases as we grow bigger and more complex. This reduces your productivity and increases inefficiency at work that may not only affect your team members but also other internal stakeholders.

Even not all startups which deliver their products/services online or through apps don’t bother fixing the problem, at least not at the beginning simply because it can be more costly (in terms of time/money) to adopt automation. There is obviously no question as to whether you should automate. The US and China not only are chasing each other testing and learning repeatedly to create and adopt innovative solutions at work but also trying to solve the “future of work” when automation led by AI makes some of these jobs redundant.

But the question is, when is the right time to adopt automation?

I guess there is no straightforward answer to that. In every organization, there will be a time when you are at an inflection point where you have to either pivot or grow/innovate your business. At that time, if you still don’t invest the time and effort to simplify your work or make your process more efficient, you will definitely struggle in the future.  Sometimes the solution is as simple as creating a microsoft excel template with index/vlookup formulas with proper unique identification. That is also an automation without any sophisticated technology. Once you outsource the menial work to machines/systems/softwares, you can carve out your time to do more meaningful work. That will not only help yourself but also your team and the whole organisation. 


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