Automation as a way of validating processes
As a tech guy, I am a bit obsessed with automation. I want most of the tasks that I do on a daily basis to be automated so I can focus on the things that I believe are more important. I also believe automation should be applied to actions that are repetitive and that require a switch of our focus.
Automation, however, serves a purpose beyond saving time. It is a way to validate the soundness of the processes we depend on. An automated process can’t be subjective. It is based on a series of steps that must be followed and a specific set of rules that must be respected.
In tech communities, it’s extremely easy to spot and automate this kind of processes that could be automated — testing, collaboration mechanisms, communications, releases, etc — but it is not as easy in other areas like social processes, governments, etc. Processes like IDs renewals, visa form applications, and even the rules by which these visas are granted could be automated. Unfortunately, these processes are often neither automated nor validated and this causes a lot of pain to those that need to go through some them.
As a member of a leading team in an open source community, I am expected — or at least I expect this from myself — to build processes that will not only empower members of the community but that are also sound. The smoother the experience of the community members is, the more the community will move forward. To me, the processes we build are not complete until we automate them.
Nonetheless, everything must happen at the right time. Focusing on automating new processes might distract from the actual goal, which is solving a specific problem. It is important to focus on solving the problem first. Let the process evolve and, ultimately, automate it. Early automation could be a waste of time if the process ends up not being of use or, in the worst case scenario, causing harm to the people interacting with it.
In other words, most of the processes we interact with likely need to be objective. As subjective beings, we shouldn’t solely rely on our intellect as a mechanism to prove the soundness and objectiveness of these process, therefore, we ought to automate them.