How to Pitch Operations Automation at Your Organization (Part I)
This article originally appeared on the Next Matter blog here.
If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably sold on the benefits of no-code automation. Maybe you’ve even built an automated process for yourself, which already saves you a lot of time and manual coordination work. If so, that’s great!
But maybe you’re also thinking bigger.
Perhaps — as a team lead or operations manager — you’ve noticed how the rest of your department’s processes work, and you know that it could be done better. So why stop at personal efficiency processes when the entire department has so much to gain?
Of course, you understand the value of automation. But how do you help others (in particular, your superiors) to understand it too? Regardless of where you work, here’s how to start positioning automation at your company for the best chance of getting approval (and praise!)
Become the operations efficiency evangelist in your organization
In order for automation to catch fire, one of the first things that needs to happen involves a mental shift among your colleagues. You need to be the person who drives this change. It’s a common attribute among the strongest operations leaders.
As the process efficiency expert, your first goal should be to nurture the team attitude,
“Business as usual”
“we can always do better”
Now you — as the automation evangelist — already know the reasons why automation is important. But for many in operations, the notion of “automating” a process to reach peak efficiency is still somewhat outside the scope of a normal day at work. So just make sure to plant and tend the seed first.
How do you do that? Start by asking questions.
Email follow-ups, meetings, conference calls, even water-cooler conversations are all great opportunities to ask your colleagues and superiors the following questions:
- How much time does managing this process require for you, from end-to-end?
- How many emails, chat messages, and coordination steps are involved in this process?
- How repetitive or predictable is this process? More or less the same steps every time?
- How much of this process feels like manual coordination “grunt work” to you?
- What would you do with the time you could save, if this process were automated?
When asking these questions, make sure you approach your colleagues with the right attitude — one that’s empathetic, realistic, and solution-oriented. Also remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be patient when colleagues aren’t sure what you mean, or how you can help them.
However, if you played it right, your colleagues will be curious to find out what you’ve got in mind. Now here’s where the rubber meets the road.
Walk them through your own automated processes
Now’s the time to show off your own work.
If you have an automated process of your own, book some time to walk your colleague or superior through it. If you haven’t already built one, now’s the time to do so — you can do it on a free trial license if you still don’t have budget approval for a tool of your own.
You know the value of automation, and the reliability and efficiency benefits it brings to your day. Explain that to your audience, and make sure they experience the superior ease of use. Also, remind them what the world looked like before the process was automated, so the contrast and improvement is clear.
Read your audience, and also be sure to address the sticking points that are most important for them. For example, if they hate Slack chatter, show them how automation can eliminate or reduce it. If they are concerned about budget or time invested, show them how easy it was to set up, and how affordable the license is.
Point being: show them your process, in a way that highlights their potential future values. That’s when the “ah ha!” moment comes.
Show frequent examples of automation in action
There’s no better way to explain automation than by seeing it in action.
I’ll never forget the amazement that crossed the faces of a conference room full of executives when I showed them my automated marketing operations process for the first time. They just didn’t know that automating all of these coordination, reporting, and integration steps was even possible.
Now that’s a somewhat advanced example, but your first automation examples don’t have to be.
It can actually be better to start with something basic when you want to show automation to your peers. If you start from the peak of automation complexity, you can probably expect your colleagues to be overwhelmed, and happy to leave the “technical stuff” to IT — exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve.
Instead, start by showing your co-workers things like:
- How to automate coordination and handovers in a process, to eliminate an unnecessary meeting or length email thread
- How to automate emails or notifications about a particular action or system
- How to automate the entry of data from one system into another, without having to enter it manually
If you have the bandwidth, you can even build automated processes for your coworkers or supervisors, to reinforce the benefits of automation, and allow people to see the value of automated processes in a practical way by using automation themselves.
I’m the automation evangelist at my company — now what?
After a few months of evangelism, you should begin to notice a change. Some companies make this transition faster or slower than others.
First off, your colleagues will start coming to you with automation requests. You’ll notice yourself CC’d into more email chains and pulled into more meetings, always with the question: “isn’t there a way we can automate some of this?”
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You’ve fostered the beginnings of an “automate anything” mentality in your organization. The hard work is done.
Now that you’ve established a place for automation (and yourself) at the table, you’re ready to move on to automating serious, high-value operations processes for your organization. In the next segment of this series, we’ll tackle how to pitch no-code automation as a viable solution for handling core, recurring operations processes, and how to get management on your side from the beginning.
In the last two articles on the blog, we covered Operations Automation 101, and how to implement your first automated process in 3 quick steps.