The Benefits of Automation: When (& When Not) to Automate

January 19, 2023 Mimi Torrington

Computer with automation software

One of the many benefits of automation is that it has the power to free us up from being stuck on menial repetitive tasks and do what we were hired to do. But without knowing when to automate, you risk wasting even more time fixing your automation than you would have otherwise.

To help understand what and when to automate, Max Gray, Vice President of Finance at Bitcoin Depot, joined us on CFO Weekly to share his experience and know-how including the benefits of using Tableau, when and when not to automate and how to handle change management.

The Benefits of Tableau

Max Gray Automation benefits expert

In every business, there comes a tipping point. It's that moment when you collect so much data you can't operate on Excel anymore. This tipping point usually comes after you've downloaded extracts from a server, you've got millions of rows of data, and… your computer keeps crashing.

Time for Tableau. It's a cool new tool that lets you visualize data. And it's a great learning ground for automation, reporting and managing databases.

Now, great as Tableau is, it's got one real downside and that is the adoption of the technology by others in your team. You can make beautiful data visualizations — and people will spend hours doing just that, only to find that no one uses them. It's a tough balance and one we get to more when we talk change management in this episode.

When and When Not to Automate - What are the Benefits of Automation?

Max Gray automation quote

Two rules for when to automate: Automate the tasks that take the most time and stay away from automation for deeper-thinking tasks.

Automation is as much art as it is science. You have to read between the lines. You have to understand your business so well that big data sets and process automation don't throw you off. You have to realize when you're pointing to the numbers rather than relying on them.

There's so much data at your fingertips, and there are many ways you can make the numbers dance. Simplicity is best, not only for the people that are creating the report, but also for the people that are reading it. Nothing is worse than looking at a complicated KPI and trying to figure out how in the world it was calculated. And always remember that done is better than perfect.

Dealing With Change Management

the benefits of automation quote

How do you overcome organizational resistance and get people to start doing things the new way once it has been improved?

Organizational change is about people not products, and people are creatures of habit. We see things a certain way. Over time, if we keep seeing things that same way, it's easier for us to digest information quickly. But, automation will involve some getting used to across the team.

Once you run through a series of automation process improvement exercises, you can access so much more data, ask far deeper questions, and get answers faster. It's a challenge at first, but people quickly see the benefits, and adoption starts to pick up.

It's a process, so be patient. Soon enough you will get excitement at change rather than pushback. After you change something, the possibilities expand. You start to see where you can drive business from all these new insights you're getting.

When you unlock more pieces of data or simplify painful processes, things just get easier. And people like that.

For more on the benefits of automation, and more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player!

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