The Power of Manual – A Case for Not Automating Things

Automation exists to power through processes while saving time and effort in doing repeatable tasks. The slowness, inefficiency, and inconsistency of manual processes indeed cost businesses in many situations. However, we cannot expect automation to cast a spell and solve all our problems.

The Difference Human Brains Make

An automated process will follow a particular flow based around a set of rules that do not allow a step to skip unless it is built into the hierarchy itself. In situations where a process may be variable on a case-by-case basis, automation may run into bugs and errors which a business cannot afford. Yes, automation can “make things happen on its own,” but it cannot always solve, calculate, and crunch like a human brain can. Furthermore, when a job’s nature requires social interaction to play a vital role, automation can be cold and robotic, no pun intended.

Getting the Job Done vs Growing Together

Let’s take the example of staff scheduling if it were to be automated. A part of the staff that was meant to get scheduled will also be replaced. An automation engineer cannot write code that will substitute for team building and employee awareness during shift allocation, which is necessary to keep the human touch. Emotional intelligence’s core skills, interaction, motivation, and compassion will also be absent, leading to hostile working conditions. Any growing organization with its chain of command evolving in a complex manner requires human emotions of dependency and empathy, which inadvertently becomes necessary.

Automated Reports? Think Again…

For instance, take reporting, who doesn’t want a conveniently generated automated report with the desired information? It’s easy, it’s fast, but does it pass the accuracy test? Can’t say! This data can be organized and readable but cannot be relied upon blindly to be treated as ready-to-serve. It is missing the subject matter expert who will take this auto-generated content and use it to compare, analyze, and provide suggestions where needed. It is missing the guesstimate that may be more accurate than a calculated projection, especially in a fluctuating work nature. Moreover, there’s an aspect of developing your talent with every task you execute in-house. The employee that works on a report is also polishing his skills and gaining insights while doing it.

Finding the Right Balance

In cases where automation is the best solution, continuous monitoring is perhaps the wisest choice to keep the process free from inconsistent variables and errors. No system or human is bug-free, but the balance between the times saved from automation versus time spent in error management must always be tipped to the former. Also, if reliance on automation negatively impacts the company’s trust, dependency, and culture, it must be given a second thought and reverted to the traditional process. No process needs to be automated merely for the sake of automation.

Let me know your take on the Automation vs Manual saga in the comments below.


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