Read this twice: Automation is not a quick fix. Automation is one of many tools that can be implemented thoughtfully and strategically to complement existing operating procedures or workflows. 

In our previous blog, we explored the importance of understanding the “what” and “why” behind automation by getting clear on the operational need for it. Building on this foundation, we now shift our focus to practical considerations, specifically addressing the crucial “how” aspect. Delve with us into how an organization can speed things up through the identification, understanding, and required maintenance of automation tools.  

Identifying Tools for Automation 

Make sure you have read our time to read our First Steps to Navigating Automation blog so you are armed with a well-defined “why” and “what” before we shift focus on the “how.” The first step to “how” involves identifying the tools available within your organization’s ecosystem that can facilitate automation. Modern applications offer a variety of methods for automation. CompuData is a Microsoft Partner and if your organization uses Microsoft products, tools like Microsoft Power Automate are available with your licensing to unlock built-in and custom automation workflows.  

Consider a scenario where you frequently receive invoices from vendors via email. With Power Automate, you can automate the extraction of these attachments and organize them in a designated folder for review. This avoids requiring someone to be responsible for an email queue, manually moving attachments, and eliminates human error. This is not to say the human doing this today is incapable, but we are all subject to human error – it is why they have erasers on pencils.  

Do not just take our word for it. Check out Microsoft’s Power Automate page to learn more and reach out to us if interested in implementing this tool.  

Understanding Tools for Automation 

Whether it is something like Power Automate or tools within your specific software suite, start with some questions to gain an understanding: Does the product have an education component to learn the features and functionalities that may be built-in for automation? Are there integrations with other tools in your tech stack? For example, do tools like your CRM, Digital Marketing, ERP, and so on talk to each other today? Could they? Are these tools complementary or do they require additional licensing? As we did with the “why” and “what,” the “how” requires its own drill down process.  

In tandem with defining what your current tools offer (or do not), begin also thinking about an individual or group that would be suited to learning and implementing this change. Who “owns” the tool and, with it, any automation flows that it is running? Is this going to be managed in-house? With a vendor/partner? Think in terms of this: if it breaks, who is responsible for fixing it and can they do so quickly? 

Consider collaborating with a trusted technology provider that can provide valuable insights into the array of toolsets existing within your organization’s platforms. With CompuData, our team can help you identify automation opportunities and further the effort by navigating setup with vendors, documenting the process, and being a support buffer if something breaks. 

To understand your tools, ask questions, be thorough, and lean on your partners. Automation works best with a firm foundation. 

Maintaining Automation 

Remember our tip to begin defining who is responsible for automation if it breaks? Those resources are going to be responsible for maintenance. Automation is not a static endeavor. Resources like APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) – mechanisms that allow two or more disparate systems to communicate – get updated and firmware/software upgrades might change how things are done in the system.  

Take care in understanding the level of administrative commitment your organization can support. Will this work be added into an existing position or is it great enough to merit its own role? Work with your vendors and technology partners to understand things such as: update schedules, major vs minor updates, changes to APIs or built-in automation tools, and so on.  

If a vendor supports it, sandboxes offer opportunities to break things in a risk-free environment. Organizations can test updates, new code, automation changes, and other features before pushing to production.  

If you are not sure how to implement maintenance on automation, CompuData can help. Regular review and maintenance are necessary for addressing compatibility issues and ensuring that automated processes continue to align with your organization’s evolving needs. Something as simple as implementing alerts for specific automations can help avoid a major headache. It brings peace of mind knowing that if an automation fails for whatever reason, your technology partner is taking immediate action and knows the steps to take for swift resolution. 

We know automation is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It is like a vehicle – the tool requires routine inspections and preventative maintenance. Be good to your automation and it will be good to you! 

Future-proofing Automation: Setting Up for Success 

By now, you have learned that automation is not merely a technological solution, but rather part of a broader operational strategy requiring the careful and deliberate understanding of what should be, why it should be, and how it ought to be automated.  

These three thought exercises make sure automation fits as part of strategic processes, organizational goals, and future business needs.  

If you have gotten here and its seems that things are missing in your current toolset, ask yourself – Do the tools we use fit the future we want for the business? Would newer platforms enhance or limit our automation capabilities? Are there third-party tools that can net some ROI until a new solution is vetted? These questions will help guide you in making informed decisions about your automation strategy. 

By understanding how your automation efforts align with your capabilities and future aspirations, you can ensure that your business is well-prepared to navigate the ever-evolving technological landscape. CompuData can work with your team to assess your automation strategies and proactively align them with your business goals and objectives. Our team can help ensure strategic automation, addressing both current needs and preparing for future advancements and changes in technology. 

To learn more about how CompuData can help you leverage strategic automation to enhance business processes and efficiency, email us! 

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Author: Michael Ulrich

Michael serves customers as a Systems Engineer on CBIZ CompuData's Project Team. With nearly 10 years in the field, Michael provides expertise in systems and network engineering, project management, and solution architecture. His early career in Higher Education has enabled Michael to teach and translate technology for clients in a way that is clear and concise. Michael works exclusively with CBIZ CompuData's largest clients to design a holistic IT strategy, deliver a uniform onboarding experience, and provide a seamless transition to ongoing support and account management.