Is It Worth Automating?

In a recent peer user group meeting, we discussed how to determine the point at which automation is worth doing. Specifically, when do you decide to leave a process alone, since you’ll spend more time automating it than you will ever gain back after it’s automated?

While thinking about this dilemma, I stumbled on this webcomic, which I hope you enjoy as much as I did:

In my opinion, it’s a flawed approach to think of it only from a time savings perspective. From talking with other MSPs, it seems others agree. Several have told me if they’re doing something more than twice, they believe it’s worth investing at least some time to see if they can automate it. From the recent peer user groups, here are the primary reasons why people believe something may be worth automating:

  • If it will save more time in a month, quarter, or year than it will take to automate
  • If it’s prone to user error—for example if there’s a 10-step process involving user typing and user error will cause more work
  • If it will give the end customer a better user experience
  • If there’s strategic value to automating it (i.e. the customer demands it)
  • If it’s boring, repetitive work
  • If trying to automate everything is a strategic decision

Your decision to automate will depend on your needs, capacity to build it, and your customers’ requirements. That said, I don’t advocate automating everything because it’s not possible. However, it’s worth looking into automating as much of your daily and recurring processes as possible to make your life easier.

One mistake people often make is to create everything from scratch at each request. If you want to automate something, I highly recommend checking in the automation cookbook first to see if it’s been built already. If it’s not there, check out the success center forums to see if anyone has built something similar.

Once you start the process, you’ll likely find more and more reasons to automate things than just time and cost savings—but they’re both good metrics to track initially to show the value of automation to the management team.

If you’ve created an automation policy and would like to share it with the community, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

As always, don’t forget to look in the automation cookbook if you’re interested in other automation policies, script checks, and custom services.

Marc-Andre Tanguay is head automation nerd at SolarWinds MSP. You can follow him on Twitter at @automation_nerd.

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