Not All Automation Projects Have to be Huge...

Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

When people think of automation, they tend to think big. Revising your onboarding process, revamping purchasing, integrating your whole company onto one platform. Automation can be so much more than that. Or, in this case, so much less.

When we began exploring Robotic Process Automation (RPA), we had internal meetings that went a lot like this "What do we do that takes a long time, that's simple, and you hate?" And one of my answers was "reminding people to turn in their timesheets. I have to do it at least once a week, it just feels like nagging, you are adults and I'm not your mom."

So, we experimented with a bot, and soon figured out it was quicker to build a small app with our Low Code platform. The app scanned our Harvest timesheets for the past 4 weeks, posted the schedule in Slack, and publicly tagged people who hadn't submitted their timesheets. We called it "Harvest Mom". And Mom called people out on Monday mornings.

Was it worthwhile automation use case? I don't know. But what I do know is that timesheets got turned in, I didn't feel like I was nagging people, and I think people started to like me more because I wasn't always asking them for something. It was a simple way to streamline something in the company and increase morale at the same time.

Automation projects sound like they need to be big, and sometimes they do. But you can start with a small project to test the waters. In addition to freeing up time, small automations can eliminate invisible emotional energy suck. This project started when I voiced some frustration. Nagging people was a simple process but it made me feel bad, it made other people feel bad, but I had to do it, every week.

Not nagging people =

happy woman standing in field, with hands outstretched

After our little Mom Bot project, I started thinking about what other things I do every day that seem small and insignificant to the company as a whole, but take up most of my days and brain power.

What processes do you do everyday that seem so simple you think they are not worth automating? Maybe they are. Here are a few ideas.

  • Task related to a scheduled deadline (e.g. weekly or monthly), e.g.
    • Submit time
    • Generate invoices
    • Update reports
  • Tasks related to broadcasting information (e.g. via email or slack), e.g.
    • "do your timesheet"
    • "don't forget the quarterly meeting next week"
    • "Insurance paperwork is due Friday"
    • "The food truck today is Rolling Stone Pizza"
  • Tasks involving data entry or copy-paste, e.g.
    • Getting reports from one division of the company and having to paste it into a different format to send to another division
    • Supplying information to insurance or financial providers
  • Tasks involving approvals
    • Invoice approvals
    • Expense approvals

Maybe there is a way to get some of these tasks to run without you, to free you up for more important things, like solving today's Wordle. Also, you'll have time to think about what else you could (and should) be doing for the success of your business. Make a list and get started automating today!

Erika Vecchio

Erika Vecchio