Professional Software Consulting
Software Automation

A former boss of mine once told me, "If you can't automate your job, then you shouldn't be a programmer." He was introducing me to the process of automatically performing regression tests on my code. This was a lesson that I have made a cornerstone of my software career.
Causes of downtime for network applications
(Source: Gartner Dataquest, 2007)

According to Gartner, 40% of the reason why systems fail is because of operator errors. There's simply no getting around the fact that humans make mistakes. We make even more when we're rushed, tired, under pressure, frustrated, or don't understand how the software works.

There are two aspects of software automation that are important when it comes to business. The first is to design software and systems so that humans have fewer decisions to make. If a computer can make the decision, then it should - let humans make the decisions that only a human can or needs to make.

For example, in a spreadsheet, if you have a column of numbers and need a total, you shouldn't have to waste time adding those numbers up yourself. The software can figure that out, much more quickly and with significantly less chance of error than a human. Automation is all about finding inefficiencies in how things are done and creating tools to streamline your daily workload so you can focus on what is important to your business.

The second aspect of software automation is related to user interface design. By designing the user interface to be easy to understand, it will be easier to learn, and the user will be less likely to erroneously enter the wrong data or choose the wrong option. Automation in user interface design means a well designed interface that enables new users to learn quickly and speed through their tasks so that most of their time is spent deliberating on business issues, not figuring out what button to push or which option corresponds to the choice they are making. The best tools are those you use effortlessly.

The art of using software to reduce costs involves understanding and defining the business process in such a way so that automation can be introduced, and then making a truly useful tool for the business.

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