The short answer to the above question is… just listen for the click, click, click.
That’s the sound your mouse makes moving or manipulating the same data over and over again, month after month. It’s a strong clue that it’s time to automate that report or data analysis.
Generally, you want to look to automate functions that feature consistency and repetition and those that will maximize your time savings because you are generating the same report on a regular basis.
We have plenty of examples from the finance team here at Adaptive Insights. For instance, we have a fully automated process that loads invoices and collections data from NetSuite into Adaptive Insights. So every morning at 6 a.m.—while I’m peacefully sleeping—the latest NetSuite collections and billing data flows into Adaptive Insights.
So, in a sense, I’m already working before I even wake up. That’s one of the many benefits you can achieve through automation. Below are five ways to help better determine when to automate so you can focus more on generating strategic insights instead of getting buried in mundane tasks.
Tip 1: Practice makes perfect
The more you look for tasks to automate, the better you get at figuring out what to automate and what to do manually. I’ve found that once I determine one area where it makes sense to automate, it’s easier to identify other similar opportunities. For instance, say I start doing a fully automated Saved-Search import for billings and collections. I can use that same model to bring in some other data set from NetSuite.
Saved Search is a function of NetSuite that lets you pull a search on any object within its system. For Adaptive, on the integration side, we can bring in a Saved Search pretty much as is from NetSuite. That’s slick.
Tip 2: Get buy-in
One of the key perks of automation is that it doesn’t only free up your time—it should also benefit others on your team because they can more easily access reports or may have been doing similar manual tasks. Keeping everyone in the loop on what is being automated makes your entire team more efficient and strategic. Beyond that, automating in a vacuum can lead to trouble. It can spark data debates if similar reports are being generated by others. And if someone leaves the company, the automation he or she created may be lost or difficult to duplicate.
Tip 3: Share the benefits
The whole idea with automation is that once it’s set up and running, nobody really has to think about it. So part of the calculation regarding the “should I automate” question is weighing if the benefit can be reaped systems-wide. Everybody on your team should have access to what’s running automatically, and there should be no surprises. If you’re out of the office or busy, the automated programs are still running. Your team won’t have to track you down to figure out what’s going on or get access to the data.
Tip 4: Don’t automate everything
Like most everything in life, moderation is the key. You don’t have to go automation crazy, particularly right from the get-go. Figure out which report or data analysis will give you the most bang for your buck by making your work more efficient and showcasing the benefits of automation. Then, build momentum from there, working with the rest of the finance team to strategically identify where it makes the most sense to automate.
Tip 5: Keep the human touch
Automation is amazing, but the heart of finance will always be human beings using critical thinking and expertise to add value to their organizations. It’s important to maintain that human element. You want to be stronger through automation, not irrelevant. It’s sort of like the superhero Iron Man. You want a system to augment what you’re doing and help you do it faster. At the same time, you still want the person inside the armor to make the decisions and know what’s going on.
As the pace of business quickens, knowing how to take a strategic approach to automation will give you and your team a clear competitive edge. Just start listening for that click, click, click and take it from there.