Automation vs. Training

Sometimes when a new system is being rolled out, a lot of time is spent training a company for how to use this new system.  Sometimes this makes sense.  At other times, it makes a lot more sense to put some extra effort towards making the system easier to use before it is rolled out.

I have a perfect example of this with my current company.  We moved from another ERP solution to SAP.  ERP is enterprise resource planning, but I don’t know much about it.  I do know it is a way to store releases of software for our team.  Other teams use it for manufacturing purposes.  The fact that I don’t know exactly what ERP is or how to use SAP only makes a better case for what I am about to explain in this post.

Planning

Company Training

Company training is expensive.  You have one or more people that have to plan a lot of sessions and present multiple times.  Depending on how many people need to be trained, you are looking at 1 or multiple hours times however many people must be trained.  For our company, this is probably at least 100 people.

Training

Of course, training is not perfect.  Afterwards, several people still need lots more training when they use the tool for their specific use case.  This eats up even more time.

The crux of the issue though is that at least for our team, this could be a button that could be clicked.  We don’t really need to know about SAP.  You want your team to be focused on the part of the business that they are experts in.  Training them for something else takes time away from We need nothing more than to just save our code in a certain location in that database.  That’s it!  We don’t need to know about workflows or anything else.

This is a perfect case for automation.

Automation Rather than Training

Suppose instead of one person teaching 100 people, only 10 people need to really know the deep use cases of SAP (this is a gross oversimplification – I don’t know the exact numbers).  The other 90 people could have a tool that allows them to click a button that does the work for them.

Button

 

The automation might cost a lot at the beginning.  However, over time, this is going to pay off (at least in our use case I know it will).  With something like SAP, many people in our organization don’t need to know how to use SAP.  It isn’t critical to our day-to-day activities.

Rather, we need someone that knows a lot about SAP to roll-out a process where we click a button for it to do all the work we need it to do.

Everybody says “Oh yeah, of course we should do that.”  The problem comes from lack of time for someone to implement it.

Let’s take a different use case.  Suppose when someone wanted to send an email, they had to manually implement every part of the process.  For example, I have to know how the SMTP protocol works.  I have to manually put bits together that fit that protocol.  I have to make sure the proper ports are open on my device’s firewall and in my network’s firewall.

Guess how many emails would get sent?

Zero

ZERO.

Well… maybe your smartest developers who are intimately familiar with SMTP and packets might send some emails… but more than likely, they would just get up, walk to the person they want to communicate with, and verbally exchange the message.

This is an over-the-top example.  I hope this gets the point across.  The people that know and work on specific business logic do not need to be concerned with other pieces of the business that can be automated away.  This costs the company revenue.

Conclusion

Some tools need to be used on a daily basis and need to be part of a company’s day-to-day activities.  A deep knowledge of the tool is needed.  Others don’t require very much use or knowledge.

For those tools, there is a trade-off to be considered.  Do you want to train the company, or would you rather automate it into an extremely simple usage pattern for everybody to use?  The former requires more up-front cost but can save lots of time down the road.  Consider this when rolling out new systems.  Automation can save the company lots of time and money.

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