Automate It

Computers were supposed to simplify everyone's life, right? Paperwork was supposed to be reduced, people were supposed to have their minds set free to work on more lofty intellectual tasks and time spent on drudgery was supposed to be minimized. Has this happened in your life, or do you spend late nights doing repetitive tasks on a computer?

We have so many tasks that can be completed through the use of our personal computers, that the uses seem endless. However, the specifics of what needs to actually be done are rarely addressed. For example, we could have a task in which every day we get emailed some data. We then load the data into a spreadsheet, combine it with some other data from another report, format it, and send it off to someone else. Since many of the computer users of today are not programmers (like it might have been many years back), users are very willing (at least quite willing) to accept the limits of what they know to be the optimal solution.

One of the real joys of being a computing professional, is seeing how some of those repetitive tasks can actually be eliminated through custom programmed macros or programs. There really isn't any reason that repetitious tasks can't be handled directly by software. The main reason for users thinking otherwise has to do, at least in part, with fundamental changes in our computing architectures. Computer systems have, in many ways, become more internally complex, and the ability for a user to actually write a piece of integration software or customized macros to perform a repetitive task has been hampered or obscured. On the other hand, many applications allow for the writing of macros, but the task may seem daunting and is thus avoided. Another concern is what it might cost to get the repetitive task automated if the user themselves is not up for the task. On the other hand, if you have to hire an additional staff member to do the task, the task that could have been automated, that could represent a fairly substantial ongoing cost for which the money could be put to better use.

The automation of repetitive tasks is one of the areas that having a computing professional on staff can really help with. “Mr. Fixit”, the one-time fix your computer person, can only see so much about your company when they come to solve problems for you. With a person committed to your environment, items which are sub-optimal can be addressed and real solutions can be achieved. The time saved and the frustration averted can be amazing.