Automating the workplace

Automating mundane tasks in the workplace has a significant ROI, because it lets workers focus on what really matters.

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Automation has fundamentally changed how businesses operate. Automating the mundane tasks at workplace has one of the highest return on investments, because it lets the workers focus on what really matters - shipping features and fixing bugs. Several areas where automation is common today are explored below.

Testing

Testing is perhaps the most automated task in software development lifecycle. The idea is that developers write some tests and then make some changes to the codebase as required. If the new changes pass those tests, it ensures that no functionality is broken. Of course this depends on what the degree of code coverage is in the software. Because of the repetitive nature of the task, tests are highly automatable. Each programming language has its own set of testing frameworks. Frameworks like Selenium allow developers to automate browsers in any way they see fit. Writing automated tests has become a field of employment in itself. Companies like Browserstack provide the developers with a wide range of browsers on multiple platforms for automated testing of their web based products. 

Data Analysis and Insights

Data analysis is another field that is highly automated. It is based on making processing pipelines with sources of data, the intermediate processing modules, and a sink. Sources can be of multiple types like mobile app usage, web app usage, or clickstream data. Intermediate processing involves sanitizing the data and putting it through a stream processing engine like Apache Spark and running various machine learning algorithms on it. The sink is a storage system for the data. Once the pipeline is built, it can run by itself and produce results in realtime. 

Backups

This is a no-brainer. All important data should be setup for automated backups. Databases should always be replicated across multiple clusters and zones. One important point is that a backup should not be considered dependable unless it has been used to restore once. Make sure to test backups periodically. 

Deployments

Deploying new software can be automated to a large extent. Continuous Integration comes from under the Devops field. Various CI/CD providers like Travis and CircleCI are available for this purpose. Jenkins is a solid open source alternative that is used by some of the largest businesses in the world. Continuous Integration can be hooked up with automated testing to check all the new commits during the build process. This can be combined with a code repository like Github for automated builds. After the build succeeds, the CI/CD provider can work with the deployment server to setup a new version of the application in staging or production environment. 

Uptime

Checking the service for uptime can be automated as well. A service can expose some endpoints that can be used to check its health periodically. Any downtime can be automatically reported to the relevant person via email or a Slack message by a bot. This also helps the user in knowing whether the service is experiencing some outage or not. There are several services online that provide hosted status pages for services and websites. 

Marketing Automation

A business can have the best product and still not succeed if it neglects its own marketing. But marketing a product can be a hectic task. Open source tools like Mautic help in automating that. There are proprietary offerings available in the market as well. Marketing automation helps keep track of social media mentions and interaction, contact management, personalized emails to all users, designing custom forms for campaigns, campaign and event management, generating reports and more. Combining the 10% strategy for marketing with marketing automation can take a business to new heights. 

Onboarding

Onboarding new employees can be largely automated. Setting up new accounts and credentials for new employees, making sure they go through the relevant documents, contracts management, and information registration - all can be automated. There are several types of onboarding software available in the market. 

Leave Logs

This comes under employee management. Leaves can be automated as well. Many small scale businesses today use Slack as a leave register, with a channel dedicated to it. Others use various hosted offerings more suited to this use case. Businesses that give smart cards to their employees can also use that to automate attendance. If an employee takes leave, an automated message can be sent to their team members on Slack or Hipchat using their APIs. 

Live Chat Widgets

Live chat widgets, like tawk.to, can be automated to forward all messages from the website to a specific channel in a team chat app like Slack. Any messages posted on Slack channels by employees are then forwarded to the user. Open source projects like Jinora can be used to create anonymous public channels as well. 

Automating the workplace is very important in keeping the workforce small and efficient. The more the tasks are automated, the more time employees have for working on things that actually require human intervention. If it can be repeated sequentially, it can be automated easily.

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