“Manual processes are risks”

The other day I heard a person on my project say “Manual processes are risks”. Generally, if you do something that has a risk, you want to have a chance to gain something from taking the risk.

What is there to gain from e.g. a manual deployment process, repeated over and over again, compared to an automated one? Not much, or nothing at all. What is there to loose? Well, since the human brain is normally very bad at doing things exactly correct repeatedly; you will loose the successful deployment from time to time. In the longer run you loose people that get bored or stressed out (or both), trust from missed deployments, speed from the extra time it takes to handle things manually and, ultimately, you loose money from all of these things combined.

Some processes require human interaction; the creative processes. They cannot be replaced by automated processes, and they can rarely be specified or planned at all. They have to be facilitated and gardened, e.g. by designing your working environment to enhance communication. They are usually iterative and incremental.

The key is to have people step out of the way of automatable tasks by actually automating them, step by step. The funny thing is that it often takes a creative process to make an automated process out of a manual process. Sometimes it takes a lot of creativity, and several iterations, to automate everything that can or should be automated. But it is worth it. Because, as my teammate put it, “Manual processes are risks”, and we don’t want risks that we cannot gain anything from.

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