Last week I found out that somebody was backfilling for two other people and therefore, was running three reports. If I hadn’t automated the report, she wouldn’t have been able to do that. It’s pretty exciting to be able to cut down the time drastically, but it is also scary.
Fewer people will be required to do the job, not that we were going to hire people to do these reports. No jobs were lost but in the future, there will be fewer jobs because of this kind of automation. I’ve been automating accounting/finance stuff for years so this is an area that is really vulnerable to job cuts. Most of my compatriots do not have the creativity or the desire to create tools to help themselves, so they are not learning skills to be creative in software. Right now, from what I can see, what is most vulnerable to programming are repetitive actions, tasks that can be boiled down into a cookbook, or have a calculation, analytical, or data quality to it. If you handle data, perform lots of calculations, or do analysis, you are vulnerable.
Last week I worked on analyzing the imbalances that were showing up on the report. After going through all of the reports, I’ve decided even analytical type work can be automated, especially if the same type of issues keep coming up. For this report, there was really just a handful of issues that kept reappearing as the source of the imbalance. Quite possibly a lot of analytical work can be thought of as falling into the cookbook style of problem solving. I tend to specialize in the non-cookbook version, the things that most people can’t solve, but there are a lot of “problems” that are easily solved via the cookbook method. I think human error type problems fall into this category.
This week I’ve been spending time doing some more programming to improve my skills at programming on the fly and to automate the drudge activities, which is mainly copying budget data into a single Excel file for pivot tables. I just finished designing the program so when the budgets are approved, I can just run the program to create the database and start doing variance analysis in the future. Except, my file will do most of the heavy calculations. All I have to do is push a button, sit back and watch the program collect the data and tell me where we are off. From there, I will drill in to see what may be the issue, but even then, I will probably design my spreadsheet to identify those issues for me.
There is such a thrill watching my program do the work but it is also scary. We are going to be entering a brave new world with lots of threats and possibly lots of joblessnesses.