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We’re Already Automated and Connected

We're Already Automated and ConnectedWe seem to be progressing on the automated Monday report. We’re at the stage where folks have embedded the report as part of their Monday morning routine. Our current work has lately been focused on learning how to resolve the imbalances that come up and meeting the deadline. Once they get past the stage of resolving the imbalances, I believe we will reach the point where they will really look at the numbers and determine if they are correct.

Some of the larger properties are giving rave reviews and saying it is so easy and quick to do. They don’t understand why there would be resistance.

And resistance we do have. The resistance is not coming from the supervisors or their folks but coming from the financial types.

The financial types ask: Is it accurate? They profess concern that the reports are inaccurate. Part of concern is that they know the system, which provides the data for the report, will have incorrect data and part of it is they fear managers are not reviewing their numbers. To me, the first part is a non-starter because the system is supposed to be the repository bible, so if it is incorrect, then correct there, don’t use spreadsheets. You really don’t want to have multiple sources of information; you just want one data source so that everybody reports the same numbers.

The other aspect of the accuracy fear is that we always have one or two people who will fail to do the report and we also have quite a few reports coming in with imbalances. This is the stage we’re at and we’re working on those issues. The group is still learning how to resolve the imbalances but I think over time, they will start figuring out what to do. These issues have nothing to do with automation. We would still have those issues if we did the report manually so that argument really does not hold.

The second concern (that of managers not reviewing their numbers) is a valid concern and I have read a book that discusses those very fears. The short synopsis of the book’s thesis is automation will tend to drive people to be “dumber” because they no longer use those skills. Skills atrophy because the machine does it for them. Some scientists have acknowledged that effect and are thinking of ways to counter it. For us, to combat that tendency, we have a comment section where the managers have to discuss why the numbers are the way they are. We’re hoping that this section will force the managers to dig into the numbers.

It is surprising, and yet not so surprising, that resistance have come from the financial folks. Financial types deal with numbers, computer systems and spreadsheets all the time. They are used to depending on computer systems so maybe they’ve lost sight of the fact that the computer system is a form of automation. They are also used to spreadsheets and are well aware of the errors that can crop up, so maybe when they think of automation, they are reminded of those spreadsheet errors, mistaking their spreadsheets as a form of automation. But here’s the thing: their spreadsheets are just error prone spreadsheets, not true automation, and are not hardened and tested to eliminate most errors. With their spreadsheets, you can enter wrong numbers, you can add in new rows in such a fashion that the summation no longer works, or you can mistakenly overwrite formulas. Their spreadsheets are no better and can in fact be worse than any automation system with its set of protection and hardened testing.

Finally, we can’t hide from the fact that a lot of things around us are automated. The bank statement balance you receive – do you think a person actually creates the statement or is it the computer? How about that traffic light – is a person physically turning the lights green or red? No, most things with data are already automated and we don’t think about it. So to ask managers to supply the information manually is just sticking your head in the sand. We are already automated and connected…in ways that we may not be aware of.

 

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