Is your company making automation errors that prevent you from enjoying its benefits?
Automation creates many benefits for organisations: more streamlined workflows, consistent output, reduced costs, and higher workforce efficiency and productivity.
However, too many companies make common automation errors that hinder them from achieving these goals. Often these errors stem from the way their external automation partners and development teams operate. Many occur during the development phase. These mistakes can not only minimise or prevent the company from achieving the benefits of automation, but also damage its long-term viability, financial posture, and competitiveness.
This article explores three common automation errors made by automation/development teams. It also suggests ways for these teams to avoid these errors and enable their client organisation to get the best ROI from their automation investment.
Automation Error #1: The Dev Team Doesn’t Understand the Automation Process Candidate
Automation technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be applied to many repeatable processes that require consistent, error-free output. A skilled and knowledgeable automation partner can help you identify the right automation candidates for your organisation.
However, one common automation error stems from the partner’s lack of understanding about the process and the business case for automation. Their dev teams are experts in automation tools and technologies, but struggle to unpack the process goals, mission, workers, and key performance indicators (KPIs). They also jump into automation without understanding the process challenges that automation is meant to address.
A lack of domain knowledge coupled with a lack of understanding of the business need for automation hinders these technical gurus from applying the automation solution in the right way or from helping the organisation achieve its desired results – whether it’s time savings, reduced costs, or improved output quality.
It also affects their ability to identify, formalise, and document the automation project scope, particularly which activities in the process should be automated versus which ones that shouldn’t. They also can’t set baselines or benchmarks to measure the progress of the development lifecycle or assess the quality of their output.
Ensure the dev team has process knowledge
When onboarding an automation partner, make sure their dev team, as well as every tester, project manager, and architect fully understands the process and/or tasks to be automated and why. They should know how automation can help the process achieve its business goals. This knowledge should guide their development and testing, and guide the build/test/deploy pipeline. If this isn’t possible, then ensure that at a minimum their tech leads and senior people understand these things and can relay they as development is carried out.
Automation Error #2: Not Implementing a Real-time Feedback Loop
When implementing an automation initiative, ongoing and real-time feedback can lead to continuous improvement. In a DevOps environment, regular testing of the in-progress solution in the real-world environment can yield useful information about defects or bugs.
Such an ongoing feedback loop and early “red flags” enable developers to fix issues early in the development cycle and speed up the automation project so the outcome matches the organisation’s business requirements and goals.
On the other hand, where there is no feedback loop, development teams end up making unnecessary assumptions or mistakes during the SDLC, both of which may lead to time-consuming and costly re-work. Further, the project may result in a buggy solution that will cause usability or integration problems or increase compliance, financial, or legal risk for the organisation.
Solution: Implement feedback loops
In any automation project, feedback should be available at every stage of the development lifecycle. Also, it should come from QA analysts, testers, functional experts, and the client organisation. Once these stakeholders provide feedback, developers should analyse these inputs for relevancy, and incorporate it into the work-in-progress solution before the big-bang rollout.
Automation Error #3: Not Selecting the Right Development Framework and Tools
For many dev teams, it can be tempting to select open-source or free tools for the automation project. While these tools can be useful, the risk of failure can also be very high if they lack the required features or don’t provide the support needed by your business and its specific automation use cases.
That’s why developers must research multiple tools before finalising what they need for your automation project. It can be useful to get recommendations and feedback from those who have successfully used these tools on their own real-time projects.
Solution: Follow development best practices
Regardless of which language or tech stack you use, developers should follow coding standards and comply with SDLC best practices. They should also set up a robust build/test/deploy pipeline to avoid development bottlenecks and keep the automation project on-track.
A tailored automation framework that documents best practices, requirements specifications, tools to be used, and project KPIs can help prioritise the project scope, requirements, and goals. It can also set the right expectations and improve collaboration between dev teams.
Many teams are also adopting codeless or low-code tools to speed up automation, particularly if they lack the advanced coding and functional skills demanded by some automation tools. It’s also a good practice to create modules that can be reused multiple times with just a few code changes to save time with this and future automation initiatives.
Solution: Adopt the DevOps approach to software development
The DevOps approach connects development, operations, and testing teams to help shorten the development cycle so they can push code to production earlier and complete the automation project faster. DevOps encourages continuous integration, delivery and testing, and can improve the efficiency and reliability of your automation solution. It will reduce the need for developers to completely rework their code and minimise the possibility of mistakes.
Further, by setting up robust processes for code reviews, design approvals, testing, and code management, you can create more agile dev teams and accelerate the development and production cycle.
Solution: Follow a systematic exception handling process
In any application, an unexpected event that requires special processing is an exception. Although exceptions are fairly common, it’s important for developers to handle them properly so that the automation program does not crash and impact the process.
Ideally, they should implement the exception handling process in an earlier phase of the SDLC. This will help them diagnose any issues early before they put the solution into production when it might be too late to turn back the clock.
This article highlights three common mistakes that development teams make when working on automation projects. These automation errors hinder their dev workflows, create bottlenecks, result in rework, and ultimately impact the client organisation’s ability to achieve its automation objectives.
Fortunately, developers can avoid these errors by better understanding the process they are automating, by following development best practices and the DevOps approach, and by implementing robust feedback loops and exception handling processes.
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