Is Automation the Answer to All My Problems?

Automating work using technology sounds GREAT. And it can be! But it’s not always the right solution. Sometimes, it’s best to cross the stream where it’s shallowest. 

What is process automation?

Process automation is using technology (in this case, Salesforce) to perform a defined set of tasks in a particular order, based on criteria. For example, when a donation above a certain amount is received, Salesforce can send an email alert to notify the Development team. In this example, the criteria are 1) a record for a donation was created and 2) the amount is more than some threshold (say, $500). The task the system performed was sending an email to a determined group of people. 

Without automation, a staff person would need to monitor incoming donations and then send an email about any donations above the threshold. It’s easy enough, but that staff person has better ways to use their time and brainpower. Cue process automation. 

When isn’t process automation a great idea?

It sounds very cool to get technology to do as much work as possible automatically. But sometimes automation isn’t the best idea. Some rules to consider: 

  • Automation takes time to build, change, and maintain. Automation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It needs care and feeding, like everything else in your system. As you’re considering building one piece of automation, it’s important to consider it in the context of all your automation. How does this automation interact or interfere with other automation? How big a priority is it in light of other planned or existing automation? It’s also important to consider your ability to manage it– do you have someone on staff or an external resource that can be available to make changes to it or troubleshoot issues? 
  • Automation takes the human out of the process. This is obvious, but it’s worth thinking through. Relying on technology can reduce the likelihood of errors, but it also removes judgment from the equation, introducing new opportunities for errors or blindspots. For example, an organization wants to automatically send new volunteer applicants an invite to a monthly orientation. However, whether they offer orientation and how many volunteers they invite depends on the number of upcoming events, existing volunteers with availability, and staff availability to provide orientation. Someone needs to check these variables and make a judgment call before sending invites, rather than relying on an automated email.  

How do I decide what to automate?

This is where it comes back to process definition! After identifying the tasks of each business process, it can become clear which processes are good candidates for automation. A quick rule of thumb is that processes with many exceptions aren’t good automation candidates. If most of a process is standardized but not all, the solution might be a mix of manual and automated actions. 

Our team can help you figure out how to make the most of automation in Salesforce. Reach out to us here!

Fiona Rosenthal

Fiona Rosenthal

Senior Consultant

Fiona joined North Peak in March 2017, following six years as a Salesforce Admin in the private sector. In her previous position, Fiona managed a Salesforce instance of 2,500 users where she configured and customized Salesforce, managed data migrations, and supported the daily needs of her end users.