Automation for the people

I’m a big fan of automation. It plays an essential role in helping build a successful bootstrapped business.

I’ll probably blog more in future about specific technical automation that I’ve found to work well for us. But in this post, I wanted to share a simple bit of insight I had recently around the essence of automation. And how it’s often much less technical and gadgety than it’s portrayed.

As you probably know ‘auto’ means ‘self’ in Greek.

Automatic essentially means “self-moving” or “self-acting”.

This is the meaning that a lot of people think about when it comes to automation. Including me until recently.

The basic principle here is that you can organize systems/tools in a certain way that means things automate a.k.a “act by themselves”.

The key benefit of automation is that once you have created the environment where this self-acting is possible, it can happen repeatedly. Automation has a multiplier effect.

But there is another related word here that’s important too.

Autonomy. Autonomy essentially means “self-governing”.

In modern usage, the term autonomy tends to relate to the conditions required to self-govern and self-act.

Automation and autonomy are pretty similar ideas.

Automation relates to *things* being able to act by themselves whereas autonomy relates to *people* being able to act by themselves.

From the perspective of your business we can broadly group automation and autonomy together, because they both achieve the same thing. They give you the ability to outsource a process to somewhere else that you don’t have to repeatedly do yourselves.

Let’s talk briefly about product documentation.

When you create good product documentation you create automation. Why? Because documentation is something that you can create once, and it enables people to be able to ‘self-act’ in a way that has a multiplier effect. Documentation enables autonomy, thus documentation is automation.

But documentation is just one part of a much bigger picture.

In pretty much every single action undertaken by your business you have a choice over “who does this”. It’s either you or it’s someone or something else.

Expanding your perspective on automation

I think there’s a lot to be gained by reframing your thought process around automation to start including processes and systems to enable third party autonomy. To give people autonomy you need to empower them, and there are many different ways of doing that.

Documentation is an obvious example, because knowledge is empowering. But autonomy can flow from your product design itself and much more beyond.

Can you think of any processes your could introduce or change to help increase your customer’s autonomy?

Can you think of any processes you can remove that are currently inhibiting customer autonomy?

There is an interesting interplay between automation (in the traditional sense) and autonomy too. Using automation internally can increase the amount of autonomy your customers and other third parties have. Automating your billing, your onboarding, your trials, your training, etc gives your prospects, customers and partners more autonomy to get maximum benefit from your products without putting a strain on your internal resources.