Automation myths decoded

Automation is one of the buzzwords of our time. As with many new or not-so-new phenomena, a number of stories and myths also surround the topic of automation. In an article on the blog of the website, Brianna Hansen deals with three of these myths that have formed around automation in project management. Below, we summarize her conclusions for you.

First, she points out how much automation has changed our lives, both at work and in our personal lives. As examples, she cites the fact that weekly meetings can be scheduled at the click of a smartphone and bills can be automatically debited monthly without having to remind yourself. There are now even automatic machines that feed the dog three times a day. Brave new world. So above all, tasks that are constantly repeated can be automated. In this way, we can occupy ourselves with more important or simply nicer things. In many cases, automated processes are even much more reliable than those performed by humans. Wouldn't you perhaps forget once or twice a year to instruct your monthly phone bill on time? After all, that makes the automated standing transfer much more reliable than you, if you're honest.
A robot arm and human arm hold gears together.

Automation in project management

Automation has also made its way into project management. While project managers are always busy keeping multiple projects running at the same time, managing highly complex processes and that too in an environment of ever increasing productivity, the use of automated tasks is becoming increasingly important. Simple tasks need to be automated to remain competitive. It can be assumed that about 40% of the tasks in the daily work of a project manager consist of performing routine tasks that are repeated on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these tasks could be automated. The technologies needed to do this already exist. Researchers at McKinsey & Company estimate that, in general, about 45% of day-to-day tasks could be automated. So what's holding us back? Is it the following myths?

1. Automation takes away jobs

Many people today still associate automation with robots taking over the world. This sounds a bit silly, but it contains a kernel of truth. Brianna Hansen brings the example of the first cashierless Amazon Go store, which opened its doors in the summer of 2018. The store launched in Seattle and advertised with the slogan "No lines, no cash registers." Not surprisingly, that has people fearing for their jobs. But Hansen points out that in project management in particular, it's more the other way around: increasing automation is breathing more life back into the actual job. Instead of mindless routine tasks, project managers can finally concentrate on the essentials. Hansen compares automation in project management to a mixer that blends the ingredients of a cake faster than it would be done by hand, giving the baker time to turn to other tasks.  The mixer does not replace the baker. It only helps him. It is the same in project management. Automation takes various tasks off the manager's hands so he can focus on problems and decisions. This will never be done by a machine.

2. Automation blocks creativity

Brianna Hansen doesn't want to let this myth stand either. She cites the example of Henry Ford, who revolutionized industrial production in 1913 by introducing assembly lines. Of course, nothing creative is done on the assembly line. But Hansen insists that the assembly line, like various automation programs in project management, creates room for creativity by simply giving users more time to be truly creative by automating simple tasks. Even the most creative projects consist of a certain percentage of standard tasks that can be handled by software.

3. Automation makes collaboration less necessary

Things that are made in automated production lose their unique character and are less authentic. Only the human hand gives that certain touch of authenticity. A good example of how this myth was created comes from art or music. For example, a synthesizer allows anyone to elicit a certain sound from the instrument - even someone without any talent. Synthesizers were frowned upon in many genres of music because they were considered "dishonest" and not authentic. In project management, however, this is not the case. Automation actually promotes attention and collaboration with others, according to Hansen. Automation often means providing the same information to everyone working on the project. So it can also promote collaboration. In particular, interactive project platforms, where all team members and project stakeholders can access information in real time, make work easier, promote communication on the project and reduce the likelihood of errors. Not to mention the fact that such platforms make collaboration in international teams much easier or even possible in the first place.

A final word

Brianna Hansen has found strong words in favor of automation in her article and would like to encourage all project managers to look into the topic and actively use automation to complete projects better and faster. At the same time, she points out at the end that automation - even the best - can never replace the human component and direct team collaboration. Automation has its advantages, but of course also its limitations.
Author: IAPM internal

Keywords: Project management, Working, Automation, Tip, Guide

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