“You are what you don’t automate,” one of ion’s engineers commented in a meeting the other day.
It was in the context of a series of time consuming, manual steps that had to be done for a particular task. He attributed the adage to super-programmer Jeff Atwood, although I’ve not been able to find the reference.
It struck me as a brilliant way to frame the challenge of marketing automation.
See, in software engineering, most developers feel that time spent doing anything other than designing and coding great software is, well, kind of a drag.
So they try to automate as many of the boring processes of assembling, testing, deploying, operating, and debugging their software as possible. When they find themselves doing a rote task, the machinery in their heads starts whirling: is there any way to write a script so I don’t have to do this by hand again?
To engineers, “you are what you don’t automate” is a chiding remark: don’t have you something better to do with your time than type that same sequence of commands over and over again?
Automation is about eliminating mindless busywork to make more room for creative and meaningful work. More time for distinctly human contributions.
In marketing automation, however, I often hear people talk about automating some of the most human aspects of their jobs: segmenting customers, judging opportunities, designing truly delightful customer experiences. Not surprisingly, such visions for automating that which humans do best often run into trouble.
Marketers should automate their own mindless tasks — things that take up their precious time that don’t require thought. Many marketers I know still get bogged down in a lot of busywork of this kind, so there’s clearly plenty of opportunity for automation to help.
But don’t be quick to blindly surrender what your insight and instinct serve best.
“You are what you don’t automate” can also be a badge of honor. What are you? The quintessential, best parts. Don’t automate that.