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To Automate or Not to Automate? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions.

Automation can save time, unlock critical resources, and enable scale–but it typically requires investment to set up. Wondering whether you should automate your processes? Ask yourself these 3 questions.

Our partners use OpenFn automation solutions to drive efficiency and scale their processes, delivering integrated digital systems that work better, faster, and together.

To date, we have worked with 43 social sector organizations that operate across sectors–from health, education, and agriculture, to livelihoods and emergency response. Over the last 6 years, OpenFn has been implemented worldwide for a wide range of use cases, including building real-time data monitoring systems, streamlining data cleaning pipelines, securely exchanging sensitive information, and automating routine processes like uploading indicator results, sending SMS/email alerts, making mobile payments, and more.

By connecting any app, OpenFn can integrate and automate all apps within a digital ecosystem. However, a question that we frequently ask our partners is:

Just because you can automate—should you?

While integration and automation have the potential to enable scale and save time and money (we’ve learned this from our partners), solutions require investment to set up and maintain. These costs sometimes outweigh expected efficiency gains and service outcomes. Therefore, when evaluating the cost-benefit of investing in automation and integration solutions, we at Open Function Group typically ask 3 key questions.

1. Security — Will automation limit the exposure of sensitive data?

Can the exposure of sensitive data be limited by integrating with secure API endpoints (rather than relying on human beings to interact with those data, for example)? Or by automating a data cleaning process?

2. Accuracy — Will automation increase data accuracy and reduce data entry errors?

Can the process take place more reliably by limiting the opportunity for human error (in automating data manipulation or simple algorithmic work, for example)?

3. Speed — Will automation increase the speed of impact?

Can the process be done more quickly via automation and is there value in having it done faster? (The answer to the first part is almost always yes, but sometimes there's not actually lots of value generated by doing something faster.)

If you find yourself answering “yes” to these questions, it may be time to consider automating critical processes at your organization.

Tasks that meet these 3 criteria, take a lot of time to complete or are very repetitive, and/or involve moving data between apps are typically great candidates for automation.

If you find yourself answering “no”, then it may not be worth the investment in automation... at least not yet. This is especially true if these processes are still in flux or require a lot of human involvement to complete. That said, now may be a good time to refine your existing workflows, think about how your processes might change at scale, and consider what new processes, services, or outcomes could be unlocked by automation.

Delegate your busywork to OpenFn, and try it today!

If you want to try out automation for your organization, sign up for OpenFn, free of charge. Check out our documentation and website to learn how to get started.

Having trouble setting up your first automation "job"? Email us at admin@openfn.org for support. Our team is always happy to assist and help you evaluate the total cost of ownership of automation solutions.