May 12, 2009

The Perils of Early Automation

Chris Savage

Founder, CEO

We have a rule at Wistia: never automate too early. It’s really easy, especially as a small business, to think that automating a new process will bring instant success.

Proper automation results in enhanced leverage from every team member, provides better margins and is often a catalyst to running a profitable business. Despite the obvious benefits, however, it’s easy to ignore the disadvantages of automation.

  • You won’t hear anything – Automating too early means you’ll miss the conversations and responses you get from interacting with a customer over the phone or in person. For example, from our experience, there have been features that we believed would be great, but after presenting them to customers we realized that these elements would actually detract value by confusing a straightforward process. Without the benefit of this constructive criticism, we would have been turning off potential customers in the future without realizing it.
  • You’ll act on the wrong metrics – Monitoring and responding to your business metrics is crucial to reduce risk and grow your business, but early automation can often provide misleading feedback. The obfuscation of metrics is a necessary evil of automation so you need to be confident in your assumptions when starting to hide information.
  • You’ll set the wrong limitations – This is especially important when dealing with a new market or a new approach to an old market. Aligning the limitations of your product or pricing with expectations of your customers is crucial to establishing a seamless sales relationship.

Automation is a never-ending cycle. There’s always more that can be done to improve leverage, but having confidence in the assumptions of your business is crucial to acting with purpose.

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