Today I came across a brilliantly simple idea. In this blog post “Do-nothing scripting: the key to gradual automation” by Dan Slimmon, he discusses a simple technique for getting started with complicated automation processes. The technique is this: create a script which prints the steps/commands needed to accomplish your process. It seems like common sense.
But things that should be common sense are often neglected. It can be overwhelming to take on a new complex automation project. By doing as Dan suggests, you are helping yourself greatly.
You are mapping out the full process with the actual commands and steps that get run. Having the full picture laid out from the beginning can save future frustration. It is immediately beneficial. Rather than hoping the end-user following the steps doesn’t get distracted and miss a step, you can ensure they are presented with the commands in the correct order. It allows you to work in an agile/iterative way. Rather than waiting until the entire automation is built out, you can work on it in chunks at a time, while still being useable. Even if the resulting automation never comes to be, having this up-to-date process for how to accomplish the steps is useful. From what I’ve read, there is great value in having checklists for your common processes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Checklist_Manifesto), so I think having these “do-nothing” scripts would give the same benefits.
I am a big proponent of automating everything possible, though I often get overwhelmed with the huge complexity in some projects. Going forward I will certainly be using this “do-nothing scripting” approach.