I recently sat through a few meetings where we described doing the same thing many times and in the same way. I was seeing a pattern that could be automated. Since seeing a pattern, I began to think about tools I could build that would replace these repetitive multiple step processes.
Many times we are focused on customers, revenue generation and advancing the product as a technical solution, which is all great. The issue is we waste so much time internally that we forget about that cost. The cost of doing complicated things ( or even the simple ) many times over is more costly. If we could eliminate the repetitive tasks, we would have more time to focus on technology, customers and revenue generation. Now, this is a hard sell because revenue generation and customers are so important and being the leader of your domain ( i.e. product ).
How do we do this?
We do this by first listening and watching for the repetitive things that we keep repeating. If something is taking hours a day, week or month, can we save time? If you cannot immediate establish the time savings, write it out in a chart so that you can see the tasks, steps and hours taken.
Now, can you automate this?
An example of this is creating a project in Jira, we the same settings, the same board and column layout with the same starter tasks. If you are doing this ten times a week manually, you are probably wasting 2 to 3 hours for each project setup. This example equates to 20 to 30 hours of wasted time. No, Jira has excellent APIs and can we use them to do this? The answer is yes. The Jira APIs could be used and synchronized to do these tasks with just a few questions answered and a single button click.
Now the savings ( the importance of building internal tools )
We spend 20 to 30 hours building a tool that saves 20 to 30 hours a week of repetitive steps and processes. The development of the internal tool saves us a boatload of time. It frees up to doing more important things like work with customers, innovating on your product and revenue generation.
A hidden benefit is job satisfaction. No one likes doing the same task over and over again, day after day, for the rest of their career. They are more likely to stay with a team or company if they can see that they help make a difference.
Cost of Building Internal Tools
I acknowledge that sometimes the cost of building internal tools may outweigh the savings generated, but there is a way to offset expenses through events. Developers like a challenge, and challenges are sometimes what a developer needs. You can create a bounty bonus to having cost-saving internal tools built. You can also do a hackathon where developers work in teams to develop internal tools. Hackathons can be fun, team building and good public exposure to the eternal community. In short, there are ways to save money by building these internal tools. You have to be creative.