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Are you relying too heavily on automation? Steps to take now.

By Sam Flores

The debate regarding the “right” amount of automation in the office has been around as long as I can remember.  I for one, am a huge supporter of automating the office. Specifically, automating the redundant, routine tasks that can be easily set up, provided they are monitored. One specific example is the use of Microsoft Excel. You can integrate this software into nearly every aspect of a dealership’s operations, whether used simply for financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, bonus calculations, or using it to power post entries into the DMS.  Using features such as V-lookups, pivot tables for example can help employees work with large amounts of data in a fraction of the time.  In your DMS and peripheral software, some tasks and reports can be preset to run at precise times, using preset formulas and criteria. This type of automation can reduce the inconsistency or errors in doing a recurrent task that is normally handled by the less experienced staff, such as running an open RO list and automatically circulating it to key managers every Wednesday at 10:00 AM for example. Or setting up standard entries to record recurrent journal entries every month. Processes that are not automated usually equate to more time required of managers to review the accuracy and continuity of the work. Ultimately the potential benefits can result in a more efficient, consistent process requiring less employee involvement and less supervision. 

While automation is beneficial, it does not replace the need for monitoring and supervision of the process. I find it interesting that many managers treat automation as the substitute for management.  You can automate a task, but its successful completion is still ultimately the individual’s responsibility.  You have likely heard time and again “we had a formula error” or the “standard entry wasn’t updated” and now the financials are incorrect.  The system will only do what it is programmed to do. Without proper review and oversight, there are potential risks of costly errors and reliance upon bad information that could exceed the cost of human errors the automation was designed to prevent. If you power post your entries, double check the mapping and GL accounts.  If you use formulas or macros in Excel, test the steps being performed and the related calculations periodically to ensure their accuracy.  If you use standard entries, check the amounts are still accurate each month prior to posting to help prevent errors in the financials.  Remember, automation does not replace good management.

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