August 18, 2020

How automation can increase your productivity at work

Michael Yao

Improving efficiency is a prevalent theme here at Upgrade Pack. One of the primary benefits for our app users will be the ability to easily access and secure travel upgrades, in just a few simple steps.

For our clients, we’re delivering a far more efficient loyalty mechanism, empowering them to seamlessly roll out a valuable, fully measurable form of reward for their customers and employees.

To build a market-first platform like Upgrade Pack from the ground up, and be on the cusp of launching internationally just a year after the company was founded, means that optimising efficiency and productivity is also something we’ve placed great emphasis on internally.

Utilising automation has proved invaluable for this, especially as we’ve scaled. So, I’ve taken a look at what automation is and some valuable tips of how to leverage automation in your processes.

Defining Automation

Firstly, what is automation?

Automation is the creation of technology and its application in order to control and monitor the production and delivery of various goods and services. It performs tasks that were previously performed by humans.

- Techopedia

Essentially automation can help reduce the load of repetitive, mundane tasks, allowing you to focus on the human portion of work that requires your skill, and the brain to work more effectively and creatively.

The robotic arms found in vehicle manufacturing plants are a classic example of automation in practice, allowing workers to focus on tasks that require their individual proficiency. For the rest of us, there are many other forms of automation that you see or experience every day, but may not categorise as such – chatbots, form field autofill, online surveys (Doodle) etc - as well as the increasingly popular home automation systems.

Automation and Product Development

Like most companies building a product, we use many tools to manage our workflow. At Upgrade Pack the development team use Github to share the codebase, Jira to manage tasks, and many others web apps for various functions.

Switching between different tools during the day can affect productivity. The best way to address this is by setting up an automation system.

The beauty is that most automation tools that connect apps such as Github and Jira, are now designed to be implemented by those with little developer experience, meaning you don’t need any experience in coding to benefit from these tools.

Below are three examples of how automation has helped our processes at Upgrade Pack:

Testing - to prevent errors in production and ensure our codebase has the quality we need, we use an automated testing tool called Detox.

This allows us to run different user experience scenarios and report any issues, such as a failed login, page not found, or in the case of the purpose of our app, if an upgrade can’t be found. Because it’s built into the application its super efficient and we can continuously check if any new or updated features have not caused any unforeseen issues.

Tracking – a simple yet vital trick has been connecting Github with Slack.

It means that when one of our developers completes a task in Github, all the other developers are notified in Slack and able to see the code that’s been implemented. This has allowed us to keep track of product development across our team in real-time.

Deployment – we have a release process to regularly deploy new versions of our mobile app for internal testers that’s automated to improve efficiency across teams.

This has meant our cycle of iterations with the product team - from bug fixes to the addition of completely new features - are faster and more agile, resulting in increased productivity.

Ideas/Hacks to Building Your own Automation Systems

As we’re all about collaboration here at Upgrade Pack, I spoke to our Co-Founder Urchana, (who as a former Finance Director is a real fan of efficiency) about other forms of automation and efficiency we’re using outside of just the tech team;

Expenses – the process of collating and submitting expenses can be an arduous time-consuming process for many employees. But solutions like Xero or Expensify are transforming it. We use Xero here and it’s so simple; receipts can be uploaded from your desktop or phone meaning expenses that used to take colleagues an hour or more in previous companies is done in a matter of minutes, freeing them up to do other things.

Room scheduling – as we’ve rapidly grown we can’t just jump into a free meeting room like we used to! Joan is a device we use which connects with calendars, but also are wall-mounted devices in each meeting room, that show live availability and act as a visual cue for when your time is up. You can even book rooms from the device – saving the need to do so in your calendar.

Workflows – implementing a sharable and edible workflow platform can significantly improve efficiency. Software like ProcessMaker or Trello (we use Trello to coordinate key tasks with the Product team) enable teams to organise and prioritise projects in a fully sharable environment, helping boost productivity and working through incremental goals.

No matter what your business, everyone can create an automation processes that works for them to improve efficiency, and that allows you focus your energy on more important and personally fulfilling tasks.

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