September 14, 2020 // By Paul Grizzaffi
In my recent article for SauceLabs, I wrote about ten more automation commandments. I had a couple of additional ones over and above those ten, but I settled on ten due to historical reasons. Plus, the article had gotten long enough so I left out the additional commandments. There is, however, the one overarching commandment that ties the other commandments together.
Merriam-Webster defines responsible as being able to be trusted to do what is right. Perhaps it should say “right” instead; “right” tends to be a relative term based on what is appropriate in a specific context.
To continue with the theological analogy, I call this 11th commandment The Automation Golden Rule: Thou shalt automate responsibly.
Take, for example, King Pyrrhus of Epirus. He twice defeated the Romans during the Pyrrhic Wars, but in doing so his army suffered “irreplaceable casualties”. So stark is this example, we use his name to classify successes whose value is less than the cost; these successes are called Pyrrhic victories.
Most of us would consider Pyrrhus’s actions to be irresponsible; he won but the cost was so great that he could not replenish his army. In some contexts, however, might his decision have been appropriate or even responsible? Perhaps, but my knowledge of Pyrrhus stops pretty much right there. That said, there may be some historians who are better read about Pyrrhus who have a different opinion of his decisions because they better understand his context. That, however, is a bit out of scope for the purposes of this blog post.
Tying back to automation, we must take to exercise good judgement when allowing technology to perform some of our tasks for us. We must make deliberate decisions about how, when, where, and why to automate; we must also know when not to automation, when to stop automating, and when to change our automation approaches. We must act responsibly. Acting irresponsibly will result in diminished value for our automation endeavor…or worse, our automation might cost us more than the value it provides, handing us our won Pyrrhic victory.
Adhering to The Automation Golden Rule does not guarantee a successful automation endeavor; nothing can make that guarantee. Following this rule, however, will help you get the most out of automation and bring the most value to your team, organization, and company.
If the notion of automation responsibility appeals to you, and I hope that it does, I’m happy to say that I’ll be delivering a keynote on this exact topic at InflectraCon in September 2020. In the talk, In Automation, With Great Judgement Comes Great Responsibility, I discuss ways to be responsible when undertaking an automation endeavor, the relationship between judgement and responsibility, and how context changes what we consider appropriate. I hope you can join us!