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We often find in our consulting practice that automation can have a huge impact on personal productivity when using computers. These could be as simple as text replacement or as complicated as a sequence of multiple steps that make contextual decisions.

The challenge seems to be that most people don't understand the concept of automation until they see it, and then most people don't really take to it until they have it implemented on their own system. Even then, many workers do not seem to remember to use those or ever implement their own.

Any thoughts or perspectives on this?

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"macros" is an ambiguous term which can mean several different things in an IT context; furthermore, lots of people's workflows don't involve any of them. It seems the general issue indicated here is how to train people to be more efficient using the tricks and shortcuts that are possible in whatever technologies they are using. Effective training is an entire subject in and of itself, but certainly setting an example with colleagues and encouraging them to try tricks you know about is one way to spread the benefits of what one has learned. –  JohnJ Jun 22 '11 at 22:29
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6 Answers

Instead of trying to force specific answers or method's on them.

Try to brainstorm together, work together to solve problems, and come up with solutions that make sense to them but get done what you want done for you.

Then it's a win-win.

Also give clear weekly/monthly performance on wall.

As Of this Week 10/24/2011

List of thing's we did well at:

  1. Improved Sales 10%

  2. 25% More new customers

  3. Improved Retention 13%

Thing's we can improve or learn from last week:

  1. Our retention went down 23% because we focused too much on new customers

  2. Sales need more support and training

Etc etc.

Maybe it's just me, but I really love knowing how we as a unit without naming names, what we are good at, and what we can improve upon.

Once people know that, then your job is to motivate, train, and hire people to get it done.

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For me, the only time when I'm able to convince someone that automation is actually good, is when they see me use it.

When people run into a task that can be easily automated, show them how to do it. What this usually comes down too, at least on the BFU-level, is knowing your tools. In MS Excel it might mean using some kind of little advanced function. Or it might require installing some additional software.

For example a friend of mine used to always resize his photos one by one when he was sending them via email. He always complained about how long it takes him to send somebody just 5 of his recent photos. I showed him that applications like Picasa can do it in just couple clicks of a mouse.

If you're talking about automation on more developer-level, there's nothing simpler than just solving a simple task for someone. For example if you write a script that can compile, test & deploy an application in just one click, it will definitely convince the non-believer of the importance of automation.

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I'm a huge proponent of improving efficiency and it pains me to see people doing things inefficiently, but as you stated, "people don't understand the concept until they see it". These are my five steps to helping people embrace more efficient methods.

Step 1. Show them how you use it. If the new method is significantly faster, is something they do often and they value their time, they'll be in the ideal state of mind to learn how to use it. If they don't think it's for them, you've saved your time by not wasting theirs (and that's efficient for both of you :) ).

Step 2. Help them set it up on their system. If they see the value, giving them a hand to set it up on their system removes the barrier of figuring out how to set it up themselves which can be a daunting task for some.

Step 3. Document it. Depending on the complexity, provide some documentation, as simple as a short email to screenshots, screencasts or whatever else makes sense. They'll seem to understand while you explain it, but when you leave and they're on their own it can be difficult for them to figure it out again.

Step 4. Let them drive. Watch them use it during a trial run and try not to say anything as they attempt to figure it out. Answer any questions they have. This will let them feel like they own it.

Step 5. Suggest they show someone else. Teaching another person is a great way to solidify it in their own minds, as well as providing a benefit to the person being taught.

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The user needs to evaluate for his/herself the cost/benefit of an "obvious" efficiency tool, such as macros.

If the function to be automated is one that they rarely use, then there's just not enough benefit to justify learning it. In addition, if the user is intimidated by the perceived complexity of learning the tool, then they may evaluate the "cost" as being too high.

On the other hand, functions that are used over and over, and have some degree of complexity, some chance of human error, and some time required are excellent candidates for automation.

Non-technical users may benefit from someone creating macros for them, even though they'd be intimidated by the idea of creating their own. They may prefer that someone install the macros and give them cookbook instructions on how to use them.

More advanced users and those who are more aware may actively ask for help in creating macros and, as they understand the possibilities, give feedback on improvements to be made, even if they don't feel confident making their own.

The ones most likely to make their own macros are those who are more comfortable with technology. Unless they've been unaware of the capability, they are probably creating macros of their own.

It all depends on the application, the users, and their relative sophistication.

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I work in IT and a lot of my job includes helping employees with their computers on a per-issue basis. More often than not these are problems with their workstations, but sometimes I get a call asking me how to do something in Microsoft Office or one of our other third-party software suites.

When I help people with those kinds of calls I generally offer to show them shortcuts to anything I see that they're doing since they're already looking for a simpler way to accomplish what they want. Whether it's just pointing out features that are baked-in to the software they're using, or suggesting something like AutoHotKey for really advanced scripting or text replacement.

Some folks would still be perfectly happy with a typewriter and a ledger book, others want to improve their efficiency. You can only help those that want it, and generally speaking you can only help them when they're ready for it.

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You can't force a horse to drink the water.

Macros can be real timesavers, but some people would spend more time trying to get the macro to work than just doing it in their old efficient way.

Just keep using your macros, and people may ask 'how do you do that so quickly?' at which point you can explain.

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