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What Do You Do When Your Mind-Numbing IT Job Should Be Automated?

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the with-my-eyes-closed dept.

Businesses 228

jfruh writes Not everyone has a job like Homer Simpson, who's been replaced at various times by a brick tied to a lever and a chicken named Queenie. But many IT workers have come up against mind-numbing, repetitive tasks that probably could be automated. So: what do you do about it? Well, the answer depends on how much power you have in an organization and how much your bosses respect your opinion.

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QUIT (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628821)

QUIT

Automate it (4, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | about 2 months ago | (#47628823)

Learn how best to automate that task so you can start on other projects to automating other tasks.

And who the fuck will maintain it? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628901)

I always hear managers and programmers say, "We'll just automate it!"

But that's usually the easiest part of the whole process. They rarely look beyond it, to the maintenance phase.

The maintenance phase, of course, often lasts far longer than the implementation phase. It often outlasts the people who pushed for the automation in the first place, and the people who initially implemented it.

No automation is perfect, and no surrounding environment is static. Things will break, or change will eventually be needed. And this is where automation can often fall flat on its face.

I can't count the number of times I've seen companies with scripts or apps that perform some simple operation, but it only saves a few minutes each day. Yet at some point something with the automation breaks or needs to be changed, but the original developers are long gone, and now some other developer has to investigate.

This poor developer will end up needing hours, days, weeks, or even months in some cases in order to find out where the fuck the script or app is running, where the hell the most recent version of the source code is, how to get it running on a development system, and how it works, all before being able to make the fix or the change. Then it takes time to fix it or make the change, plus some time for testing, and then it needs to be redeployed, and finally it needs to be monitored for some time.

So the automation saved maybe a few dollars a day. Yet just a single fix or change to the automation can end up costing hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars once all is said and done. Merely one small fix or change can literally wipe out any cost savings that the automation has ever brought in the past, and then wipe it out for the next few years!

It's all rainbows and roses to claim that "documentation" or "training" or "best practices" will solve these problems, but even when those are in place and actually working, they rarely reduce the actual cost of maintenance.

So do some real analysis before screaming, "JUST AUTOMATE IT!" The cost of even simple or minor automation can quite often far, far exceed the benefits it'll ever bring. Maybe it's better to have the intern or low-paid employee just do the work manually for a few minutes each day.

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628939)

Things will break, or change will eventually be needed.

Good luck explaining necessary maintenance to a PHB who screams like a cretin about every OS upgrade and security patch: "YOU CHANGE SOME THING!!!"

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629103)

Please mod parent up! There are some decent points in this posting, regardless of it coming from an AC.

I've spent a good 15+ years doing process automation. And process automation itself is indeed a process. It's significantly more than some server monkey slapping together a script together during lunch to do something. Don't get me wrong; such an approach is fine if it's going to sit on an admin's machine and be used every once in a while. But once enshrined in day-to-day operations, the game changes.

What are the specifics that the script is going to do?
What is the "Happy Path" operation of the script?
How will common / uncommon errors / exceptions be handled?
How will the script handle unknown or unexpected errors (ie. is it written to be resiliant)?
How will the script be monitoried (e.g. snmp stuff) to ensure it hasn't choked?
Where are these scripts being maintained and managed (ie, groupings of P.A. scripts in version control)
WHERE IS THE DOCUMENTATION ABOUT THE SCRIPT?

Stuff like that.

Do some planning. Be a software developer about it. Just because it's a [Perl | Python | Groovy | Bash | DOS ] script does not mean it should be treated differently than compiled source or a more complex app.

Do you need to turn this into a full-blown project, with 8x the overhead of just writing the damn script and sticking it in place? No.
Do you just write the damn script and hope for the best? No, not if you want the system to die a horrible, disfiguring death.

So, put a bit of planning into what's being done. Prove the script out first. Test it (remember that?). Manage it.

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629171)

Scripts are generally more accessible, but that's about it when it comes to comparison with other languages. That means you get some pretty bad scripts, but ... well, there's no real reason to not use decent coding practice. The core one being 'get everyone involved a working knowledge of the language'.

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

landoltjp (676315) | about 2 months ago | (#47629555)

Sorry, I had posted the above, but clicked "Post Anonymously". Didn't want to leave the impression that I was the Posting AND Replying message

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629557)

I think you missed two of the most important aspects of automating.
1. What is the potential cost of the automation failing??? (aka how closely should the automation be monitored)
2. How long will it be until someone notices erroneous operation that the program didn't self catch???

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629107)

That is what documentation is for.

Not just user documentation, but also system documentation. Good commenting of the procedure can also help.

Without the documentation you can't pass on the procedure (or support).

Now, even without documentation, it becomes just your baby... Maybe it helps you do your job, but you better have SOME documentation so you will know what it does, and how to change it when you HAVE to change it in the future.

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 months ago | (#47629149)

The maintenance phase, of course, often lasts far longer than the implementation phase. It often outlasts the people who pushed for the automation in the first place, and the people who initially implemented it. ... No automation is perfect, and no surrounding environment is static. Things will break, or change will eventually be needed. And this is where automation can often fall flat on its face. ... I can't count the number of times I've seen companies with scripts or apps that perform some simple operation, but it only saves a few minutes each day. Yet at some point something with the automation breaks or needs to be changed, but the original developers are long gone, and now some other developer has to investigate. ... This poor developer will end up needing hours, days, weeks, or even months in some cases in order to find out where the fuck the script or app is running, where the hell the most recent version of the source code is, how to get it running on a development system, and how it works, all before being able to make the fix or the change. Then it takes time to fix it or make the change, plus some time for testing, and then it needs to be redeployed, and finally it needs to be monitored for some time.

Which is a social and cultural problem, not a problem of automation itself. If people were using open environments similar to Smalltalk or Oberon, half of those problems would go away. As ESR put it in TAoUP, there are simply systems hostile to casual programming. Now he of course draws the comparison between IBM's MVS and Microsoft Windows on one side, and Unix on the other side, but I'd actually stack MVS and Windows AND Unix against Smalltalk and Oberon. (Mind you, those two systems are far from being perfect, for example, documentation and code analysis/comprehension tooling could use some huge improvements, but IMO, those systems are at least heading roughly in the right direction.)

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629245)

If people were using Smalltalk and Oberon, they'd still be trying to build the basic libraries necessary for creating a modern server, desktop or web app of any sort. They wouldn't even have started developing their own application yet.

Get real, okay? Those are dead 1970s/1980s-era languages. They died out then because they weren't useful. And they still aren't useful today!

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 months ago | (#47629291)

:DDD Yeah, right, because Seaside never made any impression on anyone, despite so many people trying to copy its basic design, and it didn't even work because there's obviously never been any libraries to make it work. You're an idiot.

Let me know when "non-dead languages" finally get the capabilites of the "dead" Smalltalk debugger. I'll go make myself a few million cups of coffee in the meantime.

Re: And who the fuck will maintain it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629413)

Can you give us some examples of modern, notable and widely used web apps written using Seaside and Smalltalk?

Can you give us some examples of any modern, notable and widely used apps of any kind written in Smalltalk?

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629161)

Not that you'll care, if you're the person who's already moved on :).

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629259)

It's all rainbows and roses to claim that "documentation" or "training" or "best practices" will solve these problems, but even when those are in place and actually working, they rarely reduce the actual cost of maintenance.

Oh, enough weasel words. You start off with a strawman of "it saves a few minutes a day" when in fact nobody automates systems that actually only take a few minutes a day - and it's probably your "few minutes a day" that's off, if they do (you're ignoring the costs of errors - the few minutes a day can often cost half a day if it's done wrong). Then you quote "documentation" as if it's some kind of mythical being and again maybe in your experience it is, but get real. Documentation solves all the problems you cite. Documenting your automated systems does reduce the actual cost of maintaining them. And I suspect if you'd ever seen it in place and actually working, you wouldn't be giving us this luddite anti-automation rant on the basis of a woeful misunderstanding of what constitutes a business case.

Obligatory XKCD comic (4, Insightful)

joh (27088) | about 2 months ago | (#47629305)

As so often XKCD says this much shorter:

http://xkcd.com/1319/ [xkcd.com]

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

Shortguy881 (2883333) | about 2 months ago | (#47629373)

Clearly progress is a bad thing. F*** science and technology. Who needs them?

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 months ago | (#47629493)

But that's usually the easiest part of the whole process. They rarely look beyond it, to the maintenance phase.

We'll just automate the maintenance phase.

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 2 months ago | (#47629841)

But who automates the automaters?

Re:And who the fuck will maintain it? (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about 2 months ago | (#47629857)

So do some real analysis...

I took two quarters of real analysis as an undergraduate, but I never took complex analysis.

Re:Automate it (4, Funny)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47628919)

Learn how best to automate that task so you can browse Slashdot all day.

FTFY.

Re:Automate it (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 months ago | (#47629069)

Absolutely, but DO NOT TELL ANYONE. honestly automation will not get you a raise or a promotion, it will just get you extra work. for the same pay.
Automate all of it and keep your frigging mouth shut.
Hell I used to automate emails to be sent at 2am so that management though I was working 24/7.

Re:Automate it (4, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629181)

If you pull out the all the stops occasionally, you're a hero. If you do it routinely, you're taken for granted. It's hard enough to measure 'productivity' in IT anyway. Far better to automate your job, and 'pay yourself' to support it on an ongoing basis.

Re: Automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629655)

Yep.
If you save it for a big crisis, you are saving the day.

If you do foo all the time, then your just a janitor cleaning up their mess.

Re:Automate it (4, Insightful)

Corbets (169101) | about 2 months ago | (#47629237)

Absolutely, but DO NOT TELL ANYONE. honestly automation will not get you a raise or a promotion, it will just get you extra work. for the same pay.
Automate all of it and keep your frigging mouth shut.
Hell I used to automate emails to be sent at 2am so that management though I was working 24/7.

If you've automated your job, *shouldn't* you get new tasks to do? You're being paid to do the job to the best of your ability. You've done that by automating - but that leaves you on-the-clock time to do other productive tasks.

Re:Automate it (5, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47629335)

No. That would be wrong. A worker should maximize efficiency by discovering the best way to achieve maximum pay with minimal work. That is what economists say the company should be doing and since companies are now people and workers are people that's what workers should do. In fact doing it any other way flies in the face of the "Free Market" and therefore maximizing efficiency is both an ethical and moral imperative.

Re:Automate it (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#47629723)

Well, it would be okay for you to get additional tasks to do as long as the pay increased in proportion (which of course, would not actually happen). So the GP was not necessarily wrong, just unrealistic.

Re:Automate it (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 2 months ago | (#47629751)

No. That would be wrong. A worker should maximize efficiency by discovering the best way to achieve maximum pay with minimal work. That is what economists say the company should be doing and since companies are now people and workers are people that's what workers should do. In fact doing it any other way flies in the face of the "Free Market" and therefore maximizing efficiency is both an ethical and moral imperative.

This "free market" theory of yours works for a while until someone else discovers that they can automate the task
you've already automated and you're out of a job. That's how the "free market" really works. If you were the only
farmer with a combine then you would make a ton of money but eventually everyone else gets one too and your
competitive advantage goes away. If you really do come up with a "time-saving" device, the best way to get rich
with it is to either hide it so noone knows about it or license it so that every pays you for it.

Re:Automate it (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 2 months ago | (#47629539)

You sound like a manager. Having a "what have you done for me lately" attitude only demotivates your best employees. How about letting that company-time-saving individual go home an hour early on Friday? For the love of jeebus, that's all it takes to keep him happy!

Also, obligatory Dilbert [dilbert.com]

Re:Automate it (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 2 months ago | (#47629547)

If you've automated your job, *shouldn't* you get new tasks to do? You're being paid to do the job to the best of your ability. You've done that by automating - but that leaves you on-the-clock time to do other productive tasks.

If they want to pay me hourly, then yes, absolutely. As long as employers do their damnedest to push the limits of "exempt", however, then very much no. I get paid to perform certain tasks to the best of my ability. As long as my employer doesn't care whether that takes me 40 or 60 hours a week, then I don't care if it only takes me 20.

Note that I mean this somewhat in the abstract, in the sense that I refuse to work for someone who expects me to work more than 40 a week regulary. My current employer actually treats me pretty well, and as a result, yes, if I automate task X, I'll spend my newly-found time doing the rest of my work somewhat better (I wouldn't specifically say "picking up new tasks", because we all know that what we can do in 40 hours doesn't mean we should to produce the optimal result).

Re:Automate it (1)

ALeader71 (687693) | about 2 months ago | (#47629263)

Wow, sounds like you've been burned! Honestly, in our industry why wouldn't you automate the drudgery, then move on to other tasks? Or perhaps use the experience to seek a better job?

Re:Automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629319)

You won't get a raise over it, at worst "let go" from the job. Might as well reap the rewards of reduced workload and stress. Besides, employment is just like any other business agreement; it's mutual. So unless it's part of the job description to emphasize automation, you're doing it for YOU, not them.

Re:Automate it (2)

master_kaos (1027308) | about 2 months ago | (#47629553)

I guess it depends on the company. I work for a small company with just 2 developers. We have A LOT of processes automated. If we didn't we would only be doing 1/4 the amount of work we currently do. Yes you know what sometimes automation breaks but we fix it. Also any automation that is done that only saves 10 minutes per day the person that was originally in charge of that work still is required to know how to do it manually so that if it eventually breaks it won't effect them other than opening a ticket and doing the process manually.
We get p(raises) for our automation and how much we can churn out.

Fraud (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 months ago | (#47629525)

Absolutely, but DO NOT TELL ANYONE. honestly automation will not get you a raise or a promotion, it will just get you extra work. for the same pay.

And if you worked for me and I found you doing this I would fire you on the spot. You are being paid to perform a certain number of hours of work, not to sit on your ass and collect a paycheck. What you are suggesting is fraud, plain and simple.

Re:Fraud (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 2 months ago | (#47629637)

So let's be clear here:

Boss (you): "How do you get me these perfectly consistent Excel reports, which I have required of you as part of your job description, so quickly?"

Underling: "Well, you see, sir, I pushed Alt-F11 here in Excel to bring up the VBA Editor and ..."

Boss (you): "GO GET A FUCKING BOX YOU INSUBORDINATE FRAUDSTER!"

Is that accurate?

Pretending to do work is fraud (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 months ago | (#47629763)

Is that accurate?

No. GP post suggested automating tasks and seeking no additional work while collecting the same paycheck for less work. If you can automate a task which saves time then you should go seek out a new task to fill the time. You are not paid to sit on your ass and admire your handiwork. There is a difference between making yourself more efficient at your job so that more gets done and pretending to do work that you have automated to collect a paycheck. The former is worthy of promotion, the later is fraud.

Re:Automate it (3, Interesting)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 months ago | (#47629109)

Learn how best to automate that task so you can start on other projects to automating other tasks.

Yup. But do it in secret and don't share the automation with the employer. Use your spare time to look for a new job.

IF you come to the point where know your job is going to evaporate, it's better not to make a lot of waves (and that includes positive ones) until you are ready to go anyway. Your employer is already NOT paying attention and may not have a full understanding of what you do already. You'll be facing "the Bob's" in no time.

There is a reason they call it "work." Boring and repetitive comes with that. Brush up on your Zen skills and deal with it. And FIND ANOTHER JOB.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628839)

Automate it yourself and go to the pub.

Re:Easy (1)

some old guy (674482) | about 2 months ago | (#47628851)

Works for me! :)

Oh sure, that's brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628847)

Tell your boss that your job can be automated? Unemployed in 3...2...1...

Automate them (4, Interesting)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 2 months ago | (#47628855)

Well, automate them, off course. That is how I started my programming career. I started as a technical draftsman using AutoCAD, and I was "actively lazy": when I had to type something 10 times, I wrote a little program to do that for me. When my bosses noticed that my computer was better configured than that of my colleagues, I started getting programming assignments as well.

Re:Automate them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629015)

I've shown my "extra skills" at work, too. I was invited once to design some extensive automation on a couple of repetitive processes, which I indeed did. I designed the whole system from top to bottom and handed over the documentation for review and implementation. This is where it all went South, though. I was asked to design the system without any authority over its implementation. The documentation had every last detail in it, but they went on and did some "changes" before it was implemented.

Everything was interrelated, though, which they didn't take into account when they did the changes without consulting me. It lead to a catastrophic failure with quite a few bucks lost down the drain due to poor implementation, which in turn was due to altered documentation. Guess who got the blame? Haven't done any such work without acquiring proper authority and responsibility over a project ever since. It sucks to be responsible of something that is out of your full control.

I'm not saying nobody should try to introduce their great ideas to others, I'm just saying that if you do so, make sure you are responsible only of what you can actually control. What happened to me cast a long shadow over my career for some time.

Re:Automate them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629071)

If you truly had done a complete and proper job of specifying how this software system would work, then you inherently would have already implemented it.

That's all that a software system implementation is, of course. It's a (hopefully) unambiguous and (hopefully) complete description of the system that can be interpreted without issue by a computer.

My guess, however, is that your "top to bottom" design with "every last detail" was actually missing critical parts. The "changes" you describe were the implementors trying to work around the problems that you overlooked, or the functionality that you missed.

If your design documentation couldn't be directly executed by the computer and tested, then we cannot say that it was even remotely complete or correct.

Re:Automate them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629141)

I understand what you're saying, but it wasn't the case. The changes were not due to incomplete documentation but a non-technical manager's change of mind. I would not even had objected to any changes, but since I was ultimately bypassed when the changes were made, I wasn't able to help them adjust other parts of the system to correspond with these changes.

The system had thorough documentation and I had tested the logic on all areas several times. Subcontractors were in charge of the implementation and a skilled coder would've probably noticed the parts of the system that were broken by the changes. When they decided to go with the cheapest offer, skill is not what you usually get, though.

It was a good opportunity and I definitely should've gotten myself more involved with it. I was a lower level employee back then and I thought it's best not to piss on anybody's shoes. I guess I should've just unzipped and let it all out. :-)

Re:Automate them (2)

psmears (629712) | about 2 months ago | (#47629641)

If your design documentation couldn't be directly executed by the computer and tested, then we cannot say that it was even remotely complete or correct.

That's not true - it's perfectly possible to give a specification that's complete and comprehensive, and yet is not executable by a computer.

For instance, you could specify a "sort" function by saying that (1) it must return a list that contains a rearrangement of the items passed in, (2) that list must be in ascending order, (3) the time taken must be less than K*n*log(n), where n is the number of items passed in.

I've given that specification in English for brevity, but you could equally specify it in a more formal way - and indeed in one that the computer could verify for any instance of the problem that you put in. (Some might call this "specifcation by unit test".) But the computer could not, in general, go from the specification to an implementation completely automatically.

Re:Automate them (5, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#47629027)

I always automate.

Then I get laid off because "I'm not doing anything."

People who don't automate, and get paid by the hour to do the same thing over and over again stay on.

Re:Automate them (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 months ago | (#47629073)

Your fault for opening your mouth and telling them.

Re:Automate them (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 2 months ago | (#47629365)

To a certain extent, perhaps. However, eyeballing a 100+ line spreadsheet is 100% likely to produce errors. I know, I know ... real geeks don't use spreadsheets! But managers do! I think the article is expressing the woes of the common cubicle-warrior who is damned if they do, damned if they don't in this regard.

Re:Automate them (2)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629195)

Lots of people 'play spreadsheets' all day, which is working really inefficiently. Some companies prefer this, because they operate on billable hours in the first place. You being efficient costs them money. Some companies know better, and will value your skills. You should go and work for those. Getting laid off sucks a bit, but it's far from the worst thing that'll ever happen to you.

Re:Automate them (1)

zauberberg51 (1015659) | about 2 months ago | (#47629489)

Yeah, my last boss wanted a spreadsheet every couple of months on all of the development databases ( I was in the DBA group for a SQL Server shop), what size were they, what version of the two parts of the application were installed. It would take half a day to run through all 60+ development databases. After I did it the first time, I started writing scripts to gather the data from the data dictionary for each database and storing in a few of tables in each database. I had another script that ran every week that collected the data from each database and wrote it to a schema on my local database and to a schema on one of the newer systems. He stopped asking for the spreadsheet after the second request because I pointed him to the repository where he could export the data into a spreadsheet or query the data to ask questions about the weekly history of changes. All of the jobs ran under my network id, so when they laid me off, all of the jobs had to fail. I still wonder if they remembered to changed the ownership of those jobs or if they are continuing to fail because my id is inactive.

Re:Automate them (1)

landoltjp (676315) | about 2 months ago | (#47629111)

"Actively lazy" is a GREAT way to approach automation. Good job. My colleagues and I call that "Precrastination"!

Re:Automate them (1)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629211)

I've espoused the doctrine of proactive laziness since I started sysadminnning. I figure I'm doing my very best work when there's nothing that I need to be doing, and I can be spending my time fiddling with the next thing.
That means applying appropriate automation and scripting. (Don't overdo it - not all scripts need to be gold plated).
Decent documentation. (Which is easier: explaining or fixing a problem, or saying 'RTFM' and waving a hand dismissively - if TFM is up to scratch, they won't come back and bother you)
Tackle tasks that'll become a pain, before they're a pain.
The combination of these means I've had a fairly easy and productive live in 'systems admin', because I've never had a need to diddle with spreadsheets to look like I'm working.

Automate It (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 2 months ago | (#47628861)

Sorry but this is what I do for a living. Find an automation tool that works and implement it. Rinse and repeat!

Re:Automate It (1)

MatthewCCNA (1405885) | about 2 months ago | (#47628963)

Automating simple/repetitive tasks represents most of my self assigned projects (in between larger/outside funded development projects which are assigned) the most important thing is to always be working on something... or at the very least always appear to be working on something.

boss is pressuring you to resign, right? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628867)

Either you resign now or you will be fired soon. Then your boss can "automate" your job by replacing you with an Indian. Indian laborers are cheap like robots, and they're easy to control because they already speak English.

Re:boss is pressuring you to resign, right? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 months ago | (#47628913)

Indians are still more expensive than a script.

Re:boss is pressuring you to resign, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628995)

Not to mention Indians are not cheap anymore, success has lead to insane pay rises. Dev in india is at least 10x more expensive than it was 10 years ago.

Re:boss is pressuring you to resign, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628969)

Either you resign now or you will be fired soon.

Do not resign until you have poorly automated your job. Your employer will call you back in a week and you can talk about your consultancy rates.

Re:boss is pressuring you to resign, right? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629019)

Do not resign until you have poorly automated your job. Your employer will call you back in a week and you can talk with police about how you sabotaged your job.

Enjoy prison.

By all means, automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628869)

So: what do you do about it? Well, the answer depends on how much power you have in an organization and how much your bosses respect your opinion.

I don't think anyone would oppose a little bit of automation if it makes sense. Just write a couple of PowerShell scripts to do the thing.

Re:By all means, automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629139)

Powershell? WTF???

Powershell does not run on Mainframes (a.k.a. real computers) you insensitive clod.

Re:By all means, automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629795)

Oh, ok. :) I didn't have time to read the article, but if there is a mainframe involved, then PS would be out of picture indeed.

shove it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628875)

Yo, if your boss is a s-o-b
Tell him to s-h-o-v-e the j-o-b
Put your middle finger up slowly
Put it close enough to his face so he can examine it closely
Say I ain't workin here no more
Who do you think you are?
Rip your apron off, throw it on the floor
Run to the door, to the payphone
Make a toll-free call
Tell your spouse what happened and where you are
So they can come and get you in the car later on
And help you search for a new 9 to 5 job
If the unemployment line ain't that long
You can take your time printin out w-9 forms
Eventually, you'll get on if you try hard enough
And you'll get money if you keep punchin your time card enough
Maybe you hate it, maybe you love it
But if you hate it all you gotta do is get mad and tell the boss to

Take this job and shove it
I ain't workin here no more
Take this job and shove it
I ain't workin here no more
Take this job and shove it
I ain't workin here no more
Take this job, take this job, take this job and shove it

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628879)

Automate it on the dl and get paid while you pretend to work all day.

Evaluate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628897)

You evaluate how long it should take, automate if possible and enjoy paid time poking navel/beer/"insert hobby".
When customers are happy boss is happy.

abandon ship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628903)

leave IT and be a forester

Obama got a solution! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628907)

You don't need no job! Obama gonna take care of ya. With Obamacares! Unless you white. Lazy cracker ass overprivileged white. Get yo honky ass back to work!

Let's not forget (4, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 2 months ago | (#47628911)

Homer once automated his job with a plastic dipping bird, with disastrous results.

while true (1)

Knightman (142928) | about 2 months ago | (#47628917)

My goal is to replace myself with a little shell-script.

Re:while true (1)

BlackHawk-666 (560896) | about 2 months ago | (#47629007)

You're going to be replaced by a guy who can replace your job with a Python / Ruby script ^^ ;p

Re:while true (2)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629219)

So do it in Perl - it'll be good enough to make your life easy, and inscrutable enough that anyone trying to 'automate you' will recoil in horror.

So any net savings (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 months ago | (#47628929)

I've ended up creating a few solutions where I think I'd rather spend three hours doing something creative than one hour doing it mindnumbingly dumb and repetitive. Often the maintenance of tweaking it eats up the savings.

Relevant XKCDs:
Automation [xkcd.com]
Is it worth the time? [xkcd.com]

What about development? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628957)

Everything is about IT - infrastructure maintenance. I've had development jobs that were quite monotonous. Boiler plate code - copy and paste, search and replace varialbes. anyone program win32 in C or OS/2 in C or Palm OS in C?

Message loops, trapping messages, switch/case statements that called other switch cases that called other switch cases .... depending on how deep your windows and dialogs went.

The newer stuff - Visual Studio, XCode, and Android Studio are great for generating all the boiler plate code and linking stuff by dragging and dropping connections, but that even gets monotonous.

And even coding web stuff. It seems like I'm writing the same shit over and over again - it is just different enough that you can't copy and paste.

Then there's the hunting of methods/APIs in docs. Talk about boredom!

I can't wait for the say when I can just tell the computer my algorithm and say, "Make it so."

Do it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47628965)

You can automate anything no matter how low in the food chain or how little influence you have, i've done it plenty of times in plenty of jobs. I've had jobs where i would show up to work, run my AHK (auto hot key) script then watch movies/surf the net/go shopping etc

The trick is to become proficient in macro/programming tools that interact with applications just like people would normally do. AHK is great because i can not only do things like repeat a sequence of keys, but read pixels off the screen. I can write a script to click X/Y, wait until pixel at X/Y changes to a specific color, call up my custom program to grab some data from application A, then fill out fields in application Y etc.

All because i used to spend time writing scripts to automate playing online games where real currency was involved. The difference with a real job, is they generally arn't writing code into the the stuff you're automating that trying to detect you doing it :). That and you end up making a more reliable income.

Increase productivity or reduce headcount? (2)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about 2 months ago | (#47628979)

Most of the IT jobs (emphasis on the "jobs" part) that I see, cannot be automated - or if they can be automated, the automation needs a level of oversight and constant tweaking that it is not economically viable to automate the process.
Almost without exception, an IT "job" can be split into discrete "tasks", where some of the tasks can be and should be automated for various reasons, but in terms of the W.W.W.W.H. (What, Where, When, Why, How) aspects, the reason for automating (Why) has a significant bearing on whether it would be a good idea to even try automating.
Automating the tasks which can be automated within a job makes sense in many cases - relieving the employee of the trivial and repetitive tasks to tackle the more high-value elements of the job. From a commercial perspective, if you are spending most of your time on the high value tasks, you are probably earning more money for your company or providing better value. As long as the boss recognizes that fact, your job should be more secure and your pay packet should, at some point, see an increase to recognize the higher value that you represent. ok, you might need to leave the company and parlay that higher value experience at a new employer to see the increase in your salary, but if your CV can show a successful sequence of task automation leading to higher productivity, then you will probably be more in demand.

If you have either a role that can be automated to the point where you are irrelevant, or a manager who thinks that your role can be automated to the point where you are irrelevant, then my advice would be to start looking for a new job where either you are more stretched or your manager appreciates your contributions more.

Add value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629595)

Find a new and better way to offer your employer value. Or, just sit back and enjoy the sloth ride as long as you can...

Re:Increase productivity or reduce headcount? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 2 months ago | (#47629735)

It's 5 Ws of trouble shooting... you forgot Who.

You are right a lot of jobs just plain cannot be automated away but I bet if you ask any seasoned sys admin they will show you a boat load of scripts that they run and watch while drinking their {insert caffeinated beverage} and reading /.

I have gigs of scripts I've collected over the years that do all kinds of creating/disabling/moving/modifying AD accounts and custom reporting for ldap and various applications, even telephony related scripts. {gedi master?}

Do it! (1)

Shane McEwan (144039) | about 2 months ago | (#47629011)

One thing I always say during job interviews is that as a system administrator my goal is to automate myself out of the job. By automating the mundane stuff it frees you up to do the interesting stuff.

Thankfully I've never managed to actually succeed at automating myself out of a job. There's always something that needs to be done manually . . . even if it's just maintaining the automation scripts!

Re:Do it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629039)

"I see. Actually we are looking for a candidate who is willing to do the job. Get out."

Re:Do it! (1)

Sobrique (543255) | about 2 months ago | (#47629231)

I've never had this response. Most employers like the concept of an employee who can do the work of several.

Re:Do it! (0)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47629411)

Which means the employee is under paid.... SUCKER!

Learn How to automate your job yourself (0)

Wally4u (603232) | about 2 months ago | (#47629021)

Basically, if your job can be automated simply, you are replaceable by a high school kid with computer experience. Sorry that's just the way it is. Either of the options: automation or kid, would suck for you. Thus this means you should learn and improve yourself before this happens. I agree with the other comments that you should learn to do the automation yourself. Yes your job disappears but most likely you become a more valuable resource to the company. Either in maintenance of the automation tools or other automation tasks.

Automate it (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 2 months ago | (#47629029)

Automate it and find something else to work on. At no place I've ever been has there been a shortage of work.

Only the lazy and incompetent fear automating themselves out of a job. If worst comes to worst, you'll end up maintaining all those scripts you created, fighting fires, and dealing with the "one off" situations that the scripts can't handle.

Re:Automate it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629117)

I don't need to maintain my scripts, they work the first time. No fires to put out. No one offs.
I am not lazy or incompetent. My stuff actually works too well.
I do fear automating myself out of work.

Re:Automate it (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about 2 months ago | (#47629205)

I don't need to maintain my scripts, they work the first time. No fires to put out. No one offs.
I am not lazy or incompetent. My stuff actually works too well.
I do fear automating myself out of work.

Wow, it must be interesting to work in an environment where your inputs, outputs, environment, and processing requirements never change.

Re:Automate it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629275)

Nobody is going to fire a magical programmer whose scripts always work first time and never need maintenance.

Re:Automate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629233)

Also, don't document your automated script so much. That way you are harder to replace :)

Republicans Hate College Education - and Obama (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629051)

http://freebeacon.com/blog/do-nothing-millionaire-laments-that-millionaires-do-nothing/

"The University of California-Berkeley pays former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich $240,000 a year to teach one class about the scourge of income inequality and attend Occupy Wall Street rallies. (He also makes up to $100,000 per speech.)

Reich, a millionaire, is very concerned about rich people who, unlike him, don't really deserve their fortunes. "What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society," he wrote in a recent blog post, without any apparent irony.
Wonder what Reich thinks about Paul Krugman, who draws a $225,000 annual salary from the (publicly funded) City University of New York, and doesn't even have to teach a single class?"

---------

How about that you stinking leftist cowards! Bashing the rich night and day! Tax the rich, steal their money and give it to the poor oops I meant give it to the state where it will end up as birbes to the ruling class and to the pockets of the elite in congress and the crony corrptpocrats everywhere.

Reich makes 1/4 million a year teaching his socialists gobbldegook to the skulls full of mush, and goes on to advocate taxing the hateful rich people into the poor house. No one should be rich, ever, anywhere. Except for the *right* people of course, cause money is fun you know.

I hate you fucking socialists more and more every day. Fuck you all.

Re:Republicans Hate College Education - and Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629477)

So you agree with him in practice, but not principle. Or is it the other way around?

Automation Resistance (2)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | about 2 months ago | (#47629079)

One of the tasks here is the daily generation and collation of statistics across our various platforms to present to the clients. It contains things like the state of the tickets, number of tickets raised/closed, peak data across the platforms, systems metrics for utilisation and other similar things.

Currently these metrics are gathered manually be people eyeing up graphs and manually reading the data from them or running scripts that pull out metrics they need, it went from a half hour task to a 120 minute task, daily, as we've been growing.

I created a scaleable system that polled all the required statistics, from all of the various different systems in place, directly accessing the RRD files that generate graphs, polling our ticketing systems API to access the data, etc etc and then pushed them in to a database which could be polled easily for historic data as well as interrogated via a front end to generate the reports. It even allowed you to alter text in the report and export it to PDF to email to the clients.

After 2 years it's still sat, waiting to be rolled out, because of politics. The guys that run the reports just work from a process document and aren't really good enough to do much else. With the additional free time they have it would be too transparent that they can't do anything other than follow process but we do need them for various other tasks that can't be automated. At least by doing the reports manually they look really useful and the clients are happy..

Re:Automation Resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629135)

I'd like to get the time to automate generating change control tickets for my more frequent tasks (eg. the inevitable restarts of Adobe CQ/AEM to resolve unspecified problems). I'd also like a script to say "still looking at this" in all my request tickets so that I don't get on the "hasn't been updated in X days" TPS report.

Getting the time to do it is the hard part. One management find out I'm just updating open tickets to keep off the TPS report, keeping it working will the the challenge ;-)

Maybe you didn't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629159)

.. the nature of our job.
This is what I am asked to do any day. To automate.
So until they create the AUTOMATOR == AI capable of creating automation routines by itself, this is my job.

Learn your firends (1)

shadowtramp (573751) | about 2 months ago | (#47629189)

Regular Expressions and shells are your first best friends. It is amazing how lowly people keep thinking about shells and RE utility. Unix toolbox contain quite a collection of instruments, that can be combined to accomplish a lot of everyday tasks with very high level of automation and reuse. The best thing is: this approach has very linear learning curve. You can not be sure that it will save you a lot of time, while you are still learning. But it sure will both make the work more intelligent and reduce number of stupid mistakes.

Non-Tech Bosses Hate Automation (4, Interesting)

anmre (2956771) | about 2 months ago | (#47629303)

I've found myself in this exact situation.

If you have the desire and/or ability to use your computer properly and automate tasks, and your job title is "______ Assistant", your boss will likely not respect you enough to permit automating anything. Therefore, you should do it as quietly as possible, and do not expect any pats on the back for mysteriously having perfect reports in your boss's inbox every morning at 8:31AM, or data requests completed before he/she even has time to walk back to his/her desk. Your boss may "expect" perfection, but will not actually know what to do about a subordinate who is actually capable of delivering it.

Expect to have only Microsoft VBA at your disposal. And amuse yourself daily with this image [imgur.com] which sums up your situation perfectly!

Also, smile often! :)

Three kinds of lazy (1)

ALeader71 (687693) | about 2 months ago | (#47629355)

After reading a few responses I thought I'd share my observations on workers, and the "Three Kinds of Lazy:"

The Plugger: Doesn't like the drudgery, but rationalizes it with victimization and anxiety.
The Troll: Doesn't like the drudgery, does a barely passable job. Jellously guards all knowledge of how to do said task under the idiotic assumption that this will make them indispensable and thus impossible to eliminate.
The Neckbeard: Hates drudgery. Will spend enormous amounts of time learning whatever scripting language is available to automate everything possible. Doesn't document anything. Get angry if anyone asks.

Who should you be? The Neckbeard who 1. Shaved that thing off, or at least adopted a modern style. 2. Documented everything, then found a new job leaving this now unnecessary position to someone making less money.

Yes, I know. "It's impossible for me to move withing my industry in ! I need to be lazy to keep employed! Besides, no one could do MY job, they don't have the experience! This is completely wrong and here is why:
Eventually, each of the "Three Kinds of Lazy" gets fired. The Plugger falls victim to the first rule of Capitalism: "There is always someone willing to do it for less." The Troll and the Neckbeard push the wrong person too far and get fired. Someone else is hired and picks up the pieces. All three types of Lazy have a hard time finding a new job because they rarely keep their skills up to par with the industry.

So automate all of the things. If your company is cheap, invest in your own training and look for a better company with your next job in mind. If you have to move, move. This isn't the Middle Ages. You are perfectly capable of moving away from your village. So is your spouse. If the Earth was dying and the best chance of survival was moving to a terraformed Mars, would you stay on Earth just to know what the stubborn looked like as they died?

But Homer isnt an IT worker!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629479)

He works as an engineer running the reactor at a nuclear plant.
No "IT-worker" about that what so ever

Automation rules. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629495)

I worked for an ISP, and one of my daily tasks was to match up 2 incompatible billing systems for over-use. Since each software had a hard-coded start time of the hour counting and they werent the same time, there were minor differences on some accounts, but all of a certain category had to be checked anyway on their billing day. I pressured my employer to allow me to automate it because it took up to an hour (usually way less, depending on the day) and it was completely wasted time. I wrote some scripts that did the job, and (yeah, at an ISP) i was told that if i'm getting paid for 8 hours, i should be doing the work, not a computer. astonishing. so i used the script some days when it was a heavy work load. It freed me up to do more creative and productive things. Dont fear automation. I dream of a day when we have solar and fusion power, and robots that can repair eachother that work day and night to produce our food and our materials for our 3d printers, and nobody has to work

get unionized before you are Automated out of work (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 months ago | (#47629719)

get unionized before you are Automated out of work!

You work on Open Source (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 2 months ago | (#47629725)

What, people thought the open source movement of the 2000s was due to some sort of hippy movement?

No, it was due to IT departments becoming redundant and the engineers spending that time very effectively.

That wave has crested.

Solution Process Flow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47629801)

I see no problems. It is but part of the SPF, with a high-risk, slow and moaning process, that we haven't found time to replace yet by code.

When we get time to replace that annoying process, we can fire some more office employees.

But I am grateful that we have human computers, that can save our process flows, when we can't get to finish our deadlines on time.

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