Why Wait To Automate?

Chris Lees 13th Mar 2018
4 min read

Certification FIX Productivity Best Practice API

There’s something strange going on.

Talking to exchanges and banks over the last five years, I’ve heard the same description of internal coordination and documentation time and again. Documentation is a mess (or non-existent), everything is manual, the onboarding team works like crazy just to keep the lights on, priorities continually shift, there’s a backlog of customers waiting to come in, onboarding takes too long.

When I talk in response about how we can help improve internal coordination, clear the backlog with greater automation, get customers live faster AND make the experience better for everyone involved… well, suddenly I start to hear a different story. Maybe the process isn’t that urgent after all, there aren’t that many certifications, everything is rosy…

I’ve come to realise that the story change is probably not because the person sitting in front of me has really had a sudden change of heart, but because they are collecting and rehearsing the arguments they need to give internally to find the budget for this idea sooner rather than later. You see, B2B software sales is not really about making the case to the person sitting in front of you, but the person above them, and the person above them, and so on up the chain of command until you get to the person who can allocate a budget.

[At this point in the blog, most sales veterans will probably be slapping their heads and shouting “well, duh!” at their phone or computer. For anybody who hasn’t been in sales for their whole career, I’d recommend repeating this point three times in the mirror each morning].

Demand for budget always outstrips supply, which means budget requests need to demonstrate a clear return on investment. The “return” is either new revenue or saving on costs. And while firms should see that the profit impact of $1 extra earnt versus $1 saved is the same, the simple reality is that it is far more exciting to talk about revenue than costs, and more people earn bonuses based on revenue and not cost savings.

So, what are the top sources of investment return from automating onboarding?

1) Stop answering the same question multiple times

Self-service tools force you to improve the quality of your documentation (and even find problems for you) and give your customers the ability to answer their own issues directly.

2) Less time grepping, more time helping

Chances are that your team are logging onto multiple servers and using command-line tools to find and review activity. Really? Think of all the things they are not doing while they are still working like it’s 1994.

3) Ship more functionality, faster

Every firm I talk to emphasizes “backwards-compatibility” of their API. Why? Because they don’t want the pain of re-certifying their clients. The cost of this, however, is a limit to the speed and range of functionality delivered, and the technical debt associated with an ever-greater number of “hacks”.

4) Lower key-man-risk of highly-specialised, technical resources

In every onboarding team, there’s always a superstar. One, extremely knowledgeable person who works all hours, rarely takes holiday, and without whom things start to fall apart. Automation allows them to escape the low-level, mundane tasks of log search, and to focus on higher-value functions and improved customer service.

5) Reduced onboarding time means faster time to revenue

Automation means onboarding customers in parallel and removes the need for pre-booked test slots. In turn, that means more customers reach production faster, earning that new revenue everyone craves so much.

6) Lowering risks (avoiding trading or regulatory issues)

The simple fact is that most firms simply don’t have sufficient coverage in their conformance testing suites to fully protect themselves from trading or regulatory risks, and the manual nature of testing is a large part of that. Automation opens the door to certifying more and expanding coverage.

What will you do with the time saved and the extra money earnt through faster and better automation? What are you are waiting for?

PS. You may be asking how to put a monetary figure on these benefits or avoided costs? Well, each firm is different and so you really need to calculate something suitable for your setup. I’ll share my thoughts on this calculation in a future post.

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