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I joined a large, multi-national company only a couple of weeks ago as an engineer, and the first few days I saw most of my coworkers in the sales department constantly on excel / gmail 8 hours a day (even working overtime quite often) which surprised me. Out of curiosity I asked them to show me their tasks, and I was amazed at how much manual work was being done. For example, copying an Excel cell to their work email account to find a specific email, adding a few details and then forwarding it to specific people. This was one of the easier tasks, but nevertheless I figured all of them could be automated using python scripts.

After I wrote one script which worked just fine on my home computer, I told my coworker he would have to install Python on the work laptop / computer, but because our company policy required permission before installing software, I would have to ask the IT manager. He refused to allow it, citing reasons such as "if you leave the company, who'd maintain the code in case a bug arises", etc. There are probably also reasons such as him not trusting me as he and his team won't really understand the code and could think I might divuldge company data. He did not say this but it seems probable and understandable from my view.

Later my own manager inquired about this (who is not tech-savy) and I explained him how it would increase efficiency and minimize the chances of silly errors, which happen quite often. He seemed convinced, but he asked me if there was a licensed, business version of Python. I told him it was free and he stated that that was not possible, to which I said "I'll check and get back to you in a day or two".

How do I convince them that this would collectively save hundreds of hours per week and minimize the chances of missing sales orders? That my code will not expose company data? And that simply installing Python on a few computers won't really harm the company?

  • It's a valid point that if you are the only employee in the company that can fix a potentially critical script if it breaks in the middle of the night, it is very dangerous for the company. You might be on sick leave or vacation, for example. – Juha Untinen Mar 7 '18 at 6:20
  • How do you propose to address the concerns they have raised? – Masked Man Mar 7 '18 at 6:30
  • @JuhaUntinen This script would only be run during the day, when employees would be around. Worst case scenario it doesn't work (they would be notified automatically if there was some problem) and they would have to manually do the work? – rayanisran Mar 7 '18 at 7:10
  • @MaskedMan well the python one, I'm not sure how exactly is why I would appreciate advice from here. As for my code, well I was thinking to get it "verified" by computer professionals to convince my manager that there would be no "harm" associated with using it. – rayanisran Mar 7 '18 at 7:11
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Maintainability - This is a big issue. You said this was a large corporation. What happens if you were allowed to deploy an automated solution to even just half of these tasks? How much time would that free up? From your description, it seems to be a lot. In that case the company might not be able to keep everyone busy with more of the remaining tasks. In which case it will fire some of the staff you've made redundant. After a while you move on, then your script breaks and suddenly they either need their old staff levels back or someone who can go through how knows how many python scripts and fix them. This is something you need to work through with your IT department. Maybe there's an alternative technology that you could use to write these automation tools and that is understood by your IT workers.

Turf wars - It's also possible that you're encroaching on other people's turf. You're taking on IT work while presumably not an IT worker. You're proposing automation tools that could put a bunch of people out of their jobs. Being able to downsize your department is only useful to a manager if they can take the credit AND keep their own job.

Accountability - Lots of organizations are hesitant to trust tools without a classic supplier. They want to be able to call a number and scream into the phone "We've paid X$ for your stupid product so now YOU will fix it!" You've mentioned they all work with Excel so I assume you're all mostly running Windows. You might have more success proposing tools based on Microsoft backed technologies like .NET or PowerShell even though there isn't really a support hotline for scripts you wrote yourself.

Also in this category: Some organizations or individuals are distrustfull of automation in general. I've worked with people who would rather have a several pages long instruction that takes about an hour to work through than a relatively simple script that does the same in a few seconds. It's hard to win against such an obstacle.

  • As for accountability, there are several Python distributors that offer paid support. – Jon Custer Mar 7 '18 at 14:49
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You show them the potential gain.

The easiest way to get something done, is to convince someone that it is in their interest to do so. If the IT guy won't approve it, convince your supervisor of the benefits, and let him fight your corner. You have said that, although non-technical, he seems to be swayed. So, convince him thoroughly, then hand over to him. If he still meets opposition from IT, but seems great benefits to his (your) team, he will kick it up the tree until someone orders IT to comply.

As to "if you leave the company, who'd maintain the code in case a bug arises", you have at least two answers

  • I can train "Joe" to code Python in my free time; he is really keen to learn
  • you can always go back to the way we do things now

Btw, not only is Python free, but the Community Edition of its best IDE, Pycharm, is free and licensed for commercial use, as verified by my question on a sister site.

Perhaps, rather than rolling out your solution to everyone, they would agree to a controlled experiment, with a single installation, and you cloud measure it against the manual way, to prove the benefits?

If they don't agree, would they agree to outsource the work to a company which you found?

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