I once worked for a retailer who expected hand-written reports faxed to the office at the end of the day. I knew my employer — a tech-averse gentleman who was very good at flying businesses by the seat of his pants — but I was also annoyed with the waste of my time, the waste of resources, and the inherent errors with using a pen.
When I first discussed it with him, he said no. He didn't want to be bothered to understand what I was doing and the processes in place worked for his needs.
Months later, on my own time (I've paid for that particular mistake before), I wrote some simple web pages that let me quickly fill out the reports, generate a PDF, and email that to the main office where they could choose to print it or not. I went out of may way to be sure the fundamentals of the process were not interrupted.
He grumbled, but the office found the reports easier to work with and read and, indeed, from their perspective, nothing had changed other than printing from an email rather than picking up paper from a fax machine.
Over the course of years the owner eventually had me write code that completley automated the store-office reporting process (for multiple stores). It saved hundreds of man-hours a year, thousands of sheets of paper wasted on the reports, and improved the accuracy of the reports.
- My employer didn't pay a brass farthing for my time and effort.
- I was completely willing to back away if anyone complained.
- I didn't make a big deal of it. Though other stores could have immediately benefitted, it would have (legitimately) been perceived as stepping on toes had I tried to promulgate its use.
- I was patient.
Managers are "owners" of their respective little piece of the business and that includes your time and their perception to their supervisors. I could see that my efforts would benefit the company as a whole — but the owner didn't care. That's his perogative. I had to be content that they helped me without interrupting anything else.
Epilogue: years later, as the little software hacks grew and it became obvious that we needed to bring everything together into a single domain with the company's first website, the owner sat me down and showed me pictures of his antique car collection. "You know what I like about these?" he asked. "They're easy to fix. You're building a Lamborghini, and I don't know how to fix it." Message received. Today the company has its own website with substantial automation — and a lot of my own time went in to making sure it was dead simple to use and hard to break. Was it fair that I wasn't paid every penny I could have made? That's irrelevant. In the end, both I and the company benefitted. That was my choice and I've never regretted it.