The ultimate goal of a good employee should be to put themselves out of a job. It seems counterintuitive, but it is true. I mean every single employee from the janitor to the CEO. The truly great CEOs understand this. But even the janitors – if they could find away to make the floors perpetually clean, think of what an accomplishment that would be! The only feasible way they could do this is through some form of automation.
We as developers should strive for the same thing. You should strive to do such a great job, to write such good code, that does exactly what it is supposed to do, is so easily understood, easy to maintain and add features, that the people that hired you to do the job in the first place won’t need you anymore. I say this knowing that there is no way they will let you go. Instead what will happen is that you will be promoted and given new responsibilities to automate.
As a manager you also should be striving to make things run themselves. One of the best ways to do this is schedule time to develop automation.
Those of you who know me understand how strongly I feel about this subject. There is just too much work to do manually. The more software products you develop the more you have to maintain. But the goal is obviously to build as many profitable products as possible, and they obviously need to be maintained to some degree. So where does that leave you? If you had to leave part of your staff on every product that you have ever developed you would end up with huge bloated teams where communication is a nightmare. So automation is really the only answer. This is a huge part of agility, making it easier to do common tasks.
So like the Robert Heinlein short story about the man who was too lazy too fail – anywhere that you see an opportunity for automation, take it. I think a fundamental part of the responsibility of any member of a software team is questioning why you do something. Part of this is asking yourself if there is an easier way than the way being suggested, one that requires less overall work.
Often that easier way will be automating some repetitive task.