Photo credit: pollyalida, Flickr
Industry News

Automating Operations: If it can be automated, it should be automated

by Andrew Karam on Apr 15, 2015

Figuring out what we can automate drives our bottom line at AppLovin, as is the case for many companies. Automation is typically associated with engineering but is often overlooked when it comes to the business side of things. Our overall philosophy is, “If it can be automated, it should be automated.”

What should be automated and how do I do it?

If the same tasks are performed over and over or are taking up a significant amount of time, they are candidates for automation. Using web analytics, it’s easy to identify the most common, repetitive tasks. The challenge lies with competently designing and building the tools that will improve our jobs.

First, a talented and agile engineering team is key in this process. When you’re not limited by your technology resources, building new tools becomes much easier.

Next, you need to consider the design of the tool. Outline a good product spec that includes thorough evaluation of all possible use cases. Make sure you design a UX that doesn’t hinder the intended goal of the tool(s) you’re building. If you don’t get your new tool’s design right, you could waste time and money on something that is rarely, if ever, used.

The results: time saved & streamlined operations

At AppLovin, we’ve created (and continue to create) tools ranging from in-house mobile apps for running detailed network reports on the fly to more comprehensive tools such as our campaign management interface, which has evolved into a highly efficient and flexible tool that saves us hours of time everyday and keeps our team lean.

Before we began automating campaign management, setting up a partner’s new campaign could take hours of manual work. Now, this task takes just a few minutes. In the early days, account managers used to have to manually enter the same information in multiple locations throughout the tool, whereas now they can enter that information once, and it’s conditionally applied across the campaign.

Our campaigns can also multi-task now. For example, running a global campaign used to require setting up a separate campaign for each language. You would need separate campaigns for the Spanish-speaking countries, French-speaking countries, English-speaking countries and so on. It required a great deal of extra manual work. Now, account managers can set up one campaign and manage it across multiple languages. This avoids re-entering the same information over and over.

Most ad tech companies have two teams dedicated to campaign management: an account management team and an ad operations team. The account management team liaises with our clients around expectations and goals and relays that information back to the ad operations team, which actually operates the campaign management tools and executes.

However, we were able to automate and streamline our campaign management tool so much that we merged our account management and ad operations team into a single strategic account management team. The tool was so easy to use that our account management team could be trained to operate it in a short amount of time. It also saved our ad operations team so much time that they were now freed up to interact with clients directly.

Each team effectively learned the other’s trade, which aligns with our corporate culture, and the whole operation became much more efficient. Moreover, by cutting out an entire section of the chain of client communication, our partners benefited from speedier and more knowledgeable interaction with our organization.

Automation also greatly improved our in-house reporting tool. Our team can visually digest large amounts of data by superimposing charts on top of one another. This allows us to detect actionable patterns quickly. For instance, within seconds we can analyze the click-through-rate patterns of our iOS users right before and after the most recent Apple iOS update or observe a new partner’s spike in traffic due to being featured in the iOS app store.

To make these analytics actionable, we built real-time notifications that alert the team when atypical data patterns like those are detected. This is instrumental in helping us detect missed revenue opportunities and catch potential bugs very early on. On several occasions it’s allowed us to notify partners of technical issues on their end before they were aware of them themselves.

Return on investment

Automating tasks that typically require engineering support has freed up our engineers to work on other key projects. And for the business team, time once spent manually optimizing campaigns is now focused on tasks that can’t be automated and are core to our growing business such as client relationship management, working with the creative team, and product improvement and roadmap.

Sometimes it takes discipline and time to step back and assess what tasks you’re unnecessarily repeating or spending too much time on. But it’s worth it to do so. Find the areas of your business where you can leverage automation and act accordingly. You’ll find that you’ll not only improve operations as a whole, but save valuable time and, money, and drive better results for your customers.

Andrew Karam is AppLovin’s VP of Product.

We’re hiring! Apply here.