Reduce Processes for Easier Automation EffortsThe need for process is well established in the general business world, as well as in IT. However, placing too many processes into the hands of IT staffers eventually introduces new problems and risks that would otherwise not be present. An overwhelming volume of tasks ultimately leads to labor-intensive efforts to manage them all, many of which can only be accomplished via manual means. This introduces higher rates of mistakes that add expenses associated with labor costs and systems downtime. Before you can begin to identify the IT processes most obvious for automation, you need to limit the scope of your search. A fundamental practice to embrace is to examine the IT processes currently used and determine which could be removed. This presents an opportunity for IT groups to eliminate outdated processes and IT assets, such as applications or idle servers, adding further efficiency gains. Compressing multiple processes into one is another acceptable practice to employ, especially for tasks performing similar functions on multiple compatible assets. Performing this action will provide an immediate boost in productivity, as well as maintenance and support savings. It will also present the automation team with a smaller list to work from, cutting the amount of time necessary to identify the manual processes that can be translated into automatically managed tasks.
Identify and Eliminate Manual ProcessesYour concise list of processes gives you a road map for the next step: the elimination of manual processes. If you followed the guidance in the previous section regarding the removal of unnecessary processes, you would now be looking at only the processes needed to manage your IT stack. This makes your next step to identify which of the remaining processes are manual, and to convert as many as possible into automated tasks. Although some manual processes won’t qualify for automation, you’ll likely locate enough qualified manual processes to realize true cost savings. In addition to saving time, process automation frees up resources to focus on projects and tasks with a higher value. It may also potentially eliminate the need to hire additional staff, while opening the door to new potential roles and training opportunities for current staff. The associated cost savings are dependent on the number of manual processes converted to automated processes. So, the more manual processes you can automate, the more costs will be recovered. This may tempt you to make a go of converting some of your borderline automation-friendly processes despite the risks, but it’s advisable to avoid automation of processes that may introduce higher risk variables.
Automate With a PurposeIt’s important to automate a manually driven process or task only if there’s a sound business and operational purpose behind it. As much as you may want to increase process efficiency through the automation of important processes and tasks, you shouldn’t just automate for the sake of automation. By this point, you’ve already eliminated no longer needed processes and have identified the manual processes that are potential candidates for automating. The endless possibilities for potential points of automation are too numerous to list here. However, some examples, such as patching, asset management, software metering, and security monitoring (see Figure 1) all make good cases for areas in the IT stack that will see an increase in efficiency when purposeful automation is used. Automating these will also assure important tasks are being regularly and consistently executed using strictly determined specifications.
Figure 1: Examples of systems that benefit from automationOne last area where automation can be deployed with a purpose is for IT support functions. Automating support tasks will improve issue response times with highly accurate resolutions. Invoking automation in the support arena means better management of ITIL-based workflows, automatic escalation conditions, and the ability to employ artificial intelligence (AI) for better self-healing of systems. These serve to lessen the chances of an extended, unplanned outage and help to keep your automation cost savings intact.