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3 Steps to Deliver ROI and Business Value from IT Automation

3 Steps to Deliver ROI and Business Value from IT Automation
February 22, 2021 • Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO

Today’s CIOs and IT organizations have a challenging juggling act. On the one hand, they’re leading digital transformations and investing in customer experience, analytics, application modernizations, cloud migrations, and experiments in AI and IoT. On the other hand, they must reduce costs, drive efficiencies, and improve the reliability, security, and performance of business-critical applications and systems.

CIOs understand this mission well, as it’s been a longstanding goal to help their organizations gain competitive advantages with technology and data while reducing operating costs and risks. Achieving a balance between these goals requires shifting costs from “running the business” to growth and transformation areas without compromising service levels or end-user satisfaction scores.

IT Automation Improves Services While Reducing Costs

Progressive CIOs have a game changer at their fingertips in the form of IT automation, where IT administrators use a low-code, visual paradigm for scripting and executing standard operating procedures. Some automation examples include:

CIOs should learn from Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that have a long history of applying IT automations to improve service levels, expand their service offerings, and reduce costs. Automations are the backbone to scaling IT operations in these environments, and proactive leaders can replicate this success to gain competitive advantages in other types of businesses.

Resolve offers IT automation capabilities to enterprises by connecting insights to actions, delivering visual tools to orchestrate and execute automations, and providing hundreds of out-of-the-box automation tasks and processes. Resolve’s integrations cover public clouds like AWS and Azure, ITSM platforms like Cherwell and ServiceNow, enterprise platforms such as Microsoft and Oracle, and development tools including Jira and Jenkins.

Delivering ROI and business value with IT automation requires CIOs to position it as transformational and lead it as an IT game-changer. Here’s a three-step blueprint on how to define the IT automation program and deliver business impact.

Partner with Business Stakeholders to Define Success Criteria

It’s a mistake to think of investing in IT automation as an “IT project.” When the CIO is trying to improve service levels, grow innovation capabilities, or reduce costs, there should be a defined vision connecting stakeholders, business value, and success criteria.

There are several potential stakeholders, and CIOs should consider the following opportunities and business drivers:

  • Expanding businesses that require growing infrastructures while maintaining operating costs
  • Leaders investing in customer experiences who require improved system performance and reliability
  • Operating departments with high percentages of service desk tickets that require service improvements
  • Human resources leaders who want improved employee onboarding experiences and higher scores in employee surveys
  • Field operations that require IT to diagnose and resolve laptop and mobile issues faster
  • Regional general managers who want improved IT services while seeing cost reductions
  • Compliance and security officers who want to improve risk profiles

These are all common pain points, and by engaging stakeholders, CIOs can help identify where IT automation can deliver the greatest impact. CIOs should look to translate pain points into success criteria, and where feasible, define a metric that can help benchmark where IT automation delivers improvements.

Define an Agile Process to Deliver IT Automation

With business stakeholders identified, success criteria established, and metrics targeted, CIOs should now help IT self-organize and define an implementation roadmap.

The best way to help IT generate incremental business impact is by applying agile methodologies and a scrum process to deliver IT automation. A selected product owner should organize stakeholder feedback, prioritize user stories, review implementations, and orchestrate sprint reviews. Stakeholders should participate in the sprint reviews, witness the progress IT is making, and celebrate major accomplishments.

But how should the product owner prioritize the automations, especially when there are multiple stakeholders and success criteria identified?

The product owner should consider two independent dimensions: business value and implementation complexity.

Product owners can quantify business value when stakeholders identify success criteria and metrics. For example, if field operations want improved services, estimate improvements in request and incident resolution times. If human resources want to enhance the employee onboarding experience, quantify the steps where automation can reduce the most time, decrease implementation effort, or eliminate error-prone steps.

Sometimes, looking backward over a time period can be used to quantify automations’ improvements. For example, quantifying three months of provisioning, patching, and upgrading systems helps product owners prioritize automations based on ticket volume, required effort, and execution complexity.

The other side of the coin is understanding implementation complexity. I always ask agile teams to estimate their work in story points that capture both complexity and implementation effort. This metric helps the product owner prioritize quick wins and avoid over-investing in automations that are hard to implement.

Measure the Impact and Share with Stakeholders

As IT delivers automations in agile sprints, the CIO should require IT leaders to report on the identified metrics in a defined cadence, such as monthly or quarterly. It’s often the aggregate of several automations that drive KPI improvements, and it might take time before automations show their business impacts.

Some metrics to consider include:

  • Cost optimizations – Estimate ROI by showing an increased volume of incidents, requests, and changes handled by a set number of people working in IT service management – or handled by automation independently
  • Incident management – Reduce the overall number of incidents and improve the mean time to resolution (MTTR)
  • Request management – Increase employee satisfaction with faster times to complete common requests such as provisioning and employee onboarding
  • Change management - Reduce the number of incidents caused by changes or show an increase in low-risk changes where approvals and implementations are fully automated
  • Risk reduction – Demonstrate faster cycle times to apply patches and hotfixes

Most important is to close the loop with stakeholders by sharing where metric improvements have exceeded their success criteria. This approach illustrates the business value and fosters increased demand for implementing new automations.

And CIOs need the automations and partnership with stakeholders today more than ever. Every company is trying to improve customer experience and the delivery of technology services to employees. The business demand for implementing new technologies and improving systems’ reliability requires IT to automate more of the underlying operation.

Want to learn more about quantifying and communicating automation ROI? Check out our webcast:

Build Your Automation KPI Dashboard
Check out Our Webcast to Build Your Automation KPI Dashboard
Isaac Sacolick is president of StarCIO and author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology.

About the Author, Isaac Sacolick:

Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative, and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.

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