When executed properly, the benefits of intelligent IT automation are tremendous: dramatic savings of both time and money, skyrocketing efficiency and productivity, and even increased employee satisfaction. While getting started with IT automation can seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. By breaking it down into incremental, achievable steps, you can easily launch your intelligent IT automation journey and set yourself and your organization up for success.
Here’s are four steps to kick-start your IT automation success:
Determine what your baseline KPI metrics for success will be. A few suggestions include hours saved, number of processes automated, or a specific service response metric.
Conduct a thorough analysis documenting all of your existing processes and systems, including interfaces, integration points, and input/output formats. This may seem unnecessary - after all, you already know everything about your processes - but successful automation requires a deep understanding of every single step that humans perform. Plus, you can encode tribal knowledge into automations to ensure anyone can leverage the information needed to successfully automate.
Once you’ve identified and analyzed your processes, it’s time to decide which ones to automate. It’s important to note that you don’t have to automate all of your IT processes. Instead, focus on ‘quick wins’ that you can start with – that is, processes that will require the less effort to automate but deliver the most value.
This enables you to focus on the logical elements and flow of each process before getting wrapped up in the technical details. That way you can identify the exact sequence of steps, define inputs and outputs, and think about any human decision points that may need to be incorporated into the workflow.
Once you’ve got your foundational strategy in place, you can start preparing to calculate ROI, which will help secure additional funding to advance your IT automation initiative.
Return on investment for intelligent IT automation can be addressed at two levels – on the macro level, the total ROI for implementing IT automation ( tool, training etc.), and on the micro level, calculating the ROI for each individual process you automate. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these below.
On the platform side, you should take into account both the platform costs, as well as the effort required to integrate that solution into your environment and develop workflows. Some intelligent IT automation capabilities are embedded inside larger suites, which incur higher costs, whereas other vendors provide dedicated and more flexible tools that are easier to deploy and learn.
To evaluate the cost of generating automated workflows, you should consider several functional capabilities, such as a visual workflow designer that eliminates the need for scripting, the provision of templates with pre-built content, and the ability to integrate with external systems.
To evaluate the ROI of an individual process, begin by calculating the current time required for the manual task at hand. For example, a task that requires one hour of an administrator’s time, one hour of a manager’s time, and is performed twice a week, can be evaluated at 16 monthly hours. If it will take 8 hours to automate the task, then your ROI for that process will be two weeks.
Now it’s time to start analyzing tools to select a platform that’s right for your organization. For optimal results, you should evaluate each of the following factors:
Integration Points - Verify that the tool can easily create touch points and triggers within your data center systems, including different OS, legacy systems, help desk, management systems, etc.
Deployment Effort - Evaluate the amount of time and effort that will be required for deployment (e.g. setup, configuration, etc.).
Required Skillset - What is the estimated learning curve for generating workflows independently? Is scripting required?
Out-of-the-Box Functionality - Does the tool provide pre-built templates for various tasks, which can easily be tailored to fit your environment and processes?
Human Intervention - Even the simplest automated processes may require human decision. Can you embed decision-making logic in workflows for remote automatic decisions on process execution?
Scheduling - While some automated processes will be triggered by system events, others will need to be scheduled.
Governance and Compliance - Does the tool provide tracking of events, reports, and knowledge management that can help you comply with regulations?
There are a few other key factors that will help ensure your IT automation success. You’ll want to avoid jumping into large-scale automation projects right off the bat. Instead, aim for quick wins - small, targeted projects that will deliver immediate, measurable results. For example, such as password resets, freeing up disk space, or other file management operations.Though you’ll begin with smaller projects, you can plan to expand your automation in a modular fashion and apply it to processes that cross domains (server, storage, network), such as proactive maintenance tasks. Before you get wrapped up in technical details, you must document your manual processes workflows, so you can identify which processes you should automate first.
Perhaps one of the most important – and often overlooked success factors – is to prepare your team for automation. Set roles and functions, so the IT group is trained and ready to adapt to new processes and models. You’ll also want to publicize automation successes and identify advocates among your team. This will help underscore the benefits of automation for individuals, and dispel the common myths that automation is taking IT jobs away.
A three-step blueprint to define an IT automation program that delivers ROI and real business value.
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