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IT process automation sucks, is expensive and doesn't work . . . NOT!

Ray Solnik, President, Appnomic Systems | Feb. 27, 2013
It's commonly perceived that IT Process Automation (ITPA) costs too much and - after a painful implementation process - doesn't work. But enterprises taking a "crawl, walk, run" approach with Automation as a Service (AaaS) are realizing dividends.

Finally, in evaluating an AaaS Service offering, confirm whether the vendor provides a managed service wherein they operate and maintain the automation to accommodate environment changes - systems upgrades, work flow improvements, for example - sometimes called sustenance services. A base offering of monthly hours in a managed service offering is allocated for client requests, "tweaks" or minor modifications to ensure automations remain relevant.

Whether you are attempting ITPA for the first time, are a more mature organization scrapping existing approaches for a better approach, or are considering trying a new or additional path forward, let's explore "crawl... walk... run".

* Crawl. Start small, with one process - a low-risk, non-mission-critical process. Don't tackle complete server builds and patches when you could start with server decommissioning. It may seem obvious to start slow, but many organizations jump headlong into automation only to get into trouble, requiring serious and costly assistance.

Be clear on the desired process flow, outcomes and service-level agreement performance metrics. What benefits will be seen upon automation completion? Developing business cases (even a mini-version for smaller jobs) is another frequently overlooked task. Make sure it happens!

It's a pain, but document processes step-by-step. Run documentation by colleagues and end-users to capture all questions, exceptions and feedback. The "how to" may seem to be already integrated into Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), but there's no substitute for a fresh process review and validation.

* Walk. There may be pressure to get more done faster, but it often results in a mess. It's critical to communicate your plan so stakeholders see the finish line. Hold them at bay when pressure builds to just "get it done" as you head toward that finish line.

Maintain your pace and focus on winning the whole race, not just one leg. Breakdown implementation steps in an orderly fashion to get from the current to the desired state. A certified project manager, process optimization expert, or process automation designer can be valuable in leading this effort. Often, vendors will provide this service or know experts that fit your budget. Carve out the required staff and resources throughout the forecasted timeframe to complete the project.

With an implementation plan in place and resources assigned, it's time to build process steps, interfaces and workflow into the automation platform and begin test runs to evaluate that flow. Ideally, have a test environment, if not, test in your operating environment during maintenance windows until you are certain the newly designed process meets objectives and is stable enough for production-grade operations.

Ensure a means for sustaining the automations over time when future systems or process changes occur. Too often, the focus is entirely on deployment and the team lacks the foresight or continued energy to ensure ongoing deployment sustenance.


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