Posts

Not Sure Where to Start with IT Process Automation? Take it One Step at a Time

Not Sure Where to Start with IT Process Automation? Take it One Step at a TimeThe concept of IT process automation may seem pretty straightforward – you take manual tasks and workflows and allow them to be executed by a technological tool instead of human workers. The problem is, getting started with automation can often feel overwhelming. Where should you begin? What should you automate first, second and so on? To make the process a little less intimidating, we recommend taking it one simple step at a time, as follows.

First, make a list of all the tasks and workflows that are currently being done manually. Is your IT help desk being buried under daily requests for routine things like password resets and system restarts? What things are taking up the most time and resources? This will provide a framework for implementing the IT automation process.

Next, ask yourself (or your team) whether anything on the list can be comfortably eliminated. Are there any time-wasters that are obsolete or could be incorporated into other tasks and workflows? There may be no point in automating these things, as the result would just be futile. Cross off what you can on the list and move on from there.

Now, prioritize the list by what items are most important and could be best optimized by IT process automation. Keep in mind that even the simplest of tasks could be the highest on the list based on the amount of time and resources they’re taking up on a daily basis. By automating these things first, you can dramatically improve operations and free up skilled personnel to focus their talents elsewhere.

With your to-do list of automatable tasks, the next step is choosing the right tool for the job. There are hundreds, if not thousands of IT process automation tools available on the market today. They are not all created equal, however. If you’re just starting out with automation, you should be looking for easy to use, out-of-the-box products that offer robust features and the ability to grow as needed.

Once you’ve chosen the right IT process automation product for your needs, the final step (at least in the beginning stages) is automating one or two key functions from your list. Not only will this allow you and your team to become familiar with the automation technology, but it will also provide insight into what other areas to leverage automation for next.

As you become comfortable with and more confident in automation, you can then move on to the next step of automating more complex tasks and workflows. As with anything else, these things take time before they become an integral part of operations. By taking a more incremental approach, you’ll be well on your way to a successful implementation at every level. It starts with taking that very first step.

Interested in IT process automation but still not sure quite where to begin? Check out these common tasks that are perfect for automation.





5 Ways to level up your service desk using it process automation




Tips for Choosing the Right IT Process Automation Solution for Your Business

Tips for Choosing the Right IT Process Automation Solution for Your BusinessWhile you may already recognize the benefits of leveraging IT process automation for your business, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the most out of this important tool. The truth is with so many different options available, many organizations end up trying to do too much and failing as a result. Let’s take a look at some of the more common challenges of automation as well as some tips and best practices for finding the right solution for your business.

Challenges

One of the biggest hurdles IT professionals must overcome when it comes to implementing an automation strategy is the number of tools they’re using. Oftentimes the very technology that is designed to improve efficiency and reduce errors can have the opposite effect if there are too many tools working together – or against each other. In fact, according to research by Gartner, 75% of large enterprises are expected to have more than four diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolio by the year 2017. That’s up from 20% in 2014.

The problem comes into play when automation is approached from an individual departmental point of view, rather than a solution that ties the entire infrastructure together. Each team brings their own needs to the table and focuses on developing an automated solution for those needs, creating a disjointed strategy that segregates silos and keeps them separate. Instead of relying on different tools and remedies for each area, businesses should be focusing on more universal solutions that can help in all areas of the business at once.

Another challenge surrounding IT process automation  today is the way the technology is being utilized. When automation is only being used for scripting, as many organizations are currently doing, the full functionality and potential of the technology is not being realized. What’s more, because of the detailed work that goes into designing workflows, if just one step or input is missed, the results will be less than satisfactory. IT process automation of the future must be more robust and sophisticated.

Tips and Best Practices

Establish Roles – The first step in successfully automating your IT functions is to establish who will take what roles in the process. This will help to get the ball rolling on identifying what needs to be automated and how to best accomplish those goals. You can either transition existing employees into these roles or hire them externally. Common titles will include automation managers, system administrators, automation architects and automation specialists. Figure out what you need and go from there.

Identify Needs – The next step involves conducting an inventory to determine what tasks and workflows can and should be automated. This will typically begin with existing scripts, whether they happen to be command scripts or file transfer scripts in such programs as Windows, PHP, Unix or Ruby on Rails. Once you’ve identified all the scripts your company uses, you can then focus on finding a uniform solution for all of them.

Purge – When conducting your inventory, don’t be afraid to retire old scripts that are either not being used or can be better managed another way. Once you’ve done away with those scripts that aren’t worth automating, you’ll have a cleaner list of those that are worth expanding on and improving.

Shop Around – You want your IT process automation strategy to be wildly successful, right? Well, this involves doing your homework and shopping around. Make sure you’re looking for the right quality solution, specifically a mature and robust tool that offers a return on your investment. That shiny new automation tool that was just developed may appear to have all the bells and whistles to get the job done, but given its age, it will likely undergo a great deal of changes and tweaks, costing you more in the long run. Rather than simple scripts, look for IT process automation tool that offer greater overall value.

Seek Cohesiveness – As mentioned above, many businesses struggle with automation because they have too many tools working against each other. Recognize that some automation tools may actually – albeit unintentionally – cause more harm than good. Look for tools that complement your other systems and can be easily integrated, rather than those that compete and ultimately disrupt the flow of things.

Weigh and Study – Once you’ve narrowed down your options, carefully weigh the service and benefits each tool will present to your organization. Also, study the workflow of each prospective solution. This can help you determine which option would best suit your particular business needs.

Ready to get the ball rolling on IT Process Automation for your own organization?





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




Overcoming Objections to IT Process Automation

Overcoming Objections to IT Process AutomationIT Process Automation (ITPA) is far from a new concept. In fact, it’s something that is becoming more and more widely embraced across just about every industry. Yet, there are still many who are in the position of decision maker that still aren’t convinced of the value that automation can bring to their organizations.

Among the most common objections given for why NOT to embrace automation are:

  • Cost
  • Complexity
  • Learning Curve
  • Integration with Legacy Systems
  • Fear

Let’s take a look at each of these objections in greater detail, and examine how each can be overcome with the right IT process automation tool.

The first concern that many IT professionals and other “powers that be” have about introducing automation is cost. This is especially true for smaller enterprises that may be working with much leaner budgets. While there’s certainly no doubt that implementing an IT process automation tool will incur some expense, it doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. For instance, a lightweight solution can be highly effective yet affordable enough to suit any budget. What’s more, the overall cost savings realized from automation will balance out the up-front expense over time.

Next is the concern of the complexity of IT process automation. People in just about every industry have heard of and are showing more and more interest in automation. That is, until they hear horror stories about how complicated the process is. Truth be told, there are certainly complex systems and products on the market today that bring with them steep learning curves, making them difficult to implement and more challenging to manage.

The good news is that not all automation products are this arduous.

In fact, some products allow you to still automate both simple and complex workflows and processes, yet can be installed and deployed in mere minutes. This type of IT automation product is designed to be user-friendly, making initial training and ongoing management a breeze. What’s more, there’s no need for users to possess extensive knowledge of things like script writing. It’s ‘plug and play’ at its very best.

Another commonly cited reason for resisting automation is the concern over how it will integrate with existing systems. Nobody wants to go through an entire overhaul and replacement of legacy systems. That could take a tremendous amount of time and cost a pretty penny. What these naysayers don’t realize is that a quality automation product can integrate seamlessly with legacy systems. There’s no need to replace. Simply restructure and realign to enhance performance and efficiency.

Finally, although perhaps of biggest concern, is the fear that automation will replace the human workforce. Some IT professionals still view automation as some sort of enemy with whom they must compete to protect their job security. To the contrary, automation isn’t meant to eliminate humans, but rather to provide a tool that will improve their lives considerably. Why? Because automation removes all of the menial, repetitive tasks that would otherwise be bogging down IT professionals, freeing them to focus on other, more important business matters. It also allows IT personnel to further improve their own skills and hone their expertise, making them much more marketable.

To further drive home these points, let’s take a look at a real life scenario in which automation was leveraged – albeit with a bit of hesitation – but was quickly discovered to be of tremendous value to the IT department and the organization as a whole.

One large insurance company has been slowly but surely automating key IT processes using Ayehu eyeShare IT process automation. The IT Director, who is responsible for managing the project, began by using the automation process to manage alerts generated by their existing monitoring tool. The goal was to take level one staff out of the loop by at least 80%.

Before automation came into play, an alert would go to the Network Operations Center (NOC) rep at all hours of the day or night. The NOC person would then spend about 15-30 minutes troubleshooting and calling people – sometimes in the middle of the night – before finally being able to restart the web service. Today, that process has been automated. Now, the alert is detected, an action is performed and the problem is resolved – all without ever having to wake anyone up.

Automation has helped this insurance company by saving time, money and resources and managing system issues in a much more efficient way.

Implementation was quick and easy, with very little training time necessary. Most importantly, automation didn’t replace the NOC personnel, but rather made their jobs much easier (and allowed them to get more rest in the process).

Wherever you stand on the topic of IT process automation, the fact is it is fast becoming the way of the future. If you’re still resisting, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the battle. By taking the time to examine the common objections and learning how the right automation tool can help overcome these objections once and for all, you’ll be well on your way to riding the wave of success into the future.

Not sure where to start? Download a copy of our free IT Process Automation Survival Guide today!





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes




How do you manage your alert notifications and escalation procedures in today complex IT?

Alert notification As an IT Manager, you probably get hundreds of emails a day, not to mention alert notifications and escalation from your monitoring systems, which “flood” your mailbox all day, every day. With so many incoming communications, it can be challenging and time consuming to distinguish between what is and isn’t important. This creates the inevitable risk that the moment a real problem arises, you might very well miss it.

For most organizations, this is simply not acceptable, but it’s par for the course with email notifications. So, what’s the solution? Simple: it’s time to consider changing the way you receive your alerts. Relying on email for critical for alert notifications and escalations can be risky. SMS is a much more effective tool for IT Managers.

How to automate alert notification & escalation procedures

When you connect your monitoring systems to SMS, you can effectively streamline your entire communication process, including:

  1. Setting up your alerting/monitoring system to send notification via SMS
  2. Escalating important alerts via SMS to business users and managers
  3. Using two-way SMS notification for receiving acknowledgements and allowing quick response
  4. Preparing pre-configured processes that will allow you to remediate incidents just by replying via your mobile device

With this advanced integration, you can:

  • Automate all of your alert notifications & escalations to be sent via email, SMS and phone calls (all three, if desired)
  • Open, update, and close tickets in service desk tools via automated workflow
  • Reduce resolution time of network and system alerts
  • Empower Level 1 and Level 2 operators to resolve more incidents, quickly and remotely

IT Operations & NOC managers are under intense demands to meet SLAs, providing better service to their customers. With Ayehu eyeShare for alert Notification & Escalation (N&E) Management Solution IT operations and Network Operation Center (NOC) managers can automate their entire incident notifications and escalations procedures, gaining better control over their incident-routing communication to their employees and customers.

Automating alert notifications to IT operations will significantly improve your application, service availability and reduce the Mean Time To Resolution.

Watch this video tutorial: Alert Notification and Escalation with Ayehu eyeShare





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes




How to Create an Effective Incident Response Plan to Avoid Cyber Security Attacks

How to Create an Effective Incident Response Plan to Avoid Cyber Security AttacksThere are two common reasons why many organizations today are still failing to properly prepare for possible cyber-attacks. Some companies believe that the incident response plan they already have in place is sufficient enough to handle threats, while the other portion mistakenly believe they are not at risk of such an attack. Yet, with all the recent online breaches, it’s never been more evident that every business must evaluate their current strategy and prepare for the inevitable because everyone is at risk. That said, here are a few tips for establishing a highly effective incident response plan that will keep your organization protected from would-be online attacks.

First, evaluate and test your existing incident response protocol. It’s important to not only have a strategy in place but to also check it regularly to ensure that it’s working as it should be. Simulation exercises should be conducted on a regular basis, not only to assess the quality of the incident response plan, but to keep personnel prepared for what steps are necessary to address incoming threats and, if needed, bring systems back online.

An analysis of existing strategies should also include a check of whether the right tools are being leveraged to simplify, consolidate and streamline the incident response process. One of the most common issues behind successful security breaches is the fact that IT personnel simply do not have the bandwidth to be able to field the volume of incoming threats. This is how incidents slip in under the radar and wreak havoc. Adding automation into the process can eliminate this problem by allowing technology to identify, validate and prioritize all incoming threats.

Whether your organization happens to have a plan in place that is inadequate or you’ve really not taken any measures to develop such a plan, the key is first recognizing the risk and ensuring that your systems and strategies are fully tested and properly planned. Additionally, personnel must be brought up to speed and well-versed in situational response. The hurdles of cost and lack of resources can easily be overcome by employing cost-conscious solutions, like integrating an ITPA tool with existing systems to enhance and extend their effectiveness. A combination of technology and training should do the trick.

The fact is, cyber-attacks can happen at any time and to any business in any industry. How quickly and fully your organization can recover from such an attack is directly proportionate to the quality of the incident response plan you have in place. By applying the principles outlined above, you can proactively manage incoming threats and handle incidents in a timely manner, thereby keeping your company’s sensitive data safe from imminent harm.

Is your incident response plan strong enough to keep your data secure?

Could the added benefit of automation improve and enhance its effectiveness? More importantly, can your organization afford to remain vulnerable to dangerous and costly cyber-attacks? Give our robust IT Process Automation tool a try free for 30 days and start protecting your business today.





eBook: 5 Reasons You Should Automate Cyber Security Incident Response




How the Right IT Process Automation Tool Can Help You Get More of Your Data Center

How the Right IT Process Automation Tool Can Help You Get More of Your Data CenterYou may think that when it comes to running an efficient data center, the more bells and whistles you have at your disposal, the better. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Too many systems that are either independent, inconsistent, or both, can end up complicating the infrastructure and make managing even the smallest tasks more difficult than necessary. Implementing the right IT process automation tool and adopting some best practices, on the other hand, can bridge existing systems and departments and create a more efficient, effective and successful data center. Here’s how.

The major hurdle many IT professionals still face today is that of deeply rooted silos. This problem arose from what was originally thought to be a solution. Each department or team would determine its individual needs and then bring in a specific tool to meet those needs. What resulted was a huge number of standalone solutions that did not work well together. Instead of a well-integrated system, data centers were left with a complicated mess that was unconnected and ineffective.

Not only does having this type of set up cause more unnecessary work for data center professionals, but it can actually stunt the ability for the company as a whole to develop and implement an overarching automation strategy. That’s because most of these independent tools do not communicate, collaborate or integrate with one another. The ultimate goal of any data center is to achieve maximum efficiency, which is just not possible without a sophisticated IT process automation tool that can bridge these gaps and pull everything together.

Today, automation can work wonders for an organization in any industry, but only if it’s designed to work toward “big picture” goals. Rather than solving one specific problem, the right ITPA tool should be able to interface with existing systems and enhance their capabilities. For example, integrating an automation product with a network management tool like SolarWinds Orion can provide an end-to-end solution that pulls together processes and makes everything run more smoothly.

If your data center is still dealing with a more fragmented approach to IT Process Automation, you’re most certainly not alone.

Moreover, it appears to be a problem that’s growing, rather than lessening. In fact, according to a recent Gartner report, the number of large enterprises that will have at least 4 automation products in place at once is expected to rise from 20% to 75% by the year 2017. Another challenge lies in the way automation is viewed: often as merely a means to make scripting easier, rather than leverage its power to automate complex workflows and processes.

The ultimate goal, both in the present as well as the future, is to change the way IT Process Automation is being used and maximize its capabilities. Organizations will need to streamline their I&O strategies to focus on the many benefits that the right IT process automation tool can provide. A dedicated team of automation professionals should be assembled and they should conduct a thorough audit to identify areas where automation can improve operational efficiency and ultimately help achieve the strategic goals of the business. Finally, a good amount of research should be conducted to determine which IT process automation tool is the right fit for the needs of each organization.

The data center of tomorrow will be much more efficient and effective, thanks to IT Process Automation.

Could your data center use a boost?

IT Process Automation Survival Guide




IT Process Automation – How to Keep Your IT Department from Wasting Time and Money

IT Process Automation new ideaIt seems as though the concept of doing more with less came around rather recently. In reality, however, managing a lot of IT tasks on a budget is nothing new. In fact, it’s been a priority for businesses across just about every industry for decades now. When the economy took a nose-dive several years ago and companies had no choice but to lay off large chunks of their workforce, there was no other option than to figure out a way to get the work done with whatever personnel was left. The solution is simple, IT process automation.

Yet, to this very day, countless businesses are still chasing their tails, being bogged down with manual work that can (and should be) handled through IT process automation. Right now, as you are reading this article, IT departments in all corners of the globe are busy writing scripts and going through workflows, step by painful step. Meanwhile, their productivity is suffering, as is the bottom line of their organizations as a whole.

So, what’s the solution? Could it really be as simple as choosing an IT  process automation tool?

The answers to these questions lies in the reality of what your IT department looks like at the moment. Are your team members spending hours upon hours fielding incoming alerts and processing workflows that require little to know “skill”? What could your department accomplish if the majority of your workers weren’t tied to their desks going through the drudgery of doing things by hand all day?

While the ultimate goal would be to develop an IT process automation strategy that is sophisticated enough to streamline all of your operations, what you can do right now is take that first step. It doesn’t have to involve a year’s worth of research and testing to find the perfect solution to all your IT woes. Yes – that’s the overarching objective, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated to start. The first, and most important step, is choosing to make a change – even if it’s just automating one tiny task.

How to Measure IT Process Automation Return on Investment (ROI)

Your challenge for the week is to observe those who work in IT and identify one or two small tasks that are being performed manually (more than twice per day). When you see these things, ask yourself why they are being handled this way. Calculate the costs associated with the time it takes your worker to complete. Let’s say the employee in question makes $30 per hour. If it takes 3 hours a day to complete one manual task, you’re dishing out nearly $100 for something that a computer could do in mere minutes.

By identifying key areas that are costing your business time and money, you can then look for an IT automation solution that can improve those processes. Start small, then work your way up. Once you’ve successfully automated those first few activities, expand your horizons to bigger, more complex processes. Before you know it, your business will be operating much more efficiently. As a bonus, your skilled IT professionals will be freed up to focus on more important business matters.


eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate