IT Manager- You Don’t Need to Work So Hard. Use IT Process Automation

IT Process AutomationThere’s no question that today’s IT administrators are facing growing challenges in the wake of cloud, big data and increased mobility. These professionals are being pressured to produce at a maximum rate while also working with fewer resources and adhering to strict budgetary requirements. As a result, many have begun to embrace IT process automation as a tool to help them stay competitive and, well, remain employed.

In fact, IT process automation can help you better manage your busy schedule and free you up to tackle more challenging opportunities.

The issue is, not all IT process automation  products are created equal. If you’re considering adopting automation into your own operation, here are five key things to help you make the right choice.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. You’re already busy enough, so don’t choose a product that will create more work for you and your team. Instead, look for a solution that already comes with a proven track record. Choose an existing company that is established (preferably one that specializes in IT process automation) and whose product has been successfully implemented by a number of other companies. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and contact them to be sure the product you’re considering will be the right fit for your needs.

Built-In Basics. While the more complex capabilities of each solution may be different, the product you choose should at least contain out-of-the-box features that are most common. This includes routine tasks like software deployment, scheduled backups, security updates, service restarts and patches. Regardless of industry or geographical location, things like software, maintenance, security and compliance are factors that every IT manager must consider. Make sure the product you choose has these built-in capabilities ready to go on day one.

Ability to Be Creative. Beyond the basic automation tasks, the next thing to look for is flexibility. Once you’ve implemented the product and have automated the most common tasks, you’ll then want to start focusing on more complex workflows. This will be somewhat subjective, as it will ultimately depend on each IT manager’s specific strategic objectives, but overall the product should be easy to use, capable of interfacing with other programs and allow for a certain level of creativity to really customize it to the unique needs of the business.

Policy-Based Solutions. Every experienced IT administrator is aware of how critical it is to maintain a level of consistency when managing systems and users. The problem is, when these networks are at a global level, it’s simply not possible for IT professionals to be able to manually ensure that every single machine is in compliance with IT policies. IT process automation solutions that are policy-based offer the ideal solution to this dilemma. For optimum results, look for policy-based automation that will allow you to define, manage and enforce your organization’s IT policies across the entire network without the need for human intervention.

An active community helps. Along with solid customer service and product support, choosing a vendor that also has an active community of engaged IT process automation professionals can help make adoption, implementation and long-term maintenance easier. This community could be managed directly on the vendor’s website, or it may exist elsewhere, such as within a social network (like a LinkedIn group). Collaborating with like-minded professionals can not only help you maximize your use of the product, but it can also enhance your career.

Like it or not, IT process automation is becoming a necessity for IT managers who wish to remain successful amidst the present and future changes brought about by cloud, mobility and big data. The key will be choosing the right product. By keeping the five things listed above in mind during the selection process, implementation will go much more smoothly and the results will be more favorable over the long-term.

Stop Firefighting, Start Automating





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




7 Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating IT Process Automation Tools

Evaluating IT Process Automation ToolsWhen it comes to IT operations, there’s no question that it is crucial for organizations to increase their efficiency. In fact, with the expected increase in complexity, service levels and performance, greater operational efficiency becomes not just an option, but a competitive necessity. IT process automation tools can help your IT operations become more efficient, thereby improving your organization’s bottom line.

This blog post explores 7 important questions to consider when evaluating IT Process Automation tools to achieve greater operational efficiency.

1. What are the integration points? Before choosing your ITPA tool, you should first verify that it will have touch points and triggers that integrate with your data center systems, including different OS, legacy systems, Integration with help desk such as ServiceNow, monitoring and management systems, etc. The more integrated the better.

2. What should be expected in terms of deployment effort? Evaluate how much time and effort will be required for deployment (setup, configuration, implementation, etc.). You want to make sure that the timeframe proposed works with your organizational needs, and also set expectations so that everyone is on the same page throughout the process and there are no unexpected surprises.

3. What is the required skill set for this particular ITPA tool? Part of the implementation process involves training and adapting to the new system. Before moving forward, you should understand what the estimated learning curve will be for generating automated workflows independently. You’ll also want to determine ahead of time if any scripting will be required.

4. Does this product feature out-of-the-box functionality? Many IT process automation systems provide ‘pre-canned’ templates for various commonly performed tasks. If the system you are considering offers this, the next step is to determine whether these generic templates can easily be tailored to fit your unique business environment and processes.

5. What level of human intervention is available? Even the simplest automated processes will require some type of human decision at some point during the process. The question to ask is whether you will be able to embed decision-making logic into workflows for remote decisions on process execution. This allows management to maintain control over the process from start to finish.

6. What kind of scheduling functionality does it feature? While some automated processes will be triggered by system events, others, such as repetitive tasks, will need to be scheduled. You’ll want to make sure the ITPA tool you select provides for full scheduling capability.

7. Does it take into account regulatory compliance? Meeting regulatory compliance requirements is a critical part of every organization’s success. When evaluating an IT process automation tools, be sure to find out whether it can help you with these initiatives. For instance, does the tool provide tracking of events, reports and knowledge management that will help the organization comply with regulations?

These are the 7 most important things to consider when evaluating an ITPA tool for your organization. Additionally, it’s also good practice to select an ITPA vendor that offers some type of support package and other resources that can help ensure a smooth transition and the ongoing success of the system. By asking these key questions and understanding what to look for, you will have a much better chance of selecting an IT process automation system that will be a perfect fit for your business and ensure project success.





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




Future of IT Process Automation Tools

Future of IT Process Automation ToolsMany enterprises across the globe are presently experiencing serious problems with their automation. While the purpose behind implementing an automation tool is a positive one, the result for many has been overcrowding and an increase in costly errors. Adopting some best practices and changing the way IT process automation is viewed can go a long way toward creating a more unified and productive infrastructure and pave the way for more enhanced automation products down the road.

IT Process Automation Challenges

Much of the problem lies in the way IT automation tools have been approached. With so many options available to them, individual departments sought solutions for their unique pain points. While these solutions may have helped within each of these departments, the result has been an overall negative one. This essentially created and cemented silos that had little to no inter-departmental communication and collaboration. Dozens or more fragmented “solutions” now exist throughout any given organization, very few of which are being integrated for optimization.

Another significant challenge is the fact that automation is fundamentally designed based on specific workflows. When one step in the process is missed, or a necessary input isn’t received, the desired result is not achieved. This can lead to errors which ultimately require human intervention, thereby defeating the purpose of leveraging automation in the first place.

Automation of the Future Must Be Better

To address these serious challenges that many enterprises are currently facing, or will be in the near future, more sophisticated solutions will be needed. Along with these enhanced IT process automation products, a number of best practices should be developed and implemented, as follows:

  • Establish roles within the IT department that are specific to automation. These roles may include naming someone the automation manager, an automation architect or an automation specialist. These individuals will be responsible for identifying the actual need and overseeing the ITPA tool selection process with the “big picture” in mind.
  • Identify what tasks, processes and workflows can and should be automated. This typically starts with scripts (PHP, Unix, Windows, Ruby on Rails, etc.). By compiling a list of what scripts are to be automated, it will be much easier to determine which tools would offer a more universal solution. This may also provide insight into which existing tools could be retired.
  • Look for IT process automation tools that are mature and offer more robust features as well as versatility to interface with other systems. Less mature products typically only address a small area of concern. This only further promotes the fragmented siloed atmosphere that is holding many organizations back. When it comes time to expand, the cost of doing so with a less-flexible tool will likely be significantly higher than what you’d have spent on a better quality solution in the first place.
  • Take the time to evaluate the features of each tool and its ability to integrate seamlessly with other platforms. Making a hasty decision could result in implementing multiple tools that actually compete with one another, rather than complement each other. The goal is to choose a solution that will be able to bridge and connect with other systems.

The reality is, there will likely never be one single overarching automation solution that will provide for all the needs of the organization. In fact, according to resent research, 75% of large enterprises are predicted to have more than four automation tools in operation within their IT management portfolios by the year 2017. This will represent an increase from 20% in 2014. The goal, therefore, will be to identify and implement high-level IT process automation tools that are capable of bridging the existing gaps and creating a more uniform infrastructure.





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




ITPA vs. Workload Automation – Do You Know The Difference?

ITPA vs. Workload AutomationFor many organizations with mid-size IT groups, the question of how to automate poses a real dilemma. Most businesses recognize that automating routine tasks is essential to running an efficient operation, yet far too few realize the different options available to them. As a result, many businesses are wasting money on complex, expensive overkill tools, of which only 20% will be used.

We thought it would be helpful to take a moment and examine the difference between IT process automation (ITPA) and workload automation, or traditional job scheduling, to help identify areas of potential savings.

Similarities

The terms IT process automation vs. workload automation are often erroneously used interchangeably. This is because there are certain similarities between the two – mainly that they are both valuable tools in saving time and improving efficiency and productivity of operations. But while they are both technically automation tools, that is where the similarities end.

Differences

Where ITPA and workload automation differ is in the scope of functionality. Job scheduling allows businesses to automate tasks across the entire organization. IT process automation, on the other hand, allows for the automation of specific IT tasks. In other words, IT Process Automation is a much more modular, scalable and robust tool, particularly for mid-size IT operations that don’t have the budget to employ both or just need to solve specific pain points. There are three key differences between IT process automation and job scheduling:

  • Workflow – Workload automation doesn’t cover workflow, therefore it lacks the ability to handle the complex logic that is required for most IT processes. ITPA, on the other hand, is developed specifically to execute these complex workflows for dramatically improved efficiency levels.
  • Integration – Job scheduling lacks the capacity for broad integration with datacenter IT tools. It can only be done through a complex and time-consuming layering of scripts and code. IT process automation resolves this by allowing full and deep integration with all IT functions, with task automation spanning across server infrastructure and systems management products, such as systems from BMC, CA, IBM, HP, Microsoft, and more.
  • Data Handling – While job scheduling automates tasks, it does not facilitate the passing of data between jobs, tasks and processes. This is typically left up to an external file system or database. Because ITPA is based on automating entire workflows, the activities in between are seamlessly connected.

Why IT Process Automation Makes More Sense?

When it comes to getting more “bang for your buck”, so to speak, ITPA just makes more sense. With workload automation, there is so much scripting and coding involved in getting the system to work properly that it inevitably ends up becoming an incredible waste of time and resources. Additionally, the tools available through job scheduling are limited and are therefore used on a less frequent basis – typically only about 20% of the time.

This begs the question – why spend money on something that is used infrequently, and that takes so much time and effort to work?

IT process automation provides real cost-effective solutions through end-to-end workflows, simple IT integration, and seamless data transfer. The result is less work on the part of IT operations, which naturally results in improved efficiency – the ultimate goal of true automation.

Still not sure if IT Process Automation is the right solution for your business?





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




Why Incident Management Should be The Next IT Process You Automate

Incident Management

We’re always hearing about how IT automation can revolution certain work functions, namely complex IT processes and workflows. What we don’t hear too often is how this powerful tool can also be used to streamline other important business functions. One of the best uses for automation is IT operations management, also known as incident management. If this happens to be on your list of tasks, here are some compelling reasons why you should consider implementing an automation tool.

Provides a more proactive approach to managing incidents. When you automate your event management function, all of your incidents will become more visible much earlier than if handled in the traditional way. This means that potential incidents can be addressed in a timelier manner, often before they have a chance to cause any serious harm. This benefits the entire organization.

Improves response and resolution times. Because IT personnel is able to view and manage incidents in a timelier fashion, the time of response and resolution will also naturally improve. In fact, the right automation product can reduce downtime by up to 90%.

Applies accountability and transparency. With manual event management, it’s much easier for things to slip through the cracks and team members to drop the ball. When you’ve got the right automation tool in place, however, everything from start to finish is visible and transparent. This ends the “blame game” and creates a more cohesive team environment.

Helps to prioritize and manage incoming alerts. Anyone working in event management knows the impact choosing the wrong event to address can have on operations. Automation helps to eliminate this risk by correlating and prioritizing incoming alerts. This allows IT to more effectively allocate resources so that the most critical alerts are handled first.

Reduces number of full-blown incidents. By adding a layer between event management and incident management, you are able to reduce the number of actual incidents that will need to be escalated. The lower the volume of unnecessary incidents allows IT to work smarter, which benefits the company as a whole. According to a presentation by CDW at Knowledge 14, implementing a quality event management solution resulted in a greater than 30% reduction in incident volume.

Opens the door for further IT automation in the future. By streamlining the event management process through automation, additional opportunities will begin to present themselves where automation could provide even more benefit to your organization.

Next steps…

Now that you recognize how automation can revolutionize the way you handle event management within your organization, the next step is determining the current position you are in. Conduct a needs assessment to figure out what your pain points are, and what you’re currently working with in terms of monitoring and event management. Specifically, will you need to integrate the two? This will help you know what to look for in an automation product.




eBook: 5 Reasons You Should Automate Cyber Security Incident Response




More IT Process Automation Needed for Security Incident Response

Security Incident ResponseWe’ve mentioned it in many past articles, but unfortunately for Target, their massive security breach in 2013 has become somewhat of a poster child for poorly executed security incident response. Investigations of the breach revealed that multiple alerts of the malware infection were sent. They just weren’t addressed as they should have been…and we all know how that ended for the retail giant. But what does this mean for other businesses? Should you be worried about becoming the next ship to sink at the hands of hackers?

The answer to that question lies in the harsh reality of cyber-attacks. According to a recent report by threat detection vendor Damballa Inc., a typical organization faces an average of 10,000 security events each day. Some larger firms may face upwards of 150,000 events on a daily basis. Furthermore, the report also found that most of the companies surveyed are managing nearly 100 infected machines daily. Given such massive and eye-opening numbers, it’s easy to understand why these breaches occur. There simply are not enough trained people to handle such an influx of events.

Since bringing in additional human capital isn’t a viable option for most businesses, the best solution is to incorporate IT Process Automation into the security incident response process. In fact, 100% of the participants in the Damballa survey agreed that automating manual incident response is the key to managing security needs moving forward.

One solution many enterprises have adopted is a security information and event management (SIEM) strategy. While this is certainly a good place to start, relying solely on an SIEM plan will likely leave businesses more vulnerable than they may realize. Damballa’s CTO, Brian Foster, describes it this way: “With SIEM, you’re getting partial pictures of an elephant, but never the entire elephant.” Much time is also often wasted on false positives and whittling down which incidents truly require attention.

As a more favorable alternative, Foster recommends taking a more comprehensive approach to security incident response by introducing IT automation into the process. The ideal scenario would involve not just pinpointing legitimate alerts, but doing so in a way that is proactive. If an enterprise can implement a security incident response strategy that includes IT Process Automation and can manage incidents in a way that mitigates issues before they develop into an actual problem, the process will be a resounding success.

IT Process Automation can also save a company massive amounts of wasted human capital. According to the 2013 Ponemon Institute Report, it takes IT personnel an average of 90 days to discover a security breach manually. Once discovered, it can then take four months or more to actually resolve the issue. With the right technology in place, the time it takes to discover incidents can be reduced to just one day. As a result, that organization can realize a reduction in “man-days” of approximately 8,633. That’s a pretty compelling statistic.

Obviously, there’s no way to automate everything. Human input will always be needed to some degree. But by incorporating automation into a strong security incident response plan, your business will be much better equipped to deal with the many security challenges it will inevitably face moving forward.

Don’t take chances with your enterprise security. Protect your data and your future with IT Process Automation.





eBook: 5 Reasons You Should Automate Cyber Security Incident Response




Who is Watching Your Monitoring System?

Who is Watching Your Monitoring SystemWhile your monitoring systems are watching your mission-critical systems, they become mission critical as much as your applications. So, how can you keep an eye on them? How can you make sure that your monitoring systems are doing their job and didn’t somehow fall asleep while at the wheel? Do you count on your people who sit on guard at the Network Operation Center (NOC) 24/7/365 to watch them? Taking a chance of them missing alerts or of never receiving them to begin with? How can you avoid such things from happening?

The answer is simple. IT process automation can help you reduce these risks. Here’s how.

IT Process Automation Lets You Monitor the Monitors – IT automation can help you determine if your monitoring didn’t react in an adequate period of time, hence something went wrong and you have to check whether it’s running or not or are simply unclear on the actual issue at hand. Simply design automated procedures which create dummy alerts for your monitoring system and then wait for responses from those systems – essentially creating an automated monitoring health check. The program will send emails and text messages from your monitoring systems on a regular basis and wait for a response.

IT Process Automation Offers Closed-Loop Notification – Use bi-directional communication channels in order to make sure that alerts are being sent and received by your personnel – and more importantly, the right personnel. Communications are distributed by severity and priority and ownership is assigned to the appropriate party every time. Since this is handled electronically, it eliminates the risk of missed alerts and human error associated with manual escalation. Therefore, incidents are resolved much faster, freeing up staff to focus on other business-critical issues.

IT Process Automation Allows for Better, More Efficient Incident Management – With IT automation, you can be sure that data is being updated to the monitoring system console and stored within the database. This provides unprecedented transparency for operations staff, IT managers and CIOs. At any given moment, people within the organization can see, at a glance, what is currently wrong, who is taking care of it and how long until the incidents are resolved. Instead of guessing and having to track down information, you will have access to real-time status and updates across the entire organization as well as predicted MTTR.

IT Process Automation Provides Recovery Options – Using IT automation, you can create automated procedures that will regularly check monitoring services/daemons and recover them automatically in the case of downtime. Essentially your systems can be closely monitored electronically so that, should any of them shut down at any given moment, it will trigger a procedure to troubleshoot, identify, notify and resolve the issue.

Sure, you’ve done your due diligence and put plenty of monitoring systems in place as a precaution to reduce the chances of critical system issues. But what happens when you’re not there to make sure those monitoring systems are working properly? Can you afford to have incidents and alerts misinterpreted or missed altogether? IT process automation provides the perfect solution to help keep your systems in check and reduce the need for extra manpower in the process.

Want to Learn how IT process automation can help your business monitoring systems run more efficiently and effectively?





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes




What Car Assembly Lines Can Teach Us about IT Process Automation

IT process automation carAt first thought, it may seem somewhat unlikely that the car assembly line can be closely compared to IT operations, but if you take a closer look, the similarities are compelling. Think about it. What made the automotive industry so lucrative? It wasn’t just the vehicle designs or the features. It was about finding a way to take the time consuming tasks of assembling each vehicle and make them more efficient. This was accomplished through IT process automation. The same can be said for what drives the IT industry.

What many people don’t realize is that car assembly lines are not simply made up of robots that put all the pieces where they belong. It’s an intricate combination of automation and human input. There is still a need for people to step in and guide the process, adding the finishing touches and ensuring that the entire operation runs like a well-oiled machine. IT automation is also like this. While many of the day to day tasks and workflows can be handled by technology, there is still a human element involved.

The key to a successful assembly line isn’t just the robotics, but the intelligence that is applied at the front end to ensure that the machines are loaded with the right parts to do their jobs. It’s the same with IT automation. It’s not so much about employing an automated workflow to manage system outages as it is about what goes into setting that workflow up to be successful. When the robot – or IT department – has been properly loaded, it can then be used to make the jobs of the assembly line workers – or the business as a whole – easier and more efficient.

Before automation came along, IT operations was like a number of separate robots, each doing their own individual job that they’d been programmed to do. As a result, productivity was slow and efficiency was virtually non-existent. What was needed was a big-picture solution. One that tied everything together to focus not just on the end results of each task, but on the process through which those tasks were accomplished together. That solution was IT automation.

With automation, IT departments, like vehicle assembly lines, are able to work collaboratively to achieve the desired end results in the most efficient way possible. This means breaking down barriers that once separated departments from one another, and adopting the idea that automation can truly drive the success of the business as a whole.

When the assembly line was adopted in the automotive industry, the results were nothing short of astonishing. What once took days, weeks, months and even years to painstakingly process manually could now be completed in a matter of hours. Not only did the assembly line improve efficiency, but it also reduced human error. In short, it revolutionized an entire industry. IT Automation is doing the same for the IT industry.

If you’re not yet on the IT Process Automation bandwagon, take a lesson from the car assembly line and jump on! You’ll be amazed at how much it will bring your business to the next level.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate




Ayehu Announces Website Launch

ayehu websiteAyehu is pleased to announce the launch of our brand new website!  After many months of dedicated hard work, we are excited to officially announce that www.ayehu.com is now live.

Our goal with this new website is to provide visitors a better experience on desktop & mobile platforms for learning about Ayehu’s innovative IT process automation solutions.  The new website is more visually-oriented, and provides better access to our numerous resources such as product videos, trial download, case studies, integration packs, eBooks, and of course our very popular ITPA blog.

Whether you work for IT Operations, Network Operations Centers, Security Operations Centers, or MSPs, www.ayehu.com delivers everything you need to know about IT process automation in one centralized location.

Please visit us today and experience it for yourself, at www.ayehu.com.

 

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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vs. IT Process automation (ITPA)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vs. IT Process automation (ITPA)Often times when the word “robot” is used, people naturally envision a humanoid figure made of metal and other mechanical components. That’s why it’s easy to understand the inaccurate conclusion that many have drawn about robotic process automation essentially taking the place of human workers. Fortunately, the concept of robotic process automation does not involve manufactured people sitting at desks and working. To the contrary, it’s really just a software product that can interface and interact with applications on behalf of human workers.

Robotic process automation ultimately meant to make jobs easier for people, not replace them completely. Sounds an awful lot like  IT Process automation, right? So, what’s the difference? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s take a more in-depth approach to what RPA is and how it works. RPA gets its name from the “robot” technology that drives it. This technology can be programmed to perform routine, repetitive tasks that were once handled by humans. Let’s say an office worker spends 2-3 hours per day performing manual labor, such as data entry or batching. RPA could be programmed to handle these tasks without the need for human input. Instead of a robot replacing that human worker, it would be more like a robot assisting them. Those extra hours could then be used on other, more important tasks.

While both RPA and ITPA operate under similar concepts, the difference typically lies in how each is used as well as their complexity. Presently, robotic process automation is primarily being used more extensively at an end-user level. For instance, office workers that may not be well-versed in programming and other complex IT tasks can leverage RPA for many of their day to day tasks. This can significantly boost their productivity by allowing them to focus on more critical job functions that cannot be automated.

ITPA is based on the same concept; however, it tends to be leveraged primarily for more complex workflows. For instance, IT Process automation might automate incident management in a way that handles incoming alerts, analyzes, verifies and prioritizes them, notifies the appropriate parties and then, upon the desired action being taken, completes the workflow and closes the ticket. This is a much more complicated process and is usually overseen by experienced IT professionals. Of course, this is just one of many complex scenarios that automation can be used for in the IT department.

Essentially, it can be said that RPA is automation for the end-user while ITPA is more behind-the-scenes automation. Both are designed to improve efficiency, boost productivity and cut costs, but the way they are ultimately used is slightly different. Additionally, both IT Process automation and robotic process automation can be integrated with existing legacy systems to further enhance operations, either on a basic or more sophisticated level.

Which solution is right for you? There’s no simple answer to that question. It would ultimately require a thorough needs analysis to determine what features would be required. From there, you can begin narrowing down your options until you determine the right product for your needs.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate