Analyzing the Need for a Chief Automation Officer

Analyzing the Need for a Chief Automation OfficerIf you were to ask any high-level executive about IT, you would almost always receive an answer that centers around the need for innovation. But while most in leadership roles openly profess the importance of innovating, getting them to actually free up the resources and make the necessary investments is much more challenging. This is where automation comes into play, and the so-called Chief Automation Officer is leading this charge.

A surprising number of enterprises are now recognizing the many benefits employing automation can afford, and not just in terms of IT. Nowadays, companies of every size, structure and industry are leveraging automation technology to streamline everything from routine tasks to complex workflows, cyber-security incident response and even self-service support. For those forward-thinking organizations desiring to harness the power of automation as an overarching business objective, having a central point of contact to organize, oversee and optimize the entire process is strongly recommended.

For most companies, implementation of automation typically occurs at the department level – at least in the beginning. Because IT is naturally open to and comfortable with such technological advances and innovative concepts, this is the area where most organizations choose to introduce automation. One of the downsides to this is that without the right leadership involvement, IT tends to “own” the process, which can lead to isolation and silos, or as Gartner deems them, “islands of automation.” These “islands” are counterproductive and costly, actually hindering efficiency.

Recent studies have revealed that this lack of a holistic viewpoint has become one of the biggest obstacles of a successful automation strategy. Simply put, ad-hoc automation leads to fragmented operations. This reality has paved the way for the rise of the Chief Automation Officer (CAO) whose goal is to identify the many islands of automation that exist across the organization and effectively connect them. This role is designed to act as a liaison between IT and other key business strategies to develop, implement and manage a more cohesive, efficient enterprise environment.

For obvious reasons, the Chief Automation Officer does not manually work toward these goals, but rather proactively identifies, assesses and leverages the latest in automation technology. The appropriate tools will be implemented to streamline not only IT operations, but as many other offices, departments and teams across the entire organization as possible. Instead of siloed automation, the CAO works toward the overarching goal of achieving unity and cohesion.

Beyond the technology piece of the puzzle, the Chief Automation Officer is also typically tasked with helping to achieve greater human resource allocation. By assessing the company’s needs as a whole instead of just interdepartmentally, the CAO can determine how best to utilize manpower, strategically and systematically implementing automation across the entire enterprise to eliminate costly bottlenecks and dramatically improve workforce productivity.

It should be noted that the CAO’s purpose is not to replace workers with computers, but rather supply the available tools to make the jobs of humans easier and more efficient. As a result, human-centric automation facilitates a significant shift of manual, repetitive tasks and workflows from human to machine, freeing up knowledge workers to focus their valuable skills on more business-critical tasks and projects, hence achieving greater innovation.

In reality, at least for the time being, not every organization will require a designated Chief Automation Officer. However, as we continue to drive forward, embracing and employing the many advances that technology has in store, this need will continue to grow.

Could your company benefit from a CAO? Perhaps the best place to begin is with the right tool. Download your free trial of eyeShare and see for yourself how automation can bring your business to the next level.





EBOOK: HOW TO MEASURE IT PROCESS AUTOMATION RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)




How Too Many IT Automation Tools Can Hinder the Cloud

How Too Many IT Automation Tools Can Hinder the CloudFor obvious reasons, you’ll rarely hear us indicate that there could ever be too much automation. To the contrary, the more an organization embraces and employs IT automation technology, the more streamlined, efficient, cost-effective and productive the entire organization can be. What we will say, however, is that implementing too many such automation tools can, in fact, have the opposite effect on operations, specifically for those companies using cloud technology. Instead of trying to mishmash everything together, enterprises should focus on choosing and implementing a more comprehensive solution.

Cloud technology has virtually revolutionized the way businesses operate. When leveraged properly, this type of environment should make everyone happier and more productive, from the CEO to the front-line end-users and everyone in between. The problem is, many companies approach cloud IT automation entirely wrong. Traditionally, IT personnel had to think in terms of compliance, availability, latency and how those things interacted together.

With the dynamics of cloud, however, IT now has to shift its focus on how to leverage all of those services to other business units. This shift has dramatically increased the complexity of the management process and while IT automation is ultimately designed to aid in this area, teams often muddy the waters and hinder progress by over-specifying and hyper-focusing. Instead of the cohesive infrastructure that’s desired, this creates a more fragmented, siloed and subsequently inefficient environment.

The key lies in choosing a comprehensive IT automation tool that can handle the complex and changing dynamics of IT and beyond. Given the dizzying number of vendors in the cloud management platform space, this task can be nothing short of overwhelming. Many fall into the trap of selecting multiple tools from different service providers while others succumb to the alarming number of acquisitions and changes that so many cloud vendors experience. What they end up with are several tools that are ultimately working against, rather than with, one another.

To avoid this, IT professionals should take the necessary time and apply careful consideration to the selection process. Rather than picking several different IT automation tools, decision makers should focus on weighing their options and making a more mindful investment. Of course, they must also be careful that they not end up with a tool that is not sufficient for their needs, or one that has way more bells and whistles (and subsequent costs) than what they require. The goal is to find a happy medium with a comprehensive solution that is most closely aligned with the specific needs, pain points and overall objectives of the organization.

In reality, there may always be a need for more than one single automation tool, particularly in the dynamic cloud environment. In fact, if Gartner’s prediction was on target, 75% of large enterprises already have more than four diverse automation technologies within their management portfolio. As a general rule of thumb, however, the fewer tools you implement, the better, so bear this in mind during the evaluation and selection process.

Another key thing to consider is avoiding the common mistake of approaching IT automation from an opportunistic perspective, rather than one that is systematic in nature. Because opportunistic decisions are based on individual needs and pain points, they ultimately facilitate the siloed environment of traditional IT where each department or team employs a different automation tool to meet their unique needs. As a result, too many tools lead to loss of control and marked inefficiency.

On the other hand, systematic IT automation covers the big picture, taking into account the needs, visions and goals of the entire organization, rather than each individual team or department. Consequently, automation tools are more strategically assessed and selected with the overarching purpose of bridging interdepartmental gaps and creating more streamlined operations across all systems, programs and applications.

If you’ve fallen into this trap and fear that your organization is employing too many unnecessary or redundant tools, the time to take action and turn things around is now. We recommend taking a step back, carefully assessing your current state and finding an IT automation solution that will allow you to trim down and run a much more efficient, effective cloud environment.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the eyeShare product has been designed and developed with this purpose in mind, schedule a free product demo today or better yet – download your free 30 day trial to get started today!



eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate




Streamlining, Scaling and Securing Operations with SOC Automation

Streamlining, Scaling and Securing Operations with SOC AutomationWith security threats multiplying in number, frequency and complexity at an almost mind-boggling rate, the need for smart cyber-security solutions at the enterprise level has never been greater. What was once a concern only of larger organizations or those in certain industries, such as finance or medical, is now something businesses of every size and sector must carefully plan for. It’s no longer a question of if your company will be attacked, but when. Employing a strategy, particularly one that features SOC automation as a central component, can help keep the enterprise safer while also optimizing performance and facilitating a more scalable operation. Here’s how.

Threat Monitoring

Obviously one of the key objectives of the SOC is to constantly monitor, review, analyze and manage a massive volume of incoming data. This can be challenging even for the most seasoned IT professional. Developing security algorithms can help to more effectively identify and assess anomalous information, but it can also lead to identifying false positives. Couple this with the increasing number of alerts coming in and it becomes evident that human workers simply cannot keep up, resulting in a large number of incoming alerts going uninvestigated or being missed altogether.

SOC automation can aid enterprises in managing this volume of incoming data without the need to hire additional staff and while reducing unnecessary time spent on the process. Leveraging intelligent automation technology, almost the entire threat monitoring process can be streamlined and optimized. All incoming alerts are automatically identified and evaluated for legitimacy, which dramatically reduces false positives. Those that are legitimate threats can then be assessed, prioritized and flagged for attention from the IT staff.

Incident Management

Any experienced IT professional will tell you that incident management is more about response than anything else. How quickly can a legitimate threat be identified, isolated and stopped? Unfortunately, most of the damages from security incidents occur in the interim between when the breach is successful and when it is properly addressed.

The most effective and efficient way to handle this critical task is to employ SOC automation as a central part of the process. Experienced security analysts can help develop best practices and build those into incident response playbooks, which work to thwart potential attacks while also documenting the steps necessary to resolve a breach. Improving this process helps to prevent future attacks while also mitigating the damages caused by those that manage their way in.

Personnel Management

It’s no secret that the IT realm is experiencing a significant skills gap, particularly in terms of qualified security professionals. There simply aren’t enough capable candidates to handle the growing demand. As a result, those who are employed are being stretched beyond their limits, which leads to frustration, dissatisfaction and ultimately much higher turnover.

When SOC automation is implemented, technology steps in to bridge the skills gap and take much of the pressure off of existing IT personnel. These experienced professionals can then be freed up to apply their skills more effectively, including the training of newer staff members. Not only does operational efficiency and productivity soar as a result, but employee satisfaction does as well.

Process Optimization

Perhaps we should have listed this one at the top, since it’s one of the biggest benefits of SOC automation. In any case, incorporating automation can make almost every process undertaken by the IT department more efficient. To start, all of the day-to-day tasks and workflows that are absolutely necessary but can be described as mundane and repetitive can easily be shifted to automation.

Furthermore, by automating as many processes as possible, the risks associated with human error can also be eliminated, creating a more streamlined, efficient, effective and accurate operation all around. And with the right SOC automation tool, everything can be documented and tracked, which facilitates process improvement through the identification and development of best practices.

Risk Management

The goal of successful cyber security incident response isn’t necessarily to address and respond to threats, but rather to identify, develop and hone strategies that will help to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Cyber criminals work tirelessly to find new ways to achieve their malicious intent and, as a result, enterprise IT personnel must take every measure possible to beat them to the punch. This cannot be done by humans alone.

With intelligent SOC automation handling the 24/7 monitoring, assessment, action and resolution of incidents, senior IT professionals can focus their efforts on identifying areas of potential weakness so that the appropriate protections can be put in place ahead of time for a more proactive defense.

Could your organization benefit from SOC automation? Find out today by trying eyeShare FREE for 30 days. Click here to download and get started.





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes




4 Key Things to Consider When Weighing the Benefits of IT Process Automation


4 Key Things to Consider When Weighing the Benefits of IT Process AutomationIT Process Automation
 isn’t a fix-all for everything, and it’s not necessarily appropriate in every situation. When used in the right instance, however, IT automation can help you avoid doing double the work, saving you both time and money in the process. When determining whether automation is a good fit, there are four main areas that must be taken into consideration. Let’s take a closer look at each of these key factors.

1 – What task are you thinking about automating?

There are ultimately three driving forces behind the decision to automate: repetition, simplicity and need. If there are certain tasks that are performed repetitively – especially those that don’t require much human input or a high degree of variation – chances are you can turn them over to technology. Likewise, if there is a clear business need for introducing automation into a certain process or workflow, doing so can improve performance and operational efficiency, making it well worth it. In other words, look for tasks that are relatively straightforward, occur frequently and repetitively, and present a real opportunity for improvement.

2 – What software, systems and data are required?

Once you’ve determined what tasks you’d like to automate, the next step is figuring out which systems and software products will allow you to achieve this goal most effectively, and at what cost. If you’re looking for something simple, like data entry automation, the options will be many. More complex processes and workflows will obviously require more robust technology. Additionally, you will also need to consider what other systems will need to be integrated into the process so that you can determine compatibility before making a final decision.

3 – Do you possess the bandwidth and adequate skill sets to get the job done?

What type of impact will IT process automation have on the proposed task and is it worth it? If there’s just one person handling the manual, repetitive duty, perhaps it’s not worth the investment of time, money and other resources to introduce an advanced automation product. On the other hand, if there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands of workers churning out the same task, over and over, IT process automation can present a truly beneficial solution by boosting efficiency and improving overall output. You’ll also need to determine whether those charged with implementing an automation tool possess the right skill sets to get the job done right.

4 – Will it help or hurt you in the long run?

When done right, and under the appropriate circumstances, IT process automation should make life easier for yourself and your workers. To the contrary, if automation does nothing but create more processes, the end result can sometimes become more complicated and burdensome. The best approach is to weigh the risks and benefits, and take the process one step at a time. Automate one or two simple tasks, and then build from there until you’ve successfully taken advantage of the true value of IT process automation. Remember, the goal is not necessarily to reach 100% automation, but rather to optimize processes to make them most effective for the business.

If you’ve considered these 4 things and you’re still not completely convinced that automation would be the right fit for your organization, perhaps our free eBook can help you make a more informed decision.





eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate




The Crawl, Walk, Run Approach Making IT Process Automation Work for You

IT automationThere’s a common misconception about IT process automation that it’s extremely expensive, a huge pain to implement and that even after you invest a ton of money and spend months getting it up and running, it doesn’t work as promised. To the contrary, automating your IT workflows and processes doesn’t have to be costly or difficult, and it can work amazingly well…provided it’s approached the right way.

Let’s take a look at a concept known as the “crawl, walk, run approach” and how it makes implementing IT process automation easy and effective.
Crawl…

If you think about how a small baby begins to develop and become mobile, you can envision a slow, cautious start. Then, as confidence and experience builds, the child will begin to move faster and accomplish a little more with each endeavor. Using IT automation successfully should be the same. Start out slow, testing the waters by automating one or two simple tasks that are not business critical. Once you begin to get comfortable with the product, you will feel more confident rolling it out to other, more important tasks and workflows.

Walk…

Learning to walk takes time, patience and support. It’s the same with automation. Don’t get caught up in the pressure to jump in and move too fast. Instead, get the appropriate resources in place before you launch any major automation projects. Support in the form of project managers, process automation experts or process automation engineers will be invaluable during this planning stage. In some cases, the IT automation company you choose will offer this service as part of their package. Others may be able to recommend professionals that will fit with your needs and your budget.

Once you’ve developed a well-thought-out, step-by-step plan, continue the patient pace by building out the steps, workflows and interfaces for each process. Ample testing should be conducted, ideally in a specially designated test environment or during scheduled maintenance downtime. Focus not only on the initial deployment, but also on a change management strategy so that your automated processes and workflows can adapt with future changes to business needs.

Run…

Now that you’ve successfully tested and implemented automation, it’s time to pick up the pace. Every runner knows that in order to maintain a steady sprint, proper stretching is required. Once you’ve gone through the initial walking process, it’s time to extend automation to new initiatives and applications. As always, tackle one task at a time until you’re satisfied with the results and then move on to the next. Over time, managing multiple automated workflows and even linking several together will become completely do-able.

Making IT Process Automation Work for You

An important thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to automation, as with most anything else, you get what you pay for. Those free bundled products are probably not all that great, otherwise they wouldn’t be free. Paying for the right IT process automation software, although requiring a monetary investment, can really pay off in the long run when the business benefits begin to significantly outweigh the costs incurred.

The bottom line is, IT process automation doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn’t have to be a huge headache to implement. Provided you follow the steps above, starting off small and slowly scaling up, you can realize the true benefits of
without all the hassle and without breaking the bank.





EBOOK: HOW TO MEASURE IT PROCESS AUTOMATION RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)




5 Tips for Improving Your IT Automation Return on Investment (ROI)

5 Tips for Improving Your IT Automation Return on Investment (ROI)Even though  IT process automation has presented itself as a tremendous benefit for organizations of just about every shape, size and industry, there are still many decision makers that fail to recognize the value this technology can have for their own enterprises. In order to demonstrate how important automation is for the future of business, IT managers must find a way to improve ROI and demonstrate those benefits to the powers that be. Here are 5 tips for getting those ROI numbers to tip in the right direction.

Clearly Define Needs, Benefits and Expectations

Simply put, you cannot focus on improving anything – whether it’s efficiency through automation or the actual ROI it offers – unless everyone understands what to expect. Time should be taken to identify and define the specific needs of the organization, and then specify how automation can solve those problems and meet those needs. Once this information is gathered, you can then more accurately measure all of the specific areas where automation is producing a solid return and how. Factors to measure include effort reduction, mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR), lowered rate of error, compliance and system uptime. Improving each of these things will directly boost ROI.

Understand the Process and Where IT Automation Fits

The driving purpose behind process automation is to use technology to replicate repetitive, manual tasks. To improve automation ROI, one must dig much deeper than this basic concept to understand the entire process at hand and identify exactly how automation can be integrated for optimum results. Important questions to ask in this analysis include: What factors should trigger an automated process? What must occur before and after the automated process? What variables and inputs will be necessary to achieve the best outcome? Most importantly, how does automation fit with the big picture – the larger business process as a whole? While individual tasks could certainly be automated, automating the entire process may actually produce a greater value for the business.

Recognize the Context and Customize Accordingly

Capturing true ROI involves understanding the specific context in which the automated process in question is running and customizing that process for optimum results. For instance, the automated response to a critical incident, such a systems outage, during peak business hours should be markedly different than the response to a similar outage that occurs in the middle of the night. These contextual considerations should be built into the automation process and they should also be considered whenever measuring results. By customizing the process, the automation can execute different actions based on each scenario, thereby producing enhanced ROI.

Comprehensive Testing Prior to Release

Testing an automated process manually or in a development system can certainly be time consuming, but it’s absolutely critical to achieving optimum ROI. Before an automated process is rolled out into the live environment, it must be adequately measured to ensure that it is producing the desired results consistently and successfully. Once the automated process is released, ongoing testing is still highly recommended, as this helps to ensure that the triggers, inputs, actions and outputs are all running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Routine audits can also help to identify areas that could be improved for even greater benefit.

Ongoing Evaluation and Improvement

IT Automation may feel like a “set it and forget it” solution, but those organizations that reap the greatest rewards from this technology do so by taking a continuous improvement approach. Regular evaluation of how automated process are working and analysis of where they may be expanded to produce even better results is a must if you are looking to improve your ROI. IT professionals should be asking whether additional tasks could be automated, or whether existing automated processes could be integrated with one another or built upon for greater efficiency.

Individually, each of these 5 tips can have an impact on your overall ROI. When combined, however, they can help to improve both short-term goals as well as drive long-term strategies to produce the desired results of reducing human effort, improving operational efficiency, boosting service levels, reducing errors and downtime, remaining compliant and much more. The end product is a consistently favorable return on investment, which can help to win over those who are not yet on board with automation.




EBOOK: HOW TO MEASURE IT PROCESS AUTOMATION RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)




How to Create Self-Service Active Directory Password Reset via SMS

IT support personnel are swamped with work which includes both firefighting and ongoing projects. An issue common to any IT organization is dealing with user management such as: Active Directory password reset, unlock user account, create new user or terminate user, etc.

Individually, it only takes a few minutes to deal with these requests, but what happens when you have hundreds of users? Who deals with all these requests as the organization grows? Can the workload be reduced? Can it be automated and the end-user empowered with a self-service mechanism to act independently?

Here’s one way you can automate these procedures easily and in a very elegant way:

 

Use Ayehu eyeShare’s Integration for Active Directory, it comes with pre-packaged templates such as Active Directory Password Reset template in order to provide your end-users a way to reset their passwords with their mobile device. Of course, you can customize this procedure according to your needs and requirements.

Active Directory Password Reset workflow via SMS:

  1. The user sends a text message (SMS) to eyeShare with pre-defined text that includes their ID.
  2. eyeShare receives the request and initiates an automated workflow.
  3. The workflow authenticates the user based on their incoming mobile number and ID sent.
  4. If authenticated, eyeShare will generate a temporary password and reset the account with it, then update the AD settings so the user will have to change their password upon next login.
  5. Finally, the new temporary password will be sent to the end-user’s mobile device.

This process can be easily customized according to your needs. For example by, including notification for the system administrators, opening tickets automatically in your service desk system (i.e. ServiceNow, JIRA, SCOM), etc. Just drag and drop the desired activities to create your own custom workflow, using eyeShare visual workflow designer.





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




Using IT Process Automation to Manage Blackouts

Using IT Process Automation to Manage BlackoutsIf there’s anything that keeps IT professionals up at night, it’s the thought of an impending blackout. System outages, especially unexpected ones, can be incredibly costly and impact service levels, both internally and externally. To minimize impact, IT must have a plan in place that will allow them to act swiftly and, if possible, proactively to prevent or limit damages. IT process automation can help close the gap on such a plan.

What is a blackout?

In basic terms, a blackout is an event that brings systems down, either for an emergency or scheduled maintenance. In emergency situations, there is little to no time to plan ahead, making a blackout much more risky. Blackouts for scheduled maintenance, although still requiring prompt attention, are less of a threat since they can be well planned out and carefully executed.

Blackouts can be defined for one specific target, multiple targets or all targets. Depending on need, scheduled blackouts can be planned well in advance, and can be set to run indefinitely, for a scheduled period of time or just on an as-needed basis. Blackout periods can be extended or shortened mid-stream if necessary and the results are typically assessed by the IT team immediately after the systems are brought back up.

How can blackouts cause a problem?

In the event of an emergency blackout, or one in which the administrator inadvertently performs maintenance without scheduling for it in advance, the target downtime can impact availability records. Unscheduled and even scheduled down time can impact business function across all departments, and if not handled properly, can even affect the organization’s bottom line. The key is to find a way to manage these blackouts in a way that is most efficient to limit down time and reduce impact on availability.

How can IT process automation help manage blackouts more efficiently?

Because IT process automation allows for the systematic automation of routine tasks, it provides the ideal solution for managing both scheduled and emergency blackouts. For planned outages, ITPA can be customized and defined to trigger the blackout one step at a time at the specified time or interval. This is particularly helpful for routine, repetitive outages that are meant for regular system maintenance. Additionally, by leveraging technology to handle these routine tasks, the IT department can focus on more important mission critical projects.

For those instances when a blackout is scheduled but is not necessarily “routine”, IT process automation can still be used in conjunction with human intervention. The automation tool can be programmed to send out notifications or stop at certain intervals and wait for input or instruction from the appropriate party.

Where automation really provides maximum benefit, however, is in the event of an emergency blackout. ITPA makes the monitoring and notification of system events simple and effortless. In fact, in many cases, critical incidents can be detected before they have a chance to cause any problems for the end-user, allowing the IT department to proactively manage the problem immediately. In some instances, this can even eliminate the need for an emergency blackout altogether, or at the very least create the opportunity for IT to schedule and plan the outage.

In IT, blackouts are never completely avoidable. IT process automation can help manage the process more seamlessly, whether it’s a planned outage or something unexpected. To experience for yourself how automation can help your business manage blackouts, click here to start your free trial today.





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes