How to Increase Automation Effectiveness Using a Dynamic Workflow Framework

Author: Guy Nadivi

A few months ago in October of 2020, Ayehu held its first annual Intelligent Automation Hackathon. This inaugural event focused on work from home solutions, with an emphasis on developing workflows and activities to make working from home easier, more streamlined, and more efficient.

One of the finalists from the Hackathon was Amar Alwani of Cognizant, who came up with a truly unique approach to automating the resolution of infrequent incidents. It was so unique, in fact, that we want to do a deeper dive and showcase it here. We think you’re going to find it very interesting.

Automation is great for taking care of the most common and frequently arising use cases. You see our top 10 most popular ones below. We maintain this list on our website and update it from time to time.

But what about the infrequent use cases? The exceptions?

Enter Amar Alwani, Cognizant’s Senior Manager of Cloud Operations and Automation. He submitted an entry to our first annual hackathon last year which addressed these infrequent use cases with a very novel and elegant solution. He calls it the “Dynamic Workflow Framework” (DWF), which Cognizant uses to automate all sorts of IT Processes, without the need for developing unique workflows for each one.

The 1st step in DWF is doing a service desk ticket assessment, by taking the last 3-6 months of tickets and evaluating volumes, workloads, etc. Tickets are then categorized by issue type.

The 2nd step is to then identify the top 20-25 issues driving the highest ticket volumes.

After that, the 3rd step is performing an automation feasibility analysis across those top 20-25 use cases, which includes an ROI assessment for each one.

Finally, work begins to develop workflows which automate the top ticket volume issues. It’s not unusual for these top 20-25 use cases accounting for 40% or more of all ticket volume!

The next step is looking at everything else, and determining what issues account for the remaining ~60% of ticket volume. In the accompanying graph below, we see that this particular organization has a multitude of infrequent issues generating 4 – 10 incidents per month. In actuality, there were roughly 2,000 unique IT processes they could automate, but we’re just showing a sampling of them here. Automating each one would result in saving less than 2 hours of effort. Yet if you could somehow easily automate all of them, the savings would be extraordinary.

After extensive analysis, Amar realized that the key to making automation of these infrequent incidents economically feasible, was a bit counterintuitive. Rather than building a unique process-specific workflow for each issue, he decided to stop creating static workflows altogether. Instead, Amar introduced the concept of reusable workflow components that could be easily strung together with a simple data input interface.

Here is where the heart of the Dynamic Workflow Framework comes into play for automating multiple IT processes/issues. The Framework consists of:

  • A suite of packaged workflows bundled together to do any sub-process in IT
  • The principle of “Argumentized Runbook Automation” whereby you just supply your SoPs as arguments to the Framework
  • Creation and loading of workflows at runtime (in memory)
  • Simplified SoP creation using Excel .csv templates
  • Rule-based navigation and actions
  • And truly codeless automation

So how does DWF work?

Rather than configuring a specific workflow against each issue type or each IT process, the Policy Action settings in Ayehu NG are configured to call the same workflow for every single ticket issue type.

The Dynamic Workflow Framework’s architecture consists of a collection of packaged workflows that can automate most IT Processes with two types of workflows:

  • Master workflows
  • Baby workflows

This architecture results in a number of breakthrough benefits for automating infrequent use cases:

  • Workflows can be created at the time of issue resolution
  • Non-developers are empowered to automate anything and everything by filling out simple Excel templates via a user-friendly interface
  • Automation rollout timelines are reduced as much as 70%

To see the Dynamic Workflow Framework in action, check out this video:

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG and seeing for yourself how easily you can scale up your organization’s incident remediation with intelligent automation, please visit our website and download your very own free 30-day trial version today by clicking here.

5 Ways Intelligent Automation Can Deliver Competitive Advantage in Any Industry

It’s no secret. Organizations that embrace intelligent automation aren’t just setting themselves up for success. They’re laying the groundwork to be able to absolutely dominate their respective industries. Once a relatively futuristic concept, these days just about every business benefits from automation in some way. Ever set or receive an out-of-office reply? That’s automation – albeit in its simplest form.

Many companies, however, have taken automation several steps further by offering self-service options, adopting chatbot technology and using other forms of next generation artificial intelligence (AI). The exciting news is that the true and full potential of intelligent automation has yet to be realized. And those businesses that jump onboard today will inevitably be at the forefront on innovation tomorrow.

Here are five ways intelligent automation can help develop a savvy, innovative and more agile organization, regardless of industry.

Boost productivity, employee morale and retention.

Intelligent automation isn’t designed to eliminate humans from the workplace. Rather, its purpose is to augment and enhance their capabilities. When the tedious, repetitive and mundane components of day-to-day work are shifted from human to machine, productivity naturally rises. Meanwhile, employees are freed up to perform more meaningful and impactful work. And when people can spend their time on the aspects of their jobs that are interesting and rewarding, satisfaction and retention levels also go up.

Streamline inefficient business processes.

Nothing kills a company’s chance of growth quite like inefficiency. Wasted time equates to wasted money and – more importantly – missed opportunities. Businesses that are overwhelmed by chaotic, disorganized processes and clunky workflows can turn things around with intelligent automation. Instead of spending hours manually keeping track of work that needs to be done (and backtracking to fix things that inevitably go wrong), employees can apply their critical thinking skills to more important key initiatives, such as utilizing data to develop more advanced business strategies.

Increase and accelerate visibility.

Organizations with business leaders that know precisely where they stand in terms of project status updates and budgets are in a much better position to succeed than those with management that’s constantly feeling around in the dark. That’s another area where intelligent automation can help. When reporting is made easy and incredibly accurate, upper management can enjoy much greater visibility into what’s going on at any given moment. Furthermore, with machine learning capabilities, leaders can get high-level, data-driven decision support to help them guide the organization in the right direction.

Transform the customer experience.

When employees no longer have to spend their time performing manual tasks and workflows, they can devote more of their effort to the needs of customers. And in today’s digital age, service has become the true differentiator. Thanks to intelligent automation, companies can shift their resources from fielding requests to developing creative solutions to address unresolved issues. This enables companies to deliver even better service to their customers, solidifying their position as trusted industry leaders.

Drive faster, more sustainable growth.

When it comes to scaling an enterprise, intelligent automation can be the solution – not only to achieving the set objectives, but doing so faster. As soon as a company determines new ways of working that deliver better results, they can then automate those things. This causes a sort of snowball effect, driving exponential growth that is sustainable for the long-term. While other businesses are simply getting by, those that are leveraging automation will be leaps and bounds ahead.

Curious about how intelligent automation can help your organization? Check out our free eBook below, or take Ayehu for a test drive to experience the power of next generation, AI-powered automation today!

cio guide to operational efficiency

How AI Can Transform the Decision-Making Process

How AI Can Transform the Decision-Making Process

Fifty years ago, businesses relied almost exclusively on human judgment for key decision-making. While some data existed, it was professionals and their intuitions, honed over years of experience, who were central to the process of determining good vs. bad and safe vs. risky. Not exactly the most ideal solution.

From there, we moved to data-supported decision making. Thanks to the growing number of connected devices, business leaders were able to access unimaginable volumes of data – every transaction, every customer interaction, every macro and micro-economic indicator – all available to make more informed decisions.

Unfortunately, even this approach had its limitations. For one thing, leveraging such a massive amount of data wasn’t feasible, which left a summarized version. This often obscured many of the patterns, insights and relationships that existed in the original data set. Further, cognitive bias from humans still existed.

Enter stage three: AI-powered decision support. Artificial intelligence is already ahead of the game because, provided the data being used is accurate, it’s not prone to cognitive bias. Therefore, it is more objective in its decisions. Furthermore, AI is better capable of leveraging not just mountains of data, but also all the information contained within that data, allowing for a much higher degree of consistency and accuracy.

As a real-world example, decision support that is powered by artificial intelligence can determine with much more certainty what the optimal inventory levels are, which ad creative would be most effective and which financial investments would be most lucrative.

While humans are essentially removed from the workflow, however, the purpose of introducing AI into the mix is to enhance and enable better decisions than what humans are capable of achieving on their own. In other words, the ideal scenario would involve both humans and AI working in tandem to leverage the inherent value of both for the benefit of the organization. In fact, there are many instances in which business decisions depend on more than mere data alone.

Take, for example, inventory control. While AI may be leveraged initially to objectively determine the appropriate inventory levels for maximum profitability, other information that is inaccessible to AI but incredibly relevant to business decisions may also come into play. For instance, if the organization is operating in a highly competitive industry or environment, human decision makers may opt for higher inventory levels in order to ensure a positive customer experience.

Or, let’s say the AI workflow indicates that investing more in marketing will generate the highest ROI. That company may decide, instead, that it’s more important to focus on areas other than growth for the time being, such as improving quality standards.

So, where artificial intelligence offers consistency, accuracy and objective rationality, other information that is available to humans in terms of values, strategy and marketing conditions may merit a change of direction. In these cases, AI can essentially generate a number of different possibilities from which human decision makers may select the best course of action based on the whole picture at hand.

The key takeaway is that humans are no longer interacting directly with data, but rather the insights produced by artificial intelligence’s processing of that data. Culture, strategy and values still remain a critical component of the decision-making process. AI is basically a bridge to marry them with the objective rationality that cannot be achieved through human cognition. Essentially, it’s a “best of both worlds” situation. By leveraging both humans and AI together, organizations can reach better decisions than they ever could using either one alone.

Want to experience the power of AI to create a force-multiplier for your business decisions? Try Ayehu NG absolutely FREE for 30 days. Click here to start your trial.

4 Ways Intelligent Technology is Transforming IT Support

The IT help desk, as it once existed, has forever changed. Driving this revolution has been the changing demands and expectations of digital customers. Simply put, intelligent technology is revolutionizing the world of IT support and service. These newer and more complex requirements of digital customers (which include employees) are causing IT teams to re-evaluate what they have to offer in terms of support and capabilities. If your organization or team is at a similar crossroads, here are four key areas on which to focus. 

IT Support Strategies

Regardless of whether your IT service desk happens to support a company of ten or a multi-location, enterprise level organization, the time to start thinking about intelligent technology is now. A great place to begin is by uncovering how employees have evolved into so-called “digital consumers” and, more significantly, how this evolution has changed the expectations they have of IT support.

To do this, evaluate the gap between your current situation and those changing expectations. In particular, look at your current channels of support. Poll employees to determine whether they feel the current channels they are using to contact IT support are sufficient and effective. Figure out what channels they might prefer. Also, examine common customer use cases and needs. Then, use this information to develop a strategy that incorporates newer, more innovative support channels (like self-service chatbots and virtual support agents).

Operating Models

How does your IT service desk engage with customers? The focus here should be more on this approach as opposed to best practices and ITSM processes. To bring your operating models in line with intelligent technology, ask yourself and your team the following questions:

  • Is your approach to IT support adequately in line with your realistic business needs and expectations? For example, what is the overall goal? Cutting IT support costs? Minimizing lost time and revenue at a business level? Understand your objectives and align your strategy accordingly.
  • Do your IT support agents understand “personas” of its customers (i.e. the common characteristics and behaviors they share)? Do your operational practices accurately reflect these personas?
  • How does your IT support desk measure success? Is it primarily related to how the IT service desk has helped and/or improved customer and business operations?

Once you’ve answered these questions, use the data you’ve gathered to identify any and all disconnects between IT support status quo and the actual needs and desires of both the customer as well as the business as a whole. These gaps are where changes must be made.

IT Support Tools

Without question, the future of IT support will rely heavily on automation. In fact, intelligent technology has already made it possible for organizations to augment their human workforce by leveraging ever-improving AI capabilities. With these advanced technologies deployed in the right areas, IT support teams are able to more effectively deliver on the increasing demands of digital customers.

Whether your service desk is already leveraging virtual support agents or is planning to in the near future, it’s important to ask the right questions. In particular:

  • Are your virtual agents being used to their fullest potential?
  • Are your virtual support agents being employed at the right points during the customer journey?
  • Do end-users feel that the VSAs improve their support experience?
  • Have you established a robust and accurate knowledge-base from which the VSAs can draw?

This last point is key, as virtual IT support will only be as good as the data behind it. That being said, creating an environment that blends high-tech automation with the human touch of IT support agents will position your organization for optimal success.

IT Support Staff

The question of whether human service desk agents will be assisted, augmented and possibly even replaced by intelligent technology is no longer an “if,” but rather a “when.” Getting employees onboard with the concept of virtual support isn’t always easy, especially those L1 agents who view automation as a threat to their livelihood. But it’s essential for an organization of today to remain competitive tomorrow.

Educate your IT support team on the value and benefits that AI has to offer. Make it about them and not just the company – how AI will make their lives easier, enable them to perform more meaningful work, provide an opportunity to learn new skills and make themselves more marketable, etc.. And start investing in your current workforce. Identify champions of the cause and reskill them so they’ll be ready to face the digital future with confidence. Get them excited about the possibilities that lie ahead!

There is no longer any doubt. IT support as we know it today is changing. Only those organizations that are willing to adapt and evolve their strategies, models, technologies and people alongside those changes will make it through unscathed.

Want to experience the power of intelligent technology for your IT support team? Try Ayehu NG absolutely free for 30 full days. Click here to download your free trial.

4 Ways to Optimize Remote IT Leadership

4 Ways to Optimize Remote IT Leadership

If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of agility and resiliency. The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way businesses across almost every industry operate. Perhaps one of the most impactful changes was the shift to remote working – something that was accelerated far more rapidly than many organizations had ever anticipated. This was especially the case with IT, the department tasked with the burden of keeping the lights on, despite the disruptive circumstances.

Now, as we begin to settle into the so-called “new normal,” it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virtual workforce is here to stay. For those leaders facing the challenge of managing remote IT teams, here are a few helpful tips to keep everyone on track.

Prioritize technology.

First things first. If you want to set your dispersed IT team up for success, make sure to arm them with all the technology that they need. We’re not just talking about physical equipment, either. Beyond laptops, modems and headsets, invest in tools and platforms that will make it as efficient as possible for them to effectively perform their duties.

Intelligent automation, for example, can take much of the grunt work off their plates, freeing them up to focus on mission-critical tasks while simultaneously ensuring that everything that needs to get done gets done. This can also be a powerful tool for teams that are struggling with limited human resources, for whatever reason. IT automation can be that extra set of hands when staff is tight.

Stay connected.

When working from home as opposed to part of a physically present team, it’s easy to become distant and begin to feel isolated. Add to this the stress and anxiety many people are experiencing due to the current health crisis, and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster on your hands.

It’s not enough to simply make yourself available to your remote employees. You should take things a step further by proactively making an effort to stay in communication with each team member. This can be done via regular group meetings, one-on-ones or even virtual social hours. We’ve got the technology today to stay hyper-connected. Be sure to use it to your team’s advantage.

Collaborate regularly.

At some point, online team meetings will inevitably become cumbersome and won’t always be the most efficient use of everyone’s time. To prevent fatigue and keep your team engaged, leverage online collaboration technologies, such as instant messaging, document sharing platforms, like Google Drive, and virtual workspaces, such as Slack or Yammer.

Being able to connect and work alongside colleagues in real-time, regardless of physical location, can help keep productivity high. It can also work wonders for morale. According to a survey by Telus, when asked what they missed most about working in an office setting, many respondents cited small talk and co-worker interaction at the top of their list. Providing this on a virtual level is the next best thing.

Be disciplined (and lead by example).

Working from home can be a very different dynamic from working in the office. IT leaders (and leaders in any field, frankly) can benefit from treating their virtual roles the same as their in-person ones. In other words, don’t let your schedule become lax, or be tempted to work from your couch.

Instead, approach each day just as you would if you were heading in to the office. Wake up at a decent time. Get ready. Start work at the normal time. Staying in a routine – and encouraging your team to do the same – can have a tremendous impact on productivity.

Likewise, designating an area of your home that will be dedicated to working only can also be effective in helping you stay focused and prevent distractions that are inevitable when working from home. It can also help in establishing and maintaining better work-life balance.

Transitioning from on-site management to a virtual workforce has been incredibly challenging – especially for business leaders who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the lack of face-time with employees. Following the above guidelines should make things much easier to deal with, both for managers as well as remote employees.

Still struggling? Check out our extensive Work from Home Support Resources or get in touch today!

Integrating Intelligent Automation into Your Company Culture

In order for intelligent automation to be truly successful and produce sustainable results, it can’t be a one-off project that is exclusive to the IT department. It has to be woven into the very culture of the organization and fully embraced across the entire company. But changing corporate culture is much easier said than done. How can you incorporate automation so that it becomes an integral part of the everyday work environment? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Get buy-in from top leadership. Cultural changes typically start at the top and trickle downward, so make sure that everyone in a leadership role within your organization understands the benefits of intelligent automation and why it’s so critical that it become a part of the underlying atmosphere of the company as a whole. Once they’re on board, it’s time to start leading by example.

Sell the benefits. If you want your company culture to embrace automation, you have to make everyone in every position aware of how it will benefit them directly. In other words, show what’s in it for them. Otherwise, you will lack the support needed to make the final shift. Remember, intelligent automation isn’t just about those running your help desk. Things like self-service automation also provide enhanced flexibility, autonomy and empowerment to the end-user. Get the message out.

Identify and address obstacles. Change management is challenging, especially when it involves the evolution of an entire corporate culture, but it’s not impossible. You just have to understand what’s standing in the way so you can overcome those obstacles. For instance, if your employees are scared that intelligent automation will make them obsolete, they will resist. You have to address and quell that fear head on by showing them the opportunities it will bring for new roles, such as Automation Engineer, and the ability to do more with less.

Incentivize and reward. Culture change happens much more smoothly and effectively when it’s not shoved down the throats of your employees. Instead of simply telling them and expecting them to adapt, make them a part of your company’s evolution. Not only will this help them better understand the reasons behind the change, but the buy-in will create a much stronger foundation for the shift across the board.

Keep it fluid. The beauty of intelligent automation, and technology as a whole, is that it’s constantly changing and improving. A corporate culture is much the same in that it should be something that can be molded and enhanced as needed. Keep an open mind and make modifications where necessary. As long as you’ve got a solid foundation to work with, the only direction you can go is up.

Have you been successful in weaving intelligent automation into your organizational culture? Please share your insight, advice and tips in the comment section below. And don’t forget to launch your free product demo of our Next Generation Automation & Orchestration platform, powered by AI. It’s something you must experience for yourself!

cio guide to operational efficiency