10 Steps Towards Operational Efficiency, Sustainably and Resiliency
As the world begins the slow transition into the “new normal,” organizations are facing the monumental challenge of rapid transformation. With so much uncertainty, ITOPs no longer has the luxury of taking its time in planning and carrying out long-term projects, what used to take several months, now happens overnight. Today’s IT leaders must find a way to compress and accelerate their efforts in order to achieve ROI as quickly as possible – and all while navigating relatively uncharted waters in the process.
Thankfully, rolling out automation in the post-COVID world doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here’s how your team can do so in 10 easy-to-implement, 90-day increments and be fully productive before you know it.
Step 1 – Identify Candidates
To begin, you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Likewise, automating the wrong processes can completely derail your project. Start by analyzing your data sources, namely your ITSM records. The goal is to identify where you are currently spending the most time and money.
This analysis of your current policies and procedures should help you pinpoint which tasks, workflows and processes would produce the quickest wins if automated. Good candidates for automation include, but are not limited to, tasks that:
- Have a high volume of tickets
- Are repetitive with little variance
- Require little or no human intervention
- Are time consuming
Step 2 – Select Quick Wins
The previous step should have resulted in a shortlist of various tasks and workflows that, if automated, are likely to generate the fastest ROI. You want to be able to demonstrate to stakeholders the value of automation and get them onboard with widespread rollout. Showing them quantitative value as quickly as possible is key. To achieve this, prioritize your candidates so that your desired outcomes align with the ability to produce fast and measurable results.
Step 3 – Document
The next 90-day phase should involve developing detailed documentation and flow charts, beginning with existing processes. Specifically, you should focus on identifying any and all manual steps that can and should be transitioned to automation.
It’s critically important during this phase that you remain cognizant of the fact that some existing processes may need to be fundamentally changed in order to take advantage of automation. Take a step back and examine each process thoroughly to determine whether it could benefit from redesign, either in part or in its entirety. Then, set to work re-imagining and reworking it accordingly.
Step 4 – Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Once you’ve generated a few quick wins from some low-hanging fruit, it’s time to dig deeper and start defining your longer-term objectives. How will you ultimately measure success? Try to stick with the SMART acronym as you develop your KPIs and potential outcomes:
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few common hard ROI examples to get you started:
- Reduce total number of tickets
- Reduce # of tickets that require human interventions
- Reduce # of tickets that are escalated from L1/L2
- Shorten MTTR
In addition, you may want to include a few “soft” metrics as well, such as improved user satisfaction.
Step 5 – Design Workflow
Moving into phase five, it’s time to begin designing your automated workflows. At this point in the process, it’s important to remember that it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Heavy lifting is also not required here. Instead, lean on established technology and pre-built templates. For example, Ayehu features a massive library of pre-designed, existing workflows based on best practices developed from over 250 successful deployments. It’s also entirely codeless. All you need to do is match these up with the “quick wins” you identified in steps two and three and you’ll be ready to begin implementation.
Step 6 – Implement and Test
It’s time to start putting all of your hard work and planning into action, albeit in a safe, lower-risk environment. Using the pre-built templates you’ve matched with your automation initiatives, modify them as needed to suit your organization’s specific needs and goals. (Note: Ayehu’s visual designer can dramatically shorten time-to-value in this phase.)
Once your templates are customized and ready to be run, begin launching test workflows in a staging environment. This will allow you to identify and address any issues prior to live rollout, enabling you to avoid potentially costly problems down the road and increasing your likelihood of success.
Step 7 – Start a Pilot
You want your final rollout to be as close to perfection as possible, so you’ll need to do a great deal of testing before you officially launch. Working with a live pilot program & initial users first will enable you to continue identifying areas of concern and correcting them before deployment to the masses.
Ayehu can help with this as well by enabling you to easily move workflows from staging to production using our workflow migration feature. Conduct a pilot in a small scale production environment, measure your results and then modify workflows as needed based on the real-world feedback received.
Step 8 – Move to Production
When you’ve worked out all (or most of) the kinks and you’re confident that your automation project is working as planned and producing the desired results, it’s time to put your proverbial money where your mouth is and expand your usage into full production. This phase is often challenging to move into because, let’s be honest: it’s scary to take that leap. As a result, many IT teams end up in ‘pilot purgatory.’
Know that if you’ve done all the previous steps correctly, you should be ready to confidently move forward. It can be helpful during this phase to use the “bottom-line-value backward” approach, rather than focusing on technology. Make sure quantifiable metrics are collected, stored and adequately tracked.
Step 9 – Measure Results
For an automation project to achieve sustainable success, results must be measured and iterations performed on an ongoing basis. Once you’re officially in full production, you’ll need to continuously verify that you’re on the right track. Evaluate your results and compare them against the KPIs you defined in step four. As you identify procedures that are no longer adding value, be swift and decisive about eliminating them. (Note: if you are using Ayehu, your management dashboard can serve as a reporting aid, making this process much more efficient and effective.)
Step 10 – Promote Outcome
The final phase in the process, and the key to sustaining continuous improvement, is to obtain executive buy-in. Utilize all of the quantifiable data you’ve gathered over the previous nine steps, compile it and report it to the “powers that be.” Remember to use established KPIs and each one’s subsequent ROI to provide compelling proof of success. This will enable you to gain the approval you’ll need to expand and broaden your automation reach, which will bring you full circle back to phase one again.
Automation doesn’t have to be some distant goal on the horizon. By breaking down a multi-year project into a series of smaller, more achievable steps, you’ll be at the finish line before you know it. More importantly, you’ll already have a number of victories and best practices under your belt by the time you arrive.