The Role of Workflow Automation in Digital Transformation

How to get started with establishing effective IT Operations in 4 steps

The Case for Network Security Operations AutomationBusinesses today depend upon robust technology solutions that must be able to scale to meet growing demands while simultaneously maintaining near perfect reliability. Effective IT Operations helps organizations stay competitive against market forces and competitive demand. IT Service Operation relies upon process automation in order to identify and address potential problems. Establishing effective processes must start with a thorough understanding of the business goals and requirements; well-defined processes are not enough by themselves. IT Service Operations also depends upon robust tools and practices. This article will help you get started with establishing effective IT Operations using well-respected industry best practices.

Understanding IT Operations

I have worked with many operations professionals who were responsible for the day-to-day care of large scale mission critical systems. The most common problem that I have seen is that they lag behind on the essential technical knowledge that is required to handle incidents and problems as they come up. This should not be a surprise as it is the developers who get the lead time to learn new technologies and also get to make (and understand) technical choices. The DevOps movement is helping to bridge the knowledge gap between Development and Operations by focusing on a set of core shared principles, including the need for better communication. The good news is that IT Operations can also implement industry best practices by following mature frameworks such as itSMF ITIL v3. Understanding IT operations also depends upon establishing both robust processes and well-defined organizational functions.

The Need for Process

A process can be defined as a set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs [1]. Well defined processes describe the required tasks, roles and responsibilities along with the key checkpoints to ensure that the process is being followed. In practice, processes are normally enforced through a workflow automation tool. The ITIL v3 framework discusses a number of service operation processes including event management, incident management, problem management, request fulfillment and access management. In addition, there are several other supporting processes, a particularly crucial one being knowledge management [2]. Event management monitors all events that occur throughout the IT infrastructure and helps to facilitate the detection and escalation of exception conditions or what are often called incidents. Incident management concentrates on restoring service to users as quickly as possible, in order to minimize business impact[2]. Problem management involves root-cause analysis to determine and resolve the cause of events and incidents. Request fulfillment focuses on the management of customer or user requests that are not generated from an unexpected service delay or disruption [2]. Access management is similar to request fulfillment but focuses more on addressing access and authentication requests, such as user account lockouts and password resets.

When you call a Help Desk, you expect that each of these situations will be addressed in a reliable and consistent way. Repeatable processes are essential if you want to be able to ensure that your services are continuously operational and meet the business needs. But processes also need to be supported by organizational functions.

Functions Support the Process

Functions are organizational structures that have sufficient staffing and resources to get the job done. Some common functions include the Service Desk, Technical Management, IT Operations Management, and Application Management. The Service Desk is the primary point of contact for users when there is a service disruption[3]. If you have ever called a Help Desk when a system was down then you know how important it is for the Service Desk personnel to have accurate and complete information. IT Operations Management is responsible for the daily operational activities needed to manage the IT infrastructure. IT Operations is often faced with addressing critical incidents without sufficient information and expertise. This is precisely where a knowledge management system can be very helpful. The Known Error Database (KEDB) provides details of previous incidents/problems and their resolutions [4] so that problems can be understood and addressed quickly. Knowledge is critical for successful IT operations and establishing a comprehensive Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) [2] is an essential industry best practice described in the ITIL v3 framework. Processes and functions are important, but the fact is that you will not be successful unless you implement the right tools. IT process automation is an absolute must have for successful IT Operations and IT Process Automation tools are a must have if you want to automate your processes.

Automating Your IT Processes

The right tools have automated process workflows for the most common tasks already implemented and readily available. User dashboards provide updated information along with out-of-the box reports. IT Process Automation tools should have a workflow designer interface to allow for collaboration in determining the necessary steps and checkpoints for what can be very complex workflows. In fact, IT process automation helps to tame the more complex situations by starting with a simple template that can then be customized and enhanced in an iterative and realistic way. Evaluating and selecting the right tools will help you implement effective IT Service Operations which will ensure that your organization has reliable services that can be developed and scaled to support your business in today’s competitive global business environment.

Conclusion

It is not easy to establish effective IT Operations. But if you start with industry best practices and the right tools then you will give your business a clear advantage that will help you achieve success and profitability.

Guest author Bob Aiello





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