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!

Is Your Organization AIOps-Ready? Here’s How to Get There in 3 Steps

3 steps to get AIOps ready

Digital transformation can be boiled down to three things: simplicity, innovation and intelligence. One of the most effective tools for achieving these things is AIOps. But adopting a new approach in any department can be daunting. Adding in the complexities of IT makes it even more challenging. When it comes to significant initiatives like this, taking it step-by-step can make things much more manageable. Let’s break down three phases that will make your AIOps implementation go much more smoothly.

Step 1: Define your goals.

You can’t expect to hit a target if you don’t have one in front of you. The first step in getting your organization ready to roll with AIOps is to determine exactly what you’d like to accomplish as the end-result. Take some time to identify areas of specific need where AIOps could provide resolution. Some examples of this might be supporting your ITSM team with alert escalation or improving service availability through incident management. You have to define your objectives first before you can develop a strategy for achieving them.

Step 2: Establish parameters for success.

Next, you must determine which parameters you will use to monitor and measure your success. Common AIOps success parameters include things such as mean time to resolution (MTTR), outage prevention, improved productivity and cost reduction as a result of automation. By developing and setting these benchmarks, you’ll be better able to assess your implementation success rate. You’ll also be better prepared to determine when to pivot and change course if necessary.

Step 3: Focus on the data.

Artificial intelligence is only as good as the data it’s being fed. The term “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind. In order for your AIOps adoption to be successful, you must prioritize the issue of making sure the data you will use is plentiful, accessible, relevant and most importantly, of superior quality. Sourcing this information as early as possible can give your project a jumpstart, save you a massive amount of time and aggravation and improve your chances of reaching your goals without fewer roadblocks along the way.

As you work through these three fundamental steps, one important point to keep in mind is that AIOps is a journey, not a destination. Therefore, it should never be viewed as a one-off project, or a “set it and forget it” initiative. Organizations that have been successful with AIOps recognize that it’s something dynamic and ever-changing. Go into it with the proper mindset and digital transformation will be your reward.

cio guide to operational efficiency

Looking for Quick Wins with Your Automation Project? Focus on These 5 Key Areas.

Without question, intelligent process automation has made a significant and permanent impact on the tech world. This technology has essentially provided IT professionals with the ability finally accomplish what they’ve been challenged with for decades: optimizing performance and maximizing uptime while minimizing costs. Now, routine time-consuming tasks as well as complex workflows can be streamlined and handled almost exclusively without the need for human input. In short, intelligent process automation has changed the face of IT for the better.

Just getting started and eager to see some results? Let’s take a closer look at five specific areas where intelligent process automation can produce the greatest benefit and fastest return, both for your IT department and your enterprise as a whole.

IT Unification – The old way of doing business involved individual silos and separate departments. In the digital age, the most successful organizations are the ones that are able to harness technology to break down these barriers and bridge inter-departmental gaps, effectively promoting collaboration and fostering innovation. Intelligent process automation can provide the tools necessary to achieve this type of universal organization.

IT Infrastructure – In order for a business to function cohesively across all departments, there need to be a set of streamlined and standardized procedures and technologies in place. This includes best practices, virtualization, cloud computing and more. When this type of environment is created, intelligent process automation can then provide the opportunity for your tech team to leverage their expertise and improve skill levels for the maximum benefit of the department and the company in its entirety.

IT Support – Support that is enhanced with intelligent process automation can ensure fast and incident-free roll-out, implementation and adoption of best practices. It can also improve processes, such as migrations, ensure more effective enforcement of compliance requirements and ultimately boost service levels across the board.

IT Operations – With more pressure being placed on IT professionals to not only manage their specified workflows, but also possess an in-depth understanding of overarching business practices, these workers must find a way to become better-equipped to meet these demands. Intelligent automation can help by allowing IT operations the optimal allocation of resources so that personnel can focus on furthering their education and expertise.

General Routine/Repetitive Tasks – Those every day, repetitive manual tasks that your IT department is buried under are inevitably costing your business money. Workflow and self-service automation options can alleviate this concern by taking the burden off the IT team. Not only can this vastly improve efficiency and productivity, but it can also cut costs in the long run.

With demands on IT professionals increasing at a rapid rate, the need for enhanced technological solutions has never been greater. Intelligent process automation can help your organization meet these evolving needs so you can remain competitive and achieve ongoing success, both now and well into the future.

cio guide to operational efficiency

4 Tips to Supercharge Your Business Processes

If you’ve been in business for a decent amount of time, you already know how important it is to have processes in place. In the absence of these processes, operations become chaotic, inefficiency reigns and progress is stymied.

That being said, simply creating and implementing business processes isn’t always enough. In fact, there may be significant room for improvement in a variety of areas. If you haven’t visited your processes in some time or you’re already aware they could use some polishing, here are a few expert tips.

Begin with what’s most critical.

A lot can be gained from most any business process, but some will inevitably prove more immediately beneficial than others. If you are want to maximize their effectiveness and achieve some early, quantitative wins, focus your efforts first on:

  • Processes with highest potential ROI
  • Processes that recur most often
  • Processes that frequently encounter issues

The goal is to hone in on the workflows where you can generate results quickly while also making the most impactful improvements.

Develop a checklist.

You don’t have to dig into the minutiae of the process. Instead, focus on the key steps in the workflow, developing a sequential list of tasks which demonstrate how the process is supposed to flow. If the process is electronic, consider recording it as it’s being carried out. The resulting video can then be used to create the checklist of steps or events.

Start optimizing.

Once you’ve mapped out each business process, it’s time to start finding areas where improvements can and should be made. Are there any redundancies that could be eliminated to speed things up? Are there bottlenecks along the way that impede progress and should be addressed?

Go over the documented workflows with appropriate team members to get their feedback and input. The more you involve other people in the practice of evaluating and optimizing your business workflows, the more buy-in and support you’ll gain.

Automate whenever and wherever possible.

Last, but certainly not least, automation can improve efficiency exponentially while also reducing human error. By introducing intelligent automation into your business processes, you’ll ensure a smooth, sequential flow of events and reduce (and often eliminate) the need for human intervention in the process.

Let’s say the business workflow you’re currently focusing on is password resets. It may seem simple, but in some organizations, this task alone can consume up to 40% of IT support’s daily workload. What if, instead of manually carrying out each painstaking step of phone authentication, execution of reset, confirmation, and documenting the call closure, you automated the entire process? Not only would password resets be carried out much more quickly, improving end-user satisfaction, but your IT would be freed up to focus their valuable skills on other, more important business initiatives.

Having business processes is important, but often even those processes can be improved and optimized for better results. By following the four simple steps above and leveraging the power of intelligent automation to your advantage, you can supercharge your processes and reap the many rewards that will come as a result.

Get started today with a free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG and be up and running with intelligent automation in less than an hour!

Building Your Automation Journey with 90-Day Outcomes

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:

  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based

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.

Start today by downloading your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG.

5 Things That will Derail an IT Automation Project

The process of implementing something new will almost always involve making a few mistakes, veering in the wrong direction and eventually figuring out a way to correct those missteps and prevent those risks in the future. Adopting IT automation is no exception. If you aren’t careful, the mistakes you make can become embedded into your business processes. As a result, these errors will occur at scale and ultimately become much more difficult to control and correct.

On the other hand, when you proactively detect errors and take the steps to address and correct them right away, you’ll have much more success with the technology. That said, here are five common pitfalls that can wreak havoc on your IT automation project so you’ll know what to watch for and avoid.

Lack of clear and accurate understanding.

Simply put, you cannot adequately solve a problem that you don’t fully understand. The same concept can be applied to IT automation initiatives. If you don’t completely understand what problem you are actually trying to solve, the risk of errors goes up exponentially.

To avoid this, begin with a hypothesis statement. Define the problem that you are trying to resolve and determine which models you plan on using to address that issue. This is critical, because if it’s not done correctly from the start, things can go wrong very quickly.

Poor data quality.

The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” can easily be applied to IT automation projects, especially those that involve machine learning and AI. If the quality of the data you are supplying isn’t up to par, the outcome will inevitably suffer. In fact, poor data quality is one of the top concerns of data managers, as it can impact analytics and ultimately influence business decisions in the wrong direction.

The result of these poor decisions can negatively affect performance and make it difficult to garner support for future initiatives. Exploratory data analysis (EDA) can help you proactively identify data quality issues so you can prevent problems before they occur.

Absence of specific purpose.

Another common contributor to IT automation failure is implementation without a clear purpose. In order for automation to generate positive ROI, it must be applied properly – not simply because it’s the trendy thing to do. In fact, using AI and automation when it’s not the best solution to a problem can actually cause more harm than good.

In addition to addressing the wrong problem, doing so can involve wasted time and resources, both of which come at a cost. To avoid this, identify the precise problem and desired outcome to determine whether IT automation truly is the appropriate solution. 

Insufficient resources.

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of resources required to implement IT automation properly, in particular as it relates to infrastructure. Without adequate processing power, successfully implementing automated solutions in a timely manner can be difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, without the resources in place to allow for its deployment and use, what’s the point?

To address the expense and complexity of deploying a scalable infrastructure, leveraging a cloud service that can be provisioned on-demand may be the better option. Those wishing to keep things in-house should look for a lightweight, plug-and-play solution that doesn’t require coding and can be deployed across both on-premises as well as private cloud platforms.

Poor planning and lack of governance.

It’s not unusual for an IT automation project to start off with tremendous enthusiasm only to lose momentum and ultimately end up grinding to a halt. When this happens, poor planning and lack of governance is most often to blame. For those projects that don’t cease, a lack of guidelines and limits can result in an exorbitant expenditure of resources without the beneficial end results. 

To keep things moving in the right direction, IT automation initiatives must be continuously monitored. In the event that progress begins to wane, it can be wise to take a break and reevaluate the effort. Keeping people engaged in the process is the key.

IT automation can be a tremendous asset to an organization, but only if it’s planned, implemented and managed properly. By avoiding the five common pitfalls listed above, you can place your company in a much better position and improve your chances of long-term, sustainable success.

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