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5 Things that Can Hinder Digital Transformation

5 Things that Can Hinder Digital TransformationDigital transportation is no longer just an option. In order to remain relevant and competitive, it’s an absolute necessity. In fact, 87 percent of companies believe that digital transformation will give them a leg up on the competition. A further 27 percent consider it a matter of survival.

But while many business leaders recognize its importance, achieving enterprise-wide buy-in remains challenging. And let’s face it, any change of this magnitude has the potential to go south. That being said, let’s take a look at five red flags that, if not addressed, will almost certainly derail your progress.

Not Defining Objectives

You can’t embark on a digital transformation initiative just for the sake of doing so. Company executives must have a clear vision of not only why they’re doing this, but also what they specifically wish to achieve as a result. Without this vision, the entire project will be doomed right from the get-go. To begin, take a look at what your competitors are up to and then figure out how you can improve to make a real impact on your market.

Failure to Communicate

It’s human nature to fear change and, in response, resist it. Knowing your front line employees will likely push back at the thought of rolling out tools like intelligent automation can make it tempting to avoid those difficult conversations. But in order for digital transformation to truly occur, everyone across the board must buy into the vision and have a clear understanding of why it’s necessary. Be open and transparent with your employees and tackle fear head-on. That’s the only way to overcome it.

Lack of Guidance

You may have the utmost faith in your staff, but are they truly up to the monumental challenge that comes with achieving digital transformation? Chances are you’ve already got the foundation, but you can’t simply assume that your employees will automatically adjust and adapt without adequate assistance. A skills assessment is crucial to identifying knowledge gaps so they can be addressed accordingly, prior to moving forward with your project.

Not Recognizing Champions

As you move forward with your skills assessments, you will likely identify certain key players who are stand-out experts. These individuals can become an invaluable asset to the project at hand and the organization as a whole, but only if you consciously tap into them as a resource. These champions of change should be encouraged and empowered to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others. This can do wonders for gaining buy-in, particularly with those who are still somewhat resistant.

Caving to Challenges

Digital transformation is a long journey and one that is wrought with many challenges along the way. If business leaders do not work to create and nurture a culture within the organization that embraces change with unwavering optimism, when things get rocky, morale can seriously take a hit. Those spearheading the change must do their best to maintain a high degree of energy and not let challenges and struggles bring down the team.

What’s the first step? Adopting the right technology. According to Accenture, 92 percent of business leaders say that intelligent automation will be put to wider use within their company during the next 12 months. Will you be one of them? Get started on the path to true digital transformation today with a private demo.

IT Process Automation Survival Guide

One of your biggest risk is insider threats. Here’s how to manage them.

One of your biggest risks is insider threats. Here's how to manage them.When we talk about security threats to the enterprise, the focus often centers on hackers and other external parties. In reality, the biggest danger to most organizations is the very users who work within. In fact, according to Gartner, more than 70% of unauthorized access to sensitive data is committed by a company’s own employees. The good news is enough research has been done to identify the five most common insider threats and, more importantly, what your organization can do to prevent and protect against them. Let’s take a look.

Problem: Sensitive Data Sharing via Email or IM

Along with the convenience of quick and/or instant electronic communications also comes the greater risk of confidential information being shared via one of these tools, like email or instant messaging. Thankfully, this is one of the easiest insider threats to manage and control.

Solution: Encrypt, Analyze and Filter

The easiest way to prevent sensitive data from being shared electronically is to ensure that all messages and the content contained within (including attachments) are properly encrypted. Additionally, you can set up a network analyzer and content filtering which will help to automatically identify and block any classified information from going out. Lastly, outsourced or perimeter-based messaging solutions often provide easy to manage content filtering and blocking, so know and take advantage of what’s available to you.

Problem: Remote Access Exploitation

One of the greatest benefits of today’s technology is the flexibility it affords to be able to access networks and internal systems from anywhere. Unfortunately, this same advancement can also prevent a whole new set of risks to the integrity and security of sensitive data. The ability to access information from off-site via remote access software can make it easier and more tempting to steal and compromise that data. Furthermore, inadequately protected remote devices could end up in the wrong hands if they become lost or stolen.

Solution: Establish Stronger Remote Work Guidelines

Controlling who can access and share files and keeping a close watch on OS and application logins is critical. Implementing tighter security controls, particularly those systems that are most sensitive and therefore pose the greatest risk can provide a much greater degree of protection. Likewise, monitoring and limiting employee usage through logs and audit trails will also add another layer of security. Finally, establishing stronger password requirements, using multi-factor authentication and enabling screen saver timeouts can prevent unauthorized access issues.

Problem: Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

P2P sharing software is a great tool for fostering collaboration and improving efficiency amongst employees, but these platforms also pose a significant security risk. All it takes is one ill-intentioned individual to misconfigure the software and suddenly your internal network and drives are available for anyone to access.

Solution: Implement More Stringent P2P Policies

The best way to prevent against P2P software vulnerabilities is to not allow it within your organization. Implementing a network analyzer and routinely performing firewall audits will further strengthen your defense. For optimum protection, a P2P firewall is recommended. If you do happen to allow P2P software, a perimeter-based content monitoring solution can help keep sensitive information secure.

Problem: Insecure Wireless Network Usage

Accessing confidential data via unsecured wireless networks can potentially place your organization at risk, even if that insider threat is unintentional. If your employees work remotely and use WiFi or Bluetooth connections, all it takes is one breach of a file transfer or email communication for your valuable data to be compromised.

Solution: Provide a Safer Alternative

Rather than allowing employees to utilize airwaves that are not adequately secure, providing your WiFi users with a secure wireless hotspot is the ideal solution. Use a VPN  for remote connectivity and implement a personal firewall for an added layer of protection. Don’t forget internal wireless networks, either. Always use encryption, authentication and logging. If Bluetooth is not necessary, disable it or, at the very least, make your devices undiscoverable.

Problem: Participating in Discussions on External Boards or Blogs

Whether it’s posting a question on a message board for support purposes or commenting on a thought-provoking blog, employees could inadvertently put your sensitive information at risk without even realizing it.

Solution: Filter and monitor.

Filtering content at the network perimeter is the most effective way to identify and block sensitive data from being shared externally. Of course, as with everything else, there’s always a chance that encrypted transmissions could be missed and may end up on such sites. For best results, setting up a notification system, such as Google Alerts, which will let you know any time certain keywords (specified by you) are used on the web.

Ultimately, managing insider threats should be an important component of your overall cyber security incident response strategy. Implementing tools like automation can help further identify, address and remediate security incidents – including those caused by internal parties – so that damages can be mitigated.

eBook: 5 Reasons You Should Automate Cyber Security Incident Response

4 Things CIOs Should Know About Adopting Intelligent Automation

4 Things CIOs Should Know About Adopting Intelligent AutomationWe recently shared five critical reasons why every CIO should consider intelligent automation. But recognizing the value-added benefits this technology has to offer and actually taking the necessary steps to implement it at scale are two entirely different things. In order to get it right the first time and achieve rapid and sustainable return on your investment, there are certain things you should know heading into such a project. Let’s take a look.

Understand what’s most important to your organization.

In the IT realm, a lot of time is spent quieting squeaky wheels and putting out fires. As CIO, one of your most important tasks is determining whether those wheels and fires represent a potential to introduce intelligent automation.

Rather than reactively responding to complaints, proactively evaluate where and how automation could make the biggest impact, such as on productivity or customer experience, and build your deployment around those high-return areas. This will take much of the heat of your busy IT team and produce savings that can then be utilized to fund other value-added projects.

Know what intelligent automation tools are available to you.

As a key decision maker for your organization, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the different types of automation tools that are on the market today, as well as which are mature enough to be quickly and seamlessly deployed into production. Get to know the difference between robotic process automation (RPA) and cognitive software. The former enables rules-based automation while the latter is intelligent with machine learning capability.

While both categories are beneficial, intelligent (cognitive) automation is far more advanced, providing capabilities for processing massive amounts of unstructured data, identifying patterns, understanding complex processes and predicting outcomes based on previous scenarios. Intelligent automation will evolve and improve on itself over time, something that RPA does not do. Recognizing and fully understanding these key differences is an essential part of choosing the right automation platform.

Determine how deployment will work.

If you approach automation from a singular solution, such as reducing the number of man hours a certain process requires, not only will the return you get be modest at best, but deployment will likely end up being a much longer, more arduous and more frustrating experience. Instead, shift your thinking to an end-to-end approach. Ask yourself how intelligent automation can be deployed on a larger, more holistic scale. That’s where the real value and return will lie.

Bear in mind, also, that the traditional ways IT leaders evaluate their technology budgets employ a more functional perspective. Most intelligent automation opportunities, however, are naturally end-to-end. As such, the traditional mechanisms of evaluation will not be capable of revealing and unleashing the true potential of intelligent automation.

Focus on process design and documentation.

Implementing intelligent automation involves a lot more than simply plugging technology in place of human workers. It will inevitably generate entirely new questions, particularly as they relate to process design. To achieve maximum impact, taking an intentional view of organizational business processes is strongly recommended.

Keep in mind, too, that there will be a certain degree of institutional knowledge loss as automation begins to replace humans in the day-to-day tasks and workflows. This loss of skills or knowledge may be ultimately cost you some of your workforce, which is why it’s important to have good process documentation in place beforehand.

To experience intelligent automation for yourself and begin the journey toward a more optimized, self-driving organization, request your free product demo today.

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

5 Tips for Adopting AI and Automation in 2018

5 Tips for Adopting AI and Automation in 2018Gartner estimates that 45% of the fastest-growing companies in the world will “employ” more smart machines and virtual assistants than people by the end of this year. Furthermore, a survey by PwC revealed that not only do the majority of business leaders believe AI is going to become fundamental in the not-so-distant future, but 72% of them deem it a “business advantage.”

Without question, 2018 is the year of intelligent automation, and if you’re not yet ready to jump on board, you will inevitably find your organization at a distinct disadvantage sooner than you may think. For those interested in being part of the future of work, however, the path to adoption can seem unclear and confusing. To make things a little easier, here are 5 expert tips on how to get your AI initiative off the ground.

Focus on the right areas.

One of the biggest challenges to AI adoption is the fact that there are so many avenues to explore. It can get confusing, which can easily lead to wasted time, money and resources. To get things going in a positive direction, focus on the areas where you can leverage automation to increase productivity and derive value. Look for areas of your business that are high volume but low margin. Figure out what frustrates your team. PwC put together a great list of business use cases to look to for inspiration.

Tap into the right resources.

If you’re struggling with where to start, checking in with business leaders who may own or touch AI can help. These leaders include such roles as the CIO, CDO, CTO, CSO and other specialists. The goal should be to take a portfolio approach, addressing multiple areas of need to produce quick-wins to start. From there, you can continue to gain traction and build on more complex areas that have good potential. Emphasize the practical at this stage and move forward from there.

Identify your champions.

Another important component of smooth implementation of AI and automation is the role of functional and other specialists working throughout your organization. These are the individuals who are in the trenches and who possess the hands-on experience and intimate knowledge of your business processes and pain points. As such, they can be invaluable to helping you tailor AI solutions and drive adoption.

Make user experience a top priority.

When focusing on automation and AI, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology aspect and all its potential benefits, but don’t forget the human element. Remember – an AI solution can only be successful if the end-users adopt it. This requires a deep understanding of the user experience – that is, how people will interact with the system. One way to accomplish this is by applying design thinking that focuses on the user journey. This will enable you to identify how and where automation can improve it.

Adapt to the workforce of the future.

There’s been a buzz about the “workforce of the future” for some time now. The reality is, it’s no longer some far-off concept. It’s already happening all around us, and those organizations that recognize and adapt to this fact will be the frontrunners of tomorrow. A critical component of adopting AI requires an understanding of how human and digital labor will function.

Which tasks or processes will be automated? What higher-value work will human employees focus on? How will human workers interact with and be augmented by their digital counterparts? What new skills will be needed and what is your plan for up-skilling your workforce accordingly? These questions must be answered before successful AI adoption can occur.

Want to experience automation powered by AI for yourself? Take Ayehu for a test drive today.

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

Are you budgeting enough for IT automation? Here’s why you should be.

Are you budgeting enough for IT automation? Here's why you should be.If you’re under the impression that IT processes are not all that important to your business, perhaps it’s better to look at it from another angle. How much do you believe downtime can and will cost your company? Last check put that number at around $9,000 per minute. That’s right. Per minute.

So, yes, ensuring that IT runs smoothly and avoiding potential outages is absolutely critical. IT automation is the key to achieving this goal. Here’s why (and five distinct reasons you need to start budgeting for it ASAP).

Optimize Billable Time

How much time does your IT team spend watching to ensure that jobs are completed? How about manual scripting? Likewise, how much time is wasted by the end-user waiting for the help desk to process tickets? All of that time adds up and it’s costing your company big time. IT automation can shift the manual labor from human to machine, streamlining operations and freeing up talented individuals to be able to apply their skills to more important tasks and projects.

Reduce Redundancies

When processes are handled manually, there are inevitably going to be a number of situations in which there are too many hands in the pot. This can lead to costly redundancies. IT automation can help reduce the amount of times different employees have to “touch” the same machine or file, which is essential in maintaining a cost-effective operation. With automation in place, businesses can ensure that every touch serves a valid purpose.

Better Communication & Accountability

Breakdowns in communication occur everywhere – including inner and inter-departmentally. As a result, it can be easy to lose track of who is responsible for what, which leads to mistakes and miscues that could prove costly. Automating reporting, alerting and notification ensures that everyone stays on the same page. The right IT automation platform should also provide a central dashboard, facilitating greater ownership and enhanced visibility into any and all processes. This keeps management fully aware of what’s happening so no balls get dropped.

Improve Service Levels

Given today’s ever-increasing need for instant, quality service and amidst the growing competition in the IT services field, providers are having to find newer and more efficient ways to operate. Only those companies that are agile enough will be capable of competing on a global scale. By investing in intelligent IT automation, tasks, processes and workflows are performed faster and free of errors. Employees are happier and more productive and customers (internal and external) are more satisfied because they’re consistently receiving exceptional service.

Boost Response Time

When something malfunctions, the fallout from a delay in response time can be quite impactful – not to mention the time IT personnel must waste trying to identify and correct the problem. Today’s technology enables businesses to work smarter by implementing IT automation as the watchdog capable of pinpointing issues as they occur (sometimes even before they happen). Whether it’s a machine, system, application or entire network that’s in question, a quality automation and orchestration platform can expedite response time to reduce or eliminate costly downtime.

As more capital is being invested into the ongoing development of technology as it relates to artificial intelligence, it’s becoming abundantly clear that IT automation is here to stay. More importantly, intelligent automation has the potential to help businesses of every size and industry streamline operations, maximize efficiency, improve response time and deliver better service overall.

Are you ready to experience what automation can do for your company? Start your journey today by taking Ayehu for a test drive.

IT Process Automation Survival Guide

Making Intelligent IT Automation Part of Your Corporate Culture

Making Intelligent IT automation part of your corporate cultureIn order for intelligent IT 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 IT 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 IT 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 IT 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 IT 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 IT 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!

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

How To Get Prepared For The 2018 GDPR Deadline

How To Get Prepared For The 2018 GDPR Deadline

This article was originally published in Forbes.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to affect thousands of organizations worldwide. In fact, GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. For those unfamiliar, GDPR defines a broad set of rights and principles governing the protection and use of EU citizens’ data, independent of physical location.

Heavy fines for noncompliance and rapid breach notification requirements, coupled with a mid-2018 implementation deadline mean that organizations must immediately and aggressively begin working on GDPR. At a minimum, they should start by developing data classification strategies, data usage and retention guidelines and baseline security controls. Furthermore, by automating these processes and controls, they can lower the cost and ease the implementation of GDPR compliance.

GDPR Background, Rights And Principles

GDPR was developed by the EU in order to formalize the rights of its citizens and their personal data. It applies to any firm or organization that processes or stores such data, regardless of where they are located. For example, a U.S.-based company that held client data in Singapore would still be subject to GDPR, provided that data included clients who are EU citizens.

Unlike its predecessor, GDPR contains strong enforcement measures. First, fines for noncompliance of up to 4% of worldwide revenue can be assessed for extreme violations. Second, in the event of a serious breach, violators may have to notify both EU authorities and the citizens affected within 72 hours, which will be extremely challenging and potentially disruptive.

The key element of GDPR is the definition of data protection rights for its citizens. The list of rights is extensive and will impact business models and processes in many ways. Some of the more important rights to take note of include the following:

• Consent must be given for data processing, and the way the data will be used must be stated in a way that is easy for the citizen to understand.

• Organizations must clearly state what data is being processed, how it is being processed and with what other organizations the data might be shared.

• Citizens have a right to be forgotten. That is, they can request that all copies of their data be deleted. They also have a right to be easily able to transfer their data from one organization to another.

Given that there is less than a year before the deadline for compliance, organizations absolutely must begin preparing immediately. There are several areas that are high priorities for action. These include staffing, data audit and classification, risk analysis and basic system logging. Beyond that, organizations must begin aligning their business models with acceptable GDPR practices, building their client notification and consent frameworks and defining a fundamental security control set.

GDPR Preparation

The first step in adapting to global regulation change, beyond understanding what the change entails, is preparing as far in advance as possible. With just about five months until implementation, the time to start prepping is upon us. While each individual organization will ultimately need to develop its own unique strategy, there are certain constants that are recommended for all enterprises to remain GDPR compliant. Those constants include four key steps, as follows:

Discovery: Identifying what personal data the organization is in possession of and where it resides.

Management: The governance of how personal data is accessed and used.

Protection: Establishing security controls to prevent, detect and respond to infrastructure vulnerabilities and data breaches.

Reporting: Acting on data requests, reporting data breaches and maintaining required documentation.

These four key factors should become the foundation of any GDPR policy. There is, of course, leeway as to how these steps are carried out and what tools and techniques are applied in doing so. Forward-thinking business leaders will leverage as many tools as available in order to streamline and strengthen their GDPR compliance.

Using Technology To Close The Gap

In response to the proposed change in data security regulation, many developers and vendors have begun offering various tools and technologies specifically designed to help organizations prepare and comply with GDPR. For instance, there is a growing number of risk assessment tools that provide deep analysis and visibility into database infrastructure along with recommendations for remediation. There are also a number of implementation solutions that have been preconfigured with GDPR rules, standards and processes.

From a control standpoint, automation is emerging as a valuable option, particularly because it creates a consistent, automatic and well-documented process that will stand up to scrutiny during an audit. It makes it much more certain that a spot check for compliance (e.g., validating the control for a particular day) will pass successfully. And with a flexible solution, an automation platform can integrate with virtually all security solutions in the market. This means that the organization can choose whatever security solutions they feel are best and still have the automated process they need to be successful.

Another consideration is segregation of duties. A security control must be separated from the people the control is monitoring. Using an automated process means that staff members do not need to be involved, eliminating the risk of staff members having access to both the data and the security control that protects it. Furthermore, a reliable record of that access is created in a data store that is closed to system administrators, creating a solid audit trail to validate the controls.

No Magic Bullet

It should be noted that there is no absolute perfect solution when it comes to compliance. The question of whether a control set is sufficient to protect data relative to risk is quite subjective. What auditors look for is not a fixed set of deliverables but a consistent methodology for analyzing risk, arriving at a control set and implementing those controls. By preparing ahead and leveraging the appropriate tools and technologies, organizations can improve the chances of maintaining compliance on a consistent basis.

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

7 Tips for Managing a Remote IT Team

7 Tips for Managing a Remote IT TeamThe beauty of technologies like cloud and IT automation is that it’s enabled many IT teams to work remotely, either some or all of the time. Research has shown that offering flexible work options can dramatically improve productivity, boost employee morale (and therefore retention), maximize efficiency and cut costs. But managing remote teams isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few key pointers that will help keep everyone on track, engaged and working at optimal performance.

Check in on a regular basis.

It’s easy for remote workers to become detached from the team, which could result in a slack in performance, disengagement and potential turnover. Avoid this by making a point to stay in continuous contact with your virtual team members. Check-in consistently, whether it’s daily, weekly, bi-weekly or another arrangement that works for you.

Choose face/voice time over electronic communications.

The same technology that facilitates remote work arrangements should also be utilized to keep offsite workers plugged in. Remember – your employees are already immersed in things like IT automation and other human-less tools. Bring them back to reality by connecting via telephone or video conferencing instead of email or instant messaging. If possible, occasional in-person meetings are recommended.

Make communication a priority.

When it comes to remote workers, “out of sight, out of mind” can easily become a problem. Co-located teams that perform at their best do so in part because those in leadership roles make regular communication a priority. Get to know your off-site employees. Actively listen when you’re meeting together. Treat them with trust and respect. Ask about workload and progress. Simply put, over-communicate.

Be clear about expectations.

As a manager, it’s your job to clearly and accurately let your employees – both on-site and remote – about exactly what’s expected of them. Being located at a satellite or home office can make it even more challenging for team members to know where they stand. Always be direct about roles, projects, deadlines and anything else so that your remote workers will be able to deliver on those expectations.

Make yourself available and accessible.

Your remote workers cannot simply pop into your office when they have a question or concern. Overcome this challenge by making yourself as available as possible and ensuring that your team members know when and how to best get ahold of you. Respond promtly to messages or emails. This may involve making yourself available across different time zones, but it’s essential to running a cohesive dispersed team.

Enable and encourage collaboration.

To be most effective in their roles, remote employees should be able to connect and collaborate with other team members. Thanks to technology, there are plenty of tools available to facilitate this, from Skype and instant messages to Slack and other cloud collaboration tools. Once the preferred platforms are set up, encourage your subordinates to participate and lead the charge by actively engaging as well.

Foster relationships.

When employing tools like IT automation, it can be easy to become detached from the human aspect of working as part of an IT team. Overcome this obstacle by using team building and camaraderie to foster interpersonal relationships amongst team members. Make a point to get to know your employees on a personal level and try to find a common ground. Encourage occasional “water cooler” conversations, as they will enable personal connections and strengthen relationships.

If you thought IT automation would allow you to set it and forget it, you may have forgotten about the one key component of your IT team that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: people. Keeping the human touch in the mix can be challenging, especially when some or all team members are located off-site. The seven tips above should help you keep your remote team happier, healthier and ultimately more successful.

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

Eliminate Human Errors (Without Eliminating the Humans)

Eliminate Human Errors (Without Eliminating the Humans)

There’s a humorous old dictum in the IT industry that “To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” When you combine the two, however – human error PLUS computers – then you can achieve catastrophic disruptions of truly epic proportion, like the massive AWS outage suffered by Amazon in early 2017.

The Uptime Institute estimates that human error lies behind about 70 percent of the problems plaguing data centers today. Seventy percent. Think about that. In 70 percent of cases, all it took to bring today’s most powerful high-tech to its knees was just one person making an honest mistake.

A mistyped keyboard stroke here. An erroneous mouse click there. We’ve all done it. Who among us hasn’t absent-mindedly pressed “Reply All” to an email meant for one person, then realized with horror that the errant message went organization-wide?

The people working in data centers are no different from you and me. They’re human and therefore vulnerable (if not more prone) to those same kinds of errors, especially given the number of systems they have to interface with, the profusion of processes they’re responsible for and the sheer monotony of their workload. Together these dynamics congeal into a brain-fog of tedium which can easily cause one to lose focus and make mistakes.

Where data center operators do primarily differ from us is that they often run the same mission critical jobs over and over, performing their tasks flawlessly hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of consecutive times. At some point though, that perfect streak comes to an end. It always does, because humans are fallible, and not even the best data center operators are 100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time.

In fact, when you think about it, it’s a wonder the rate of outages due to human error isn’t even higher than it is.

If you’re in upper management, the probability of downtime caused by human error should worry you.  Not just because of the resulting damage and its consequential costs, but because of the repercussions that inevitably follow the outage. After the shock and anger subside, the finger pointing begins, thanks to impeccable 20/20 hindsight. Once the blame game starts, it usually doesn’t end until reputations are ruined and secure jobs are lost. Many promising corporate careers were terminated by preventable disasters like these.

So what’s upper management to do about the potential for IT failures in their data center caused by human error?

Optimizing existing procedures or building in procedural circuit breakers to prevent wider damage are strategies that ultimately ignore the root cause of the issue – the fact that humans performing repetitive and often laborious manual processes inevitably commit errors. Therefore, the key to drastically reducing the potential for human error-caused outages is to eliminate the potential for human error in the first place by automating the part that humans do.

It’s the exact same logic behind the push for self-driving automobiles.

Various studies have pegged human error as the cause of anywhere between 90-95 percent of all traffic accidents. According to McKinsey, widespread use of autonomous vehicles could “eliminate 90 percent of all auto accidents in the United States, prevent up to $190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives.”

The irreducible conclusion many are realizing is that eliminating the potential for human errors also eliminates big problems and the big costs associated with them. The most practical and cost-effective way of eliminating human errors is with automation.

In the NOCs and SOCs where headline-making outages occur, this revelation may initially be met with concern and even resistance. After all, your data center operators have spent many years honing their skill sets and developing their expertise in order to run the mission critical systems your organization relies upon. They may not take kindly to the notion that much of what they’ve done all these years can now be done more accurately with software.

In due time however, these same operators will realize that they stand to benefit from automation as much as anyone. Automation frees up data center personnel from tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing processes (that many of them secretly despise) so they can focus on more strategic and challenging work that will allow them to make better use of their skills and expertise. This realignment will also likely improve their level of job satisfaction since they’ll be contributing to the organization at a higher level.  As one of our customers once put it, “If they spend less time staring at blinking lights then they can spend more time on higher value projects.” Happier employees means lower costly turnover.

Furthermore, combining automation with the knowledge and skills of your best operators will make them far more productive and vastly more effective. In other words, automation is a force multiplier for your data centers, as well as being a highly effective risk mitigation tool.

When contemplating automation, upper management should consider one more factor – the competition. Many of your competitors have already embraced automation as a risk mitigation strategy to eliminate human error-caused service disruptions. As they automate more and more of their operations, they not only become less prone to outages, but their businesses also become more efficient and much more scalable, potentially leaving your organization at a competitive disadvantage.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and give automation a try, here’s a high-level view of how we recommend you begin:

  • Identify the critical processes most vulnerable to human error, and those which would be most costly to the organization should an operator make a mistake leading to a disruption.
  • Document these processes, paying particular attention to the parts involving potential for human error.
  • Automate these processes using an enterprise-strength orchestration tool which has a proven track record in mission critical environments (like Ayehu).

Why let costly errors rob your organization of efficiency, employee retention and competitive advantage? Check out automation in action and see how it can become a force multiplier for your enterprise by launching your demo today.

 

Guy NadiviAbout the Author: Guy Nadivi is the Sr. Director of Customer Success for Ayehu, and the first employee hired by the company in North America. Having previously served in numerous roles for Ayehu, Guy now leads the customer success initiative, which has emerged as a leading customer success program among all automation vendors. Previously, Guy founded three technical consulting firms, one of which was acquired by a publicly traded NASDAQ company. He has authored numerous articles of both a business and technical nature, for Forbes, The Jerusalem Post, Lotus Notes Advisor, and others.  Guy received a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Northridge.

 

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

How to Choose the Right Partner for Your MSP Business

How to Choose the Right Partner for Your MSP BusinessBuilding a profitable managed service provider business requires striking a delicate balance between adding value for your clientele and also adding value for your organization. If the scales tip too far in either direction, your business could easily topple. Part of keeping things in balance involves selecting the right partners who will support and help you achieve your MSP business goals. Here are a few tips to ensure a good fit.

Identify and understand your customers’ needs.

You can’t expect to meet (and hopefully exceed) the needs of your clients if you don’t have a clear and accurate understanding of what those needs are. Do they employ any IT staff in-house or do they rely entirely on your company? Do they have an eCommerce side to their business? Do they work with particularly large files? Different clients will have different needs and require MSP support for different reasons. Understanding these various needs will help you choose a partner that will help you address those needs.

Set your own business goals.

Once you have a clear understanding of what your clients expect from you, the next important step is identifying your organizational goals. Again, the objective is to strike a balance between delivering the best possible service at the lowest cost to save your customers money while also finding a way to do more with less so you can remain profitable. This is why choosing the right vendor is so important. For instance, a partner offering intelligent automation can allow you to work on limited staff to keep operating costs at a minimum while still delivering a high degree of service to your MSP clients.

Schedule a meet and greet.

There are plenty of MSP partners on the market today. Your task will be to shortlist the ones with offerings that most closely align with your clients’ needs and your business goals. Once you’ve got a few narrowed down, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with each of them. A great way to meet potential vendors and get a feel for who they are and what they offer is to attend industry events where they are presenting or performing demos. (For instance, Ayehu sponsors, attends and presents at a wide variety of events, offering demos of our intelligent automation powered by AI.) This will give you an opportunity to meet the team, see the product in action and ask any questions you may have.

Make sure it integrates.

One key factor to consider when weighing your options is whether a partner’s product will integrate well with your existing systems, programs and applications. There’s really no point in adopting a technology if it will remain isolated from the rest of your infrastructure. Look for a product, like Ayehu, that integrates easily, seamlessly and quickly with everything from Solarwinds to VMware to Twilio and any other platform you currently rely on. The goal should be to plug and play with as little disruption as possible.

Understand the service requirements for implementation.

The last question you should ask is whether your technicians will need special skills to deliver the solution and, if so, what those skills are. For instance, will your team need to worry about coding or scripting? (Ideally, an MSP solution that requires no coding and offers out-of-the-box templates and functionality should be at the top of your list.) If there is a learning curve, will training be provided? You’ll also want to determine the level of human intervention required. Remember, less is always more in this instance.

Ready to move to the next step? Ayehu’s intelligent automation solution, powered by AI, is designed to help bring your MSP business to the next level. You can be up and running in just minutes, saving time, delivering a higher level of service and freeing up your staff to focus on more critical tasks. But don’t take our word for it. Take Ayehu for a test drive today and experience it for yourself by clicking here!

eBook: Top 7 Benefits IT Process Automation Provides MSP’s