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The Value of Service Management and Automation to Your Organization

The Value of Service Management and Automation to Your OrganizationThe concept of Service Management and Automation (SMA) is a particularly broad one. As such, there is often some confusion as to what it really entails and, more importantly, the value it lends to an organization. Many people, even IT professionals, mistakenly place more emphasis on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) rather than SMA, simply because they both involve the adoption of a best practice process model. In fact, ITIL is merely a component of well-developed SMA initiatives.

According to research conducted by Forrester, in partnership with the USA chapter of the IT Service Management Forum (ITSMF), nearly all large US organizations have adopted some type of ITIL-based approach for their overall Service Management and Automation. Additionally, approximately 60% of IT organizations have embraced ITIL v3 for their operations.

What does this mean in terms of the future and the big picture for IT? It means that an increasing number of businesses will begin seeing the benefits of broad SMA programs. These benefits include: 

Increased Productivity

Standardized best practices reduce the risk of error and simplify execution, naturally improving the overall productivity of the organization. Automation of manual, repetitive tasks frees up personnel to be able to focus on more important, business critical responsibilities. Instead of having to deal with problems after they occur, staff can prevent them from ever happening. IT automation delivers a level of productivity that simply cannot be achieved through manual efforts.

Enhanced Level of Service

When processes are clearly defined and expertly deployed, there is a significant reduction in errors, producing a subsequent boost in service levels. End users and customers will begin to hold their service providers in a higher regard. This, in turn, creates and fosters a sense of loyalty and provides a certain competitive advantage for the organization.

Improved Reputation

One of the most important components of an IT organization’s viability is its reputation. It only stands to reason, then, that by improving the processes that are in place, both internally and externally, the overall view of the enterprise as a whole will be improved. Better output begets better input and it becomes an ongoing cycle of improvement. If the services of an organization are consistently deemed to be quality and trustworthy, the organization itself will be viewed in the same respect.

Reduced Operational Costs

There isn’t a successful business on the market today that isn’t concerned, to some degree, about budget. You simply can’t be profitable unless you find ways to reduce operational costs and expenses.  While ITIL and SMA do require some investments in order to achieve the benefits above, if they are deployed and managed successfully, those investments will see significant return over time. What’s more, as Service Management and Automation efforts continue to improve and mature, the impact on operational cost reduction will also continue to improve. It’s becoming increasingly evident that as technology evolves, the adoption of ITIL as a component of a robust and comprehensive Service Management and Automation initiative will become essential to the success of any organization.





5 Ways to level up your service desk using it process automation




Top 10 Reasons Why IT Process Automation is Being Embraced by CIO’s

If you haven’t yet heard of this amazing technology called IT Process Automation, then it’s high time you come out from below that rock you’ve been hiding under. In simplest of terms, ITPA takes the specific pain points within a business – those time-consuming, manual tasks that are sucking up valuable resources and killing productivity – and automates them to instantly improve efficiency and service levels, reduce recovery time and so much more. But that’s all generally speaking. What are the real, meat and potato reasons why CIOs, IT managers and production operation support teams are adopting IT Process Automation?

Here are the top ten, in no particular order:

1. Automating the remediation of incidents and problems. Not only does this free up the resources of time and manpower, but it also significantly reduces human error associated with manual incident monitoring and management. An alert comes in, it automatically gets assigned to the appropriate person, and it’s easily tracked from start to finish.

2. Empowering frontline IT operators (L1 and L2) to resolve more incidents faster. Automation eliminates the need for escalation to higher level teams, freeing those high level employees to focus on more important business-critical matters while empowering lower level staff to take on more responsibilities. This also reduces turnaround time because there’s less red tape.

3. Reducing floods of alerts from monitoring systems and event sources. Better organization and management of incoming alerts means better service levels and fewer delays for delivery of that service. Critical alerts are prioritized and assigned immediately to the correct party for timely and accurate resolution.

4. Automating repetitive maintenance procedures and daily operational tasks. IT professionals possess skills and talent that could be much better allocated elsewhere than simply spent processing repetitive operational tasks. Automating these tasks, such as password resets and service restarts, let’s technology do the heavy lifting, freeing up talented personnel to be able to focus on key issues that would further improve service levels.

5. Creating a consistent, repeatable process for change management. Effective change management is all about organization. IT Process Automation provides management with the tools they need to create comprehensive processes that can be used again and again to produce the same desired results over time.

6. Connecting ITIL best practices with incident and problem management processes. The goal of any operation should be to manage workflow in a manner that is the most efficient and effective, both internally and externally. When ITIL best practices are integrated with the best practices in place for incident management, the organization as a whole becomes much more productive and profitable.

7. Documenting and capturing incident resolution and audit trails. Staying compliant with government and other regulatory bodies remains a top priority among businesses across just about every industry. ITPA provides the ability to consistently remain in compliance and be well prepared should an audit take place.

8. Building an up-to-date knowledgebase to reduced training time and cost. Bringing new employees up to speed costs time and money. Having a comprehensive knowledgebase and easy to implement and learn software reduces the time spent training, improving efficiency of both existing and new employees.

9. Integrating on-premise systems management tools and process with ITSM tools. Service management and IT Process Automation go hand in hand. By joining the two, your organization will be better poised for success.

10. Establishing end-user self-service portal for better services and fulfillment requests. Technological advances have empowered people to be able to manage so many of their day to day tasks on their own. IT Process Automation leverages this concept, providing self-service options for the end-user which subsequently improves customer service and operational efficiency at the same time.

Ready to jump on the IT Process Automation bandwagon?





IT Process Automation Survival Guide




How to Get Critical Systems Back Online using IT Process Automation

How to Get Critical Systems Back Online using IT Process AutomationIf you are concerned with critical incident management and its impact on productivity, service levels and downtime- IT Process Automation is your solution, and this post is for you.

IT operations staff spend a huge portion of their time resolving urgent problems like system downtime, performance, and network availability, or performing critical maintenance tasks. As IT environment get more virtualized and more complex, problems take longer and longer to resolve. The burden of these urgent tasks, combined with today’s tight budgets, make it difficult for IT operations to work on key initiatives that add business value. The solution? IT Process Automation.

The Challenge of IT Problem Resolution
IT operations departments are expected to innovate and deliver business value, but IT operations staff spend a large portion of their time resolving problems with critical systems and performing critical maintenance tasks. With so many resources invested in these urgent activities, there is little time left for initiatives that add business value.

Are You Fighting Fires or Adding Value?
In today’s IT organizations, IT operations departments are at the forefront of innovation. Key initiatives such as virtualization, cloud computing, IT modernization, ITIL implementation, and IT compliances (e.g. SOX)—all of which have a huge impact on IT productivity and agility—are the responsibility of operations.
But do operations staff really have the time to make these big steps forward?

It is a common experience among operations staff that urgent problems push aside other important tasks. A large portion of the time is spent resolving problems—such as system downtime, performance of critical systems, and network availability—and performing critical maintenance of the same systems, leaving relatively few resources for key initiatives, strategy and planning, and even regular ongoing maintenance.

This makes it very difficult for IT operations to keep CIOs and CEOs happy—to do more than just “keep the wheels turning,” by delivering real business value.

Two Trends That Will Make the Problem Worse Forrester Research identifies two trends that will adversely affect IT operations’ ability to resolve problems while leaving time for other activities:

  • Increased complexity of the IT environment—virtualization and cloud computing introduce “a new layer of infrastructure complexity”; a complex infrastructure means problems are getting more complex to identify and troubleshoot, and require more time to resolve. Critical maintenance tasks are also more difficult than ever.
  • Economic pressures and accelerated trend to productivity—IT organizations are required to do more with less, and “business satisfaction with IT seems to be at an all-time low.” With less manpower and increased pressure to deliver value, IT operations departments are starving for resources.

Clearly, a solution is needed that will make problem resolution processes more efficient. This is the only way to reduce the burden on operations teams, and free up time for more valuable work.





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes




4 Essential steps for Successful Incident Management

Automated Incident ManagementIt never hurts to go back to basics. Recently, we were surprised at the confusion of some organizations about the process of incident management, so we thought – why not to put a quick incident management primer down on paper?

For successful incident management, first you need a process – repeatable sequence of steps and procedures. Such a process may include four broad categories of steps: detection, diagnosis, repair, and recovery.

1 – Detection

Identification Problem identification can be handled using different tools. For instance, infrastructure monitoring tools help identify specific resource utilization issues, such as disk space, memory, CPU, etc.  End user experience tools can mimic user behavior and identify users’ POV problems such as response time and service availability. Last but not least, domain-specific tools enable detecting problems within specific environments or applications, such as a database or an ERP system.

On the other hand, users can help you detect unknown problems that are not reported by infrastructure or user behavior monitoring tools. The drawback with problem detection by users is that it usually happens late (the problem is already there), moreover the symptoms reported may lead you to point to the wrong direction.

So which method should you use? Depending on your environment, the usage of the combination of multiple methods and tools would be the best solution. Unfortunately, no single tool will enable detecting all problems.

Logging events will allow you to trace them at any point to improve your process. Properly logged incidents will help you investigate past trends and identify problems (repeating incidents from the same kind), as well as to investigate ownership taking and responsibility.

Classification of events lets you categorize data for reporting and analysis purposes, so you know whether an event relates to hardware, software, service, etc. It is recommended to have no more than 5 levels of classification; otherwise it can get very confusing. You can start the top level with something like Hardware / Software / Service, or Problem / Service request.

Prioritization lets you determine the order in which the events should be handled and how to assign your resources. Prioritization of events requires a longer discussion, but be aware that you need to consider impact, urgency, and risk. Consider the impact as critical when a large group of users are unable to use a specific service. Consider the urgency as high when the impacted service is of critical nature and any downtime is affecting the business itself. The third factor, the risk, should be considered when the incident has not yet occurred, but has a high potential to happen, for example, a scenario in which the data center’s temperature is quickly rising due to an air conditioning malfunction. The result of a crashing data center is countless services going down, so in this case the risk is enormous, and the incident should be handled at the highest priority.

2 – Diagnosis

Diagnosis is where you figure out the source of the problem and how it can be fixed. This stage includes investigation and escalation.

Investigation is probably one of the most difficult parts of the process. In fact, some argue that when resolving IT problems, 80% of the time is spent on root cause analysis vs. 20% that is spent on problem fixing. With more straightforward problems, Runbook procedures may be very helpful to accelerate an investigation, as they outline troubleshooting steps in a methodical way.

Runbook tip: The most crucial part of the runbook is the troubleshooting steps. They should be written by an expert, and be detailed enough so every team member can follow them quickly. Write all your runbooks using the same format, and insist on using the same terms in all of them. New team members who are not familiar yet with every system will be able to navigate through the troubleshooting steps much more easily.

Following the runbook can be very time consuming and lengthen the recovery time immensely. Instead, consider automating the diagnostic steps by using run book automation software. If you build the flow cleverly and weigh in all the steps that lead to a conclusion, automating the diagnostics process will give you quick answers, and help you decide what your next step is.

Escalation procedures are needed in cases when the incident needs to be resolved by a higher support level.

3 – Repair

The repair step, well… it fixes the problem. This may sometimes involve a gradual process, where a temporary fix or workaround is implemented primarily to bring back a service quickly.  An incident repair may involve anything from a service restart, a hardware replacement, or even a complex software code change. Note that fixing the current incident does not mean that the issue won’t recur, but more on that issue in the next step.

 In this case too, straightforward repairs such as a service restart ,a disk cleanup and others can be automated.

4 – Recovery

The recovery phase involves two parts: closure and prevention.

Closure means handling any notifications previously sent to users about the problem or escalation alerts, where you are now notified about the problem resolution. Moreover closure also entails the final closure of the problems in your logging system.

Prevention relates to the activities you take, if possible, to prevent a single incident from occurring again in the future and therefore becoming a problem. Implement two important tools to help you in this task:

RCA process (Root Cause Analysis) The purpose of the RCA process is to investigate what was the root cause that led to the service downtime. It is important to mention that the RCA process should be performed by the service owners, who are not necessarily the ones who solved the specific incident. This is an additional reason why incident logging is so important – the information in the ticket is crucial for this investigation process.

And finally, Incident reports – while this report will not prevent the problem from occurring again, it will allow you to continually learn and improve your incident management process.





How to Get Critical Systems Back Online in Minutes