Essential Use Cases to Jump Start Your IT Process Automation

At any given organization, there are always many, many manual IT processes that make great candidates for automation. From time to time though, we run across some process automation candidates that deliver noticeably higher ROI. As people started working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and more staff needed to start using ZOOM, we stumbled upon a manual process that really stood out as an excellent use case to help jump start automation at organizations.

Ayehu keeps track of the highest value automation use cases with the broadest applicability to our customers. We display those on our website where you can drill down and get more information on each one. That list is updated from time to time when we come across great new uses of Ayehu to automate toil out of a process. The use case we’ll be talking about today is one of those examples, and we think you’ll be intrigued by how it involves Ayehu NG tying together ServiceNow, ZOOM, Active Directory, and a chatbot in a very timely way.

We’re just about 6 months or so into the pandemic, so scenes like this ought to be pretty familiar to most everyone by now.

A lot of you, maybe even all of you, are working from home. Being remote and away from the office necessitated a big shift in how employees, contractors, and staff interacted with each other.

That left the door wide open for a company called ZOOM to step in and fill that interaction gap previously provided by the in-office experience. So suddenly, it seems the entire world is using ZOOM.

BTW – One way you can tell a product has really entrenched itself in the minds of consumers is when its name becomes a verb. Right?

You don’t just hail a ride-share to the coffee shop, you Uber to Starbucks.

You don’t just edit that image, you Photoshop it.

And now, we don’t just put together a web conference, we setup a Zoom call.

Now in case you’re unaware just how much Zoom usage has increased; I’d like to share a few metrics with you that might leave you stunned.

In the past, ZOOM was criticized for being a platform only small organizations used. In their financials, they report on how many customers with more than 10 employees are using their service.

A little over a year ago at the end of Q1 2019, they had 59,400 customers with more than 10 employees

One year later at the end of Q1 2020, they had 265,400. That’s a growth rate of 347%!

It’s not just smaller firms using ZOOM though. There’s a banking firm that deployed around 175,000 new ZOOM seats in Q1 and a global law firm called Baker McKenzie with over 6,000 attorneys worldwide adopted ZOOM as well.

Here’s another great visualization of ZOOM’s growth.

Back in 2013, ZOOM had just 3 million daily meeting participants.

That’s grown dramatically, and as of the end of March 2020, they now have 300 million daily meeting participants. I’m betting that number will go up when their Q2 financials are released.

Here’s the metric that made my jaw drop to the floor.

In January 2020, the number of meeting minutes ZOOM’s customers were consuming on an annualized basis was 100 Billion. That’s right 100 Billion meeting minutes.

Can you see the “bar” representing that number? No? Let’s zoom in, no pun intended.

100 Billion meeting minutes is that razor thin sliver of a yellowish vertical line that’s thinner than the grey border representing the y-axis of this bar graph. Why does 100 Billion meeting minutes look almost invisible on this bar graph?

Because just 3 months later in April 2020, ZOOM was on a run rate to consume 2 Trillion annualized meeting minutes (see previous graph). So while 100 Billion may sound like a lot, it’s a drop of water compared to the ocean that is 2 Trillion. This is a growth rate that must’ve left their DevOps team gasping for air the entire first quarter of 2020.

And what has all that growth in customers, meeting participants, and meeting minutes done? It’s led to a lot more of this.

It seems like ZOOM is everywhere and everyone is using it all the time.

That in turn has led to a problem for IT Operations in provisioning ZOOM accounts efficiently, while also documenting their distribution and assignment.

So I’d like to give you an overview of the workflow powering the use case we think is a great way to jump start your IT process automation efforts. It highlights Ayehu NG’s ability to be that single pane of glass tying together so many different pieces in your environment.

It’s going to start with an end user sending a request through Slack that they would like a ZOOM account.

The request goes directly to Ayehu, which looks up the manager that user directly reports to on Active Directory.

When the manager is identified, Ayehu passes along the user’s request to the manager, and awaits an approval or a denial.

In our use case, the manager approves the request, which BTW – is all done through email.

Ayehu then does three things:

  • It provisions an account on ZOOM
  • Sends the user an update via Slack that their request for a ZOOM account was approved
  • It also emails the user their new ZOOM credentials

Finally, Ayehu opens a ticket in ServiceNow, and documents every aspect of this request, automatically creating a complete record of everything that transpired.

That’s it. If you wanted the whole thing to run completely on auto-pilot, without requiring manager approval, you could easily configure it to do that too.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG to easily provision ZOOM accounts for your end users, download your very own free 30-day trial version today by clicking here.

How to Securely Automate Privileged Credentials Usage

Malicious use of privileged credentials remains one of the biggest threats to enterprise security. That’s a real dilemma for IT operations who need access to privileged accounts on servers, routers, and other devices in order to carry out routine tasks like regularly-scheduled maintenance jobs.

The question then is how can privileged information be best protected without obstructing IT operations from performing its vital function to keep the information infrastructure running smoothly?

Every year, different organizations issue their annual list of Top 10 cybersecurity threats or security issues for the year ahead. Here’s Gartner’s Top 10 list from 2019.

Although the cybersecurity landscape is constantly changing, you’ll note that privileged access management always seems to feature prominently on most top 10 security lists, and this one’s no exception.

Securing privileged access is a bit of a specialty in the cybersecurity field, but it applies to every server, operating system, file system, application, database, and IoT device in your environment. Today’s threat landscape demands that not only do all these elements of your infrastructure need strong passwords, but they need to be changed frequently. In the case of highly sensitive infrastructure or data, the best practice is to change the password after every use!

Now if you have a smaller environment with just a few servers, applications, databases, etc., then perhaps you’re not too worried about dealing with privileged access management because it’s just another manual task you do that might be inconvenient, but doesn’t hold you up too much.

Then again, if you are in an enterprise environment, you’re probably dealing with hundreds if not thousands of servers, applications, databases, etc. Now you’ve got a very serious issue to contend with. How do you maintain proper security for every single component AND continue performing IT operations tasks as efficiently as possible?

Well, that really is the CIO’s dilemma in all of this. He or she must perform a precarious balancing act that maximizes security without compromising productivity.

On the one hand, the CIO must do everything necessary to comply with an alphabet soup of regulatory regimes and standards, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, CCPA, Sarbanes Oxley, and so many more that if they were all listed here, would require a lot more scrolling on this blog post.

On the other hand, the CIO can’t compromise on preserving uptime, and dealing with shifting infrastructure priorities such as the recent and sudden switchover to working from home. They’ve also got to continue advancing the enterprise’s digital transformation, all while dealing with reduced budget and/or headcount due to the economic conditions brought on by the pandemic. And of course, there’s the growing concern about the widening skills gap.

According to Gartner, there is a solution (and we endorse it wholeheartedly).

In a paper published June 18, 2020 (ID G00376315), Gartner recommended that organizations “Create and expand automation for privileged access activities and integration with other enterprise platforms, such as identity governance and administration and IT service management.” This recommendation actually constitutes one of the 4 pillars of Gartner’s Privileged Access Management strategy.

In the same publication, Gartner points out that “Automation includes increasing reliability and security by removing the ‘human’ element. This increases efficiency by enabling privileged tasks to be run by more junior administrators with less experience or by software agents”. In other words, by taking privileged access management out of people’s hands and letting it be automated, you’re actually making your infrastructure more secure.

And just for good measure, there was one more worthwhile tidbit from this same Gartner paper, which BTW is entitled “Best Practices for Privileged Access Management Through the Four Pillars of PAM”.

Gartner offers suggestions on what privileged access management tasks to consider automating. They write “Good targets for automation are predictable and repeatable tasks, such as simple configuration changes, software installations, service restarts, log management, startup and shutdown.”

To that, we would also add routine health checkups, which is a great use case Ayehu has available for demonstration with popular privileged access management solutions such as CyberArk’s.

In summary, there are 3 main value propositions derived from automating privileged access management.

First and foremost, it’s simply more secure using a vault. That’s a bit obvious, but we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Secondly, if you’re following best practices on frequency of password changes, then automating privileged access management means you never have to worry about password changes disrupting operations. In other words, if you’ve got a scheduled task to run on a server whose password just changed, it won’t be an issue, because both the changing of the password and its retrieval from the privileged access management solution are automated.

Finally, and this is the one every CIO loves, automating privileged access management lets you run a streamlined IT operation while simultaneously maintaining security, adherence to industry regulatory regimes, and your own enterprise best practices.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG to securely automate your privileged credentials usage, click here to download your very own free 30-day trial version today.

Free Must Have Resources for Every Automation Pro – GitHub

Free Must-Have Resources for Every Automation Pro – Ayehu Automation Academy
Author – Jacky Leybman, Product Manager @ Ayehu

Ayehu maintains its own repositories on GitHub, the world’s #1 open-source community for software development, source code management, and version control. This is a free resource for Ayehu community members interested in:

  • Shorter time to value through reuse of existing, pre-built workflows
  • Shorter time to value through customization of open source activities
  • Free access to peer-developed workflow templates and activities

Let’s breakdown everything this great resource has to offer.

What is GitHub?

At a high level, GitHub is a website and cloud-based service that helps developers store and manage their code, as well as track and control changes to their code.

Essentially, it allows individuals and teams to easily collaborate, leveraging already published code while constantly giving back to ensure the community is growing and everyone can benefit from each other.

Anyone can sign up and host a public code repository for free as well as view other available repositories – as you can see here on our Ayehu GitHub page.

The social networking aspect of GitHub (available here) is probably its most powerful feature, allowing projects to grow more than just about any of the other features offered. Each user on GitHub has their own profile that acts like a resume of sorts, showing past work and contributions to other projects via pull requests. Project revisions can be discussed publicly, so a community of experts can contribute knowledge and collaborate to advance a project forward.

In our case (as seen in the graphic above) we already have 6 public repositories that can be viewed by anyone, and 3 of them are for custom content, which can then be shared by anyone wishing to become a Collaborator.

What kind of content do each of these repositories have?

The ones on the lower row are activities/workflows/integrations that are already available in any installed instance of Ayehu NG. Now you may wonder then, why do we need those on GitHub?

The advantage of having this content shared on GitHub is to provide you with visibility into the code behind the activities, allowing you to easily leverage them for your organization’s specific needs. You can modify any of these activities or create a completely new activity using the existing code as your foundation.  The same applies to any of the workflow-templates and integrations.

Additionally, we have 3 public repositories for custom content. These are shared by the user community, and the only place you can find them is on GitHub, as they’re not part of the product itself.

The custom-scripts repository has different user-created scripts that can be shared among the community. For example, here you can find a utility that eliminates the need for writing a program from scratch, or a script to manually send HTTP POST and GET requests to an Ayehu NG server.

The custom-workflows repository has different workflows created by users using the Workflow Designer. Here you can find multiple workflows for different 3rd-party applications. For example, SolarWinds Remediation. Each workflow is basically an XML file, which is the format it’s exported in from NG when you use the built-in Export functionality.

Last but not least is the custom-activities repository, which in my opinion is the most compelling one because it’s constantly growing. As of this blog post’s publication, we already have more than 300 different activities published for about 30 different 3rd-party applications, such as Amazon S3, Azure AD, Beyond Trust, Google Cloud, PagerDuty, SharePoint, Zendesk, etc. representing a wide variety of platforms including ITSM, messaging, and cloud services. Usually each 3rd-party application’s folder has around 5-10 activities, as you can see below in the FreshDesk folder, for example.

How easily can you leverage this content in your NG environment?

In order to start using any of the activities available on Ayehu’s GitHub page, which as a reminder can be easily browsed by anyone, you must have Ayehu NG version 1.5 or higher running. This is the version that first introduced the Activity Designer feature, which is a necessary prerequisite for building and deploying customer activities.

To learn more about the Activity Designer, please visit Ayehu’s Automation Academy. This is another great free resource Ayehu provides to its community. There you’ll find a couple courses explaining how to use the Activity Designer to build custom activities suited to your company’s specific needs, and which don’t require the need for Ayehu’s involvement. We strongly recommend completing these courses to better understand how the Activity Designer works, and to learn about the two code components each activity has.

Let’s look at the example below where we can see the AYH file, which is an export of the activity created by the Activity Designer’s built-in Export functionality. The other two files are the JSON, which is the frond-end code for the activity that drives its look and feel in the UI, and the CS, which is the back-end code of the activity. This file can not only be CS but also VB and Python as all those are currently supported languages for the back-end code of any activity.

To use this specific activity, I can either use the AYH file or copy-paste the code files. Let me show you how it works by opening Ayehu NG and going to the Activity Designer tool.

First, I’ll choose to Import from the Activity Designer.

I’ll browse and select to import the AYH file we just looked at.

After importing the FreshDesk Create Ticket activity, I can view its code:

All that’s left to do is click the Enabled checkbox in the upper right and then save the activity:

Next, we’ll navigate to the Workflow Designer, start a new workflow, and bring in the FreshDesk Create Ticket as our first activity:

This activity can now be configured just like any of Ayehu’s other activities:

Alternatively, instead of importing we could have also just copied the FreshDesk Create Ticket activity code from GitHub, and pasted it directly into the Activity Designer.

The custom-workflows repository works in a similar fashion. Just select one of the workflows there, download it, then go back to NG and navigate to Workflow Designer -> Open Workflow -> Import From File, and select the workflow you just downloaded.

How simple it is to give back to the community

As previously mentioned, one of GitHub’s most valuable and important features is community collaboration. That’s a mechanism for enabling everyone to benefit from each other while contributing knowledge and cooperating to advance IT Automation forward.

Let’s say you worked on improving one of the existing activities on GitHub to allow additional inputs, or you created a completely new activity. You can easily share your accomplishment with others by clicking on Add File->Upload files.

First though, you must export your activity from the Activity Designer by clicking the export icon in the upper right. You should also copy code for both the JSON and the backend into appropriately-named files, then upload these 3 files along with a short README file explaining what the activity does so that anyone on GitHub can easily understand what it’s supposed to do.

An AYH file will be the easiest way for someone to import your activity. Uploading code files is also important though as it gives visibility into the code, as well as an option to track changes without importing each one of the activities into Ayehu NG.

Once all these files are in a folder, clicking Add File->Upload files on GitHub creates a Pull Request by creating a new branch. Each repository can have one or more branches, which is essentially a unique set of code changes with a unique name. These Pull Requests are then reviewed by our team. As long as everything meets a few basic requirements (further explained below), your work will be published and you will become a Collaborator. This basically means from that point on, you can push code freely to that specific repository.

As you might expect, workflows can also be shared in almost the exact same manner. Just go to the Workflow Designer, open up one of your workflows, then click on Export. This will generate an XML file which can be uploaded to GitHub by simply clicking Add File->Upload Files, and creating a new branch, exactly as we did with custom-activities.

What are the official requirements to create a Pull Request?

Each of the custom repositories has their own Contributing guidelines but are conceptually the same. The guidelines for custom-activities are shown below.

If you’re ready to join a growing community in a thriving field, and you don’t already have an account on GitHub, sign up today. It’s quick, usually taking no more than a few moments. You can also access Ayehu’s GitHub community by clicking here.

How to Run Automated Workflows While Protecting Privileged Accounts

In today’s highly complex security climate, organizations must protect and manage their applications’ privileged identities if they want to protect their assets. Successful Privileged Identity Management (PIM) implementation can be measured by specific factors, such as:

  • Controlling who has access to which credentials
  • Document credential requests for compliance
  • Eliminating hard-coded passwords in applications
  • Eliminating hard-coded passwords in 3rd party tools

Knowing this is critical and actually accomplishing it, however, are two entirely different things. There are many in-house applications and 3rd party tools such as Cyber Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) automation, IT process automation, and others that run and need access to many servers, PCs, and other devices. The ability of 3rd party tools to access the vault and retrieve the relevant credential information of the specific device is crucial to successful PIM implementation.

Why You Need a Secure Vault

Unmanaged privileged credentials, such as passwords, used by 3rd party tools like CSIRT, are typically stored locally in configuration files, or in a database with little to no control over encryption levels. These credentials can be easily captured and exploited by malicious users or external attackers.

Additionally, any manual changes made to these credentials generally require an update of credentials across all environments, which in turn requires downtime or a maintenance window.

Just one tiny oversight during a manual password change could lock a Windows account, causing all other applications and/or application instances to cease operating. Furthermore, as these credentials are not centrally managed, it is difficult to track who or what has access to them, which makes it nearly impossible to identify whether there may be a potential misuse of credentials by a malicious user or external attacker.

And if you think this type of scenario will never happen to you, think again. One need only peruse the headlines to see that even the most prominent enterprises are vulnerable to potential exploitation.

Take, for instance, web-hosting giant GoDaddy. In May of 2020, the largest domain registrar in the world with over 19 million customers, announced that it had experienced a security breach, which occurred after an employee had their account compromised which allowed hackers access. The number of customers impacted has still not be determined, but the reputational and financial damages to the company cannot be understated. For a smaller firm, such a breach could be irreparable.

Why a Secure Vault Is Not Enough

As GoDaddy and countless other organizations have learned the hard way over the years, cybercriminals are relentless. Their tactics are also becoming more sophisticated by the day. In order to shore up against would-be attacks, business leaders must find a way to fight fire with fire. That is, they must leverage all of the advanced technology available to them. And one of the most effective of these is automation.

Ayehu’s integration with CyberArk Privileged Account Security Solution enables organizations to automatically retrieve and rotate credentials securely stored in the CyberArk Secure Digital Vault. Passwords can be rotated based on the organization’s security policy for all privileged identities.

In addition, the integrated solution combines individual accountability with detailed tracking and reporting on all privileged identity activity, enabling organizations to meet diverse sets of compliance requirements.

Your Chance to See It In Action

In a world awash in cybersecurity threats, malicious use of privileged credentials stands out for its potential to inflict cataclysmic harm upon an enterprise.  Yet in order to carry out tasks such as regularly-scheduled maintenance jobs, IT operations must have access to the privileged accounts on servers, routers, and other devices that require these credentials. 

What’s the best way to protect privileged information without obstructing ITOps from performing the vital work that keeps the lights on, all while adhering to organizational and industry infosecurity compliance requirements?

Please join us on Wednesday July 15th as we demonstrate the integration of Ayehu NG and CyberArk Secure Digital Vault – the industry leading automation and privileged access management platforms.

Click the graphic below or follow this link to register and reserve your spot today:

Free Must-Have Resources for Every Automation Pro – Ayehu Automation Academy

Author: Guy Nadivi

The Ayehu Automation Academy is a free resource for Ayehu community members interested in upskilling their automation talent. Now is a great time to be in the field of automation, and for context, I’ll provide a little industry insight to frame the true value of being an automation professional.

In April 2020, Gartner published a paper titled “How to Start Executing a Successful Automation Strategy” (ID G00721030), which included an eye-opening quote:

“By 2025, more than 50% of the (global 2000) G2000 will have a dedicated automation group, up from less than 10% in 2020, which culminates in agility and cost efficiencies.”

If you do the math on that, then that means that less than 200 of the G2000 have dedicated automation groups today, but in 5 years, more than 1,000 of them will. That’s impressive growth, and it infers there will be important growth elsewhere too.

Another April 2020 paper from Gartner titled “Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms” (ID G00721991) actually gave a hint at how much growth. It included the results of Gartner’s survey of a number of IT leaders and asked “What are your organization’s investment plans for the following practice areas?” –

  • Technology Monitoring
  • IT Service Management
  • Cloud Management
  • SaaS Management
  • Configuration Management Database
  • IT Asset Discovery
  • I&O Automation

As you can see in the resulting graph, the #1 practice area where investments were expected to increase was I&O (Infrastructure and Operations) automation. 42% of organizations have plans to start investing there. That’s TWICE as much as the next closest practice area – cloud management. Kind of makes you wonder why the cloud is getting all the love these days when automation is clearly where organizations plan on spending the money.

One more thought to leave you with, again just for broader perspective. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digital transformation, and that means automation initiatives are ramping up, which in turn means more automation specialists are needed.

So ramping up your automation skills is not only a good investment in your career, but at a time of economic uncertainty, it’s the equivalent of creating a form of employment insurance for yourself. Not a bad idea, given the tens of millions of jobs already lost due to COVID-19.

So with that in mind, let’s dive in to the Ayehu Automation Academy.

You can easily navigate to the academy from the home page on our website. Just click on the “Customers” menu, then go to the link that says “Ayehu Automation Academy”.

After creating a user ID for yourself and logging in, you’ll have an opportunity to explore the Academy, where you’ll quickly find it’s very easy to navigate. BTW – the Academy is based upon an online learning system from a company called TalentLMS, which is used by over 70,000 organizations worldwide, and is highly regarded for its ease of use.

Eventually you’ll make your way to the course catalog, and there you’ll find dozens of courses to choose from on a variety of automation-related topics.

We’ve organized the courses in the catalog according to a logical categorization scheme that emphasizes 3 major learning areas:

  • Intelligence Driven Automation
  • Laying the Foundation For Enterprise Automation
  • Ayehu NG, which is further divided into 3 sub-categories:
    • Essentials
    • Dev
    • Advanced

You can see which courses fall under each category when you go and explore the Academy.

Next, let’s review the professional certifications available to you from the Academy.

To amplify what I wrote earlier, working towards these certifications is a great investment to make in yourself since automation is beginning to take center stage for so many organizations. Best of all, that investment won’t cost you anything but some of your time, since the Ayehu Automation Academy is free of charge.

There are currently 5 different certifications available:

  • Ayehu Certified IT Automation Analyst
  • Ayehu Certified IT Automation Developer
  • Ayehu Certified IT Automation Engineer
  • Ayehu Certified IT Automation Professional
  • Ayehu Certified Enterprise Automation Strategist

Ayehu Certified IT Automation Analyst

This certification is actually for anyone interested in the automation field, because no matter what area of automation you specialize in, you should have some good analytical skills.

IT Automation Analysts are often doing things like:

  • Collecting data from departments to identify opportunities for automation.
  • Collecting inputs from stakeholders who will be impacted by a switch to automation.
  • Documenting and defining or frequently redefining business processes to take advantage of automated capabilities.
  • Scoping out the automation process to be implemented.

Not surprisingly, the IT Automation Analyst is going to be someone who is very analytical, has strong modeling and documentation skills, and above all is an excellent listener.

The exam for this certification focuses on knowledge about Automation and AI in the IT field, and understating how an AI-driven automation solution like Ayehu NG can help your organization reach its objectives.

Ayehu Certified IT Automation Developer

As you might’ve guessed, this certification is for anyone interested in the more technical hands-on aspects of automation.

Although the Ayehu platform requires no coding to orchestrate high-value workflows, there are still those who want to get under the hood and do some programming.

With that kind of skillset, IT Automation Developers are usually the ones doing things like:

Building their own custom integrations, often to connect with applications/systems/platforms unique to their environment. They’re also building their own custom activities, with Ayehu’s new Workflow Activity Designer.

IT Automation Developers should have strong programming skills in Python, C#, and/or Microsoft .NET, as well as be detail-oriented and good at problem-solving.

The exam for this certification focuses on the ability to understand how custom activities and integrations work in Ayehu NG, as well as the ability to successfully develop any custom requirement for both activities and integrations.

Ayehu Certified IT Automation Engineer

This certification is also for the more technically-oriented, particularly those who will be working with the Ayehu NG platform day in and day out, and applying their in-depth knowledge of it to maximize its automation effectiveness.

IT Automation Engineers perform such critical tasks as:

  • Installing Single- and Multi-tenant instances of Ayehu NG.
  • Configuring and optimizing the platform’s different components and modules.
  • Building workflows with the Ayehu NG Workflow Designer.

The primary attributes an Automation Engineer should have is being a logical thinker who understands processes (both systems and business) and possessing strong communication skills.

The exam for this certification focuses on knowledge about the Ayehu NG Automation platform, its architecture, and different components. It will also test your ability to deploy a single-tenant installation, and design simple workflows within the Ayehu NG Workflow Designer.

Ayehu Certified IT Automation Professional

If you are already certified as an IT Automation Engineer, and want to take your certification to the next level, then you can pursue becoming an IT Automation Professional. Like the IT Automation Engineer, the IT Automation Professional is a hands-on, technically-oriented person working with Ayehu NG day in and day out, but doing more advanced things.

As a prerequisite this certification requires that you must first be certified as an IT Automation Engineer.

IT Automation Professionals do many of the same things as IT Automation Engineers, as well as:

  • Designing more advanced Ayehu NG deployments.
  • Building more advanced workflows.
  • Troubleshooting the NG platform.

The IT Automation Professional will often assume a project manager role with automation projects. So just like IT Automation Engineers, they need to be logical thinkers that understand processes, but they must also be good multi-taskers, and have excellent communications skills

Advanced design concepts and troubleshooting are the primary focus for this certification’s exam.

Ayehu Certified Enterprise Automation Strategist

This certification is for the person with the vision, leadership skills, and often executive sponsorship to lead an overall automation initiative for an organization.

Enterprise Automation Strategists will often be the ones:

  • Setting up a Center of Excellence to establish organization-wide standards on automation.
  • They’re usually also heavily involved in picking and prioritizing processes which make the best candidates to be automated.
  • By default, they typically become the face of automation within the enterprise, due to their high-profile role.

An Enterprise Automation Strategist, as you can imagine, must have stellar communications skills, be a take-charge manager who knows how to overcome internal resistance to change, and very, very importantly be an agent of change who can evangelize automation successes within the enterprise.

The exam for this certification focuses on identifying and evaluating process automation candidates, issues around having an automation CoE, and understating how an AI-driven automation solution can help advance organizational goals.

If you’re interested in turbo-charging your automation career, there’s never been a better time than now. Please visit the Ayehu Automation Academy to get started on your free courses and certifications today.

To watch the on-demand webinar recording, click below.

Easily Rightsize AWS EC2 Costs and Resources with Automation

Author: Guy Nadivi

I don’t need to remind anyone that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. When the crisis began, it forced lots of people to work from home, creating a sudden surge in remote workers. Many organizations scrambled to accommodate this shift in work environments by quickly assigning them resources from cloud-based providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS). The good part of that was how rapidly IT Ops teams were able to pivot and accommodate this shift to maintain business continuity. The bad part was they’re now realizing their cloud expenses skyrocketed, and they need to go back and revisit their initial resource instantiations to optimize both the resources and their attendant costs.

Now when it comes to AWS, there’s good reason why lots of organizations are migrating there. AWS, as many of you probably already know, is currently King of the Mountain among cloud infrastructure service providers.

But did you know that their market share is so big, it’s actually greater than the next 3 providers combined? These aren’t no-name brands either. We’re talking about Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud. Even if you bundle up their respective market shares together into one, AWS still exceeds them all.

Those of you already familiar with the Ayehu NG platform know that one of our core strengths is easy interoperability with many categories of enterprise infrastructure systems, platforms, and tools.

Our goal from day one has been to enable organizations to seamlessly integrate Ayehu with just about anything in their data center, and to do so without the need to write even one line of code. We want to be your single pane of glass for orchestrating automation across any platform in your environment, and we do that by making it as simple as possible to connect as many things as possible in your enterprise solutions stack.

Increasingly, our integration with environments like AWS have been getting more popular, as organizations migrate their infrastructures and computing workload to the cloud. That’s true especially since the start of the pandemic, when many organizations had to rapidly pivot in order to accommodate work from home environments.

We expect this trend of migrating to the cloud will continue growing in popularity. A company called RightScale published a report recently estimating that the average business already uses the public cloud for 38% of their workloads, and the private cloud for 41%. However, all indications are pointing to more and more corporate workloads shifting to the public cloud.

An organization called Datometry surveyed 166 executives to find out the reasons organizations were migrating to the cloud, and the #1 reason cited by over 60% of respondents was cost cutting to save money. Probably not too big a surprise there.

Given all this cloud migration, the idea of proactively rightsizing AWS EC2 instances in order to cut their costs is a fantastic real-world use case for AIOps and Automation.

AIOps is something everybody’s heard a lot about the last few years. This Gartner graphic, which might be familiar to many already, is a great visualization of the 3 main components that make up an AIOps environment:

  • Monitoring (to Observe)
  • Service Desk (to Engage)
  • and Automation (to Act)

It’s that last part that Ayehu focuses on, obviously, and in all the excitement about AI, machine learning, and big data driving the continuous insights and business value for AIOps, we think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that automation, there on the bottom, is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the output from observing and engaging gets put to practical use, to do things like rightsize AWS EC2 instances to save money.

If you’re wondering how to visualize that, think of a relay race where runners race as a team.

In the top two segments of Gartner’s graphic, an AIOps vendor like Virtana performs their magic in the form of AIOps computations that produce a recommendation on what to do next.

Ayehu, the next runner in the relay race, takes the baton from Virtana, which triggers AIOps-grade automation to carry out Virtana’s recommendation.

In this race though, it’s the IT Operations team leveraging AIOps and Automation that crosses the finish line as the winner. That’s because the combination of AIOps and Automation not only saves on costs and resources for your cloud environment, but it frees up your staff for other more strategic tasks.

When you consider the volume of EC2 instances many organizations work with, you’ll quickly realize that AIOps combined with automation can be a real force multiplier for your IT Operations Management team.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that can automate rightsizing of your AWS EC2 instances, download your very own free 30-day trial version today by clicking here.

The Value of Github Communities

The open source community provides a secure and compliant environment for hundreds of thousands of talented and aspiring developers to collaborate and hone their skills in a dynamic, interconnected way. With open source becoming one of the most relied upon resources, the developer community as a whole is now able to create and follow best practices, build trust and innovate at scale. Among those leading the charge with these communities is GitHub.

Being a part of the GitHub community presents a great number of benefits. In particular, it provides developers with the opportunity to learn and benefit from the contributions of others while simultaneously adding value by giving back. Contributing is an excellent way to learn more about coding and become familiar with emerging technologies and their ecosystems.

Lastly, the GitHub community offers the chance to improve on other skills that are highly valuable in the developer world, like how to make bug reports that are more constructive and therefore more helpful and how to enhance feature requests.

Ayehu is pleased to maintain six free GitHub repositories. If you have yet to take advantage of these excellent resources, you are most certainly missing out!

Please join us on Wednesday July 1st as Ayehu’s Technical Product Manager Jacky Leybman takes you on a tour of FREE content offerings for maximizing workflow effectiveness and increasing your knowledge of automation best practices. 

These are must have resources that can accelerate every automation pro’s career. Don’t miss out! Register to reserve your spot —>

Pandemic-Proof Your Service Desk with Automation for MS-Teams

Author: Guy Nadivi

I’m going to assume that just about everyone reading this blog post is affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 7th, 2020, the New York Times reported that at least 316 million Americans — about 95% of the country — have been told to stay home for at least the next few weeks, and likely longer. That’s forced a lot of organizations to very rapidly change the way they work, and especially for IT, the way they deliver services to an organization’s end users, customers, and partners.

One platform being chosen increasingly more often to deliver those services is Microsoft Teams. When you add automation to MS-Teams, you can create a pandemic-proof way to empower your end users and others with self-service, effectively turning MS-Teams into a virtual service desk operator that’s available 24x7x365

Adding a virtual service desk operator should be high on the list of priorities for IT Operations teams these days, because anecdotal evidence suggests that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their workloads have mostly gone up, and in many cases, way up.

One thing likely to have caused workloads to spike upwards, of course, is the recent & very rapid switchover to remote working.

Numerous government & health officials have encouraged organizations to let their employees work from home, wherever possible, as a way of minimizing community transmission of the Coronavirus.

This created a new reality for those workers, because now that they’re working from home, they can’t just walk over to the help desk cubicle to make a casual request. They might not be able to do it by phone either because the help desk staff is also working from home, and they’re pretty busy right now just trying to maintain the status quo at most organizations.

Maintaining the status quo on its own is a pretty onerous task.

Ayehu’s customers, partners, and prospects have been telling us that IT Operations is already inundated with things like:

  • Application Issues
  • System Alerts
  • Outages
  • And of course the ever popular Password Resets

This represents just a fraction of the many incidents, requests, & projects that IT Operations is responsible for.

Now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of all that, IT has been tasked with this massive emergency project to start supporting most if not all people working remotely. It’s an absolute tsunami of work, and it’s further overwhelming IT Operations staff.

I think everyone can agree that this massive transition to remote working can be categorized as “unplanned work” for just about every IT Operations team.

It just so happens that last month, PagerDuty conducted a survey about the impact of unplanned work on IT Professionals. I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of the results in particular.

Nearly 1/3 of respondents, 31% have said they “considered leaving a job due to too much unplanned work”. That should be pretty startling to anyone in IT management, especially right now, because if 1/3 of your team is thinking about leaving due to unplanned work, what will that do to your IT operation?

This isn’t a hypothetical scenario either, because as it turns out, 21%, over one-fifth responded that they actually have left a job due to too much unplanned work! So again, ask yourself what would happen to your SLA’s, ticket queues, etc. if one-fifth of your IT professionals just got up & walked out? I’m guessing it would drastically complicate things even more than they already are.

During this pandemic, many of you have no doubt heard the term “Flattening The Curve”, which refers to slowing, not stopping, the number of sick people who have to go to the hospital for treatment. Flattening the Curve is all about minimizing the number of cases that doctors, nurses, & hospitals have to deal with simultaneously so that the healthcare system doesn’t collapse.

And flattening the curve, of course, is one of the main reasons so many organizations are justifying sending people home to work remotely.

Flattening the Curve for the Healthcare System

But how about “Flattening the Surge” for IT professionals so that service desks & other operational teams don’t buckle under the strain?

Just like the healthcare system, IT Operations has a capacity threshold too. If the # of daily incidents, requests, etc. come in too high & too fast, IT Operations might collapse. Remember what PagerDuty’s survey said your IT staff might do because of too much unplanned work?

The way to avoid that disaster, the way to pandemic-proof your service desk, is with automation for MS-Teams.

Flattening the Surge for IT Operations

Thanks to COVID-19 causing so many people to work remotely, the NATURE of work is changing. That change will almost certainly carry over once the pandemic ends, and the all-clear signal has been given.

I want to share with you what work might look like post-pandemic from the perspective of Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365. He recently said:

“It’s clear to me there will be a new normal…… We don’t see people going back to work and having it be all the same. There are different restrictions to society, there are new patterns in the way people work. There are societies that are thinking of A days and B days of who gets to go into the office and who works remote.”

So he believes there’s going to be a new normal, and that new normal involves a lot more remote work for people who, pre-pandemic, found themselves exclusively in corporate office environments.

One of the products Jared Spataro is responsible for is Microsoft Teams, and the market that MS-Teams is in is called Unified Communications. More recently that space has been referred to by Gartner as the Workstream Collaboration market.

According to Statista, Microsoft’s market share in the Workstream Collaboration space has been growing very steadily, but on March 5th, 2020, things took a dramatic turn. On that day, Jared Spataro, who we just heard from, announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams would be made available to everyone FOR FREE as of March 10th, even if you didn’t have an Office 365 license!

What happened next was truly stunning. The worldwide number of daily active users for Microsoft Teams exploded from 32 million to 44 million very quickly. An increase of 12 million users, about a 37% jump in basically a matter of days.

That definitely caught the attention of Slack, their top competitor. Slack’s TOTAL WORLDWIDE user base is 12 million users! So with their announcement, Microsoft effectively added the equivalent of 1 Slack user base to their own.

Now just to be clear, here at Ayehu we love Slack. It was the first platform we built chatbots for, and we’ll continue building chatbots that enable automation for Slack because it’s a great platform. But when it comes to market share going forward, the writing’s on the wall, and at least in the near-term, this market is probably going to be dominated by Microsoft Teams.

The great news about that is that Microsoft Teams, like other chatbots, can help flatten the surge for IT professionals by diverting calls or tickets or work away from the Service Desk, and shifting that load to end-users for self-service. Combining Microsoft Teams with automation can do more than reduce work volume though, it can also slash MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents & requests, liberate IT staff from doing tedious work & free them up for more important tasks, raise customer satisfaction ratings (an increasingly critical KPI for IT Operations), and last but not least reduce costs.

Let’s drill down a bit deeper on that last value proposition, specifically as it’s often measured by service desks – Cost Per Ticket.

There’s a general industry figure out there, published by Jeff Rumburg of MetricNet, an IT research & advisory practice, that the average cost of an L1 service desk ticket is $20.

However, if you turn any given service request into a self-help or self-service function with a chatbot like MS-Teams, you can drive that cost down by 80% to just $4 per L1 ticket. 80%!

If you’re a CIO, CTO, or any senior IT Executive, and someone tells you there’s a way to reduce your single biggest expenditure on IT Support by 80%, without reducing service effectiveness (in fact, possibly speeding it up), wouldn’t you want to learn more?

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG with all its cool new features & ability to add automation to MS-Teams, download your very own free 30-day full-version trial today.

How Slackbots and Ayehu Add Automation to BMC Helix Remedyforce

Author: Guy Nadivi

BMC Helix Remedyforce is a version of the BMC Remedy platform popular among organizations already using, making it easy to deploy rapidly for IT organizations who value being nimble.

Since that’s a growing segment of the market, and given the surge of interest in chatbots, BMC and Ayehu have partnered to showcase how to add Slackbots and automation to the Helix Remedyforce platform.

BMC Helix Remedyforce provides a robust IT Service Management platform for running an IT organization and supporting the business. It takes a modern customer-focused perspective, and adds in very intuitive self-service capabilities that empowers non-IT staff to request services and solve problems on their own. BMC Helix Remedyforce is comprised of numerous modules, including:

  • Self-Service
  • Service Catalog
  • Knowledge Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Dashboards
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Incident and Problem Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Asset Management
  • Agentless Discovery
  • Client Management
  • Multi-Cloud Data Center Discovery
  • Change and Release Management
  • Mobile Apps for IT and Business
  • Collaboration via Chatter and Chat
  • IT Best Practices and Smart Practices

Together, all this functionality allows BMC Helix Remedyforce to offer a unique value proposition of a short time to value, with light effort, yet still yielding a powerful delivery.

If your organization uses a cloud computing platform like BMC Helix Remedyforce, then being very lean and very responsive is most likely a priority. But there’s a way to take that leanness and responsiveness one level higher to help your organization become a self-driving enterprise through the addition of Slackbots and automation from Ayehu.

At Ayehu, we often talk about the self-driving enterprise, which is our guiding vision that influences every aspect of our automation platform.

What is a self-driving enterprise and how do we define it? Very simply – becoming a self-driving enterprise means becoming less reliant on people, and leveraging intelligent automation to handle more of the robotic kinds of tasks humans really shouldn’t be doing anyways.

Ayehu’s platform comes with numerous features an enterprise needs to become self-driving:

  • SaaS-Ready Multi-Tenancy
  • Agentless architecture
  • Codeless interface
  • And overall it’s very easy to use

It also has two features which really extend automation’s ability to help enterprises become self-driving, and thus less reliant on people:

  • AI and Machine Learning
  • Slackbots, which are an extension of AI and Machine Learning that provide end users with an almost human-like channel as an alternative to calling the help desk everytime they have an incident or a request.

Slackbots of course, are part of the overall chatbot market, which is big and getting bigger. Lest anyone think chatbots are a fad, according to Business Insider, in 2019 the market was worth a bit more than $2 ½ Billion. In 2024 they’re forecasting it will approach $10 Billion!

That’s a compound annual growth rate of over 29% a year. Very impressive growth!

I think we can safely say that chatbots are here to stay.

Gartner published a report about the chatbot market (“Market Guide for Conversational Platforms: July 30, 2019 – ID G00367775), which calculated that “31% of enterprise CIOs have already deployed conversational platforms.”

That number “represents a 48% year-over-year growth in interest.”

This is a strong leading indicator that the market is ready, if not eager, for conversational AI in the form of things like Slackbots.

One big reason enterprises are so eager for conversational AI and Slackbots is the impact they’re having on one of IT’s biggest KPI’s – Cost Per Ticket.

There’s a general industry figure published by Jeff Rumburg of MetricNet, an IT research and advisory practice, that a service desk’s average cost per L1 ticket is $20.

However, if you turn any given service request into a self-help or self-service function with chatbots, you can drive that cost down by 80% to just $4 per L1 ticket. 80%!

If you’re a CIO, CTO, or any senior IT Executive, and someone tells you that there’s a way to reduce your single biggest expenditure on IT Support by 80%, without reducing service effectiveness (in fact, possibly speeding it up), you’re probably going to want to hear more.

Enterprises are looking at chatbots as a way to divert calls or tickets or work away from the Service Desk, meaning people, and re-routing that load to chatbots, meaning software.

BTW – It’s not just because of bottom line costs and reducing calls and/or ticket volume to the service desk.

There are other value propositions for enterprise IT executives deploying chatbots:

  • Slashing MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents and requests
  • Liberating staff from doing tedious work so they’re freed up for more important tasks
  • And last but not least, raising customer satisfaction ratings, an increasingly critical KPI for IT

Today, there’s another big reason to start using chatbots – the Coronavirus COVID-19.

The Coronavirus pandemic is creating a new reality for everyone, and that’s led to widespread adoption of numerous precautions:

  • Washing one’s hands more frequently
  • Not shaking each other’s hands
  • Wearing protective facemasks

Perhaps the most relevant precaution being adopted, from an IT perspective, is the sudden surge in employees and contractors working remotely.

Numerous governments and health officials are imploring organizations to let their employees work from home, wherever possible, as a way of minimizing community transmission of the Coronavirus.

This has created a new reality for those workers, because now that they’re working from home, they can’t just walk over to the help desk cubicle to make a casual request. They might not be able to do it by phone either because the help desk staff is also working from home, and they’re pretty busy right now at most organizations just keeping the lights on.

Wherever remote workers may be though, they can always submit their service requests through a chatbot, and they can do it from both a web or mobile interface 24×7.

The great news about that is that there’s really no training required for someone to start using a chatbot or Slackbot, especially if it’s on their smartphone, an interface they’re already familiar with.

Slackbots can play an increasingly important role in a self-driving enterprise, allowing users to converse with the bot naturally (so to speak), and in their own language. The bot can understand the request, or if not, request clarification. Once it has the information it needs, the bot simply goes out and executes the request. It’s just that straightforward.

In addition to BMC Helix Remedyforce, there are many other systems you can quickly plug into Ayehu, which then acts as an integration hub across just about every platform in your environment.  This allows your users to initiate automated tasks via chatbot for every system you integrate with Ayehu. Best of all, almost every system Ayehu connects to can be seamlessly integrated without writing a single line of code.

If your organization aspires to be a self-driving enterprise, Ayehu automation + BMC Helix Remedyforce + Slack chatbots can provide a powerful combination which add value to such IT functions as:

  • Incident resolution
  • Alert-driven notification
  • Cross-IT change management
  • Service request management
  • Configuration management and infrastructure provisioning

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG v1.6 with all its cool new features, download your very own free 30-day trial.

Introducing Ayehu NG v1.6 – New Advanced Features

Author: Guy Nadivi

If you’re an existing user of Ayehu NG, or even if you’re just thinking about trying us on for size, you probably know that one of the core strengths of our solution is how easily and quickly you can plug Ayehu into various ITSM platforms, cyber security tools, operating systems, messaging and notification solutions, and increasingly chatbots and AI services.  Almost all of these integrations can be activated seamlessly without writing a single line of code. 

And the purpose of providing you with all these pre-built integrations and connectors that make up our ever-expanding ecosystem, is to simplify your ability to orchestrate automation across any platform in your environment.  All from a single pane of glass!

We add new integrations and their accompanying activities to Ayehu on an on-going basis, but sometimes, that hasn’t been quick enough for some of our customers and prospects. 

In our last release of NG, v1.5, we introduced you to its new Activity Designer.

This new functionality allowed you to build your own activities from scratch, in Python, C#, or .NET.  Many of our customers use the Activity Designer to create activities for actions against external systems that we don’t currently connect to. For example, you can use it to connect to Dropbox, Google, or any other third-party system that has accessible APIs.


In this new version 1.6 of NG, we’ve added a software development kit.  This new SDK means that now, in addition to being able to build custom activities, you can build entire custom integrations!  So if you’d like to integrate Ayehu with a platform we don’t currently have an integration with, you can do it yourself.  This might be especially helpful if you’ve got a homegrown application that’s the only one of its kind, and you want to automate certain tasks for it.  You can do that with the new SDK, and orchestrate the workflows from right inside Ayehu NG, just like you do for your other platforms.

NG-to-NG Migration Tool

In the past, migrating an NG workflow from a pre-production environment like DEV or TEST was a bit challenging.

In release 1.6 though it becomes a breeze with our new NG-to-NG Migration Tool.  This tool makes moving workflows from a DEV or TEST environment much simpler because it brings over almost all the entities associated with that workflow into your PRODUCTION environment.

BTW – this comprehensive migration can be done on a single workflow or an entire folder of workflows.

Slack Bot

Many of you have been taking advantage of Ayehu’s integration with Slack to build intelligent bots which provide your end users with powerful self-service remediation capabilities, that have eased the strain on your service desks.

In version 1.6, we’ve greatly simplified the process of configuring a Slack bot to just one click.  On top of that, we’ve also activated an “Add to Slack” button on our Slack Integration page so you can easily register your bot with Slack.

Configurable Password Policy

Ayehu NG v1.6 now has enhanced security for configuring default password policy. This means that passwords for all new accounts will be much stronger.  You can now set your own default password strength and parameters based on your organization’s security needs.

So if your password standard requires 12 characters, two special characters, and a number, you can now set this as default and it will be enforced across all local accounts in your environment. If you prefer synching accounts from your Active Directory, then NG will default instead to the password policies you’ve established in AD.

Updated Installer

Another improvement NG v1.6 introduces is an updated installer, which simplifies installation while also providing greater visibility into the process.

In the image seen here, you can review all the components to be installed on a component selection tree.  The most popular components are selected by default, but you can easily toggle the ones you don’t want. We’ve also added a pre-requisite screen check to ensure that the installation will complete successfully, and to let you know if any minimum installation requirements are lacking.

Refreshed Login Page

This new feature is more about aesthetics than anything else, but we’ve refreshed the login page with a bit more of a dynamic look and feel to it.


BMC Helix Remedyforce Integration

Finally this newest release of NG includes an integration for BMC’s Helix Remedyforce.  It’s basically a duplicate of the existing BMC Remedyforce integration capabilities but on BMC’s Helix platform. This new integration allows you to Create, Update, and Get records from Helix Remedyforce, as well as execute SOQL queries.

If you’re interested in test driving NG v1.6 with all its cool new features, download your very own free 30-day trial version here.

To watch a replay of the live webinar and see these new features in action, click the image below.