We all face three IT Process Automation imperatives that have a major impact on business profitability:
- Deploying innovative services (which have increased system complexity)
- Maintaining service levels and improving system uptime
- Reducing operating costs (which have grown in parallel with the growth in IT system complexity)
Given these challenges, Run Book Automation (aka IT Process Automation) offers the opportunity to enable significant gains on all three fronts.
Why Complexity is a Good Thing Again
Over the years, we’ve been attacking the word ‘complexity’: The implication was that complexity was unnecessary, difficult to manage, and thus needlessly expensive. But today, we are achieving fantastic savings in capital expenses while increasing flexibility. Solutions such as virtualization and cloud computing, security, network management are smart and robust, yet (unavoidably) complex in their very nature.
So the battle for IT can now be targeted not necessarily at ‘reducing complexity’, but rather on ‘improving the efficiency’ of managing across the variety of complex IT domains. In other words, the goal is to achieve consistent service levels, higher quality of offerings and cost optimization.
IT Process Automation is the Key
Till now, each of the various IT systems has been optimized in and of itself… But we haven’t yet optimized the day-to-day operational activity and troubleshooting diagnostic steps that keeps these systems working together. As much as we all want to believe that our environment can become one well-greased machine that requires no human interaction, it just isn’t a reality. This is not because we haven’t figured out how to get people out of the loop. It is because in most cases, people are an integral part of that loop!
But having people in the loop doesn’t mean everything needs to be rote, manual actions. Run Book Automation has emerged on the scene specifically to meet this challenge.
A Run Book Automation Example
Let’s demonstrate with an example. It’s perhaps the simplest of examples, which you’ve been through one or two or a thousand times. (If not, then congratulations. You are the only IT manager in the world whose users know how to manage their passwords.)
- A user forgets his/her PC workstation login password (most likely at 7am or noon rush hour, when you have no time for that)
- He/she calls IT Support to request a password reset. (“Urgent!” of course…)
- IT Admin goes through a handful of steps:
1. Bring up the pwd reset screen
2. Access the security protocol screen
3. Challenge the user with identity verification
4. Authorize the pwd reset
5. Guide the user in how to proceed
While password reset has become fully automated on most external websites, corporate security protocols typically do not allow for full process automation of internal password management. (And rightfully so, I might add.) So any attempt to fully automate the process is dead in the water.
But why throw out the baby with the bathwater? If an automation platform does the routine work for us, but still allows for two-way communication with the IT admin, we can turn 10 minute tasks into 30 second tasks (done on the go, from your Blackberry or iPhone)! And without adding even a drop of additional risk or corporate policy violation.
What Should a Run Book Automation Solution Provide?
The above example looks at a very simple IT task, which is very compact in comparison to most of our IT processes. But it still highlights the capabilities that a good Run Book Automation solution needs to bring to the table. It’s quite simple:
- Event-driven visual workflow (No coding, just drag and drop and plain common sense!)
- Rule-based engine
- Plug-and-play integration with IT platforms
- Bi-directional communication between the system and the people, using convenient channels (email, SMS, IVR, IM)
- Centralized dashboard for process management in real time
I think that Glenn O’Donnell of Forrester says it best when he says “Be the automator, not the automated”. Run Book Automation recognizes that people are part of the IT process. So let’s accept this reality, and use it as a strength, via Run Book Automation.