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.

How to Automate Pre- and Post-Patch Management

Author: Guy Nadivi

Patch management is considered by many to be one of the more vital functions provided by the IT or Security Operations team. That’s especially true nowadays when there are so many threats from hackers, and so many bugs found in systems after they’ve gone into production. Software patching is critical for preventing data breaches, server crashes, and lots of other bad outcomes from various vulnerabilities.

There are many options for you to choose from when considering a patch management solution. Ayehu has no favorites in that regard, and just to be clear, we’re not going to be talking today about our automation platform replacing any of those solutions. What we’re going to focus on actually is automating the equally important activities adjacent to the application of a software patch.

That wasn’t one of the original use cases Ayehu NG was intended for, but we’re very much a customer-driven product, and it turns out that our customers were the ones who realized they could use our automation platform to streamline patch management and dramatically improve their overall process.

Ayehu believes that streamlining the patch management process while ensuring its thoroughness in complying with organizational standards, is a critically overlooked aspect of many organizations’ lifecycle management strategy.

Patch management tools are (mostly) good at doing 3 things:

  • Pre-patch checks: This includes things you’re likely familiar with such as identifying dependencies, testing patches out on a test environment before applying them to a production system, etc. BTW – There’s a number of great checklists on the internet that include best practices to implement when doing a pre-patch check.
  • Applying patches: This one is self-explanatory and doesn’t really require any elaboration.
  • Post-patch checks: This includes rebooting machines that require it, performing a smoke test to ensure everything that worked correctly before the patch was applied still does, and executing rollbacks wherever problems are uncovered.

And that’s pretty much it. Those are the 3 things patch management solutions do well.

Customers tell us their biggest pain point with patch management tools is their one-size-fits-all rigidness. Vendors in that niche just assume everyone’s patch management process should be aligned with the way their solution works out of the box. Basically, their philosophy seems to boil down to you can have your patch management solution in any flavor you like, as long as it’s vanilla.

The vanilla approach doesn’t work for everyone though.

There are probably as many different patch management standard operating procedures (SOP’s) as there are organizations performing patch management.

And that’s where you’ll find the biggest gap among patch management vendors – their relative lack of customization, which many organizations require to ensure conformity with their unique enterprise SOP’s. These organizations want more flexibility from the patch management tool so its workflow conforms to their way of doing things, instead of the other way around.

That’s where Ayehu comes in.

We recognize that organizations want to orchestrate their patch management process their way, according to their schedule, and based on the outcomes they desire. So Ayehu NG’s integration and automation capabilities allows organizations to use best-of-breed tools for all aspects of the patch management process.

For example, Ayehu enables you to easily incorporate:

  • ITSM platforms like ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, JIRA, etc. into any aspect of your change management process.
  • VM platforms like VMWare, Azure, etc., can be incorporated
  • And even notification tools like Twilio, Everbridge, PagerDuty, etc. can be part of your change management workflow

All of these, together with whatever patch management platform you use, can all be orchestrated into one finely-tuned patch management process that works the way you want it to, so that you can ensure compliance with enterprise SOP’s and adhere to your organization’s best practices.

And BTW – If there are other tools that are part of your patch management process, even proprietary in-house solutions, Ayehu can integrate them as well.

Continuing with the ice cream metaphor, you can think of Ayehu as the ice cream scooper. This higher-level control over the process allows you to pick and choose whatever flavored IT system you’d like to incorporate into your patch management workflow, and to orchestrate it exactly where you want it to execute.

For pre-patch management, that means you can do things like initialize your patch management process via submission of a change request to your ITSM solution. Just send in the request, let Ayehu do the rest.

Or you can simply send Ayehu an email to kick off the patch management process.

If you only want to apply the latest patch to a specific list of your servers, for whatever reason, you can create a list of them in Excel, leave the spreadsheet on a shared drive, and point the Ayehu workflow at it so your patch only gets applied to the servers in that spreadsheet.

Another very popular use of Ayehu NG in the patch management process is taking VM snapshots to create rollback points prior to applying the patch, in case something in the patching process leads to less than desirable results?

What about post-patch management?

With Ayehu orchestrating the process, you can automatically update ITSM tickets following conclusion of the patching process. This can include documenting the details on all the servers that got updated, what specific patches were added, and any other information you’d like to keep track of for future reference.

Another popular post-patch management task is notifying people and groups about the status or completion of the patch management process, which Ayehu can do for you via email, text, or even by phone.

All of these tasks and many more can be included in your overall patch management process when Ayehu is used to orchestrate all your different-flavored IT systems into providing the specific outcome you want.

In October 2019, the Ponemon Institute published a study called “COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF GAPS IN VULNERABILITY RESPONSE”.

One of the questions they asked was “What steps would you take to improve your organization’s patch management?”

The #1 response from about 3,000 respondents was “Increase Automation”. 45% said that was the top thing they would do to improve their organization’s patch management.

Another question asked by the Ponemon Institute was regarding how automation impacted the time to respond to vulnerabilities.

80% said that automation reduced their time to respond either slightly or significantly, with more than 2/3 saying significantly.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that orchestrates your overall patch management process, click here to download your very own free 30-day trial version today.

To watch the full recording of the webinar, click the graphic below.

Hired! How to Put Digital Labor to Work for Your Service Desk

How to Put Digital Labor to Work for Your Service Desk

Author: Guy Nadivi

With the proliferation of all kinds of bots the last few years, “digital labor” is a term you’re going to be hearing more and more about going forward.

Lee Coulter, who chairs the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation says that “digital labor” is really just another term for “intelligent automation”. However, digital labor represents a paradigm shift that’s disruptive to the status quo. From what we’ve seen so far, you can expect that it will change how we work. It will change the kinds of work we do, and it will also create enormous new opportunities for cost cutting, as well as career opportunities for those who will be working with and managing digital labor.

A few years ago, an analyst at HfS Research coined the phrase “Welcome to Robotistan”, which referred to a corporate world where humans intermingled with virtual FTE’s, primarily in the form of bots that could take on the boring, repetitive tasks so many humans despise doing. With the proliferation of automation the last few years, that vision has turned into a reality, perhaps quicker than many thought it would.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing interest really skyrocket from organizations wanting to deploy chatbots to relieve humans of robotic-type tasks, and free them up for more important things, like for example, reshaping the digital workplace to accommodate all the people now working from home.

The worldwide chatbot market continues to experience extraordinary growth. According to Business Insider, in 2019 the market was worth a bit more than $2 ½ Billion, but they’re forecasting that by 2024 it will approach $10 Billion! That’s a compound annual growth rate of over 29% a year, which by any measure is very impressive.

Last year Salesforce.com released a major report entitled the “State of Service”. In this study they found that nearly a quarter of their respondents (23%) currently use AI chatbots and nearly another third (31%) said they plan to use them within 18 months.

That represents a projected growth rate of 136% in the use of AI chatbots from Spring of 2019 to early Autumn of 2020. Another clear indication of serious growth!

As we’ve often said at Ayehu, the biggest factor driving enterprise adoption of AI chatbots is probably service desk Cost Per Ticket.

The generally-accepted industry figure for the average cost of an L1 service desk ticket is $20. Enterprises deploying AI chatbots to enable self-help or self-service capabilities for their end users are finding that they can drive down the cost of those L1 tickets to just $4. Tell a CIO, CTO, or any senior IT Executive that there’s a way to reduce their single biggest expenditure on IT Support by 80%, and they’re likely going to be very interested in hearing more.

However, AI chatbots with automation that shift ticket requests to end-users for self-service can do much more for the Service Desk than just lower ticket volume and costs.

When AI chatbots are deployed as digital labor, service desks can also:

  • Slash MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents and requests
  • Liberate IT staff from doing tedious work and free them up for more important tasks
  • Raise customer satisfaction ratings, an increasingly critical KPI for IT Operations

Last year, Ayehu conducted an inquiry with a Gartner VP focused on the AI chatbot market, and he shared with us what they believe the biggest value propositions of digital labor are, based on an organization’s AI chatbot maturity level.

If your organization is interested in the technology but hasn’t deployed anything yet, in other words you’re in pre-production or your plans are still on the drawing board, then your biggest value proposition from digital labor is going to be cost reduction and deflection rates.

If your organization already has AI chatbot solutions in place, then your #1 benefit from adding automation and turning that AI chatbot into true digital labor will be increased customer satisfaction.

Regardless of whether you’re in pre-production and have yet to deploy digital labor, or have rolled out chatbots and are looking to add automation, here are some questions you should ask yourself and have answers to in order to guide your enterprise to the best possible outcomes.

What would AI chatbots mean inside of my enterprise?

How would they change business processes? How would they impact our cost structure? How would they increase our capacity?

How do I want our people to be able to work with digital labor?

This is another important question to ask in order to clearly demarcate where digital labor ends, and escalation to humans begins.

How do I want our people and digital labor to engage with customers?

This is actually important to answer whether the customers are internal or external.

There are a lot of important questions to ask your digital labor vendor as well before deploying, but here are 3 that really stand out.

What kind of scalability would an AI chatbot be capable of inside of my enterprise?

How many users can it handle? How many inquiries can it handle simultaneously? This is very important to know beforehand.

How easy is it to use?

How hard is it going to be to configure the AI chatbot for my enterprise? Do I need expensive highly-skilled programmers, or will one of my junior-level sys admins be enough?

Finally, how many other systems can I integrate my digital labor with?

The number of platforms your digital labor can connect to will dictate how much of your workload it can automate for you.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that powers your digital labor efforts, download your very own free 30-day trial version today from the link below:

Download Free 30-Day Trial

Post-Pandemic IT: How Data Driven Automation Will Remake IT Better and More Efficient Than Ever

Post-Pandemic IT: How Data Driven Automation Will Remake IT Better and More Efficient Than Ever

                  Author: Guy Nadivi

The Coronavirus pandemic and its effects are likely to be with us for a while, but this health crisis will eventually subside, and once it does, many are wondering what things will look like on the other side, especially for IT. This question is particularly pressing in light of how many IT organizations very rapidly changed the way they work, and began delivering services to their enterprise’s end users, customers, and partners from remote locations.

In retrospect, we may look back on this period as heralding the acceleration of digital transformation for many organizations, much of which will be directly due to data driven automation.

In Q1 of this year, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a leading IT industry analyst and consulting firm, conducted an exhaustive global study on automation in the enterprise, spearheaded by their Vice-President Dennis Drogseth. Ayehu partnered with EMA to share some of the more intriguing highlights from that report with our audience, and then used the results as an input into developing some predictions for what post-pandemic IT will look like.

One of EMA’s findings was that automation has been making steady inroads into modernizing enterprise processes.

EMA also surveyed their respondents about which type of automation was at the vanguard of efforts to unify automation across IT. Interestingly, IT Process Automation was first, while RPA was last.

One of EMA’s most significant findings was that 90% of respondents viewed the coupling of AI/Analytics with automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. That in turn led to the uncovering of some other intriguing correlations.

 

Finally, EMA also uncovered the top obstacles to automating in enterprises that have not made good progress with automation. (Boldfaced results are the obstacles that were technical in nature.)

 

 

After combining #5 and #7, we boiled the technical obstacles down to 3:

  • Product complexity
  • Too much customization required
  • And lack of integration

Let’s examine each one of these a bit more closely.

Product Complexity

When it comes to automation, complexity is something we often hear about at Ayehu, primarily from organizations that have used automation vendors whose so-called “automation” actually involves lots of scripting.

This is why for many years now our mantra at Ayehu has been “Scripting DOES NOT EQUAL Automation”.

The idea behind automation is kind of similar to the idea behind a car having an automatic transmission instead of a stick shift.

Not everybody can drive a car with a stick shift. It’s more difficult for many people, requires additional driving skills, and increases the complexity of the product, which in this case would be the automobile.

Just about everybody however, can drive a car with an automatic transmission. You just get in the car, start it, decide if you want to go forwards or backwards by putting it in drive or reverse, and step on the gas. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

 

That’s similar to Ayehu’s philosophy on automation. Anyone should be able to create automation workflows, and it shouldn’t require any scripting, programming, or coding skills of any kind whatsoever. We’re often fond of saying that Ayehu is so simple to use, even a junior-level sysadmin who’s never written a single line of code in their life can become an automation wizard with just a few hours of training.

Customization Requirements

Every organization has its own way of doing things, and the automation tool needs to conform to that. Ayehu’s approach allows you to customize automated processes to fit your organization’s needs by taking a “Lego building block” approach to workflow creation.

Just about everyone who played with Legos as a kid already knows that Lego blocks are generally very basic and for the most part, fit into each other universally.

That basic simplicity and universal interconnectivity however, allows you to make an infinite number of forms and structures from very simple components.

That’s exactly how Ayehu enables you to rapidly customize workflows to fit an infinite number of IT processes. For those that were holding back on automation due to trepidation over the customization requirements, Ayehu’s flexibility and adaptability should ease any lingering concerns.

In case you haven’t seen the interface of Ayehu’s automation tool, here’s a screenshot that shows you what I’m talking about.

As you can see, it’s a kind of canvas where you build your workflow through a pretty simple, easy to learn drag-and-drop interface.

You have a selection of over 500 activities (or Lego building blocks) to choose from when building your workflow. Most of these are platform specific. You can see Active Directory, Amazon EC2, BMC Remedy and many other platform activities there on the left. All of these activities have been thoroughly tested, debugged, streamlined, and are ready to deploy in your environment.

After dragging-and-dropping your activities onto the canvas, you simply click on them to do some basic parameter configuration. No need for any coding.

Lack of Integrations

Ayehu has an ever-growing ecosystem of pre-built integrations and connectors available that are intended to simplify your automation process. Whether it’s an ITSM platform like ServiceNow or BMC Remedy, a monitoring tool like Solarwinds, infrastructure solutions like VMware, or just about anything at all, Ayehu can seamlessly integrate into it without needing to write a single line of code. The goal here is for Ayehu to be your single pane of glass for orchestrating automation across any platform in your environment, and that’s another way we help you overcome obstacles to automation at your enterprise.

Now that we’ve addressed some of the obstacles to automation that EMA’s report uncovered, we’re going to take a critical look at what Post-Pandemic IT will look like. We’ve got some very specific predictions we want to share with you, based on a synthesis of what EMA’s report uncovered, customer trends Ayehu has observed directly, and some published material by various thought leaders on this topic.

Before doing that though, I’m going to lay a bit of foundational context by talking about the current economic trends we’re all impacted by, as this is a big driver to some of our post-pandemic predictions.

At the time of this blog post’s writing, recent unemployment numbers have been nothing short of an economic horror show. The situation is bad, and we’re being told it’s going to get worse.

 

What does worse mean? Let’s get some perspective on things by looking at the numbers.

During the Great Recession, a little over a decade ago, the US lost a total of 8.8 million jobs. In the Information Technology field, there were 297,000 jobs lost. That’s a small percentage of the overall jobs lost. However, as a percentage of all the jobs in IT at the time, it was nearly 10%. So 1 out of every 10 jobs in IT were lost during the Great Recession, which lasted about 18 months.

Now we come to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which for the purposes of this economic discussion we’ll say began at some point in March of 2020. So far, as of the latest April unemployment report, we’ve already lost a total of over 20 million jobs. That’s more than twice as many lost during the Great Recession, and it happened in just a matter of weeks!

You may also have heard that this represents a 14.7% OFFICIAL unemployment rate, which is the highest we’ve had since the Great Depression. But earlier this week, the Treasury Secretary was asked if it was possible the UNOFFICIAL unemployment rate was actually higher (as high as 25%). He acknowledged that it very well could be, which is jaw-dropping.

In the IT field so far, there have been 254,000 jobs lost. Over a quarter million jobs lost! Given the total number of IT jobs in March 2020, that represents 8.8% of the industry. In just one month due to the pandemic, our industry has lost almost as many jobs as were lost in 18 months of the Great Recession!

BTW – every number just quoted is taken directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So how bad will it get? Well, no one knows for sure of course, but we can take an educated guess based on some of the projections out there.

For the total duration of the pandemic, there are estimates that ultimately 47 million jobs will be lost. How many of those are in IT? That could be AT LEAST 500,000 jobs, which would equate to somewhere around 20% of the industry.

Perhaps some of you might be thinking, well this is still early days, and as the situation develops, we could actually see job growth in IT due to the surge in demand for more IT services. Perhaps you’re right. Afterall, given how the pandemic has anecdotally awakened many organizations to the need for accelerating their digital transformation, there may in fact be a big surge in hiring of IT professionals.

So far though, that clearly hasn’t happened. In fact, once Federal bailouts like the Paycheck Protection Program run out of money, there could also be an acceleration in contraction of employee headcount in the IT field.

Given that reality, we’ve chosen to base our projections on the direction we actually see things going, as that seems to generally be the most prudent thing to do.

Here’s one more thing everybody needs to take into consideration.

If headcount reduction impacts your IT operations, it almost certainly WILL NOT RESULT in a corresponding relaxation of strict service level agreement targets. If your organization is obligated to continue meeting certain mean-time-to-resolution commitments, and you’re about to lose or have already lost some staff, you’re going to have a tough time meeting your SLA targets. Depending on how your SLAs are written, that could mean incurring some stiff financial penalties.

Just another data point to consider, as I proceed to present you with our predictions for what a post-pandemic IT will look like.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #1: Digital Transformations Will Be Accelerated

If it isn’t already, expect digital transformation to become a major focus for many IT organizations, including yours.

Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow said on a recent earnings call that they’re seeing “…that customers who are farthest along in their digital transformation are better equipped to manage this crisis. Companies lagging behind are realizing that they now have a burning platform. Accelerating digital transformation has become a business imperative.” He then went on to predict that over $7 trillion would be spent on digital transformation over the next three years.

Digital Transformation, of course, has been one of the bigger buzzwords of late. Of all its many definitions, the one we like best is “the collection of technology, process, and even cultural disruptions an organization adopts to maximize its competitiveness in the 4th industrial revolution.” Those technology disruptions can include things like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and of course automation.

For IT departments, digital transformation ultimately boils down to optimizing and accelerating delivery of computing services, regardless of whether the customer is external or internal, or whether they’re working from home or sitting in a corporate office.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #2: AIOps Deployments Will Be Accelerated

90% of the respondents to EMA’s exhaustive survey reported viewing the merging of Artificial Intelligence with analytics and automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. Given the massive paradigm shift that working from home brings to an organization’s infrastructure, AIOps is being increasingly viewed as the best solution to monitor and manage on-premise and remote worker systems.

One example we’ve been hearing a lot about lately is the massive increase in VPN usage as a result of the upsurge in staff working from home. This has led to an increased need for monitoring and managing VPN license servers, to ensure that with all the VPNs being used remotely, the license limit isn’t suddenly breached, thus crashing the VPN server and creating an outage for everybody in the organization logged into it.

At this point, the new norm of working from home is virtually certain to become a long-term permanent consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially considering the liabilities organizations may incur by bringing workers back to open office plans with shared desks and common areas. It’s just very hard to see how that arrangement can possibly continue.

There are discussions about retrofitting these types of work areas with partitions and sneeze guards, but it remains to be seen how effective that’s going to be, particularly compared to just letting people continue working from home. That’s especially true now that everyone can see working remotely isn’t the productivity apocalypse many control-freak executives thought it might be.

As a result, expect to see the accelerated use of AIOps due to this monumental workplace transition.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #3: Accelerating Implementation of AI Chatbots

There was already a trend towards deploying AI chatbots as 24x7x365 virtual operators that enable self-service automation for service desk requests. The momentum driving that shift pre-pandemic was the huge reduction chatbots delivered in cost per ticket on L1 requests ($4 vs. industry standard $20).

The COVID-19 outbreak however has placed pressure on many IT organizations to expedite the rollout of AI chatbots, and reroute call volume away from humans working at the service desk towards virtual operators that are always on-call. If your organization suffers any headcount reduction as a result of the economic situation, and even if it doesn’t, there’s likely going to be a much bigger emphasis on using AI chatbots to facilitate more self-service incident remediation and request fulfillment.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG with all its cool new features and get a head-start on post-pandemic IT, download your very own free 30-day trial version from the link below:

https://info.ayehu.com/download-free-30-day-trial-ng

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 Salesforce.com, 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.

https://info.ayehu.com/download-free-30-day-trial-ng

Slash MTTR with Intelligent Automation for AIOps

Author: Guy Nadivi

There seems to be confusion in the marketplace about the term “AIOps” as far as what it means exactly, but there’s much less confusion about what it can do – Improve IT’s customer satisfaction scores by reducing noise, lowering call volume to the service desk, and slashing MTTR.

These are the types of benefits every IT organization is demanding, and the good news is they’re attainable right now.

Ayehu has partnered with Edge Technologies to show you a vision of what that looks like, and give you a glimpse at the promise that AIOps can bring to your IT organization.

Many of you have worked for years in the IT Operations and Systems Management space. Some of you may recall that in the mid-‘90s, Enterprise Systems Management and Business Service Management (or BSM for short) emerged as new disciplines that would bring together distributed systems and mainframes into a single pane of glass to solve problems. As you may know, Gartner killed off the BSM category in 2016 because vendors failed to deliver on these promised benefits.

In many large enterprises, the picture today still remains the same. Does this scene look familiar to you?

The CIO is still asking “why has customer experience dropped for our core service?.  The IT Ops Manager is unsure what the cause might be as everything looks good thanks to fantastic ”monitoring”.  And the SRE can’t make sense of any of the screens because he/she is suffering from information overload and isn’t sure where to look. No wonder MTTR is high!

Even with today’s AIOps vendors, and a market where new ones seem to be entering the space every week, the promise of universal views into your operations remains elusive.  Nevertheless, it’s still a highly sought-after goal.

So the question is, what is preventing progress towards that goal?

Today, we still continue seeing knowledge and visibility silos across the enterprise from business units, support, operations, and engineering functions all the way through to 3rd-party service providers.

This is one of the main challenges to overcome if AIOps is going to succeed. Internal politics, tool proliferation, and un-integrated workflows continue contributing to the slow adoption of AIOps.

Sound familiar?

The promise of a “single pane of glass” never materialized leaving teams to use point products with limited integration and different data formats. The result?  A huge and costly inventory of tools to manage and operate leading to more frustration.

It’s widely accepted across the industry that most monitoring dashboards today fail to provide required operational views that business needs.

AIOps aims to fully automate IT Operations workflows, but the reality today is that enterprises still struggle with tool sprawl resulting in the “swivel chair” effect. Your triage and remediation workflows are still very much reactive in nature, but the goal is to prevent incidents from happening in the first place as much as possible, right?

Also, in our experience over the years, the tools used today are more than likely to be replaced at some point, so the best approach is to have a vendor agnostic data visualization and integration solution for your dashboarding needs. The tools supplying the dashboard data feeds will come and go.  Replacing them is a simple configuration change in Edge.

In order to break the knowledge and visibility silo challenges and create intelligent operations dashboards for increased AIOps adoption, think of the process in three parts:

Part 1:   Integrate all required data sources ranging from customer experience and your enterprise IT domains to give business and service health views by role. For example, executive, manager, and analyst views.

Part 2:   Integrate your existing event management, monitoring, and IT service management tools at the data and web layers to maximize your existing tool investments, skills, and standard operating procedures to become more proactive than ever before.

Part 3:   Integrate your process automation tools (such as Ayehu) to create convenient and frictionless workflows that can be executed in either attended or unattended mode.

Now that we better understand the problems and obstacles in the way of making progress, let’s walk through the process of creating ideal intelligent operations dashboards for your AIOps initiatives by uniquely combining your data and tools into role-based views of your business and services.

When we think about digital transformation and the outcomes businesses are looking for, one of the goals CIOs have longed to achieve is ensuring that business and enterprise IT are completely aligned. This has been a goal for as long as most of us can remember!

To reflect that in our intelligent operations dashboards, let’s start from the top-level (see graphic below),which is a set of first-level business, customer, and end-user experience (EUE) dashboards that appeal to all levels of the organization.

The second level is a triage dashboard, designed to allow teams to quickly identify whether the server, network or application layer is the source of an outage or service health issue.

The third level is a dependency-mapping dashboard that links application, network, and server infrastructure together in topology views to understand the business impact.

The fourth level is individualized dashboards specifically designed for teams and dedicated roles — application, infrastructure, and network monitoring dashboards.This level of dashboard is where SMEs can directly access your existing best-in-class tools using Edge’s unique web UI proxying capability.

The fifth level gives you access to your raw data including logs, events, packet traces, and call stack traces for example —so that detailed analysis can be performed in context to the issue being investigated.

By combining your data sources and tools into universal views using a single platform like Edge, you can provide appropriate dashboards to your executives, management, and SMEs that provide them access to the content they need and tasks they need to perform to be successful in their daily jobs.

By combining business and related service health metrics along with the power of integration with your data and tools, you can rapidly identify root cause, fix the problem for good, and slash your key performance indicators such as MTTR. Many Edge customers report having happier customers, greater alignment between business and IT, eradication of visibility silos, and overall better decision making and outcomes from their deployment.

Not least of all, their most valuable assets (people) are more successful in meeting their goals and performing their job tasks.

Now let’s talk a bit about automation.

Digital Transformation is a buzzword you hear a lot about these days.  It doesn’t have one standard definition but can basically be understood to mean the collection of technology, process, and even cultural disruptions an organization adopts to maximize its competitiveness in the 4th industrial revolution.

Those technology disruptions can include things like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and of course automation.

The process disruptions include things like Agile or Six Sigma, and a cultural disruption might be something like repositioning the organization’s focus to be better aligned with the customer journey.

For IT departments, digital transformation ultimately boils down to optimizing and accelerating delivery of computing services, regardless of whether the customer is external or internal.

When it comes to incident monitoring, one thing an IT department can do as part of its digital transformation, is to consolidate the visualization of all their various monitoring tools into a single pane of glass, as Edge Technologies enables.  A unified dashboard providing a 360° view of operations, can also provide an extraordinary opportunity to not only centralize incident monitoring but also to automate incident remediation.  That represents a big step forward in the digital transformation of data centers, and a perfect example of how 1 plus 1 can sometimes equal 3.

A recent paper published by Gartner (ID G00390283 – October 9, 2019) advised its readers that an ideal performance monitoring dashboard framework must aim to “Provide for the rapid triage and remediation of performance issues…”.

No argument there. Ayehu and Edge Technologies agree that combining automation with performance monitoring is central to an ideal dashboard framework.  But perhaps the most important word to emphasize in Gartner’s recommendation is “rapid”.

Unfortunately, “rapid” is not an adjective that the vast majority of service desks can use to describe their MTTR today.

MetricNet, the IT consulting firm that publishes benchmarks, performance metrics, and scorecards for a variety of IT-related activities, claims that the average incident MTTR is 8.40 business hours.  If you’re an end user in an organization who just submitted a ticket to the help desk, you do NOT want to hear that it will take an average of 8.40 business hours to remediate your issue.  On the contrary, you want to know that your IT department is doing everything it can to expedite a resolution for your incident, before it starts hampering your personal productivity.

When it comes to MTTR, your mileage may vary of course, depending on your IT organization’s ticket backlog, user population density, and complexity of tickets handled.

Regardless though, one universal factor that’s slowing down almost all IT organizations is the ever-increasing user demand for IT services, which often leads to growing system complexity in your environment to accommodate that growth, and ultimately results in ever increasing pressure on your staff to keep up. 

However, people don’t scale very well.  Even the very best data center workers can only do so much.  At some point, and that point is pretty much right now, automation has got to do more and more of the repetitive, tedious, laborious tasks all this growth in demand for services and increased system complexity is creating.

That’s why consolidating visualization of all your monitoring tools into a single pane of glass and incorporating automated incident remediation into that dashboard, can give your IT department the critical boost it needs to overcome the lack of human scalability.

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 version from the link below:

https://info.ayehu.com/download-free-30-day-trial-ng

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.

SDK

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.

image001

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.

Automation-Driven Employee Onboarding – From Days to Seconds

Author: Guy Nadivi

It’s really true. Automation-driven employee onboarding can reduce the time that process takes from days to seconds. Actually, in some cases, we’ve heard that at some organizations, onboarding is measured in weeks, not just days.

I was at a VMworld conference in San Francisco a few years ago, and struck up a conversation with someone visiting our booth who said that prior to automating their employee onboarding process, it took them 2 weeks to get new hires fully integrated into their company!

When you calculate the cost of the people involved in onboarding that new hire, as well as the productivity time that new hire lost by not being fully onboarded faster, you quickly realize how expensive this process can be. The phrase “time is money” really applies to the onboarding process, which is why automating it frequently turns out to be such a big win for organizations.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, more commonly referred to as SHRM, the average cost of onboarding an employee is $4,129. Of course, this is an average figure taken from a broad cross-section of companies and industries. Your mileage may vary. Maybe it’s lower. Or maybe it’s higher. MUCH higher.

That $4,129 figure is taken from a 2016 report published by SHRM, and was the most recent number we could find about the cost of onboarding from an independent, reputable source. One thing you can be almost 100% certain of though is that now, towards the end of 2019, that number has likely gone up even higher. How high is hard to say, but there’s no reason to believe that the cost of onboarding employees has gotten any cheaper the last 3 years.

If you’d like to calculate what the cost of onboarding an employee is for your organization, I encourage you to Google “employee onboarding calculator“, and you’ll find numerous websites that can help you determine what your cost is.

There’s probably a pretty good chance that no two organizations have identical onboarding processes. Everyone’s is just a little bit different. Or perhaps A LOT different.

Despite that, there are some aspects to onboarding that are probably universal across most, if not all organizations.

  • First off, onboarding is typically laborious. Many different things need to be done in order to successfully onboard a new hire, and often times these things are primarily manual processes.
  • Onboarding often touches many different things across multiple departments – HR, IT, Facilities Management, etc. The more things your onboarding process touches, the more things that can go wrong, especially if they’re done manually where the potential for human error is always lurking in the background. That’s just a basic application of Murphy’s Law.
  • The process of onboarding can be very time consuming, particularly when some or even all of it is manual. This is true not just for the new hire being onboarded, but also for the people involved in the new hire’s onboarding.

And what are these laborious, error-prone, time-consuming processes I’m referring to? Here’s a list of some, but by no means all, of the tasks involved in many typical onboardings:

  1. Order new employee’s IT equipment
  2. Create new employee’s Active Directory account and  email
  3. Add new employee to calendar and  mailing lists
  4. Create new employee’s logins for primary systems they’ll use
  5. Provision new employee’s virtual machine(s)
  6. Email new employee all new hire documents from HR, including I-9 and W-4 tax forms
  7. Order new employee’s business cards
  8. Submit request for new employee’s office key and/or ID badge
  9. Create new employee’s IP phone (using API calls to Cisco Unified Comm. Manager, for example)

Guess what? In general, all of these tasks can be automated, saving a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of mistakes.

Doing so has some surprising benefits for an organization.

According to SHRM, 69% of employees who experienced great onboarding were still with the company after 3 years!

Now think back to the average cost of an onboarding, and ask yourself – how long would a new hire need to stay at my organization in order for us to break even on them? Hopefully it’s become a little clearer why the better the onboarding experience for your new hires, the more positive financial impact it can have on your organization.

That’s particularly true when it comes to onboarding executives and other high-pay employees.

According to a Harvard Business Review that polled global executives worldwide about their onboarding experience, nearly one third (32%) said their onboarding experience was POOR.

Why does that matter?

It matters because the cost to an organization of replacing a failed executive as a percentage of his or her salary is 213%, according to the Center for American Progress.

If your organization is hiring a highly-paid employee, you really want to make sure that it’s not only the right person, but someone who’s going to stick around long enough to justify the investment in hiring them. Otherwise, it might be much more expensive to lose them.

Now specifically with regards to automating your employee onboarding, here are probably the top 3 benefits:

  1. You’re going to save time, and when it comes to onboarding, the savings often will not be measured in hours but in days or weeks! BTW – I recently learned from Lee Coulter, the Chair of the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation, that a better way to describe time saved by automation is “Hours Returned to the Business”. I think that’s very applicable to automating the onboarding process.
  2. You’re going to save money, that’s not only a result of saving time, but a product of longer retention for new hires.
  3. Finally, you’re going to reduce errors. The more things you do manually, the more opportunities you have for errors. Plain and simple.

Collectively, all these benefits contribute to a KPI that’s become increasingly important to how your department is graded, and in many cases compensated, at least bonus-wise.

I’m talking of course about customer satisfaction ratings. At a lot of organizations, this has become the central metric, or at the very least an extremely important one, for rating performance.

Automating the onboarding process will undoubtedly improve your customer satisfaction ratings.

Here’s something else to consider.

For many organizations out there these days, a good chunk of their new hires are younger employees. I’m talking about the millennial generation, of course, but also early members of the next demographic wave, often referred to as Gen Z.

You probably know that these generations have been raised on Facebook and mobile apps, and generally prefer interfacing with technology rather than people. We know that empirically because we see it for ourselves just about anywhere we look.

A 23-year old young lady in my own family told me that she and her friends consider books to be weird. Books apparently are weird because why would you read something written on processed dead trees when you could just use a smartphone and pull it down from the cloud?

So automating the onboarding process for this demographic is likely to be a bigger factor than you might realize in retention of younger employees. If their first impression as new hires at your organization is that you’re having them do things manually, you’re likely to persuade them that your organization may not be the kind of digitally transformed, progressive environment they want to be working at for 8+ hours a day.

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that if everything discussed up till now applies to onboarding, then it also applies to offboarding, which is basically the same process in reverse.

This is especially true in the case of layoffs when you have a large volume of people who all basically have to be offboarded simultaneously. That’s a recipe for chaos when done manually, but a routine garden-variety process when it’s automated.

Automating the offboarding process also ensures you’ll have properly documented audit logs for compliance and internal review.

Both the onboarding and offboarding processes tend to be low-hanging fruit at most organizations, when it comes to automating procedures that yield big benefits quickly.

How AI Can Reduce Service Desk Ticket Costs from $20 to $4 [Webinar Recap]

Author: Guy Nadivi

It’s the End of the IT Service Desk as We Know it (and We Feel Fine)

If you’ve been paying attention the last few years, you know Digital Transformation is a concept that’s sweeping through many organizations, and fundamentally changing how they operate and deliver value to customers.

There’s some very cool, but still somewhat emerging technologies underpinning this disruption, and you’re no doubt familiar with them. Things such as:

  • Data Science
  • Machine Learning
  • Artificial Intelligence

But in the last couple years, the emerging technology that seems to have garnered the most mindshare faster than any of them is chatbots. That’s right! Chatbots are the coolest kids on the digital transformation block, because they assimilate many of the benefits from data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence into a form that can be used today, and deliver value to your organization and customers right now. As a result, chatbots have emerged as perhaps the most familiar digital transformation experience for end users.

BTW – There isn’t any consensus yet on a single definition of “Digital Transformation”. One thing just about everyone can agree upon though is that shifting more of the laborious, repetitive tasks that people shouldn’t be doing in the first place over to chatbots is a good idea. This becomes especially true when you look at some numbers.

A the 2017 HDI show, Jeff Rumburg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of MetricNet, an IT research and  advisory practice, delivered a presentation on the results of his research into the costs of different service desk access and communication channels. He discovered some amazing disparities.

Jeff found that incidents requiring Vendor Support cost on average a whopping $599 per incident.

If you needed to get IT Support involved (that’s level 3 support), the average cost was $104 per incident.

Desktop Support (level 2) was cheaper, but still relatively expensive at $69 per incident.

Incidents going through the Service Desk, your level 1 support tier, cost $20 per incident. Since level 1 tickets comprise by far the highest volume at most service desks, that’s a logical place to start applying chatbots.

If you can push out incident resolution for level 1 tickets to your end users, enabling them to initiate and remediate their own incidents with chatbots, the cost of support drops down to a very economical $4 per incident. Yeah, wow!

At this point, some more skeptical people in IT might be asking – are chatbots a passing fad or are they here to stay? Let’s look at the objective data on that, and see what direction the numbers point to.

Earlier this year, Salesforce.com released a major report entitled the “State of Service”. Nearly a quarter of their respondents (23%) said they currently use AI chatbots and nearly another third (31%) said they plan to use them within 18 months.

That represents a projected growth rate of 136% in the use of AI chatbots over the next year and a half. By any definition, that’s a viral trajectory.

Spiceworks published a report not long called “AI Chatbots and Intelligent Assistants in the Workplace”.

One question their survey asked was about utilization of intelligent assistants and chatbots by department. Guess which department uses chatbots more than any other? That’s right – IT.

Another question in that Spiceworks survey specifically asked IT professionals if they agree or strongly agree with a number of different statements. The statement IT professionals overwhelmingly agreed with more than any other was that AI will automate mundane tasks and enable more time to focus on strategic IT initiatives.

Those IT professionals Spiceworks surveyed were right. One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is that they automate many of the robotic, laborious tasks that humans shouldn’t be doing anyway. That frees up those IT professionals to work on more strategic and far more valuable IT initiatives. Which in turn makes those professionals more valuable to their organizations.

Why is offloading that tedious work from IT staff so important? Because Gartner has shown that the biggest budget item for IT Service Desks is personnel. Between 2012 and 2016, the average percentage of a service desk’s budget allocated to labor ranged from 84% – 88%. With digital transformations driving up the demand for IT support, there’s simply no way an organization can hire their way out of this situation, even if they wanted to.

The reality is that quality service desk personnel simply cost too much, and no matter how good those personnel are, they can only keep up with so much volume. At some point the laws of physics reassert themselves, reminding everyone that people simply don’t scale very well. Chatbots though, have infinite scalability.

That limited human capacity to scale, combined with the increased volume of requests for service desk support, is degrading end user experiences.

A 2016 Harvard Business Review Webinar titled “How to Fix Customer Service” revealed that:

  • 81% of consumers say it takes too long to reach a support agent.
  • 43% of customers try to self-serve before calling a contact center.

What that tells you is that waiting for human support has gotten so insufferable, end users are increasingly willing to remediate their own issues. All they need is for IT to enable a channel for them to do that.

What kinds of requests are keeping IT service desks so busy?

Well if you’ve attended any of our previous webinars you might’ve heard us cite a well-quoted statistic from Gartner that as much as 40% of an IT service desk’s call volume is nothing but password resets. 40%!

Another big drain on your service desk? Requests for ticket status updates. Those can comprise as much as 10% of a service desk’s call volume, and we’re citing ourselves (Ayehu) as the source on that.

How do we know? Well, Ayehu knows because our clients tell us which workflows have the biggest impact on reducing call volume to their service desks.

Therefore, if you can use a chatbot to automate just these two processes – password resets and ticket status updates – you could cut call volume to your service desk in half! That’s huge, and it will go a long way towards reducing your service desk ticket costs dramatically.

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