Modernizing ITSM through Automation: A Three Step Plan (Part 1)

Modernizing ITSM through automation

In a report published by the analyst organization Forrester Research on ITSM, research showed that

“57% of service desks struggle with increased ticket volumes, but only 31% are expanding headcount.”

(Elinor Klavens and Eveline Oehrlich, “Five Key Initiatives to Wow Your Workforce with Service Desk,” Forrester Research, September 18, 2015)

Increased ticket volume is not a new challenge but, if you add to this the possibility that when someone leaves the team they may not be replaced as headcount shrinks or remains the same, then the only thing you can do is think creatively – automation offers the potential to assist with your challenge as you modernize your ITSM operations.

According to recent research by Gartner, the top three reasons cited for driving organizations to automate are:

  1. Efficiency (78%)
  2. Cost reduction (58%)
  3. Risk mitigation (40%)

Robert Naegle and Ronni J. Colville, “Survey Analysis: The Realities, Opportunities and Challenges of I&O Automation,” Gartner, May 27, 2015.

A Motivation Booster

Before there is an outcry about replacement of ITSM jobs though automation as the means of cost reduction, think again. A survey of IT pros, reported in Baseline magazine, revealed that only 7% felt that automated IT tools put their jobs at risk.

Automating key IT processes drive efficiencies, eliminating time spent on the manually intensive, mundane or commons tasks. I can guarantee your IT analyst staff did not put any of those tasks on their wish list when joining the team. So now you can use those man-hours to better meet the needs of business users and, at the same time, provide a motivation boost through job enrichment for your staff.

A Quality Enhancer

It’s often assumed that automation means delivering more of the same; but effective automation also provides opportunities for maturing, as well as unifying, separate workflows. Automation provides the opportunity to offer a better quality of support and user satisfaction through faster response times and improved quality and range of services delivered.

An Ambiguity Terminator

Automation offers a predictable and repeatable sequence of steps from start to finish and takes the same route each time. In doing so, it eliminates ambiguity by following a tested, consistent path. As a workflow, or a process like a change, passes from one person to the next, it hits different stages of progress. It’s at these handoff points that tasks can fall through the cracks or workflow is interrupted, resulting in an SLA breach. Automation will lessen the risks of human error. What once took weeks can be accomplished in hours or minutes, without cutting corners that injects risk.

A Strategic Enabler

Whether you’re aiming to work faster, maintain consistency, or reduce costs, automation can assist you operationally. And from a long-term perspective, at a time when service management teams are required to cope with increased and new demands like digital transformation projects on limited headcount, you can refocus time and resources to support business initiatives and goals so that automation becomes a strategic enabler.

There will be many areas of your environment that are ripe for automation, and like any part of your service management operation, the use of a maturity path approach will assist you on your automation journey. Each journey needs a road map, but where you start is equally important.

Step 1 – Re-evaluate Your Processes

Gartner recommends IT organizations focus on moving redundant and repetitive tasks into automation processes. But before you start, understand that automated processes are only as effective as the planning that goes into their development. Einstein is widely attributed with saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Whether he said it or not doesn’t matter, but it’s worth bearing in mind when starting down the process automation path.

Before automating processes, re-evaluate each process. Too often we consider the elements in closest proximity to our own environment and do not incorporate considerations that have an effect on the business at large. Automation requires user-centric planning. One thing you must do, and keep doing, is engage with your end users directly or through business productivity teams to map out the current workflow, ensuring they are optimized and makes sense for any users it touches. Only once these processes have been re-evaluated at every step and re-communicated to your teams and users, should you review which optimized processes to automate.

In the next blog, we’ll review Step 2: Initial Maturity Steps for Immediate Value