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While automation continues to gain traction across industries, many of our clients still struggle to solidify an organization-wide automation strategy. 

The difficulty lies in the fact that automation usually starts at lower levels within an organization. Grassroots efforts grow, teams begin to experience wins and leadership starts to take notice. Suddenly, there's talk of automating everything.

But succeeding with automation doesn't come by automating everything. Rather, it's a product of automating everything right. Prioritize the right things to automate and then automate those things correctly.

We've identified six principles to help organizations on the journey to automating everything right. By taking these principles into consideration, we've found our clients can keep making progress with existing automation projects while developing a scalable automation strategy that maximizes a return to the business. 

Principle 1: Visibility

We like to say that automation starts with a clear line of sight into everything and everyone. The problem is that critical data and processes are often scattered across an organization.

Before undergoing an automation project, it's important to bring stakeholders from impacted teams together to ensure visibility into current-state processes and goals. You'll also want to make sure processes rely on standardized data. If processes are inefficient or rely on incorrect data, automating them will only create more chaos.

For example, a financial institution we work with wanted to automate aspects of IT asset management. However, without any infrastructure monitoring tools in place, the client didn't have accurate data about the status of devices. By creating a data visualization trends and insights dashboard, we were able to give the client the visibility they needed to identify areas ripe for automation — for instance the process of decommissioning devices.

Visibility is critical to identifying automations that deliver business value.

Principle 2: Accuracy 

By automating everything right, organizations can achieve new levels of accuracy.

IT operations can use automation to correlate siloed data in real- or near-real time, painting an accurate picture of system and application health. By contrast, trying to correlate data manually introduces the likelihood of human error and puts IT at risk of taking misguided actions when resolving incidents.

For example, one area where we've seen automation pay dividends for clients in terms of improving accuracy is security operations.

Automated security operations solutions can reduce false-positive security alerts and improve event logging. They can also eliminate steps in compliance reporting for a clearer picture of an organization's security risk profile at any point in time.

It's important to note that improving accuracy through automation is predicated on automation solutions using mature data. Data quality, data governance and data management are vital to success

Principle 3: Simplicity 

Sometimes it can seem like automation only adds complexity to already confusing technology and business environments. However, this is often a result of not taking the time to simplify workflows before automating them.

Before automating a workflow, you'll want to identify a workflow in the simplest terms possible. For a typical incident request, that might be, "Identify, log, classify, match, diagnose, resolve and close." This will help you determine repeatable underpinning tasks and actions that are essential to the flow of work. 

Upon inspection, you might find members of an IT departments are spending an inordinate amount of time logging a high volume of incidents of the same category (e.g., password resets). Here, you can explore tools that reduce the service desk's need to manually reset passwords by automating the process via a self-service portal. 

In fact, our own IT department used Ansible with ServiceNow to automate password resets, resulting in reduced engineering hours, improved lead times and a return to simplicity.

Principle 4: Efficiency

For organizations seeking to combat outages and degraded performance, automation areas such as service management and orchestration, observability, AIOps and RPA are game changers.

With these technologies in hand, IT staff can more efficiently see, react to and resolve incidents before they impact the business. In an intelligently automated architecture, organizations can even prevent incidents entirely by using machine learning and AI to detect and resolve problems before they have time to escalate. 

Our clients who have focused on automating operations have seen remarkable gains in operational efficiency. They've realized significant reductions in network outages, and in the time required to observe, detect, repair and prevent issues.

Further, by automating configuration management, we're seeing clients increase staff availability and reduce the number of incidents requiring manual intervention.

Principle 5: Speed

We see clients who prioritize automation consistently get new products and services to market faster than their competitors.

A strong automation platform that facilitates DevOps methodologies like infrastructure as code (IaC) and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) can substantially collapse lead times for application developer services. Employing self-service also minimizes engineering involvement. 

Developers don't have to wait on IT for deployment environments. They can get to testing in production-similar environments before deploying to production with zero unnecessary downtime.

Our clients are consistently surprised by the number of new applications in production and new applications under development when their automation platform is up and running

Principle 6: Experience 

A poor application experience is one of the fastest ways to erode customer loyalty and employee satisfaction. Luckily, automation can ensure top-notch digital experiences for customers and employees.

For example, automated infrastructure can scale up to meet spikes in web traffic, so customers can always access applications. At the same time, automated infrastructure is easier for IT employees to manage which improves their work experience. 

Another area of automation that is drawing interest from our clients is AIOps

By using AIOps tools and platforms, IT teams can quickly identify and remediate the root cause of performance issues without manual intervention, ensuring superior digital experiences for customers and employees. 

We've found that making the connection between experience and automation is one of the best ways to align business and technical stakeholders around automation projects and strategy. 

Getting started 

Chances are that automation is already going on in different areas of your organization. In fact, your organization might have realized wins related to one of our automation principles. Wherever you are in your automation journey, we can help you take it to the next level. 

Automating everything right requires strategy, enablement and execution. We can help you build a strategy that aligns business value streams with technology, put your IT teams on guided learning paths and get stalled automation projects back on track. 

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