Developing Strategic Automation Initiatives to Deliver Services Faster
Today’s digital world is all about speed. Organizations are leveraging automation to deliver new services, features and applications faster than ever before to meet consumer needs. This article discusses identifies key considerations for determining which processes to automate and how to prepare your organization for successful implementation.
For today’s consumers, every second counts. From seamless online ordering processes to real-time delivery updates to instant customer service support, consumers expect these types of convenient services throughout the buying journey.
For many organizations, this need for speed often raises the question: where can we automate to deliver our services faster?
Leveraging automation in a software-defined data center (SDDC) or private cloud is key to improving business agility, reducing costs and saving IT staff time. By eliminating manual processes and the potential for costly human errors, IT can increase the speed to market of new services, features and applications, allowing staff to focus on initiatives that add business value. Additionally, automation plays a significant role in adopting “The Three Ways” of DevOps practices — flow, feedback and experimentation — to help organizations move rapidly from idea to outcome.
Given the valuable benefits of automation, many organizations are quick to embrace an “automate everything” mindset without giving much thought to what makes the most sense to automate and what does not. The phrase “too much of a good thing” comes to mind as automating for the sake of automating can create more inefficiencies. Developing a strategic plan that maps specific IT tasks to business outcomes helps organizations clearly identify and prioritize automations that will have the biggest impact.
To automate or not to automate
Organizations should develop criteria for qualifying tasks or processes for automation based on desired business outcomes. While the criteria specifics will vary based on the organization, we recommend focusing on these key areas: risk level, frequency and cost savings.
- Risk level: When evaluating a potential task to be automated, it’s important to understand its risk level and how automation will impact that risk level. A task classified as “high risk” means an error would trigger major operational issues or penalties. A task classified as “low risk” means an error would generate a minor impact and could be quickly resolved with minimal resources. An organization might automate high-risk tasks to improve consistency and prevent human errors but forgo automating low-risk tasks because of the low impact it would have on reducing risk.
- Task frequency and complexity: Organizations should calculate potential time savings by considering the frequency of a task and the manual involvement it requires. Does the task occur once a week, once a year or a few times a month? Does the task take minutes, hours or days to complete? A quick, daily task and a highly complex, yearly task might both warrant automation because of the associated time savings.
- Cost savings: Most importantly, organizations should consider the total cost savings involved in automating specific tasks or processes. Be sure to include not only IT cost savings, but how automation will impact other departments involved in the process. For example, if a yearly program update prevents another department from doing their jobs for a day, what is the cost of those lost hours? Automation is an investment (we’ll get to that later in this article); if automating a task or process won’t gain substantial cost savings over time, it may not be worth pursuing.
Preparing your organization for automation
Once you’ve qualified specific tasks or processes, it’s time to start automating … almost. While it’s tempting to dive into automation, we recommend following a few more steps to ensure your organization is fully prepared for successful implementation.
First, take a closer look at the process you’ve identified to automate. Does it have a good flow? Do the steps of the process make logical sense? Are there any obstacles or delays that could be resolved? We often encounter organizations that think they need automation when they really just need to change the process. Automation will not fix a bad process, but it will speed it up. WWT can help your organization evaluate your processes to identify areas to optimize and prepare you for efficient automation.
Second, organizations should consider creating a dedicated automation platform team prior to implementation. Many organizations have individuals focused on automation, but they’re often scattered across various teams, creating silos and inefficiencies. A dedicated automation platform team can focus on building and improving an automation platform, building new automated solutions and working with the rest of the IT organization to start utilizing and developing their own automations in the platform. This drives speed, scale and accountability across the organization for automation and, consequently, allows the IT organization to adapt as the business evolves.
Lastly, it’s important to understand the long-term impact of automation and the investments necessary for success. Without the proper investment, IT is often forced to piece together free automation tools without standardized processes in place. This approach is not sustainable and can cause large-scale issues should the individual who set up the automation leave the organization. If automation is a core component of an organization’s architecture and strategy, it needs to be funded as such.
Developing your strategic automation plan
Automation can be a valuable tool to help increase speed to market and reduce costs, but only with careful planning and upfront evaluation. From analyzing existing processes to mapping automation to specific business outcomes to streamlining deployment, WWT can help organizations every step of the way.
Get started today by requesting our Value Stream Mapping Workshop and begin developing your automation strategy.