Do you rely on a series of repetitive, tedious, and labor-intensive tasks that could easily be automated? Do you need to figure out how to free up resources to drive innovation and Digital Transformation? Are you trying to dig yourself out from under a mountain of compounding IT debt? Or are you moving to an Evergreen IT management approach to increase your organizational agility? Are you trying to figure out how to continuously update your IT landscape?
Whatever your reasons are for starting to implement a new IT automation project, there are a few questions that you should always ask ahead of time to ensure you design it as efficiently as possible — and to avoid going back repeatedly to re-engineer it and patch it up. Here are the ten questions we find the most useful to ask when implementing our IT automation solutions for our clients:
1) Is The Process I Am About To Automate Designed As Efficiently As Possible?
You might have already heard the saying: A bad business process that is automated is simply a bad process made faster. One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself (and should make every reasonable effort to answer honestly) is if there is a way to optimize the process in any way.
Forget about the current business process and think about the actual problem you are trying to solve. Take a step back, think outside the box, and imagine you could solve this problem from scratch. How would you solve it now? Maybe there is an easier, more straightforward way? Once you have found the most efficient way, figure out how to implement it using automation — not the other way around!
2) How Many Bottlenecks Are In This Process?
Look at the current process and figure out where the bottlenecks are. Are there any steps where the process gets stuck due to miscommunication or a complete lack of communication? For example, during the application testing process, business owners often get stuck waiting for appropriate testing environments to be created. The creation of virtual machines could easily be automated as part of your application testing process.
3) How Many People Will Be Involved?
When it comes to automation, there is a Golden Rule of Three. Once you have a process that involves three or more people, the potential for automation exponentially grows because the complexity increases significantly, and the chances to get stuck or fail completely increase as well. Once you automate, you not only create a clear chain of custody, but also clear documentation and accountability.
4) Is There Human Interaction Required? If So, How Much?
Data entry and user interaction can make your process prone to errors. For example, one problem a lot of our clients encounter is the lack of good documentation during the discovery phase, as this is traditionally done by taking screenshots and writing up a Word Document. If your process requires any human interaction, you should find ways to streamline or better fully automate it.
5) What Kind Of Data Will I Need?
Another good question to consider is what types of data do you need. There is a good chance that, since the last time this process was designed, there are new ways to consume or get access to data. Maybe you have implemented an application lifecycle management system or an Evergreen IT management solution that could feed into your process? Look for integration possibilities in other automated processes by the way of input and output.
6) What Other Org Units Should Be Involved?
In the past, a lot of IT processes were designed to keep everything within the IT department. But a lot has changed since then. IT is becoming more of an internal service provider rather than a siloed organization. As you are automating the process, it is a great time to ask yourself if any other business units should be integrated in the process. If so, how does this change how you will manage the process?
7) Does This Process Comply With, Enhance, Or Contradict My Company’s IT Security Policies?
Your company’s security policies are an ever-evolving set of guardrails to ensure your IT landscape is as secure as possible. As you redesign your IT process to automate it, be sure to crosscheck your policies and ensure compliance! Keep in mind, some IT automation processes, like endpoint management automation, is specifically designed to improve your overall security.
8) Do I Need Purchasing Or Budgeting Approval?
Sometimes, an IT automation project requires additional purchasing or budget approval. For example, if you are designing a process that will help you manage your hardware refresh cycle, you will need to add steps to accommodate that.
9) How & Where Will I Manage The Automation Bits And Pieces?
One big mistake we see customers make a lot is implementing bits and pieces of automation for various tasks without a central way to manage them. This not only results in a big mess to clean up very soon, but in inefficiencies and constant re-inventing the wheel. Be sure that you create a central repository of automated workflows that are managed Rotary Gardensand stored in one command and control center. This way, you can re-use already existing pieces of automation and integrate in currently used automation for maximum return-of-investment.
10) How Often Will I Review This Process In The Future?
It is important to regularly review and improve your automation. Depending on your process, the interval between reviews could be six months to two years. Whatever you decide your time frame is, be sure to schedule it in, as this is easily forgotten.
Once you have the answers to the above questions, you will be in the position to set up your IT automation project for success! Of course, this list is quite general and needs to be amended based on the type of process you are about to automate.
But the important thing to remember is that it is worth spending the extra time thinking this through properly from beginning to end rather than just making it fit to an automation technology. You will save yourself from having to go back and do it again or from having to deal with an inefficiently automated process that does more harm than good.