Stop making this mistake if you really want value from automation

kees.pngBy Kees Van Den Brink

 

Kees van den Brink has over 20 years of experience in IT, starting as a developer. Kees is working with many customers in implementing IT Management solutions. Kees is an active member of the IT4IT consortium (www.it4it.com).

 

In my work with HP Software Professional Services, I often consult with customers about their automation projects. Recently I worked with a customer that was having trouble making the business case for automation. They were constantly automating stuff, but they didn’t know if they were getting any value from it.

 

Automation can make a significant difference in removing waste or removing impediments blocking value creation. So why was our client having trouble seeing those benefits? The answer is, many IT departments automate one process and optimize it (and optimize it again) without giving thought to the bigger picture. People will say, “Let’s do cloud, and we’ll automate deployment.” So now you’ve delivered the virtual machine quicker than before. But that’s not the end goal.

 

The end goal is to understand the end-to-end processes that make up your IT Value Chain and discover where you can take out waste. Automation can bring value when you connect it to other processes. I’ll give you an example.

 

Connect automation to ITIL

Say that you are using automation to provision virtual machines (as is the case in many enterprises). You’ve sped up the provisioning, but your need for a change process hasn’t gone away. You still need to manage the fact that something changed in production. So rather than simply automate provisioning, (automatically) connect the change process to it. This does not mean the provisioning process becomes dependent on the change process but rather the change management is informed that the change happened.  

 

Similarly, when you automate provisioning your configuration management system still needs to understand where that virtual machine is, where it’s going to be connected, and what it will be used for. So your provisioning process needs to (automatically) trigger the configuration process.

 

IT organizations already have investments in these ITIL processes. The point is not to drop them, but to reuse them by connecting the automation to them and if possible automate parts of the manual processes, so that you get the benefit of both worlds.

 

Don’t focus only on the automation. If you do not connect your automation with your existing ITIL processes, you’re creating islands, and further automation of these islands won’t help. Instead, look at end-to-end processes so you can understand where the waste is and where you can take it out. Now you’re seeing how automation makes a difference in your IT Value Chain. Here’s how our customer did this.

 

2 automation best practices

The customer I mentioned earlier had already automated many individual tasks. But they hadn’t connected automation to existing processes. We worked with them on two best practices.

 

  • Measure to prove value: When we do an automation we find out exactly how much time is spent on the thing manually. Then we measure how long the task will take with automation in place. Then we compare those two measures. Lastly we look at how many times the automation has been triggered. With those metrics we can prove the actual benefit of automation.

     

  • Connect the next step: Any automation either needs to connect to something that is known in configuration management or it needs to trigger a change. There’s always a next step in the process. When our client connected the next step they were able to get to the point where their automation was actually helping to improve their ITIL practice.

     

    People do automation because they can. And that gets them only so far, because they’re not looking at how to take away waste or remove impediments blocking the generation of value. Stop automating for the sake of automation and instead focus on how this is going to automate/connect to other processes in the big picture.

     

    Get an early look at the July issue of the Discover Performance ezine, which includes a piece I contributed to: “Delivering DevOps to enterprise IT.”

     

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Labels: automation
Comments
HP Expert | ‎07-09-2014 05:21 AM

Right ON Kees!  Yes. Optimizing the core Service LifeCycle processes is fundamental to gaining the value of moving to the New Style of IT (NSIT) - Cloud Service Delivery - Hybrid Delivery.  As we work with enterprises today the first thing we talk about is their current state operations.  We assess the gaps in meeting basic KPI's for Incident, Change, Configuration, Event management and Release Management.  As we understand these gaps we can see the opportunities to meet the constraints head on and move forward with process optimization efforts that most often include task automation. Instant value can be achieved thru the shift from manual email traffic to automatic triggers that accellerate the path to approvals in a change process for instance.  As you've noted in your message, the core of being able to automate is connecting the dots back to the Data Architecture of the Configuration Management System that ties the processes together.  People, Process and Technology / Data are still the foundation for success as we operate in the NSIT and we do need to continue to connect them to gain the ultimate value outcome.  We need to embrace the old as part of the new!

PT Wijle(anon) | ‎07-18-2014 06:05 AM
Trots op je Kees! Mooi artikel niets voor niets Koning Kees!
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