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IT Service Management - it's all about automation, is it?

Incidents resolve themselves, changes happen magically behind the scene, no more unplanned outages occur and everything is being tracked automatically for auditing, no matter where services and applications physically run. Lean back and enjoy - and focus on your strategic initiatives.

But seriously - using best practices like ITILv3 are a first step towards this vision because it puts process control on your IT and because it helps you manage your IT from a service perspective. And while my entry scenario of this blog will remain a vision, automation is one of the best ways to reduce IT operational spending while improving service quality, especially in virtualized environments.

Whether you are adopting ITIL or other best practices and standards, I do not see automation as an option but rather as a must have. The manual execution of processes …

  • is cost-intensive (needs skilled people),

  • error-prone (leads to a high number of alerts and customer/user dissatisfaction),

  • slows down collaboration,

  • and lacks repeatability.

Automation kills these flies with one stroke. It can orchestrate complex processes across multiple parts of the IT organization and infrastructure.  It can document standard processes for compliance and create appropriate audit trails.  As a result, it reduces cost to support and deliver services, it reduces down time and improves availability, which are all among the top strategic business goals of IT organizations for 2010 as summarized in a recent Pragmatic ITSM blog

This is getting even more important when I think about the growing success of cloud computing and virtualization, along with the increased complexity of such environments. One conclusion I draw from this: one should look holistically at automation, having the entire service lifecycle in mind. 

But what does this mean? What can you automate? And how do you automate?

In the context of ITSM and ITIL, one answer jumps into my face immediately: processes! In order to automate processes, I think a look at the big picture is inevitable to be successful:

  • Automate the overall process workflow, means the execution of a series of tasks (or activities to use the ITIL term).

  • Automate the interaction with other processes, people and technologies. In many cases this translates into integration with other processes, tools and data.

  • Automate single tasks (activities) within a process, for example the verification of an executed change with the means of discovery.

It is the combination of all of the above plus the right data - and the right service context - to achieve automation across the entire lifecycle of a service. In order for the above approach to work you therefore need to "automate data". What comes to my mind here is the collection, normalization, replication and/or federation of data from all related sources, something that a federated CMS provides.
At this point it would be probably a good idea to look into a specific solution scenario, a use case, to discuss how the above can be applied to solve real-world problems. But let me stop here for now ...
What are your thoughts on automation? Is the above spot-on? What processes did you automate or plan to automate? I am really interested in hearing from you.

Michael Pott

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About the Author
Michael Pott is a Product Marketing Manager for HP ITSM Solutions. Responsibilities include out-bound marketing and sales enablement. Mic...

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