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

In my last blog post, "IT Service Management – it’s all about automation, is it?", I discussed the importance of and the general approach to automation in IT Service Management. Now, let me look at an example -  a change management workflow. To keep this a simple as possible and to focus on the substance, let me pick the high-level activities that ITIL defines in change management to discuss what can (and should) be automated:


  • Create and record request for change
    In this phase the request for change (RFC) is raised and a change proposal is created. This can also include a business and financial assessment of the change and a sign-off by the appropriate stakeholders. A big chunk of this initial RFC creation work can be automated by integrating with the originating process such as incident management or project and portfolio management; missing information can be filled-in via federation.


  • Review change
    Here, one task it to filter out changes, for example those, that already have been accepted. In this activity the RFC is also prioritized (relative to other changes) and combined with other changes if appropriate. Integration with the Configuration Management System (CMS) provides all information necessary to automatically consolidate all changes that relate to a specific service and all changes that potentially impact a common service. Doing this manually (e.g. via lookup) would be extremely time consuming an error-prone.


  • Assess and evaluate change
    At this point one has to consider the potential impact of a (failed) change on services, on corporate objectives and policies. Analyzing the service and business impact typically involves the resolution of conflicts that result from collisions of CIs, time and resources and shows what services are impacted. The consolidation of all changes into a single integrated change calendar, the integration with a common service context (CMS) can automatically detect such conflicts and enables a quick resolution of such situations, for example by moving a change within the calendar to a time where no other changes, resources and/or CIs conflict.


  • Authorize change
    This is typically a collaborative effort of the Change Advisory Board (CAB). Instead of meeting in person, a software solution for change management should provide online, real-time collaboration capabilities to discuss, assign action items and to vote for final approval.


  • Coordinate implementation
    The activity ensures that the change is implemented as scheduled. It notifies all owners about the change approval and triggers the implementation. This can mean everything from integrating with the Release Management and Deployment process to directly triggering a deployment workflow via run book automation (RBA). Be it a simple automatic deployment, or be it part of a more complex release management process, RBA also helps in meeting governance requirements and to execute audits by tracking and storing all the information related to the change (who did what, and when).


  • Review and close change
    One action here is to carry out a post-implementation review to confirm that all objectives have been met. Review and closure can be automated by updating the CMS to reflect the changed CI states, by setting a new baseline and by closing incident/problems (integration with other processes) that triggered the RFC. Last but not least discovery can automatically validate the change and detect unplanned changes, which in turn automatically creates an incident, which again triggers another workflow ... let me stop here.

Even with this extremely simplified workflow it is clear that the more manual tasks are involved, the more likely errors will happen, which in the worst case can lead to business disruption. So, the advantages of automation are obvious:


  • More efficient, faster execution of the change workflow
  • Reduced risk of unplanned outages and service disruption.
  • Better support to meet governance and audit requirements

What is the conclusion?


A change management workflow that most, if not all, traditional change management solutions provide helps a change manager to safely navigate through the various change activities by providing step-by-step guidance. While this implies a degree of workflow automation by means of standardization, there are many more starting points for automation. For example: workflow and data integration with other processes (creating an RFC from an incident, closing an incident etc), consolidating all changes into an integrated change calendar, change impact analysis and collision detection by integrating with a federated CMS, run book automation for collecting additional information and for change deployment, discovery for confirming the change and detecting unplanned changes.


Does the above make sense from your perspective? Again, I am really interested in hearing from you.


Michael Pott

Esteemed Contributor | ‎05-23-2010 08:59 PM

Okay i'll bite.


Create and record request for change


i hate RFCs from incidents. (unless it is an actual bug, in that case the RFC would come from Error Control within problem management) RFCs from incidents are usually raised by morons who say "can the system do xyz?" etc, they provide no business case, funding or resourcing, which means manual work by someone later.  If users submit interaction via ESS then i suppose if it is an RFC then a DVD could be used to prompt them at that point for the right info.


I agree automation is good, I like the idea of the FICO web seminar, where they used DVD to only show a change requestor the relevant forms needed for their change., simple, major etc (i think a wow player designed our system. its too convoluted.


Review change

In previous site i found change management staff were always very busy checking changes. I showed them how to use views, to automate checking changes for them.  I guess reporting could also be used to warn about incomplete changes.


Most important thing is it should be simple and prompt or warn users for additional stuff that is missing at each step of process. 


Authorize change

We still do not have a virtual CAB. It is a must the new CM used it in his last job, so we will hopefully go this way. 


Coordinate implementation


I dont know how you automatically advise users. Our implement is not linked, We dont even have SERVICES, some moron (process worker) put in keywaords!!  lol.... you are right it should be automated!!


Review and close change


I would love PIRs, project managers here, don't have them.....(cover up their stuffups and cost overruns!!)




Advanced automaiton that you are talking  about is only for sites with $$$$. and good management.   I have read the Runbook stuff on HP sites but once again without management buy-in is not gonna happen.  


I think HP needs to enage more with senior IT and Business Management eg finance etc of the Automation, there are some big savings (not just dollars) to be made in Large sites. small  and medium business however will find it cost prohibitive and show you a written process (yuk) ,  I reckon you would also need to ensure that you have a large reference site where you can show businesses it running properly. 


HP need to advise and engage more Before a product is implemented. also in our implementation not once has anyone mentioned how much we are saving?  they only talk about SLAs. weird hey......     







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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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