The IT Automation Toolbox: What's Needed?
September 16, 2021

Sean McDermott
Windward Consulting Group

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Achieve more with less. How many of you feel that pressure — or, even worse, hear those words — trickle down from leadership?

The reality is that overworked and under-resourced IT departments will only lead to chronic errors, missed deadlines and service assurance failures. After all, we're only human.

So what are overburdened IT departments to do? Reduce the human factor. In a word: automate.

By supplementing a human's ability to think critically with a computer's ability to automate repetitive tasks and processes, IT teams can finally do more work with fewer people and focus on forward-thinking initiatives that create value for their businesses.

Many IT teams understand the benefits of automation, but few know how to tackle a successful rollout — in the IT department or across the organization. So before you uplevel your capabilities with automation, survey your IT Automation Toolbox and consider these must-haves:

Well-defined automated workflows

Imagine if automated systems and software analyzed your support requests, assigned tickets and eliminated duplicative requests. Think about all of the tedious work that would vanish from your plate. What would you do with this newfound freedom?

IT workflow automation creates streamlined processes for completing a series of tasks or functions without human intervention. The system or software automatically operates according to rules that relay what needs to happen and when. These rules prescribe tasks, dispatch alerts, prompt processes and more. By absorbing time-consuming, low-value tasks, automation allows IT teams to pursue more productive, proactive work.

Instead of days spent frantically running from emergency to emergency, IT pros can do what humans do best (or at least do better than AI). They can develop innovative technology to meet the needs of internal and external audiences.

Targeted automation software

Does your business need custom processes and complex integrations? Or are built-in analytics more critical?

The wide world of workflow automation software ranges from all-encompassing to ultra niche. Before shopping for that just right solution, consider your company's unique needs and ensure that automation software will meet them.

Whether your company opts for a comprehensive or specific solution, choose technology that's speedy, flexible and so user-friendly that it doesn't scare away any employees, regardless of their roles. Plenty of workflow automation software features no-code capabilities with drag-and-drop designs.

If possible, consider cloud-based, rather than on-premise, software. It's easier to maintain and provides enhanced accessibility, top-notch security and data scalability. Some of these tools take their capabilities a step further by integrating multiple cloud apps into one system. Before buying, ensure there's an API compatible with tools like ServiceNow.

Advanced capabilities will help you and your team implement successful workflow automation. So before sealing the deal with a software provider, consider if the software has the following capabilities:

Analytics and reporting: Uncovers lags, audits tasks and advances processes with reports and analytics.

Mobile apps: Lets teams see notifications and grant approvals from their mobile devices.

Direct pricing: Provides an upfront price that works with your project scope and budget.

Technology partners: Delivers the full scope of your company's required services and technologies.

A solid automation strategy

Behind every successful automation system sits a thoughtful strategy. What are the steps to building a solid plan? And how do you inspire employees across your company to get on board with workflow automation?

First up, identify the process you want to automate and map it out, making sure to include integrations to other systems and metrics that you can measure. The next essential step is identifying the IT department's change agent, who will be the face of the workflow automation rollout. This employee, usually the CIO or IT operations manager, is charged with getting buy-in from the top down. The change agent should develop a change management strategy that includes constant communication, ongoing training and clarity around each employee's roles and responsibilities within the new framework.

When you've secured company-wide buy-in and you're ready to implement, don't try to learn the entire automated system overnight. Instead, start by learning one element of the process and working out the kinks before moving on to the next. Similarly, focus on rolling out workflow automation in just one function of the business at a time. What better place to start than the IT department? Use your department as a guinea pig and an opportunity to prove ROI and scale to the next level.

Work to modernize your IT stack once you can efficiently navigate workflow automation and its required technology solutions. Push beyond automating simple tasks and implement more sophisticated tools that advance AIOps, upgrade your data analytics and improve your infrastructure through APIs.

And a word to the wise: rolling out automation software and tools is an evolving process. As you improve your automated workflows, set your sights on efficiency, not on perfection. In time, automation will become a no-brainer for your company. But you have the responsibility to set it up for success through intelligent automated workflows, sufficient software and a solid strategy that ensures company-wide implementation and adoption. Eventually you'll optimize efficiencies, increase operational productivity and realize bottom-line benefits for your company.

Sean McDermott is the Founder of Windward Consulting Group and RedMonocle
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