What is IT operations automation?
IT operations automation refers to the system that enables the execution of key processes without the manual activities required to accomplish them. Without the need for human intervention, IT operations teams can leave these processes on ‘auto-pilot’ and redirect their efforts to high-impact projects or activities.
Automation has been a hot keyword in the industry for a while now. Regardless of the function you’re in, everyone often talks about the benefits of automation: saving time, reducing errors, and taking away manual tasks in everyday work. This is especially true when it comes to IT. With so many things to keep on top off, using IT operations automation is a no-brainer.
What is IT Operations?
IT operations is the set of processes and services carried out by the IT department to ensure that their technologies operate smoothly. These are essential activities that enable everyone to carry out their business operations and cover the management of all IT systems: internal and external, hardware and software.
IT operations fall under one of the four functions of ITIL, one of the most widely recognized best practices frameworks for ITSM, emphasizing its importance in effective IT management. So, it’s quite common to see a dedicated team within the IT department managing IT operations processes.
There’s a wide range of activities that fall under IT operations. This often includes responding to IT support inquiries coming in from across the organization through the use of an IT ticketing system or carrying out maintenance work.
With the ever-growing IT capabilities of an organization, IT operations have become more complex to run and manage. This led to the emergence of different IT operations models in an effort to tackle this issue.
IT operations models: DevOps, AIOps, NoOps
Technological developments focused on improving IT operations processes gave rise to different models or disciplines that shape the way an organization runs its IT. Here are three that we see time and time again.
A term derived from the words ‘development’ and ‘operations’, DevOps is a combination of philosophies and practices that promote a collaborative approach to delivering applications and services quickly and efficiently. By speeding up their processes through the combination of software development and IT operations practices, organizations can more effectively serve customers and get ahead of the competition.
Originally coined by Gartner, AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT operations) is the application of AI technologies to IT operations activities to optimize service availability and delivery. Leveraging the advanced technologies of machine learning, predictive analytics, and natural language processing, AIOps can help manage the complexities of current IT environments, detect issues quickly, and reduce any negative impact on the business.
NoOps or “no operations” is the concept of complete IT operations automation that removes the need for a team to manage related activities or tasks. It involves the use of multiple technologies and reimagining an organization’s IT processes and workflows to guarantee no-touch IT operations, even for the most complex tasks usually done by people. This takes the AIOps approach a step further, as true NoOps means fully automated IT operations without the need for human intervention. But unlike DevOps or AIOps, people argue that NoOps is more of an aspirational goal rather than a reality.
Why is IT operations automation important?
Manual IT operations are not impossible. But this comes with many pitfalls. The traditional way of doing things just doesn’t work anymore if you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with customer demands and expectations.
1. Too much time is wasted on manual processes
IT can no longer take its time. People now expect businesses to be instant, accessible, and responsive with their services when it comes to meeting customer needs. And in turn, IT must be the same way in accommodating business requirements. Not automating your IT operations prevent your organization from being agile and keeping up with a fast-paced business environment.
2. Lack of automation risks service availability
IT service outages are costly and continuing to rely on manual processes to keep services running only increases the likelihood of such outages. When a critical service or application goes down, everything else also suffers. IT operations automation tools can help IT teams quickly detect and resolve issues before they affect services. And in the case of an outage, these tools can also help minimize the impact and duration of interruptions.
3. Human mistakes lead to inaccurate information and errors
Even with careful planning, people can make mistakes, especially when there’s already a lot on their plates. Manual data input or implementations are vulnerable to these mistakes. And quite often these can be undetected for a while until it starts causing issues for your services. At this stage, it can be a substantial amount of work when it comes time to resolve them. Automating the correct steps mean you can reduce errors made in this way.
4. Tied-up resources hinder innovation
Making do with tight budgets and increasing business expectations, IT teams are hard-pressed to keep up while making way for innovation. Add managing manual operations to the mix and it can be overwhelming to handle. With resources tied up to manual processes, the opportunities to drive innovation decrease. Freeing your resources from repetitive, laborious tasks through automation can provide you with the headspace and capability for innovative ideations.
What are the benefits of IT operations automation?
Carrying on with manual processes is risky business for organizations. But with IT operations automation, you can reap many benefits. Here’s a quick rundown on how IT teams can benefit from automating their IT operations.
1. Reduces costs
IT teams can lower operating costs by reducing costly mistakes that often occur when doing things manually. Better service availability means critical business processes aren’t interrupted, saving money and increasing profits for organizations.
2. Helps you make the most out of your people
How much of a waste is it when your highly skilled IT team is stuck doing menial, repetitive tasks? By automating routine activities, you can direct your people to work that enables them not just to make full use of their skills and expertise but also provide a high level of impact to the organization.
3. Raises productivity levels
With the mundane and manual work automated, people can get more done with less time. Their energy can be better spent on high-impact activities and focus on the more strategic aspects of their roles. By removing the ‘boring’ out of everyday work, everyone can feel more motivated and productive during their working hours.
4. Boosts internal and external customer satisfaction
With automation helping your people achieve more, you can provide services at a much higher quality not just to your workforce but also to your customers. By giving better support to your internal teams, your staff can continue doing their best work, feeling engaged and productive. This, in turn, motivates them to provide better service to customers, thus enhancing the customer experience. Happy employees mean happy customers!
5. Quickens ROI
As mentioned, implementing IT operations automation increases output and decreases operating costs, enabling organizations to realize their return on investment more quickly. By identifying key processes you can automate, you can pinpoint areas where automation can deliver the most value and where you can leverage your tech investments best.
6. Improves flexibility
In a fast-paced business environment, the ability to adapt quickly is crucial. IT operations automation frees you from the restrictions of manual work, allowing you to swiftly navigate ever-changing situations. From implementing new technologies or accommodating new legislative requirements, automation can provide you with the flexibility you need.
7. Provides better visibility
To effectively carry out IT operations, you need to know what’s going on in your IT environments. Automating your monitoring and reporting processes gives you that visibility. This provides you with the information to act quickly if an issue comes up, as well as gain better insights into how you can optimize your IT operations.
8. Promotes consistency
After specifying the requirements and processes, automation helps ensure that the service quality and delivery that you provide are consistent. IT operations automation tools enable you to set parameters and track metrics to guarantee your desired output and even alert you in real-time should something hinders this.
What IT operations can you automate?
What you can automate is wide-ranging, so it largely depends on what your organization needs. We’ve picked out some examples of IT operations where automation can make the most impact.
IT change management is the set of practices involved in rolling out changes to an organization’s IT infrastructure. This involves the documentation, approval, scheduling, implementation, and communications that occur.
Applying automation to change management processes increases the success rate of change implementation and the IT team can better communicate these changes before, during, and after rollout.
IT incident management focuses on resolving IT service disruptions and getting them back up and running normally as soon as possible, minimizing the impact on the business. Some of the key activities involved are incident detection, prioritization, investigation, and diagnosis.
The potential impact of incidents increases the longer they’re left unresolved. Automated workflows enable IT teams to be alerted of incidents quickly, enabling them to act fast before they could cause substantial damage to business services and operations.
Knowledge management oversees the collection, organization, distribution, and analysis of information with the aim of exchanging knowledge across the business and making it easily accessible to everyone. This knowledge often takes the form of FAQ answers, how-to guides, topic-specific resources, and user-generated forum posts.
IT operations automation can help streamline your knowledge publishing processes without sacrificing the quality of the content.
Monitoring performance is a crucial task for IT operations teams. Otherwise, how can you maximize the value extracted from your IT infrastructure, people, or processes? Knowing your IT performance is essential in making sure your organization is on track to achieve its objectives.
With automation tools, you can define performance parameters and automatic alert systems to let you know the status of your IT infrastructure or to make sure you’re hitting your goals. This will give you better visibility into how well IT operations are being carried out and ensure you can resolve issues early on.
Security management is an essential process that focuses on protecting IT services and assets against risk. This involves identifying those assets, implementing policies and processes to protect them, and ensuring these are maintained and reviewed over time to keep up with growing risks.
95% of cybersecurity issues are caused by human error. Automating some key tasks pertaining to security along with strong policies and improved cybersecurity education can massively improve the safety of the organization and its assets.
Best practices for IT operations automation
IT operations automation can offer many benefits for an organization, but it will only be as good as your approach. To maximize the value you can extract from automation, there are some key considerations you need to keep in mind when implementing it across your business.
1. Specify your automation goals
Automation takes a proportionate amount of investment when it comes to resources, time, and effort required for successful implementation. So, it’s important that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Before setting off on your automation journey, specify what you’d like to achieve from it, as well as the steps you need to take to get there. This is also a good time to be thinking about how you will measure performance and metrics to track progress.
2. Choose the right processes
Recognizing the benefits of IT operations automation, it can be tempting to automate everything in one go. But this can easily backfire and further complicate your current processes. Whether you choose to prioritize between critical or non-critical processes to automate first, it’s important to start small and work upwards. This enables you to gain an understanding of how automating certain processes can affect the way your organization works.
3. Get the right tools
Next comes the tools that you want to use. Whichever toolset you decide on, they should be able to meet your organization’s needs and provides the capabilities to support your automation goals. Usability and scalability should also be considered at this stage. Who would want to use a tool with a confusing interface or have a steep learning curve before you can get going? And how does it scale with organizational changes? You can waste precious time implementing software that your business might outgrow in one-two years’ time.
4. Establish roles and responsibilities
Automating your processes will affect the way your people work, so it’s essential that those changes are communicated, along with everyone’s roles and responsibilities outlined. Not only does this avoid confusion on who does what, where, and how but also promotes accountability within your processes. Make sure everyone involved understands what’s going on every step of the way as you work through your automation plans.
5. Educate the users
To achieve your desired outcomes, you should ensure that everyone’s on board with your IT operations automation strategies. This involves providing users with training resources to accustom themselves to the tools you’ll use, the reason why you’re introducing automation, as well as what success looks like in this venture. Educating your workforce reduces the resistance or frustrations felt when changes like this take place.
6. Create a test environment
Like with any permanent changes you’re looking to make, you should test your automated processes first before implementing them to the wider business. Not only does it enable you to iron out any kinks and spot errors, but also it gives you the freedom to try out different approaches without affecting everyone. Preventing the potential issues at this stage increases the success rate of your automation project.
7. Have a backup plan
You can plan and prepare as much as you can, down to the most minute of details, but there can still be a risk of failure when automating your processes. That’s just the way it is. So, a backup plan is a must if things go south. However unlikely this scenario may be, you should have procedures in place to minimize operation interruptions or service outages.
8. Make continuous improvements
Technology moves so fast that organizations are hard-pressed to be agile and flexible to keep up. This means that IT operations automation can’t be a ‘done-and-dusted’ deal upon implementation. Half of its success lies in continuous monitoring and improvements post-rollout. By using KPIs to track progress, you can identify areas for improvement and increase the efficiency of your processes.
Common mistakes with IT operations automation
· Over relying on automation
Automation can help you achieve a lot of things but fixing poorly designed processes is not one of them. IT operations automation enhances what you’re already doing, both your good and bad processes. It’s not meant to cover gaps in your strategies. Before implementing automation, you should first ensure that you cover your basics and remove inefficiencies that can only be exacerbated with automation.
· Spending time on complicated processes
And speaking of inefficient processes, there will be cases when automation may not be the solution. Rather the question you should be asking is whether it’s time to halt poorly designed or executed processes completely. You could waste a lot of time trying to rework an existing process to fit your automation plans when really it would make more sense to drop it from your strategy.
· Not taking cultural impact into consideration
Increasing efficiency and driving innovation are key priorities if organizations want to get ahead in the game, but you shouldn’t forget about how automation impacts organizational culture. Your employees and customers will be those most affected, so it’s important not only you evaluate how their roles can change but effectively communicate these changes too.
· Designing your automation processes around your tools
IT operations automation tools can be very sophisticated and it’s easy to get lost in fascination with all the smart features they provide. Naturally, you’d want to take advantage of these to get the most bang for your buck. But more than that, how the tool can support your people should be the priority when figuring out how to leverage these technologies. Make sure the people who will use the tools are involved from the start, gathering their insights on how best to utilize these tools.
What to look for in an IT operations automation tool
The wealth of choices for IT operations automation tools can be overwhelming. So, we’ve picked out some considerations to have when selecting the technology that will aid you in your automation journey.
• Ease of use
Implementing automation tools should make life easier for everyone, but it won’t be the case if your chosen technology is too complex to use and adapt to.
As your organization grows and changes, it’s important your chosen system can scale with you. How easy is it to customize workflows? What is its capacity when it comes to the number of users or assets added to the system?
This is especially important for those with a tight project schedule. You should learn about what’s involved in the implementation process. Being able to roll out quickly means that you can get up and running fast, enabling you to extract value sooner.
What key processes to automate will differ for each organization. So, it’s crucial that your preferred IT operations automation tool can support that, requiring a certain level of flexibility.
Why IFS assyst is the best IT operations solution
IFS assyst can provide you with the tools to elevate your people from the mundane tasks and help them concentrate on work where they can make the biggest impact. Quick to deploy and easy to use, it has everything you need to design, deliver, and optimize your essential IT operations.
Want to know more? Why not get in touch for a free online demo today?