There is a bell here in the office, and we try to ring it as much as possible. We named it automation, and as much as we seem to strike it, it isn't quite as loud as we would like it be. Now, at first, we thought there was definitely something wrong with our bell. Then we realized, try as we might, you're never going to hear our bell... we need to encourage to get your own.
OK, maybe there really isn't a bell, but if there was one, it would be worn from repeated use. That's the thing about the Internet though. It provides a great platform to convince people of something. Unfortunately, unless they are right there with you, all of that bell ringing may fall on ears that aren't quite ready to listen. So, this time, we are going to give you some blueprints to develop your own brass noise maker, and ring it with the best of them. Moreover, we're going to show you how to champion automation in your own organization with an Automation Discovery Meeting (ADM).
Now, the term above may be new, but the concept is pretty familiar. It's based on the belief that an organization already has all the information it needs to succeed, it's just been blocked by a lack of, or generally poor, communication. In a sense, your customers have the solution you've been looking for, they just don't have a medium to communicate it back to you. Even if they do, they might have given up because of a lack or results. An Automation Discovery Meeting (ADM) will breathe new life even into the most passive of resistors.
At the core of the ADM is the belief that automating common, repetitive tasks, as well as those tasks prone to consistent errors, is a precise point for improving IT Service Management. The second belief is that your employees know exactly which tasks in your organization fall into the description above. The hard part is that they aren't always as willing to tell anyone, and they may not have even thought much about it. Worse yet, they may feel like they don't have a platform for communication. The ADM will work to change that, encouraging your team to switch thinking from task completion to task automation.
Sounds great right? Of course it does, but where do you start? How do you hold an ADM of your own? These are all great questions, and that's why below, we've proposed five steps to build a platform for them to do just that. Of course, we realize there are already some sighs - just another meeting, to take up more of our day. However, before you exhale so deeply, if you follow our steps, we are certain these will be some of the most productive and enlightening meetings you've had - just give the suggestions a chance, and time to let the organization-changing power of consistent, thought-felt communication take hold. As always, Good Luck!
Divide and Conquer
We have a great saying around here, "Don't boil the ocean." It seems simple, but most meetings get derailed by trying to solve all an organizations problems at once. It may take multiple meetings, but isolate areas of your business and start there. Think of these meetings like focus groups, you may even have a scenario where you start with subgroups within specific departments. In the beginning keeping Subject Matter Experts together is a good thing. Sure, the finance team may start to get jealous that HR has a scheduled and undivided attention session with IT. Trust us though, this is a good issue to have. Plus, as you hold more of the meetings you will start find what works, and what may not. Use that knowledge to improve things as you go.
Kick Management Out
Management is great, but the psychology behind answers provided when managers are around versus not around is proven. If you have kids, this pretty much works the same way. Essentially we all do it, but in the presence of authority we will try to make authority happy. That's not the goal of this meeting. Sure, it may be great that management wants to push down response time by shortening time spent fulfilling requests. However, that may put the focus on the wrong area of improvement. It is likely much more important to understand that many times, much of the common information needed to fulfill the request was never captured the first time through - a prime candidate for automation.
Keep it 'SSF' (Short, Simple, and Focused)
Set a target goal for meetings to be no more than fifteen minutes, with an unannounced padding of five to ten minutes. This is hard, and will require some planning on your part. You will need figure out, and indicate to the meeting attendees what you plan to talk about. Most teams will take time to warm up to the short time span. A round-robin style where everyone gets and allotted time tends to work best. Want to make it interesting? Bring in a timer and give each attendee 90 seconds to "sell" their idea? Of course, that's not enough time. That's why you'll need a place for them to take the conversation afterwards. Since ideas will often strike a person at any time, you want to encourage constant communication, rather than a focus on only bringing ideas to a meeting.
Continue the Conversation with an Automation Thought Portal
It can be a Wiki, Microsoft SharePoint, or an open-source forum tool. You're in IT, and this is where you can shine. Most importantly make it easy, and be sure that there is a place where conversations can continue, as well as keep a formal record of great ideas. Remember though, this is not a "create and abandon" endeavor. You're going to need to engage with the group, and promote conversation. There will be times that you may need to table a conversation or redirect focus on productive topics. This is the nature of any great community that wants to see a valuable return on their communication investment.
Take Action - Automate!
Action is power, sometimes even more than results or success. That's because success is a goal that requires the maturity of process change over time, not instantaneous results. In contrast, by focusing on taking action, and commitment to seeing agreed upon ideas take shape, your team will begin to see they have a stake in the power that automation can have. In a sense, just by taking action, and putting suggestions into real, working models, shows you are committed. That commitment in turn builds confidence in achieving the end goal - automation. Rather, more meaningful work for your team. It is important to note though, any work put in up to this point will be lost if action isn't taken on ideas, or if the ideas are too large to generate quick and iterative automation improvement.