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Top 5 Pitfalls to IT Process Automation Failure

10/27/2011 by: The SunView Team

Based on a recent report from Information Weekly, implementing service automation tools is one of the top objectives for IT organizations. While cost is at the forefront when positioning a case for introducing automation practices, the study found that the real, tangible benefits come in the form of improved response times, reduction in errors, and an increase in efficiency.

In addition to benefits, the report also begins to bring light to some of the troubles that can plague and eventually overwhelm even the best intentions for an automation project. Moreover, it draws attention to some of the new challenges that SaaS and Cloud options can introduce. The report goes on in much greater detail, and it may be worth the price of admission (some business/personal information) to download, especially if you are in the early stages of an automation project.

Now, if you read The ITSM Lens regularly, which we hope you do, none of this should be shocking. As with everything we provide, our goal is to offer real-world suggestions based on our experience and success helping members of IT teams at every level of the organization. In fact, just last week we published A 5 Step Process to Achieve Service Automation - a great guide, especially for those just starting an automation project.

The following is what we have identified as the Top 5 Pitfalls to IT Process Automation Failure:

  1. Failure to Get Business Buy-In: IT process automation is an effort that will require members from throughout your organization, and buy-in from teams all the way down to end users. Simply trying to force a solution upon the business will eventually result in failure. We can't suggest this enough, but creating a collaborative SLA will go a long way in helping you achieve success. Of course, your IT Service Management solution will need to support this as well - ChangeGear® does.
  2. Attempting to Automate Everything at Once: Some IT teams are just impatient. Perhaps they want to make one fell swoop, and tackle automating every process the first time. While this is possible, most organizations need to be much more agile, given that processes are likely to change even during your project. This can present problems especially if you are against a deadline and using a legacy solution that requires consultants to make even the simplest customization. A good approach is automate processes logically, and in chunks that are digestible by the organization as a whole - perhaps just starting within your IT team. Either way, your IT Service Management solution will also need to support an iterative style of process automation. A big help to this will be an ability to make customizations simply and easily.
  3. Inadequate Preparation: It's reasonable to understand why a team wants to jump in, pick a software system, and start solving problems. In fact, that's what IT does best. However, as the saying goes, "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance." At a base level, do some reconnaissance to discover initiatives the business may be undertaking. Documentation, especially that of IT-specific processes, is a necessity. Plus, if you are planning to implement a set of best practices such as ITIL, make sure the software solution you are using, or plan to use, supports this out of the box.
  4. Lack of Regular Process Updates: It would be great if IT process automation was a get it done, and then leave it alone project. Unfortunately that's not the case. Even if you are realizing great gains in error reduction and efficiency in the beginning, organizations are dynamic and will change. Be sure to identify processes that might be most susceptible to change, and then set a regular schedule for taking a quick look at those processes, as well as a general overview of what may be changing within the business.
  5. Stopgap Measure Dependence: If there is any single item that poses the largest threat to an IT process automation project, or any project for that matter, it's the intention (hidden or realized) that this is simply a temporary and reactionary solution. Perhaps you are just looking to stem the flow of tickets, because there are no resources to add staff. Maybe you are looking for a quicker way to deploy updates. No matter the reason, if you are going to spend the time and resources to take on such an initiative, you need to be committed to reaching a well-rounded solution. While automation can have great gains for your organization, it might not be a great first step. Be sure not to ignore other issues such as an IT team that operates outside of the business goals and objectives, or an aging, legacy IT service management system that is in desperate need of an update.

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