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Automating ITIL

Nov 2, 2007

Hank Marquis



Defects are a tremendous burden to the organization and cause re-inspection, rescheduling, loss of capacity, loss of productivity, inability of IT staff to work on other projects, inventory issues, and so on. The remedy here is to use automation to “mistake proof” the process. Consider the service catalog. If you include automated IT request fulfillment with your service catalog, you can improve the collection of data and fulfillment. Automating service request processing catches errors before submission to IT, reduces the need for manual review, and decreases variability.


Overproducing creates a false demand for resources. Over servicing customers is bad for IT, unfair to IT workers, expensive, and ultimately unproductive. Typically, IT overproduction is the result of missing process. Consider the service desk. If you don’t have sound incident management or problem management processes, or your change management process is dysfunctional, you may think you have no other choice but to “over service” callers to “go above and beyond” in order to deliver “service excellence.”

Now, thinking about the service catalog again, let us consider setting proper expectations. The service catalog presents the user with a framework to acquire IT services just as a menu establishes expectations when you go to a restaurant. And it’s automated so you need fewer resources.


Moving paperwork, hardware, software, cabling, and all the other bits and pieces it takes to deliver a service consume more time and waste more time than you might first imagine. While you may not be able to eliminate transportation, you can nearly eliminate the movement of paperwork using automated scripts and workflow.


Users waste millions of hours waiting for IT to do something for them. IT then wastes more time waiting for other IT staff members to carry out related tasks. Reducing the time spent waiting in the service provisioning cycle represents a huge opportunity to improve IT service quality. Remedies here are easy to understand: do tasks in parallel, and make sure to follow managed processes.

One of the most dramatic improvements realized is how automation reduces the wait time on behalf of users and customers. The improvement in productivity alone is often sufficient to justify the automation project. Consider providing automated status emails versus a telephone call.


Stockpiling and maintaining an inventory of commodity IT products “just in case” is a common IT activity. For example, because of the delays in many manual ordering systems many IT organizations purchase PCs in bulk. On the surface this sound like a good thing—customers can get their laptops quickly.

The reality of the situation is that just as in manufacturing, too much inventory quickly becomes an economic drain. First, there is requirement for capital outlay, storage, inventory management, tracking, and increased security. Then comes the issue of obsolescence. Hardware and software configurations change so rapidly that even a matter of months can result in obsolete inventory.

Automating a procurement process can produce real economic benefits. Coupled with automated request fulfillment and status updates, automated procurement can dramatically reduce costs and IT service variability.


Human ergonomic inefficiencies such as walking, lifting, climbing, and reaching are wasteful of time and a health and safety issue. How much time does your staff spend walking around trying to obtain what they need to get a job done? Do users walk around trying to find solutions to their problems? Whenever you see wasted motion, think about how you can prevent it.

Most wasted motion represents real opportunities to improve process or work environment. You can make a safer, more comfortable workplace as you improve IT staff productivity. Shuffling papers, obtaining signatures, manually configuring systems, are all great candidates for scripting and automation.


Many times the method of processing used has no justification. It is simply how things have always been done or how someone in IT thought they ought to be done. Think about smaller, simpler, and easier to use solutions and processes. It is not necessary to achieve total integration and automation of IT systems. For example, in many cases significant benefits come from simply providing a single place for users to obtain assistance.