Think about calls into a service desk. Every call on average costs about $30. Without appropriate processing of communicating status and updates to users, IT customers are going to call and ask. In this case, the low-tech solution (e.g. people with telephones) is dramatically more expensive than the high-tech solution (e.g. automated request fulfillment software like a service catalog.)
To Sum IT Up
ITIL offers many opportunities for automation. From automated incident creation, to known-error record generation, to change request processing, to service provisioning, ITIL workflow is oozing with potential. If you have already begun using ITIL as your ITSM framework then you are well on your way to understanding your current workflow well enough to identify some automation quick win opportunities.
Using ITIL as your guide, examine your organization for manual workflow and waste. Remember DOTWIMP and the 7 Wastes. Process and workflow waste are the prime candidates for optimization using automation.
All the sources of waste cause IT service variability. If you can reduce waste through automation, you can reduce IT service variability. Reduce IT service variability and you increase IT service quality while reducing costs. The trick of course is to identify those opportunities that can be quick wins.
Here is a summary of potential opportunities almost everyone can benefit from:
Look for the repetitive and mundane tasks. These consume the bulk of IT operations time. Candidates here often include providing status to users, checking servers, and other systems for status, responding to inquiries, etc.
Availability and capacity management are where many use automation today in the form of monitoring scripts. If you are not using some form of script to gather, analyze and filter data from your infrastructure you should. A few simple scripts can result in a dramatic improvement in efficiency.
The service desk and incident management can be goldmines for opportunities, if you capture good data in the first place. Examine the last few weeks of incidents for common requests. See if these can be automated. Every incident that used to require human attention that you can prevent is free time for IT staff to work on value-added solutions and services. You might not have though of this, but a self-service portal option for users is automation too.
Change and release management are often rife with automation candidates. Everything from collecting the RFC all the way through pushing out updates and patches can be automated.
Service level management is a prime candidate for automation due to its relationship with the service catalog. Perhaps the biggest bang can come from implementing an automated service catalog to handle routine interactions like requests for information about services, IMACS, up to and including the automation of authorizations and procurement.
Hank Marquis is director of IT Service Management Consulting at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates , an industry research firm focused on IT management. Hank can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.