Service Automation: Key for Maximizing IT and Business Efficiency

By Jim Frey

EMA, VP Research, Hybrid Cloud & Infrastructure Management

The dual revolutions of consumerization and cloud have certainly caused much disruption within and around IT. And universally they have also increased the expectations of IT end users. IT-enabled workers and the lines of business they represent are looking for a fast response to new technology needs combined with high levels of service quality—all at a minimum cost.

How is it possible for IT to accommodate such demands? Two themes that emerge from both EMA research and practitioner dialogue are “automation” and “service awareness.” Taking a service-centric approach to automation allows the IT organization to both accelerate delivery and improve the accuracy of how resources and applications are delivered to meet the needs of supported organizations while also improving end-user satisfaction. Service automation can also have a number of beneficial side effects, including reduced operating costs, improved staff productivity, and reduced incidence of human errors.

In order to reach this desired end state, there are a number of steps that need to be addressed and challenges that must be overcome. Identified in EMA’s recently published white paper, “Best Practices: Maximizing Efficiency Through Service Automation,” are six focal points for ensuring success:

1. Cultural transformation: Adopting a service-centric approach starts with setting expectations by opening the dialogue between IT and the organization it serves to define and agree on service requirements. With standardized processes and simplified practices optimized to unique environmental requirements, IT can improve decisions regarding infrastructure investment, staff allocations, and issue prioritization in order to better support the organization as a whole as well as the individuals that comprise the organization.

2. Elimination of technology silos: In order to implement automations that will address services directly, organizational and political roadblocks between traditional network, storage, and compute teams must be eliminated. Focusing on service first is a great way to bridge the divide and rise above finger-pointing and favor-jockeying.

3. Mobility: Accommodating highly mobile business users is an everyday issue, so IT services must be packaged and centrally delivered in a well-coordinated, automated manner. This helps assure that end users will choose internal options to support business process rather than shopping around the App Store.

4. Workflow and business processes: Some of the greatest efficiencies can be gained via workflow and process automation. But take care to ensure the chosen automation engine is flexible enough to accommodate complex workflows that may range from fully automatable to partially automated to fully manual.

5. Empowering end users: The age of the IT self-service portal has arrived, and tech-savvy end users are able to help themselves in a growing number of cases. Take advantage of this by letting users help themselves—they will love it and love IT for being flexible.

6. Governance: Most governance comes down to effective enforcement of policy, and this is where automation really shines. Use automation to make sure that consistent access, security, and quality policies are applied when deploying resources and services.

The service-centric approach opens the door for truly optimizing IT, transforming it from cost center/barrier to strategic enabler for business. With ever increasing rates of change within information technologies paralleled by rising user expectations, service automation has become a must-have for effective IT.

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