FAQ: IT process automation

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by ITworld, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

IT Process Automation (ITPA) can help you manage your IT landscape more efficiently and eliminate error prone manual steps. Done right, it can improve your IT processes immensely and return measurable value to your business. Here are 7 things you need to know about ITPA.

What is IT process automation?

IT process automation is the creation of automated workflows across the 6 traditional IT functions of job scheduling, managed file transfer, run-book, application release, virtualization management, and application process. The goal of ITPA is to reduce or eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual processes and increase business value.

Is my business a good candidate for ITPA?

Business to consumer companies in industries such as Financial Services, Retail, and Healthcare are generally good candidates for ITPA as they have many repeated workflows that are important to keeping the website up, high-volume transactions flowing smoothly and brand image intact.

How should I get started?

In each of the 6 traditional IT functions (job scheduling, managed file transfer, run-book, application release, virtualization management and application process), there are a few specific workflows that can be targeted as the technical and economic proving ground. Typically, workflows fall into three categories: supply-chain, customer-facing and internal. It is typically best to pick 3-5 workflows all in one category. Measuring process improvements by tying them to business workflow value is the key to communicating scope and value to the organization. Without making this connection, projects and work tend to be viewed as technical activities only. By focusing on this connection, you can succeed both within one of the 6 areas of automation and more importantly across them.

How do I measure the business value of IT process automation?

Business process value can be measured in 5 ways: speed, quality, cost, reliability, and agility. As an example, a company employed application release automation and now their web application can be updated twice a week instead of twice a month and improving site uptime to 99.98%.

What workflows are good/bad candidates for IT process automation?

Good candidates for ITPA are multi part workflows/business processes that cut across several applications. These workflows are typically fairly regular and important the operation of the business, therefore, they must be free from human-based error or delay. Bad candidates are highly-complex, sporadic workflows. It's typically not worth the time and effort to automate this type of process.

How do I calculate savings from ITPA?

To calculate savings from ITPA, consider the labor hours saved and expensive errors avoided by ITPA.

IT productivity value can be measured in IT staff time saved and overall number of processes supported, and/or tasks executed. A recent Forrester survey of 472 IT leaders revealed that 70% used workload automation to free up the time of 10 or more people. Another way to view the benefit is your ability to re-purpose talented IT resources from tactical duties to more strategic projects.

For a real life example of potential error cost, just consider some of the recent financial industry outages making headlines of late such as the Knight Capital Group glitch that cost them an estimated $440 million or the Royal Bank of Scotland mishap that lead to an estimated $250 million in reparation damages.

Another way to calculate the value of ITPA is in reduced software and hardware costs as a result of process optimization and consolidating systems.

How many employees/hours have to be dedicated to ITPA?

A typical organization can expect to require ½ FTE to start and run an initial automation initiative. As more workflows and areas are automated, this usually grows into a small team with corresponding overall IT and business staff savings resulting from better productivity.

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