7 Key considerations for an effective IT automation strategy

19 February 2021
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IT automation is the process of creating software and systems to replace repeatable processes and reduce manual intervention. It accelerates the delivery of IT infrastructure and applications by automating manual processes that previously required a human touch. With IT automation, software is used to set up and repeat instructions, processes, or policies that save time and free up IT staff for more strategic work. With the rise of virtual networks and cloud services that require rapid, complex provisioning, automation is an indispensable strategy for helping IT teams deliver services with improved speed, consistency, and security.

IT automation overcomes the static, manual nature of IT operations jobs that prevent successful digital transformation. The technologies manage tasks based on business policies and resources. The goal is to establish an effective mechanism of automation within the dynamic settings of the IT environment, workforce resources, and the business landscape.

IT automation is a powerful tool that can scale a business, result in faster operations and provide significant cost savings. A fully automated environment can reduce the time to delivery for production-ready resources from weeks to less than a day.

Here are 7 key considerations for you to implement and effective automation strategy into your business:

Work on what’s practically possible

Most organisations are now adopting artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and DevOps workflows to re-engineer sophisticated processes within their business. But the technology leads need to understand the reality of what’s possible and what’s not. The Managing Director or CIO has an orchestral role within this, helping other teams to identify the transformation opportunities in each, and the changes that will be involved. 

Gain a clear understanding of the process to be automated 

Automation is about optimising and modernising processes. As such, organisations must understand all the steps in an existing process, identify which steps are necessary, where any existing bottlenecks are, and whether the process can adjust to new requirements as they evolve with the growth of the business.

That knowledge, combined with automation technologies, is how businesses can move from simple process improvement to real process transformation.

It is possible for organisations to optimise their processes without technology, but they can only SERIOUSLY transform and modernise them with the use of technology.

Re-imagine workflow – then automate

Businesses and process owners need to take their understanding of a process and find ways to improve it though automation if they want to see real transformation.

It’s possible for automation technologies to be point solutions to automate specific activities here and there, but that doesn’t show the improvement that you could capture if you re-evaluate the entire process.

With that in mind, look for ways to make processes more efficient before even working on automation implementation, that way you will often find that there is plenty of room for workflow improvement.

Businesses will find there are certain things they do for no other reason than because that was always the way they did them. Implementing automation helps transform your processes by taking out as many steps as possible and streamlining them.

To understand existing requirements and processes, your IT team should work with functional area teams to understand the flow of work and identify unnecessary steps. Ask yourself, are we doing something because 10 years ago, when we build the process, it was the only way to get the work done and whether it’s still relevant for the business today?

If you fail to evaluate and optimise processes before automating them, you risk perpetuating inefficiencies for a long time to come.

Establish a modern IT stack

Automation is best suited when you have an infrastructure within IT that supports integration and rapid changes.  

Often you will find that you are unable to automate business processes with legacy architecture and will need to be using a modern IT infrastructure to have the advantage. For example, automating certain processes requires cloud computing, sophisticated data analytics, application programming interfaces (APIs) and, of course, some level of AI capabilities already working in the IT environment in support of the automation initiative.

Choose the right tools for your organisation

Pick the right automation tools for your organisation and automating on a toolchain that your staff don’t want to use, or is unnecessarily complex, or simply doesn’t match your needs – will create problems that will thwart success.

Any solution with too steep of a learning curve will be a turnoff for most of your team, who are already busy trying to get their day-to-day work done.

When selecting an ideal automation toolbox, focus on three key factors – flexibility, simplicity and usability. From setup and deployment to long-term ease of use, each of these attributes in your automation tools will deliver long-term results.

Manage change

As is the case with any technology enabled initiative, businesses must have in place a strong change-management strategy so that the users impacted as a result of automation will adjust to the new workflow, rather than rejecting the changes.

Many users fear that they’ll be replaced by technology, but automation doesn’t necessarily mean job loss. Rather, it creates additional capacity for workers, and Return on Investment (ROI) giving them time to shift to higher-value work and the new initiatives being created by advancing technologies.

Still, staff need to understand retooled workflows and adjust to their roles in automated processes, and they need to understand how their overall jobs are influenced and affected by automation.

Automate processes as part of a long term plan

It is important that you begin your automation process in stages rather than trying to tackle your entire software development lifecycle, or a similarly large workflow all at once.

Your step-by-step approach to automation should be part of a larger long-term plan to achieve your goals. Circumstances will change, the environment will mature, and new requirements will arrive on a regular basis. Those conditions will require the maintenance and updating of your automation framework.

A key part of that long-term plan will be accounting for ongoing operations and optimisation. Don’t fall for the misconception that automating a process means you’ll never have to think about it again, or that it won’t require human intervention. Automation, like any other spoke in the lifecycle, is a feedback loop requiring monitoring and maintenance. 

There’s no end point to the improvements you could be making and the return on investment of automation. Lumina Technologies can help you with all your IT needs including working with you to devise an IT automation journey. We offer IT support for all our clients and ensure that an effective IT strategy is in place.

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