As digital transformation continues to shape organization-wide initiatives, CIOs are recognizing the benefits and value of automation in reducing errors and process variability, leading to lower operating risks and faster execution and innovation. In fact, according to Gartner’s recent report, by 2023, 40% of I&O teams will use AI-augmented automation in large enterprises, resulting in higher IT productivity.
Despite this future uptick, many organizations are currently automation deficient as a result of complex infrastructure, fragmented task automation and tool sprawl. A renewed focus on automation will put I&O teams in the driver’s seat as cloud-like capabilities become the norm. To achieve the highest ROI, CIOs should audit their organization first in order to determine the level of need for automation as well as which specific areas to automate.
Having a clear mandate is essential for any organization to be able to implement automation at scale. CIOs need to ask the right questions of their organization to determine a baseline for automation. These core questions include: Where is the organization experiencing business issues as a result of a lack of automation? What is preventing the organization from automating more? Does the organization have the right foundation of standards, people and processes on which to automate?
From our experience, on the journey to mature automation, companies typically fall into one of following five stages:
Stage Zero: Reactive
Organizations in the reactive phase do not understand the demand for IT services and the importance of measuring IT service results. Their customers don’t have a well-established way of requesting services nor an understanding of the status of their request. Requests are obtained from various sources, completed inconsistently and process documentation is typically piecemeal. Difficult requests are often directed to individuals who have assisted with similar requests in the past, and tooling is procured by teams without strategy or direction.
Stage One: Focused
Focused organizations know the limitations of existing IT automation and actively create initiatives to improve service delivery on a small scale. In this stage, customers have a formal method of requesting services, but it isn’t fully followed or enforced. These organizations have limited processes and tools, and are still highly reactive, relying heavily on a specific individual’s knowledge. Automation is defined and repeatable with possible consistent results, documentation exists for all common services and there is awareness that tooling and coding is inconsistent.
Stage Two: Established
Organizations in the established stage are more proactive, and provide IT services with a formal approach to processing service requests with an automated triage capability. Workflow is measured for completeness, and tasks-to-complete services are well-understood, with a gap analysis on which automation has not been completed. In this stage, at least one primary IT service has been automated. There is an automation backlog with prioritization in place. Tooling is standardized and the process for code management is uniform across all teams. Though there is an agreed-upon vision for automation, integration into broader services, such as DevOps, are still incomplete or inconsistent.
Stage Three: Accelerated
Accelerated organizations actively deliver new services based on input from the business. Service levels and quality metrics are captured and improved upon, and IT has a catalogue of services available to all business units. Over half of the major IT services have been automated, and developers have integrated standard tooling into pipelines with defined outcomes. In this stage, organizations are focused on process execution and excellence, but KPIs are centered around IT, instead of the business as a whole.
Stage Four: Optimized
Optimized organizations have a mature and continuous service improvement program with an established cadence for enhancements. The entire suite of IT services has been automated and aligned with business initiatives, directly affecting business outcomes. Service offerings have various options to ensure automation is being utilized, there are teams in place to deliver applications and software, and IT services have comprehensive documentation and adoption of standardized processes with seamless integration.
Achieving Relentless Automation
A focused, cross-functional team should be assembled to effectively assess and define the automation roadmap for an organization. The cross-functional team will bring relevant perspectives to IT service offerings with the intent to automate. Once a baseline for automation is established, CIOs should monitor the progress of their automation efforts, including potential for growth and barriers the organization is experiencing within the zones of infrastructure, operations, application development, service delivery and enterprise service management.
As CIOs begin to implement automation at scale, they will see reduced operational costs and time to deliver on critical, strategic products and offerings. As a result, organizations could recognize increased revenue, boosting their organization’s bottom line and driving them closer to total digital transformation.