System Center Automation beyond IT has always been a challenge for a majority of firms today regardless of the efforts put forth. System Center automation capabilities rival many workflow engines in today’s market place, especially when extending Service Manager Automation leveraging tools, such as Cireson’s Automation Stream Solution, Orchestrator and Service Management Automation (SMA). In order to take the automation capabilities of Service Manager and tools beyond IT, one must first understand: the benefits, Return of Investment (ROI) of automation, and look at automation beyond IT from a different perspective to succeed.
First let’s look at that the most obvious benefits of automation.
- Standardization – Through automation, every task or job as part of that automation routine is performed in the same manner. In other words, consistent execution that’s designed to adhere to your organizations operational and security policies.
- Immediate Results/Outcomes – Through automation, immediate Results/Outcomes are achieved whether publishing to the Service Catalog for End User Self Service, or leveraging automation for self-healing of backend business services failures.
- Customer Satisfaction – Because of these immediate outcomes, we are increasing end user productivity, which in turn, increases customer satisfaction.
- Allows IT to Focus on Strategic Projects – Rather than spending time performing day to day tasks, such as password reset, AD user creation / modifications, etc.… Keep your experts focused on innovative, strategic projects and control operational expenses by automating routine mundane IT tasks.
- A second look at automation also uncovers ancillary benefits called soft benefits that most companies do not realize such as:
- Knowledge Management – Automating processes and procedures forces organizations to document valuable knowledge that is usually undocumented or personally held knowledge.
- Training – Automation and knowledge management reduces training efforts so training efforts can now be diverted to strategic projects providing more value to the business.
- Human Error – Eliminates the human error factor.
- Auditability – For auditing purposes, every automated action is recorded within the Configuration Management Database (CMDB).
- Compliance and regulation – Automating enforces compliance, by way of standardization, that is based on ITIL and best practices.
Now we want to understand the automation return on investment by examining questions such as: what processes to automate, what is the cost to perform the manual task on an annual basis, and what are my automation development cost.
Common Repetitive Task
When selecting processes to automate, we want to look at time-consuming and repetitive processes. Then, consider manual processes that are error prone or have bottlenecks. The goal here is to streamline operational processes, reduce the burden on resources, and improve their ability to focus on more strategic projects.
Manual Cost Calculation
The formula below calculates the cost associated with performing a single manual repetitive tasks on an annual basis.
Time – The actual time spent to complete the manual task by a single individual or combined group of individuals. For this step in the calculation, you want to exclude overall time to complete the entire process.
Frequency – The number of times the task is performed on a monthly basis. Example: Task performed 2 times per day based on a 5 day work is 40 times per month.
Cost – The average cost per hour for the individual(s) performing the task.
Months – 12 months
Annual Cost – The annual cost to the business to perform the manual process.
Development cost is determined by either of 2 options: 1) Proposal from outside consultants or 2) Client internal staff. If the firm has the internal skills and resource availability, management needs to understand the total number of hours to automate the process, as well as the average cost per hour of the individuals required to create the automation. Once determined, management can weigh the differences while also considering automation benefits to better understand return on investment for automating a particular manual process.
Automation Beyond IT
Today most IT departments are targeting the low-lying fruit or common automation tasks such as incidents request, applications request, computer request, network request, etc. When you look beyond IT, you see firms dibbling in other departments and for the most part, consist of HR and Facilities. Generally, you don’t see many automation routines beyond IT. For some reason, it seems to be a struggle and non-IT department automation continues to be a gray area, regardless of the time spent working with department managers to automate tasks. If one continues the department level approach, a low success rate is inevitable. If one takes a different approach to this by looking at automation from a higher level or business process perspective, your success rate of automating non-IT departments increases. After all, IT and other departments are in place to support the business and associated processes behind them. Let’s look at automating the core function of the business itself. To explore this further, we will examine a core business process of the legal industry called client/matter intake process.
An attorney acquires a new case, in legal terms called a matter which triggers numerous manual processes across multiple departments. This process on average takes anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to complete depending upon departmental workloads. During this time the attorney is losing productivity and billable revenue, though nominal for a single occurrence. However, this process on average occurs multiple times per day further extending loss of revenue. In looking at the actual cost of this business process to the firm we will run through the manual cost calculation to determine staff cost to complete this process as well lost revenue.
Assume multiple departmental activities combined work effort total 45 minutes, 5 times a day or 100 times per month (5 day work week) at an average combined hourly rate of $48 for mid-level staff equates to an annual cost shift of $43,000.
The attorney or group of attorneys now lose 10 minutes (.17) of productivity, 5 times a day or 100 times per month (5 day work week) at an average billable combined rate of $300 (Associate attorney rates). When automating this entire process the attorney loss of productivity is eliminated and the business benefits with an annual revenue increase of $61k. If only able to automate 50% of this process the additional revenue to the business is 30K.
Taking a different approach to automation from a Business Process perspective extends automation beyond IT and provides business value to the organization.