As I visit with customers of NetIQ Aegis and observe successes and struggles, I thought it might be helpful to assemble a list of lessons learned for those of you just getting started with IT Process Automation. Here are five lessons that will help you achieve early success.
1. Get started with three to five processes that result in quick wins
Why three to five? Some may not work out like you planned, or take longer to implement than originally anticipated. Moreover, demonstrating ROI on the ITPA investment will, in most cases, take more than one process. But trying to implement too many processes in the early days of implementation can dilute resources, resulting in delays as well.
The ideal processes that qualify as “quick wins” are focused on resolving widely-recognized pains, yet do not require buy-in or integration across multiple groups or tools in the IT organization. Deploying a new technology can expose political fractures in the organization. Focus first on processes that do not require approvals outside of a specific group, but target highly visible problem areas, to justify the implementation costs and offer irrefutable evidence (real business justification) for continued deployment of IT Process Automation.
2. Identify the follow-on processes to automate before you start
While the first three to five processes are critical, it’s a good idea to consider what will be the second act for your ITPA implementation, even before beginning the first. This allows momentum to be maintained, because as the details of implementation consume your attention, the focus will be there rather than on what is ahead, and at some point you will run out of processes ready to be implemented. A better approach is to stimulate demand by showing off the early results and generate a queue of processes to be automated.
The risk of not taking this step is that the deployment will stall and ROI will be limited. With ITPA technologies you can generate positive ROI from the first few processes that you automate, however, significant additional ROI can be generated from each new process that is automated, especially once the infrastructure and expertise is already in place. This advice may seem obvious, but almost all of the organizations I've spoken with have fallen into the trap of losing momentum after the initial deployment, which could have been avoided.
3. Get buy-in from the right stakeholders
One challenge commonly seen when selecting an ITPA technology is paralysis through analysis. This is often due to the fact that too broad of a consensus is needed to select a solution. Because ITPA technology is new, there is confusion in the marketplace over how to interpret the difference between vendor products. There is also confusion as to how this new technology can replace legacy investments such as job scheduling tools, to provide IT with greater value and functionality. Early adopters proved that the resulting overly-cautious approach ultimately delayed the ROI that ITPA offers.
What may not be as intuitive is the need to obtain buy-in from administrators, who will perceive ITPA as a threat to their jobs and can sabotage efforts to document processes. Involve these stakeholders in the decision process and reassure them that the time they save through automation will be put to better use for the business.
4. Dedicate resources to ensure success
Personnel are expensive and one of the critical measures of the ROI potential in ITPA is how much manual labor is saved. So it would seem counter-intuitive to promote dedicated resources to building and maintaining automation on an ongoing basis. Yet, without the expertise to building good processes, the ROI potential will diminish.
Some organizations have dedicated 20 to 40 percent of a full time employee (one or two days per week) towards working on automating processes, to get started. Once the value has been established, dedicating additional time has proven to be relatively easy to justify.
5. Calculate the return on investment with each new process automated
Much has been made of ROI in the lessons listed above. In today’s macro-economic environment, a new technology purchase must have demonstrable ROI to be considered. ROI is generally easy to prove with ITPA, which is driving much of the interest. To calculate it, you need data to support the time it takes to manually perform tasks and the cost of that labor time. Then you need to compare that to the percentage of that time that can be saved through automation. Note that very few processes can be 100 percent automated, but there can still be significant value in automating even as little as 50 percent of a process. Perform the ROI analysis on every single process you automate. Each one has its own potential, and collectively, over time, can produce startling results. Your NetIQ Account Manager can provide you with an ROI calculator that was built by the analyst firm Forrester to help you with this effort.
Proceed with confidence
Although it may be new to you, ITPA has been around for years and has reached a level of maturity that is sufficient for most organizations that would normally be risk adverse and unable to invest in leading edge technologies. Taking these lessons (and learning new ones in online communities) is one way to improve your chances for success. Now is the time to enjoy the return on investment that ITPA can offer.