NetIQ's Predictions on 2009

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This Is the Year for IT Process Automation

Since we’re only a few weeks into the New Year, it’s not too late for my 2009 IT predictions… Simply put, IT Process Automation will be the driving force and will underpin a majority of key initiatives undertaken by IT organizations this year.

The main objectives for business IT management in 2009 may seem fairly straight forward on the surface, but up close, they are anything but simple. The charge is this: reducing expenses through cost-cutting initiatives, while expanding and improving IT services to better support the business (and to better compete in some instances). So organizations will be looking for solutions that can kill both birds with one stone. In fact, IT Process Automation fills that bill remarkably well by providing operational efficiency and business enablement.   

In the past, offshoring and outsourcing has been the way to go for reducing expenses and improving the delivery of business services. But 2008 demonstrated how badly inflation, currency fluctuations, and high turnover rates can undermine the benefits of outsourcing and offshoring. There’s a lack of controls and processes that govern these ever-shifting, third-party relationships, so IT organizations wind up incurring unexpected costs and experiencing costly delays. At the end of the day, the IT organization sacrifices agility and overall control for all-too-meager cost savings.

So where’s the silver bullet? How can you establish processes as a means of cutting costs and improving the delivery of services? More and more, IT organizations are not only looking to employ processes but are looking to automate process as a means of reducing overhead through operational efficiency. These are the variables that may tip the scale in favor of ITPA this year: 

  1. Getting Comfortable with Process: ITPA is still relatively new in the IT management segment. In 2008, we saw early steps by medium- and large-sized businesses to explore the potential for IT processes. There will be more shifts in mindset as IT becomes more comfortable with defining how IT process impacts the delivery of IT services – in deciding just how exactly the two are supposed to interlock.

  2. Identifying Which Expensive Point Automation Tools Should Be Replaced: New ITPA tools can deliver far broader capacities than the more expensive, niche applications – such as job scheduling tools – that are often used to deliver business services. Though considered a critical component in the past, these can be expensive to license and even more to maintain annually… ITPA tools are capable of performing these jobs, which are in effect, simple processes. ITPA delivers higher value considering their generally lower costs and broader capabilities.

  3. Finding Financial Justification for ITPA: As more businesses adopt ITPA, more case studies will surface that clearly demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) for ITPA tools. ROI will continue to drive the decision-making process and the payback periods will continue to shrink to the 12-month benchmark. The frequencies in which routine tasks are performed and the amount of time required to perform these tasks are factored into ROI calculations. This in turn dramatically impacts the savings that can be achieved from automating these processes. Just the time savings alone, when correlated with IT salaries, demonstrates a significant ROI from ITPA.

  4. Discovering “The Killer App:”  Every IT organization has key tasks that take up an inordinate amount of time – tasks that are prone to human error; tasks that need to run at strange hours or require controls that cannot be enforced outside of automated process. IT organizations have already started identifying these opportunities (such as reducing help desk calls through self-service processes, automating response to common events, performing routine maintenance tasks, etc.). Moving forward, these processes will move from paper to production through ITPA. 

While “quick wins” with ROI will be necessary to justify the initial investment, the flexibility and broad capabilities of ITPA will extend across IT silos and compound the savings. IT organizations will identify new uses for ITPA – creating more process candidates – which will result in increased ROI with each new process that is automated. This will also allow various teams across the IT organization such as security, network and application management groups to collaborate more closely through tool integration without having to grant excessive permissions. Ultimately, the net gain will be that IT can accomplish more with the same budget and resources, while delivering higher-quality services to the business, more efficiently.

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