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Why is it so difficult to maintain accurate process documentation across an IT organization?

Micro Focus Expert
Micro Focus Expert
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I saw this question posed in a discussion on LinkedIn, and thought that it deserved an answer from an IT Process Automation (ITPA) perspective. One respondent to the question stated it well: "The answer is simple, if there is not a common bond and governance mechanism between process documentation and the technology that is executing the process, the documentation eventually atrophies and collects dust." In my days as an independent ITIL consultant, I found that training and getting personnel to use process as part of their daily routine was at least as difficult as maintaining and updating process documentation. There is a chasm between theory and practice when it comes to process execution.

By applying ITPA to this problem, the general idea is that through automation, process drives people to make decisions and take actions at appropriate times, rather than depending on people to accurately follow process all the time. Because process takes the lead in governing activities, it is by default accurately documented (or a need for change becomes apparent). It also reduces training and enforcement burdens.

The ITPA approach is similar to what Business Process Management (BPM) has done for business processes, such as receiving orders all the way through to fulfillment. But ITPA differs in that it is tailored for IT processes, both at a "Macro" or ITIL discipline level, as well as at a "Micro" or procedure/work instruction level. A big distinction is the ready-made integrations to common tools already in use, such as ticketing tools, monitoring tools, provisioning tools, etc. that make it easier to document and automate process from available building blocks.

I see a lot of organizations benefiting from this approach, not just from a consistency of process documentation and execution perspective, but also from labor savings. This can be through reduced manual documentation requirements (such as filling out ticket details) as well as a reduction in performing repetitive manual tasks. It also raises visibility of process by allowing authorized users to check on the real-time progress of any specific process as well as providing metrics or reports on the general execution of processes to identify bottlenecks, unnecessary repetition and so on - supporting continual service improvement.

The trade-off is that it requires good process designers. If you automate a bad process, it can make things bad faster. You can't hide process problems if you go this route. For those companies that are taking the steps to mature their processes, though, ITPA technologies like NetIQ Aegis are worth a look.
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