The case for automating workflows is a strong one. There are plenty of reasons why organizations are looking for the right automation tools, including but not limited to:
- Frees staff from performing tedious, high-volume, low-value tasks
- Creates cheaper and faster process execution
- Improves customer experience
- Makes it easier to scale
I’m not here to argue the case of automation. When done correctly, it can achieve all those benefits above. And many organizations see success when they automate simple, one-step tasks, like password resets.
However, automation can start to feel like a catch-22, especially for those organizations who realize initial success with their simple automated tasks. That’s because they start the automation initiative by looking for the right tools. Many automation conversations in organizations are about the various tool vendors and weighing the features of each tool. And for simple automations, perhaps that’s not a bad way to make decisions.
But if you want to automate multi-step, complex workflows, the tool is the last thing you need to identify. Let’s explore how to make sure you get these multi-step automations correct.
Principles of Good Automation
1. Automation often means orchestration
The term “automation” is often used to describe things that are actually service orchestration. Automation is the act of automating a single task, like password resets. Orchestration refers to automating multi-step processes to create streamlined, end-to-end (and often inter-departmental) workflows. When determining your automation needs, be clear on whether your goal is only to automate or orchestrate.
2.Don’t automate or orchestrate “just because you can”
Every organization has plenty of workflows and tasks from which to choose to automate. But just because you can automate something doesn’t mean that you should, especially in the first stage of your automation initiatives. You want to focus your initial efforts on the tasks that:
- Are performed on a high-frequency basis, are tedious for people to perform, but are well-defined and produce predictable results.
- Consume a disproportionate amount of a team’s time. This may indicate that the process is not well-defined to begin with! In this case, be prepared to first invest time into process design.
- Drive the most ROI for your business. It doesn’t make sense to spend hours and hours defining and automating a task that is only performed on an infrequent basis.
3. Everyone involved must be ready for orchestration for it to work
Creating multi-step, complex workflows almost always involve more than one team or person. You have to have everyone involved in the entire process involved and that requires a level of transparency from everyone in the organization.
Too many organizations begin automation initiatives despite having little insight into the actual steps involved in a workflow—and therein lies the problem. Those organizations are trying to automate work that they don’t understand.
Gaining Transparency is key
The solution for avoiding automation and orchestration missteps is to start by gaining transparency into the work currently being performed – before you start to automate. Here’s how:
- Get the whole team involved. Automation and service orchestration has to be a collaborative project, or it will never work. People are often resistant to automation initiatives because they do not understand the objectives of the initiative or were not provided with an opportunity to provide feedback. To help overcome this resistance, illustrate how orchestration and automation will not only improve productivity, quality, and efficiency, but will also improve the employee experience by removing toil from daily work.
- Identify needed business outcomes. Business outcomes are king to all else. You’re going to burn precious resources spending so much time automating tasks and orchestrating procedures that don’t result in measurable and valuable business outcomes. Before automating, first evaluate how a particular workflow achieves business outcomes
- Understand end-to-end workflows. Does everyone on the team have a shared understanding of each step in a workflow? Is there a clear understanding of how each team contributes to that workflow? Many organizations don’t have this type of insight and it causes massive breakdowns during the execution of a process. Getting insight into the steps involved enables automation. Otherwise, attempts to automate will only result in frustration.
Once you’ve gained transparency into the current work, now you’re ready to evaluate tools. While this may require more time at the outset, doing this foundational work is key to long term success with automation.
Good automation and good service management go together
To be clear, good automation will not fix bad service management. When you try to use automation to address poor service management issues, all that happens is that you screw up faster – and automatically. And your end-users and customers immediately feel the impact of bad service management.
But when good automation is combined with good service management, watch out. Good service management helps you do more with your resources, helps you get everyone on the same page – both from the technology and the business outcomes perspectives, and helps you deliver that differentiated experience. Good service management ensures that you’re taking a holistic approach to delivering IT products and services. And when you start automation efforts by understanding how value is delivered through IT products and services – you’ll automate the things that both make sense and deliver the most value for both the organization and the user.
Tedder’s Takeaway: Why it matters
Tools alone will not make automation work. Automation is only successful when there is a shared and agreed understanding of the resulting business outcomes, combined with having transparency into how work is being done. Augmenting good service management with good automation delivers the differentiated experience for both the organization and the end-user.
Are your automation efforts stuck? Are you not realizing the benefits of service orchestration? Let Tedder Consulting help! From value stream mapping to process design and improvement, Tedder Consulting can enable automation that is both impactful and delivers a great customer experience. To learn more, schedule a free, 30-minute meeting with Tedder Consulting today!Share