IT Workflow Management Automation: What You Need to Know

Workflows are everywhere across the world of IT operations. When automated, the benefits are undeniable:

  • They bring about efficiencies in terms of speed of execution and reduce the incidence of accidents and mistakes
  • They free up IT resources from mundane activities and allow IT ops teams to focus on higher-value tasks
  • They provide the ability to capture local knowledge and propagate it across the organization
  • They allow for better compliance adherence and provide readymade audit trails

At the end of the day, workflow management automations optimize IT operations and improve customer satisfaction.

A Variety of Roles

In the case of IT operations management, workflow automations play a key role in several areas.

  • AIOps – Artificial intelligence for IT operations, or AIOps, depends on workflow management automations to provide a proactive approach to service delivery. At the core of AIOps is artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data, which are leveraged to glean actionable insights.
    AIOps leverages workflow automations to take action. A good example of this is automated remediation. In cases where remediation steps are well understood, automation is used to kick off predefined workflows that directly take action to fix the issue. This provides for rapid response and restoration of services.
  • DevOps – IT teams depend on DevOps to rapidly deploy new features and functions to their internal and external clients. In this case, workflow management automation is used to test the quality of the deliverable and to check for issues before they show up in production. Additionally, workflows can be used for compliance purposes. Workflow management automation incorporated into the change and configuration systems provide an audit-ready process that drives compliance.
  • Provisioning and Orchestration – The advent of software-defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) has resulted in the ability to deliver entire service streams and resource configurations to the business.
    Workflow management automations are used to translate application needs directly into technical requirements. These requirements are then delivered via API instructions to orchestration workflow management systems to make the necessary configurations of server, storage or network components. All this is entirely dependent on the use of automated workflows.
  • Help and Service Desk – Workflow management automations enable teams to cope with a higher volume of service requests and help tickets. They are used to automate repetitive processes to free up IT staff to focus on more important activities. They can manage multiple channels of communication in order to route and track requests/tickets as they move through the process. They directly enable the IT organization to respond quickly to customer needs and address business requirements.

Beyond Workflow Management Automation: IT Process Automation Tools

When it comes to IT workflow management automation, it’s necessary to look far beyond simple task-based activities into the wider picture around how to enable efficiencies at the business service and process level.

Gartner uses the term IT process automation (ITPA) to describe the best workflow management tools that provide this level of workflow management automation. They go well beyond task-based automation and are designed to coordinate, sequence and orchestrate the delivery of services across multiple IT operational functions and domains.

By 2023, ITPA tool adoption will increase by a modest 15% to 20%, up from current levels of 22%, as more I&O organizations eventually mature beyond the automation of IT operational tasks to deliver more complex, cross-domain, business-valued services.

It is essential to have a strategic model that caters to the goals of ITPA. Isolated automation initiatives and a lack of coordination across teams, processes and tools are counterproductive to realizing the value that workflow management automations can bring at the business service and process level.

An effective ITPA model depends on developing a cross-organizational, business-level understanding of what workflow automations need to achieve in the long run. The model needs to define resources with the right skillsets in place to execute the automation strategy.

Finally, the right set of tools is required. No one tool can realistically provide the level of workflow management automations needed to fulfill all the goals. It is necessary to use a variety of tools that will work together with a minimum of functionality overlap in order to provide the business services and processes that are driven by workflow automations.

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