I went to see Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt a few weeks ago (no spoilers). In the commercial, the theme is Live, Die, Repeat. The premise is that every time Tom's character dies, he gets better at his task and closer to his goal. Now, lets change the theme to - Work, Fix, Repeat. Does that sound familiar? Does it feel like you do that every working day, where you take care of mundane issues, requests and tasks only to feel like someone has pressed the reset button on you? Does it feel like you are getting better at your job because of it? Are you getting closer to accomplishing your work goals? Are we not optimizing our skills or processes to make us more efficient? Much effort and energy is spent to do the work, and to do it correctly, but the work never ends. Again, someone has pressed the reset button and we are facing the same issues again the next day and the same amount of energy wasted to fix it. Notice how I used the word "wasted" in the last sentence. How can my energy be wasted if I am doing good quality work? Can automation help be more productive? Can I show the value of automation?
Because of the constant flow of work coming to IT Admins, automation has now become a necessity instead of a luxury. But doing automation for the sake of automation is not the right approach. Bill Gates has been quoted saying,
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
My approach would be to start by taking care of the easy tasks and getting them to a repeatable and steady state and then moving to more complex issues. That is how we started in BMC IT, by taking care of the "low hanging fruit" and then moving to more extensive tasks like disaster recovery. We also realized that the more tasks we automated the more interest we would get from other teams in IT to help automate. This led to questions like:
- How would we take on the new work (intake process)?
- Is this really a business process or IT process?
- Does it make sense to automate this?
- What priority does this request have over other automation requests?
- Do we have the tools (our own or third-party) to make this happen?
- Can the results be measured?
Going back to the Bill Gates quote - "automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency" tells us that we should always be asking this key question "Does it make sense to automate this?" It is something BMC IT always struggles with because saying "No" is never easy to a customer. We did not have any guidelines on automation except for ITIL. It was learning on the go and taking our bumps along the way. Something good did come out from our journey though.
All of our lessons learned and how to maximize your automation efforts and more have been captured in a new white paper called the BMC Automation Passport. This white paper outlines the processes, value and strategy that organizations need to review along their automation journey. Understanding the value gained and how to gauge new automation projects going forward is essential for success.
Lets stop the break, fix, repeat cycle by understanding the value of automation and how to define its success. We may not be the hero Tom Cruise is in the movie, but we can be the hero who helped get the automation journey started.