In the past several years, assisting new business models through use of advancing new technologies helped reveal IT as a strategic function in the enterprise as opposed to an ordinary operational area. This process, however, came at a distinct organizational cost – additional workload to existing IT teams. We’re seeing substantial increases in IT operational activities due to extra service requests, cyberattacks and demand for new digital services.
In light of this evolution of enterprise IT, the primary challenge for IT decision makers is to maintain a steady balance of strategic alignment of growth and efficiency. In this article we’ll examine how automation provides a critical route to realizing both strategies. Automation compliments existing IT operations tools, may not necessarily replace them. Automation is a low-cost investment to implement and maximize the value of existing landscape. We’ll also consider a checklist of important features an optimal automation tool should possess.
Transforming Digital Optimization Process
Working to reach operational excellence involves utilizing workforce and assets efficiently, streamlining operational processes, and maximizing value to the customer at a lower cost. Here are a number of important areas of consideration with respect to automation:
- Service management – robots can deliver good outcomes in areas such as user management, license management, and asset management activities.
- IT operations – robots can automate activities by invoking remediation with pre-built actions based on alerts for areas such as infrastructure provisioning and orchestration, backup and patch management, and cloud management.
- Security operations and risk management lifecycle – automation for areas such as security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR), continuous policy controls testing for compliance audits, and automating security risk assessments
- Data management – automation can play a role with common data managements activities for example: accelerate data extraction, trigger and perform data enrichment, automate data administration, cleaning and preparation tasks, and trigger workflows within data platforms.
Facilitating Digital Transformation
One of the key elements of digital transformation is the process of developing new digital solutions. It’s important to integrate the enterprise’s continuous delivery pipeline with automation tools, thereby accelerating various software lifecycle phases.
A typical development life cycle is comprised of the following delivery phases: (i) preparation involves a sound foundation for how work gets done. The process mining tools can help create a mind map of the whole process, assisting in the preparation and documentation; (ii) development projects require new programming code, new/updated objects, code remediation, coding standards etc. A good automation tool will include pre-built and reusable modules to expedite development efforts. Also needed are UI automation capabilities along with APIs. Also important are a wide set of connectors to various popular platforms (e.g. Salesforce) which enables customers to drive automations spanning one or more different line-of-business systems via API-based integration. Along these lines, simplified authentication and low-code/no-code tools empower developers, (iii) data migration activities are performed by developers during the development phase, e.g. during a cloud migration project we see standard activities such as VM preparation, user management, policy configurations, life and shift activities along with network and security configurations. Automation tools should include built-in wizards to accelerate migration activities, especially when it comes to data validation and data mapping activities, (iv) testing consumes a significant amount of time in any development project and should be an integral part of an automation tool. Test automation not only accelerates the project testing activities but also automates the actual business process itself as the same scripts can also be used for the production process. Automation tools should integrate with test management and application lifecycle management tools to provide end-to-end test automation.
AI/ML Enabled Automation
A quality IT automation tool should contain a strategic artificial intelligence (AI) feature-set allowing developers to deploy, manage, and continuously improve machine learning (ML) models across the enterprise. Further, it should be possible to leverage those models within RPA workflows, enabling decision-making abilities in the process.
AI solution templates should be the starting point that provide ready-to-deploy building blocks for AI-enabled automation: RPA workflows, pre-built ML models, sample data sets, analytics, as well as human in the loop.
Examples of pre-built models offered by UiPath include:
- Document understanding for an array of business document types, e.g. invoices, purchase orders, receipts, etc.
- Image analysis for object detection and image moderation
- Language analysis for text classification, language detection, translation, named entity recognition, and sentiment analysis
- Language comprehension for question answering, semantic similarity, and text summarization
- Tabular data model for regression and classification prediction problems
IT Automation Use Case
UiPath has become a one-stop-shop for IT automation needs in terms of automating business processes, streamlining IT operations, improving the customer experience, and accelerating deployment of new digital solutions.
UiPath client and well known consumer hygiene, health, and nutrition brands manufacturing leader Reckitt is in the process of automating its IT operations. In pursuit of providing end-users with futuristic consumer-grade services, the digital transformation project has enlisted the help of software robots to achieve a streamlined, seamless IT experience. Automation is leading the charge for change in many rules-based and repetitive processes.
An organically driven pipeline emerged and robots were deployed by an in-house team to tackle common IT tasks like password resets, providing access to IT systems, managing mandatory training, adding people to distribution lists, and adding or removing software licenses.
After good success with the initial phase of their automation journey, the company began experimenting with process mining tools to reveal the inner workings of IT operations that had been invisible to human observers.
The results using UiPath UI+API integration capabilities were impressive in enabling end-to-end automation. Nearly 20% of processes within every element of IT operations are now fully automated. This translates to over 80 robots delivering real benefits including a 20% cost reduction and 10,000 business hours returned each month.
In conclusion, a robust enterprise-class automation solution enables end-to-end automation across IT environments. Such solutions can operate in tandem with existing infrastructure and operations (I&O) and IT service management (ITSM) tools and work to complement these tools and provide a critical path to zero human-touch operations and accelerate delivery of new solutions.
Contributed by Daniel D. Gutierrez, Editor-in-Chief and Resident Data Scientist for insideBIGDATA. In addition to being a tech journalist, Daniel also is a consultant in data scientist, author, educator and sits on a number of advisory boards for various start-up companies.