My first three blogs discussed the potential of ignio and the key customer roles to drive an Intelligent Automation project. ignio, to successfully become the digital avatar of your IT operations, requires a well-thought-out strategy and implementation plan. So, in this month’s column, I’ll focus on how to do just that.
The key factors in creating an effective implementation plan:
- Identify your “North Star” to steer by (i.e., what success in intelligent automation of your IT operations will look like).
- Create an overall strategy for achieving success with ignio.
- Define a plan and schedule to implement ignio (focusing on timing).
- Appoint the two key leaders to drive this exercise (which I discussed in my September column).
What success looks like
The linchpin of an ignio implementation is which critical success factors (CSFs) you choose for defining success. The Digitate approach to digital transformation is typically based on these five factors:
- Percentage that MTTR (mean time to resolve an issue) shrinks due to ignio
- Percentage of IT incidents or events resolved or managed
- Hours of labor per full-time equivalent (FTE), per week (or other reasonable period) freed from highly repetitive tasks
- Hours of labor saved from eliminating business incidents (for example, preventing pricing errors in retail stores)
- Business value created – the cost savings or revenue gains. (We generally see sizable business value achieved once the ignio implementation reaches maturity – i.e., managing at least 30% of your total incidents.)
These CSFs are the North Star around which you design your strategy, and they will lay the foundation for achieving your business case.
How to achieve success (or, making an elephant fly)
My favorite analogy for running IT operations is to think of IT as a big elephant carrying a lot of loads. Why an elephant? Because ITOps carries a lot of “weight”; it’s valuable and reliable; yet it is neither fast nor agile. And like an elephant, it can be quite willful. Further, I like to think of ITOps as a mechanical elephant, like one of those giant clockwork Victorian mechanisms – if only because it’s easier to analyze those as a collection of small cogs, rather than dissecting living tissues.
In this analogy, looking at IT operations as a connected set of Standard Operating Procedures turns them into the cogs in the diagram below. Each of these individual cogs fits into a larger assembly, which supports one or more functions of the overall mechanism.
These SOPs are designed to support business-critical data flows.
Achieving Intelligent Automation at scale is all about executing these steps:
Step 1: Understand your elephant (the most difficult task)
The prerequisite of any IA project is defining the SOPs you want to automate, and recording them in an “automation requirement document,” or ARD. Like any other IT solutions, IA projects need a detailed road map for implementation – namely, an ARD.
Creating an ARD is a tedious task that requires time and dedication. Yet this investment not only keeps your project on track, it also has larger benefits: In many organizations, SOPs were not always properly documented, and are too often executed by “tribal knowledge” alone. (In other words, IT team members learn how to execute operational tasks by working with other members and learning on the job.) Properly collecting requirements and writing well-defined ARDs increases overall knowledge of how your IT operation works.
To fully transform ITOps, you can adopt either of these two approaches:
1. Top Down: Select a critical subset of SOPs to automate. I generally advise selecting SOPs by data flows because they represent the digital extension of business processes. (I discussed data flows in August.) There might also be a compelling problem such as event management or capacity management. Or you might take an opportunistic approach – elimination of an immediate pain such as product prices not showing at cash registers or items locked due to a master data flag.
This approach, while providing a faster ROI, is usually a response to a specific problem that an organization has identified. However, it might create the illusion that the overall IA journey is no longer needed. To avoid such an illusion, a top-down approach requires carefully planned architecture to fit all data flow requirements into one single IA solution and an equally well-planned deployment strategy. Therefore each deployment improves the overall Intelligent Automation CSFs.
2. Bottom Up: Organize your whole set of SOPs by tickets managed. Then prioritize the ones that generate the most tickets in the ignio deployment plan. This approach provides fast adoption. However, it requires a big initial investment, so full ROI will take longer to achieve.
Of course, a mix of both approaches can be adopted. Regardless, don’t forget the goal: Transform your IT operations by leveraging IA.
Now let’s look at how to measure success. The obvious yardstick is critical KPIs. I’ll list suitable indicators for each step.
However, it’s worth considering that in the real world (as opposed to business school case studies), success is not only measured by numbers, it’s perceived (by key stakeholders from everyday users to customers to the CEO). And even though the factors driving perception are sometimes less exact, they’re also important.
With that said, for Step 1:
Success is measured by:
1. At least 90% of selected SOPs are properly documented (i.e., translated into your ARD).
2. All your critical data flows are identified and ranked by priority. This will vary depending on your current business situation – for example, data flow stability. In such cases, an organization typically has 20 to 30 critical end-to-end data flows.
Success is perceived by:
1. Fast deployment of ignio use cases (no rework or delay due to incomplete documents).
2. Minimal time subject matter experts need to spend explaining the ARD.
3. Use case benefits people can easily understand, remember, and appreciate.
Step 2: Transform your elephant
This step, deploying the IA use cases previously identified, provides dramatic improvements to your IT operations. I suggest organizing your IA transformation by leveraging an Agile approach. From the most strategic, long-term level on down, deployment can be organized this way: · A saga where you state the IA program’s ultimate goals: Totally transforming how IT operations work (duration 2-3 years).
· Epics where short-term goals are met. I suggest 4 Epics to each Saga.
· Sprints of monthly use case deployments. Their goal is to define an Agile plan to achieve your chosen Critical Success Factors as quickly as possible. To begin each sprint, review each ARD to assess how and – even if – it can be effectively automated. (Sometimes a legacy ARD might no longer be valid due to IT production changes.)
How success is measured:
1. At least 85% of ARDs selected are managed by ignio.
2. For each of the ARDs above, ignio can self-resolve 95% of the problems.
How success is perceived · Overall MTTR improvement. (Often, the MTTR in IA use cases can drop from days to hours or even minutes.)
· 30-50% of total incidents managed by ignio (indicating a solid base of use cases deployed and a mature implementation).
· 95% of alerts are managed by ignio. · At least 25% elimination of repetitive and manual IT activities.
· 60 to 80% of SOPs are managed by ignio.
One final tip: A good metric for a single use case (ARD) performance is 0.3. This means one use case can streamline IT activities as much as 0.3 of a full-time employee
Step 3: Make your elephant fly (creating value via operations)
This step allows you to harvest all the hard work and prove that you can create value by leveraging IT operations. Typically the IT department has been considered a cost center. But when IT operations create business value is a game changer. Once a solid base of Intelligent Automation use cases has been established, you can assemble them in scenarios designed to provide a quantifiable economic advantage to your business operations too.
Success is measured by:
Meeting your CSF targets. These metrics matter when they translate into business advantages. For example, eliminating at least 25% of manual IT activities may let you reduce projected new headcount needs and/or overtime pay by 25%. If MTTR drops
from, say, 280 seconds to 56, that works out to an 80% quicker response time. That could let your company respond more agilely in emergencies.
Success is perceived by: High stakeholder customer satisfaction. In our digital era, collecting and effectively using data is an important competitive advantage. For example, a shorter MTTR means customers spend less time waiting on the helpline, and therefore give your company higher satisfaction ratings. And less manual, repetitive drudgery could make your IT team’s jobs more satisfying – which means you see less turnover (and less unproductive time spent recruiting and interviewing replacements).
The power of ignio is that it works as one single IA application, connecting deployed use cases and serving as an overall orchestrator of all the different alerts, events, and incidents generated by IT operations, effectively managing your data flows.
When ignio can achieve the CSF benchmarks you’ve set, it’s not only starting to become the digital avatar of your ITOps; now it’s also ready to create business value via operations.
Next time we will do a deep dive into what it means to create a “digital avatar” of your IT operations. Please reach out to me if you want to know more about unleashing the power of ignio.