It takes two to make intelligent automation happen

Ugo Orsi

By – Ugo Orsi

(Chief Customer Officer | Digitate)

Deploying a complex intelligent automation solution such as ignio™ is like hiking up a mountain: You see the top, but without a map and a guide it isn’t clear which path to take and what it really takes to get there.

In my two previous columns we defined the top of the mountain: ignio fully implemented across all your IT operations and drawing on its machine learning capacities to become a virtual support team in its own right. The next step is to define your key guides. Their job will be focused not only on technical implementation and program management but on change management as well. Mapping out the precise route can only happen once we have trustworthy guides.

Lesson one of change management: People resist change

In my experience as an IT executive and workplace technology advocate, implementation itself is not the hardest part of the ignio journey – user adoption is. That’s basic human nature; most people instinctively resist change, even when it promises to improve their lives.

And leveraging Intelligent Automation to change how IT operation works is a “secular change,” not just a disruption. (A secular change requires people to radically change their habits.) Because Intelligent Automation at scale can prompt major shifts in IT operations, this kind of project needs precise types of change management leaders.

And that is why in this blog I will provide some clarification on two critical players and how to select them:

  • The executive sponsor, who defines ignio implementation goals and holds the budget.
  • The project owner, who owns ignio adoption and business case achievement

These roles aren’t unique to ignio or the category of intelligent automation. Unfortunately, I have noticed that often in intelligent automation implementations, these two key roles just focus on the technology and delivery aspects, diluting the business value of this technology transformation. Too often a proper focus on selecting the right candidates is missing, creating a vacuum in the ability to drive business value in an IA program.

The executive sponsor role must be fulfilled by an executive of the IT resident organization, even in a managed service production support environment. This is because the sponsor owns the business cases, defines their goals and schedule, owns the relationship with the vendor (Digitate in this case), and drives changes in the new technology users’ day-to-day activities or even job descriptions. (In other words, the kind of change most people instinctively resist.)

Notice that these tasks are managerial or even “political.” So the ignio sponsor needs to be a senior leader in the IT organization who can command sufficient resources, with the charisma required to drive change across the whole IT organization, credibility from past successes, and the insight and articulateness to properly communicate the business value created. A good knowledge of ignio solutions and Digitate can also be an asset.

Job One for the executive sponsor: Set strategies and goals

The first step for the executive sponsor is to set the overall intelligent automation strategy, then establish goals/targets and when they need to be achieved. Establishing goals/targets can be overwhelming, since intelligent automation can be used in so many ways. A pragmatic approach that shrinks the decision tree to a manageable size is to leverage the following Key Performance Indicators (KPI):

  • Percentage of overall IT tickets fully managed by ignio
  • Percentage of Standard Operating Procedures managed by ignio
  • Percentage of events managed and optimized by ignio
  • Percentage of batch processes managed by ignio
  • Mean Time to Resolve percentage improvements

The above KPIs must be also linked to clear business values. My experience suggests some fruitful business areas to map KPIs against:

  • Customer (mainly internal users) satisfaction increases (MTTR improves, incident management improves, better coverage)
  • Operating cost decreases (better utilization of ITOps resources)
  • IT operators and management satisfaction increases (greater control of operations, removing trivial tasks, and mitigating the talent shortage triggered by the so-called “Great Resignation”)
  • Negotiating power increases (because the system integrator’s tribal knowledge is now in ignio)
  • Ability to create value via IT operations increases (focus on managing data flow).

Next, individuals’ goals need to be defined. Intelligent automation will change the way many people work. Executive sponsors need to be able to establish equally valuable new roles for this loyal labor force. Careful planning on how to retool and motivate staff affected by technology changes can be a critical asset for both morale and resolving the chronic shortage of IT resources.

The following step is to define the speed of deployment and level of investment. Please note that deployment speed is influenced by IT maturity. For example, if IT operations are not properly documented (and all too commonly, they rely on a lot of tribal knowledge but limited formal instruction), enough time and budget need to be set aside to create all the necessary documentation before adding any new components.

Based on my experience, a good IA transformational plan is based on the Agile methodology:

  • Establish a saga to be achieved in 2-3 years
  • Define four epics (every six months)
  • Create monthly sprint releases.

Once the plan is set, the executive sponsor can move on to the execution phase.

Here, constant communication with major stakeholders, Digitate representatives, and the ignio project owner is critical. Regular weekly meetings help to keep progress going and communications open. Open communication is key because perception on how IA is proceeding can be elusive. Therefore, it is key to invest time in understanding how the company culture is reacting to IA transformation. The ignio

executive sponsor and product owner need to become trustworthy business partners – wanted, not just needed, by their company’s key stakeholders.

The product owner: MVP of Intelligent Automation

The most valuable player during execution is the ignio project owner, the linchpin of intelligent automation success. This role’s main goal is to optimize IT operations, thereby creating business value. The owner must personify experience with ignio solutions.

This role is focused on how efficiently and effectively ignio can deliver operations activities, such as eliminating trouble tickets. We in Digitate suggest these benchmarks to define a successful ignio adoption: ignio manages up to 80% of IT operation Standard Operating Procedures, resolves 50% of total tickets, and optimizes up to 95% of events, as well as 80% of manual activities not ticket driven.

The owner needs to have enough charisma to establish influential relationships across the IT operations landscape. He or she should also be a senior IT director with strong IT operation and, project experience, and great respect as a reliable ITOps implementer. The job requires the ability to coordinate a strongly opinionated, diverse team towards the successful utilization of the ignio platform.

This role may also closely work with an IA automation architect, a technical expert who defines the overall IA architecture and supports technical reviews. (The architect can report to either the product owner or the executive sponsor to secure approvals – for example architectural or security approval.)

Keep in mind that, as with any live implementation, the ignio owner must be available around the clock for any emergency or escalation meeting. It’s a full-time job. Here are the most common duties:

  • Drive the ignio use case deployment plan and optimize the delivery team’s workload, tracking status on a weekly basis.
  • Review progress monthly on the various business cases.
  • Evangelize within your organization on what automation can do to help users’ daily experiences (more than merely informing the organization about the change).
  • Intervene when necessary to remove blockers for users.
  • Educate users and help them accept intelligent automation as a reality.
  • Work with the business and IT teams to identify technical issues and proactively resolve them.
  • Drive the change management plan to retool, retrain, and/or relocate impacted colleagues.
  • Help identify low-hanging fruits and deliver through an Agile delivery approach.
  • Set the framework for measuring success and benefits derived.
  • Constantly communicate with key stakeholders on ignio performance and deployment.

In small IT operations, the ignio executive sponsor and ignio owner can be combined in one single person, even if the best practice is to have two separate people.

I also advise both ignio executive sponsors and ignio owners to attend the Digitate Academy online. While they do not need to become ignio experts in configuration or use case deployments, they can acquire a good understanding. This knowledge will be key to driving optimal adoption in their environments.

The bottom line: When you set the course for an ignio journey, strong leadership is critical in both the technical and managerial spheres.

Thanks for reading! See you next month, when I’ll discuss how to make an elephant fly.

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