Let’s talk automation…
IT support and solutions can be very manual and labour intensive for IT Teams. This can easily result in your technical departments doubling in size if you do not allow time to reflect upon your processes. I began analysing my IT Support and Solutions processes around 3 years ago, firstly reflecting upon current staffing levels and secondly how I could improve service levels for my clients. Up until this point we did not question the status quo and took IT Support at face value like many IT professionals in the industry. Below is how I used automation to transform from a rigid and reactive IT support professional to an agile proactive IT professional.
Where ‘I.T.’ all began (The transition from break fix to proactively managed)
Like many IT Support professionals and departments, my origins lie firmly within a break fix capacity, reacting to clients needs rather than managing their requirements for them.This transition was simple to overcome, taking my old technical approach and completely revamping it for a more modern day IT delivery, but the implementation was a little less straight forward.
In terms of process efficiency you begin to look for the most encompassing software that will allow you to automate the largest amount of business workflows. The issue that starts to become apparent at this point is many products are designed from a best practices work flow perspective versus a ‘real world’ use. As much as you try to bend the pieces they just don’t integrate all your departments effectively enough. Better still the majority of products available are still aimed at the mass ‘break fix’ market place, leaving a proactive service platform hard to piece together.
As this article is based more around IT support automation I will spare you the details around the annoyance of full system integration and get back to IT systems and automation. But in my opinion, you are better finding the most fitting RMM (remote monitoring and management) platform and working backwards rather than waiting to find the miracle software you’ve been dreaming of.
In terms of your IT support and automation your RMM platform is key to your success. Your platform needs to be able to trigger events upon a failure ticket. If your RMM doesn’t allow you to trigger events or achieve a degree of automation I would seriously take a look at what is on the market.
The lack of event triggering will result in you still being reactive with a slight degree of proactivity, tickets are useful but automation gives true proactivity. Understanding your IT Teams workflows will be essential in achieving true proactive automation and will save hours of time manually diagnosing and fixing.
I have already developed an extensive tool set to achieve effective automation and consistently improve upon the tools in place.
Work flow example:Virus detected – The old school manual work flow (Engineer time required 60 to 120mins):
- Antivirus detects a virus
- RMM platform informs engineer by creating a new ticket
- Engineer reacts to ticket (Time scale will differ depending on free engineering capacity)
- Engineer rings customer – connects to customers machine (spends typically 30 to 60 minutes initiating scan and leaves it running, leaving the customer without a machine in a worst case scenario)
- Engineer calls back after a hour or so to check on the virus scan status
- Engineer finally removes virus
- Normal computing continues
Virus detected – The new school automated workflow (Engineering time required 0 mins):
- Antivirus detects a virus
- RMM platform creates ticket and instantly triggers virus scan and clean up event (operates in the background and causes no downtime for client)
- Virus scan completes and removes the virus
- If removal is successful the ticket is closed
It is hard to see any negatives from implementing automation, you reduce your valuable tie up time, and give maximum uptime to your end users.
Another good example of automation at its finest is for out of hours support. Issues that are not usually apparent until the first person tries to log on in the morning, with automation you can remedy common IT issues without having to click a button.
Lets say your login service has crashed; this will go into a ‘Not Responding’ state, automation will restart the service and normal service will continue. Meaning this has zero impact on your clients business performance.
Many RMM platforms are not currently achieving ‘real time’ monitoring. As every IT professional will tell you a nano second in IT counts and real time monitoring can potentially remove a failure before an end user even experiences an issue. It’s one large leap forward to delivering the 5 9’s of IT Support. (99.999% uptime!)
Trend analysis is core to a successful Managed Service and IT Department. Having access to a full achieve of tickets for all your devices will give you the ability to remove reoccurring issues and bring even more stability to your systems. A good example of this is if you have several resource intensive reports that occur at certain periods of the day there is a potential for performance degradation to other applications during these periods. Trend analysis will give you the ability to put correct procedure in place to either remove the performance issues completely or load balance systems more effectively.
Trend analysis plays perfectly into strategic planning. If you are able to see your current pit falls and link this into your business plan, strategic planning becomes even more proactive and effective.
Service Level Agreements knocked out of the park …
Automation enables you to demolish your service level agreements changing from a response SLA to a fix SLA over night. You are able to deliver a typical 4 hour closure on average versus a traditional break fix 4 hour response. Engineering time is freed up due to automation allowing them to focus on more complex issues and remedy quickly.
Your business needs IT automation as much as it needs automated business systems. IT automation will increase productivity of all aspects of your business, from new projects, support, maintenance, and user experience. If you are not looking to automate more of your IT processes it will result in a wave of unpredictable business costs, from replacement of equipment to more staff. I have leant to refine and streamline the support process allowing me to give clients true ROI in every aspect of their IT.