IT Management can feel like the art of impossible. A client request comes in, the priority is always high, if it is not completed quickly and accurately expectations can easily fail to be met. How are we using control automation effectively, to do more, quickly and accurately; like magic!
- Look for ways to automate re-occurring tasks, but remember not everything can cost effectively be automated.
- Traditional controls and process will help ensure quality and repeatable success.
- Don't go overboard with IT process automation, or create systems that are unmanageable.
The Full Scoop
Anyone interested in free IT Service? Any takers? We had a client experience once that acted as a catalyst to ensuring better back-office controls were put into place. A long standing client of ours requested new Office 365 licenses be added to their account, which of course we were happy to accomodate. The request came in to our IT Helpdesk, automation routed the request to an available engineer, the work was completed, client was updated; done! Well, not quite...it was done, but not as we say "done, done".
Up to this point, we had performed well in automating our IT Service ticketing process. Many hours and financial investments had gone into ensuring that the phone system, messaging tools, email and ticketing properly tracked incoming client requests. A gap that relied too much on automation and assumptions that "someone would remember", was updating our accounting and billing system to recognize the changes in our clients account. To make a long and not too terribly exicting story much shorter, our client received months of free licensing, until a scheduled account billing review revealed the need to update their monthly invoice. Our client was of course not impacted, but our bottom line had been hurting and the controls we had in place did not help us accommodate and align this incoming request with the proper balance of back-end accounting that needed to take place.
Processes do not always have to include technical "code" to help enable automation. Good old documented policies and team reviews can work wonders. In fact, we have seen that when clients over-automate their systems to try and do all the thinking for them; they end up relying too much on process and too little on employee engagement and critical thinking. Assumptions (dangerous little buggers) lead us to feel comfortable that IT Service and Delivery is running smoothly, and we end up missing key elements in our overall process that can come back to bite us down the road.
Not everything can or should be automated. Sure, we could work to integrate our PSA tool with our accounting platform; are we going to do this with every product and service we offer, and keep it updated month after month and year after year; accurately? It is true, if there is a repetitive task you find yourself doing regularly, there is a good chance technology can help you solve for it. A script, a plugin, an upgraded platform with new rulesets; all good stuff. That being said, training and employee awareness needs to be an important part of your process.
Policy guidelines, team discussions, and an awareness of the need to review what has been setup or configured by IT Helpdesk or Professional Services staff; is going to need to become an ingrained part of your work culture. This is not a sign of distrust within an organization, rather it is a recognition that in the process of doing your best to meet the customer service needs of your clients, that mistakes and oversights will happen. A healthy organization will see an oversight as a process failure, not an individual failure, and will treat it as such.
Your journey of continuous improvement requires that you find ways to review and double check work efforts, and as you do you will find that while gaps are found; the occurrence and regularity will diminish, as your team strengthens and improves along with your business.