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Automatic IT

Automatic IT

Business functions such as accounting, logistics and human resources have all benefited from IT-led process automation — everyone, it seems, except for the IT department itself. But that’s all changing thanks to the growing acceptance of automated process management systems

Quick Wins

According to the manager of environment and release management at BT, Craig Wiseman, his team was able to use automation to get some quick economic wins by focusing on improving discreet processes. Wiseman says his group has now used BMC’s Business Service Management framework on two automation projects that have delivered savings in both time and money.

“In a tight labour market we need to make sure that we are getting the best out of our people, and so ideally to reduce the mundane repetitive activities and ensure consistency of outcomes,” Wiseman says. “We wanted to do something quite quickly that could show the benefit of process automation within technology, so we chose New Starter to try and show the business benefit,” Wiseman says.

Wiseman says management is extremely happy because it is saving money and delivering a consistent outcome. He says that it took a little longer to bring the security administration team around, however. “They absolutely love it now that it’s embedded in their processes and practices — they think it is fantastic,” Wiseman says. “It is about selling it to them once and getting them on board, showing them what it can do, and making sure you execute on that.”

While time savings and happy users are important, dollars are better. Wiseman says the second automation project, in BT’s application testing environment for its Wrap Web-based investment portfolio platform, is delivering significant cost savings.

The Wrap application undergoes constant development, with BT operating five pre-production testing environments. Refreshing each testing environment was taking up to 20 hours of dedicated engineering support for a task that would occur 10 to 12 times each year.

Wiseman used BMC’s Atrium Orchestrator to connect manual processes, and now Wrap system refreshes take just 10 minutes. He estimates that particular improvement is saving the organisation $80,000 in its first year, and $250,000 over three years.

Wiseman says he is keen to automate other processes, including other steps in staff on-boarding, and further enhancements in the form of re-usable release processes for software deployments in testing environ­ments. Currently BT undergoes between 600 and 700 software deployments each year, so he believes the savings should be significant. But he adds that finding and mapping the right projects is not easy.

“Our biggest challenge is to understand the process, getting the processes documented, and getting to the process logic and the decision points that people store in their head that they don’t have documented,” Wiseman says. “So every step is a process and it is challenging, and actually making sure we can develop a framework with which to get that information out each and every time, and make that gathering of requirements be a repeatable process as well.”

Wiseman says he had to be conscious of assuring people that the changes were not being made simply to reduce headcount. “We go to great pains to walk through with them that this isn’t about eliminating the need for them to work at BT,” he says. “It is to actually make better use of the IP that they have, and get them to work on higher-value activities.

“This is around trying to eliminate high-risk, high-impact activities and get consistent outcomes every time we do them.”

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