Bending The 80/20 Process Barrier

Think you can offload complexity only by outsourcing? Not so. Tackle process improvements, then add IT automation to get all the goodness with less risk.
When we talk to CIOs and CFOs about public cloud computing, one area that always grabs their attention is the ability to place A, B, and C IT workloads into a "box" and not worry about the underlying technologies and processes needed to deliver X, Y, and Z business services.

But let's face it, security, compliance, and control issues mean few enterprises are going all-in on the public cloud. Instead, we see CIOs trying to bring the benefits of the public cloud to their environments. Some call it private cloud, others data center optimization. We call it the same problem we've always struggled with: How to minimize human involvement in routine tasks without breaking the bank buying automation software.

A few years ago, run book automation (RBA) innovators, including iConclude (acquired by Hewlett-Packard) and Opalis (acquired by Microsoft) took a run at this problem. Their premise was that a good 80% of IT processes are common from one organization to another. The idea was to automate those functions so CIOs could pay attention to the 20% of unique processes that really drive their businesses.

Great plan, bad timing. These systems failed to gain traction, the RBA market lost steam, and now we see these and similar functions emerging in larger product suites.

Here's the thing: Tools can help, but all real transformation is cultural. It takes a commitment to remove people from the picture and automate complex processes. No one likes to believe that his special IT sauce isn't all that unique. Break through that barrier and the payoff is fewer manual errors, improved compliance, and the ability to track discrete costs.

Think your sauce really is special? Well, we've covered this area for years, and all the time we find that those 20% "unique" processes are, in fact, not unique, especially in companies that use process methodologies like ITILv3.

The larger the organization, the greater the cultural resistance to automation. While people will always be a component of the equation, invariably the less involvement, the better for the process. Sounds harsh, but it's true.

If a process itself can't be automated, at least look for ways to automate enforcement and compliance to ensure that the right checks and balances exist. Only then should you throw IT automation tools into the mix for large-scale savings.

Michael Biddick is president and CTO of Fusion PPT. Find out more at our "InformationWeek Analytics Live session "IT Automation: Bending The 80/20 Barrier," at Interop Las Vegas on Thursday, May 12.