The trend is clear: Businesses are automating as many processes as possible to cut costs, improve productivity and provide better customer experiences. And no wonder; in our recent study, we found that organizations can expect to garner improvements of 20% or more in terms of efficiency or revenue improvements through intelligent automation.
IT operations should not be the exception to this emerging rule. An efficient and agile IT foundation is essential for digital business, which requires fast and easy scaling of new products and services, driven by next-generation technologies. Further, internal business users and external customers interact directly with IT more often as technology becomes central to delivering products and services, whether a quarterly business report built with analytics or a self-service portal for a health plan member. The only way for IT to keep up with these demands is to move beyond manual processes and rely on automation.
The IT Automation Hierarchy
Many IT functions, from resetting passwords to resource provisioning, involve repeatable steps that can be codified into standard operating procedures and then automated. The list of IT processes and workflows that can be automated will only grow as automation tools become smarter and more sophisticated.
A wide range of automation tools are now available across the spectrum:
- Robotic process automation (RPA). Software bots, literally lines of code, can connect disparate systems, data and sub-processes, eliminating manual hand-offs and workarounds. With RPA, systems, processes, applications and departments can become more tightly synchronized. In our recent study, over 70% of respondents said they planned to apply RPA to IT.
- Enterprise application automation (EAA). These more sophisticated automation solutions address application integration, business-to-business transactions, business activity monitoring and business process management. Such automation also applies to Agile practices, DevOps, coding and testing. One example could be applying end-to-end DevOps tools for continuous delivery and integration.
- Intelligent process analytics. Automation tools in this category incorporate algorithms to learn from and make predictions based on the data they collect and consume. Using predictive analytics, these systems augment human decision making and analyze data about IT processes to identify areas of improvement.
- Cognitive automation. Conversational interfaces like chatbots, augmented with artificial intelligence and machine learning, can help companies scale operations, increase the speed of innovation and automate decision making. Chatbots can be deployed to handle lower-level service requests, questions and complaints on a 24×7 basis. If a situation requires escalation, the chatbot can feed customer data, both about the current request and previous interactions, to human agents in real time. Combined with AI, these solutions can also supply agents with the next best action for issue resolution. Chatbots’ ability to automate information retrieval augments human capabilities and enables companies to scale services with fewer resources while still delivering a superior experience.
Applying Automation to Modernize IT
IT organizations can apply these automation tools to a range of core operations to achieve higher levels of service and efficiency, including the following:
- Application value management. RPA, cognitive automation and intelligent process analytics are key to optimizing the performance, efficiency and quality of IT processes that enhance the value of existing applications. Conversational AI agents provide users with self-help capabilities and automated fulfillment of requests by triggering scripts and actions based on user inputs. Automated discovery and diagnostic capabilities extract key information from unstructured data such as e-mails and logs and perform sentiment analysis to identify and diagnose performance issues, narrowing down the cause using conversational AI. Predictive and prescriptive analytics predict the best possible recommendations for issue resolution, based on ticket context, and predict errors in advance to minimize business impact.
- Quality engineering & assurance. As products and services become more sophisticated and reliant on third-party tools, automated quality assurance and testing are critical. With automated testing, businesses can handle much larger volumes of complex test cases with a lower margin of error. The more consistent and reliable results enable highly sophisticated products and services to get to market faster, with higher quality. We worked with one client to train and test Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant on more than 15,000 intent-response scenarios, using AI and cognitive techniques, including simulating three different regional accents when testing voice responses.
- Enterprise risk & security. Securing infrastructure and applications while still providing users with great experiences and the tools they need requires orchestrating and coordinating interdependent security actions across the IT landscape. This is virtually impossible to achieve manually today, given the complexity of IT operations that span on-premises systems and multiple clouds and vendors; the frequency with which new security threats arise; and the wide variety of user channels and devices. The only way to provide the required level of security is through automated monitoring and incident management, as well as automated application security capabilities. Using automation tools, businesses can more effectively tackle security requirements, from onboarding new employees with appropriate data access rights, to continually scanning for and repelling threats.
Automation in Action
We worked with a leading international bank to improve application performance and availability while reducing IT operational cost savings. Using predictive analytics, we helped the bank analyze four million tickets to identify the factors causing performance issues and predict the best resolution. By automating ticket creation and other performance management activities, the bank improved issue resolution time by 80%, boosted response time for health checks by 90%, increased service availability and reduced application failures.
The solution also enabled new workflows and thus new efficiencies, such as shifting issue resolution capabilities closer to users and freeing the service desk to handle more complex queries. That is typical with today’s automation tools, which not only make IT more efficient but also reveal how IT can better support business goals.
Just as no automaker would run without robotic systems on its factory floor, or no drug company would fill bottles by hand, automation will be increasingly common in core IT operations to enable the business to compete effectively.
Vijay Francis, Senior Director for Cognizant Digital Systems & Technology, and Abhijit Bharadwaj, Senior Manager for Cognizant Digital Systems & Technology, contributed to this blog post.
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