Automation and Zero Touch resolutions are two of the biggest buzz words used in the past year in the ITSM world. Everyone has started to talk about it, but what does it mean, why would you do it, and is it possible? About a year ago I joined our Remote Services team on a part time basis from our software team. Let me share the story of how we developed automation and zero touch resolution to help our customers at Waterstons.
Firstly, let’s focus on automation – by definition it means: “performs tasks that were previously performed by humans”. Sounds a bit sci-fi? But it’s very much possible!
So, can we automate EVERYTHING?
Well the simple answer is no – we’ll still need humans.
We can automate any process that has set boundaries around it – anything that follows a flow chart. You might already be jumping to conclusions, thinking how and why, I’ll talk about that soon, it’s important to focus on the boundaries and what that actually means.
If we were to automate a New Employee Account process – you might think it’s simple, but depending on the size of your business – how do you decide what permission groups you grant the user? Is it based on knowledge such as their job title and location? Or is it based on a matrix of roles vs location? If it is the first, you can clearly see that a human will have to decide what’s involved. If it is the second, a process can be automated fully end to end. It’s possible to partially automate a process, as that will still bring benefits to you (such as time saving and reducing risk of mistakes) but it’s important to identify this at the beginning to avoid frustrations and taking on mission impossible.
There are many benefits to automation.
From a service desk point of view, there are many simple procedures, which can be somewhat time consuming, or hard to arrange time to do like, for example, getting users to return calls, or getting access to their machine when they’re not working. Imagine if you could just visit a self-service portal, click a button and request your C drive to be cleaned up of temporary files; any time of the day, and it just happens. Taking into consideration the current pandemic work patterns, childcare, flexible working around shopping, caring for family members etc – this is exactly what we need!
Zero Touch Resolutions
So now, what do we mean by Zero Touch? Zero touch means that our users can go and use services without a ‘human’ service desk agent needing to fulfil them. Sound scary? We are trusting the technology implicitly. Of course, it needs to be reliable; if it fails, it will need a human to intervene.
Ok, so how do we do it?
There are many ways to automate but you need three things:
- Access to the service - Portal, chat bot, call centre phone system. Something that can take an end-user's information and pass it on.
- Execution engine – Remote management tool, Orchestrator, task scheduler. Anything that can then tell your systems to run the automated task with the information provided by the end-user via scripts or calls to end points.
- Task procedure - Written out and scripted to now be done by code which our execution engine and run.
At Waterstons we use FreshService as our portal, and by plugging it into our Remote Management and Monitoring tool (RMM), Kaseya which we refer to as ‘MindIT’, we are able to automate most of our tasks and so far, it has been a great success. Our FreshService portal allows the users to access Service Requests, request a service (creating a ticket) and the smart integration with our RMM makes the necessary changes to user’s machines or a customer’s infrastructure, and closes our ticket.
How far can you take it? The possibilities are endless – you can automate small tasks that are time consuming as I mentioned, but also big tasks. Imagine, being able to spin up new servers in the cloud because your company keeps opening new offices -such as construction sites, they come and go all the time. You could then further build on this to automate back-office processes around these activities to further free up time for other departments such as HR, purchasing and finance.
For us at Waterstons, it allows our customers to take control over simple requests much faster, whenever they want, without needing to speak to anyone. Internally, our teams spend less time doing those time-consuming tasks, and that frees them up to focus on proactive problem solving for our customers. We use that saved time to develop greater understanding of our customers and their businesses and to build stronger relationships. We are starting to work in a way where automation is mentioned daily, and the team are starting to reap the benefits that extra time gives them.