Embarking on the automation journey can be a daunting task, with numerous considerations, pitfalls, and choices along the way. However, inaction and delay pose even greater risks as the automation landscape continues to evolve. To navigate this complex terrain successfully, it’s crucial to adopt a strategic and agile approach.
The Automation Journey: Where to start?
‘Select something which has a sweet spot with the lowest cultural and political resistance, possibly the fewest tools, the best known process, or balanced against the biggest and the quickest benefit.’
Eddie Watson, Operations Director, CORTEX
Knowing how to start the Automation journey can be a difficult task. There are a number of factors to consider, including identifying the right area to begin, focusing on the objectives of the entire business operation, and aligning stakeholders around the chosen Automation focus. It’s also important to recognise areas where Automation might not be suitable or feasible, steering clear of potential pitfalls.
However, it’s essential to start. Automation carries a shelf life. Delays between conception and implementation risk rendering it outdated, as people, processes, and technology rapidly evolve.
Delaying automation for a perfect solution is not the way forward; taking action and adapting the process is the key to successful, dynamic Automation integration.
Southampton to Mumbai
‘Automation is all about the journey of how you get to your final destination. And that’s where you start.’
Eddie Watson, Operations Director, CORTEX
Starting the Automation process for a CSP can be thought of as a journey from Southampton to Mumbai. Firstly, you need to decide to begin your journey, without hesitation, knowing of course the general direction you’re heading in on the first leg of your journey to Mumbai.
Drawing on an analogy to travelling from Southampton to Mumbai on a limited budget, each segment of the journey will be carefully planned, considering various factors such as budgetary constraints, transport options, and the time required to reach the next milestone. While each leg of the journey holds significance, the ultimate vison, arriving in Mumbai, is always the focus. In addition to this, it is essential that the journey is approached in an agile fashion taking into account plans for subsequent steps will change as knowledge grows and context dictates (E.g. delays, cancellations, weather etc.)
The Automation journey for CSP is much the same. Committing to and beginning the Automation process is the vital first step. Keeping the end objective of the process in sight is vital, even with changing contexts and business demands along the Automation journey.
The Goldilocks Approach: Not Too Big, Not Too Small
When choosing your Automation strategy, adopting a “Goldilocks” approach is critical, seeking the middle ground for Automation that strikes the perfect balance.
The hierarchical framework facilitates this process, enabling a focused implementation effort with clear benefits to the business. The key lies in selecting an Automation scope that is neither too big nor too small. This Goldilocks approach will allow you to choose a solution that delivers substantial value, without overwhelming the organisation. It will also help you avoid excessively small initiatives which will offer limited value.
‘The ideal Automation solution should be relatively straightforward to implement, yet serve as a foundation for future growth and evolution.’
Stephen Connor, Head of Pre-Sales and Telco Domain Lead, CORTEX
What does the ideal initial Automation solution look like?
The ideal Automation solution should be relatively straightforward to implement yet serve as a foundation for future growth and evolution. Starting small allows you to implement fast, deploying a functional Automation solution that quickly delivers benefits. But also need to evolve this automation rapidly, extending it in a variety of directions:
- Moving it upstream, handling more of the work that happens before the automation is currently invoked;
- Moving it downstream, handling more of the work that happens after the automation end currently;
- Moving it outwards, handling similar but different use cases, scenarios and inputs;
- Making it more robust, handling a variety of expected and unexpected errors and exceptions.
An agile approach allows adjustments and adaptations in response to changing needs, ensuring that the Automation solution remains dynamic and aligned with organisational goals.
What tools should CSPs consider using?
It is essential to start any Automation programme by focussing on the business objectives and requirements not the technologies. Only once these have been identified and understood should the technology and tool requirements be considered. This approach minimises the risks of:
- Designing automation around technology. The business requirements should dictate the automation and technology must service those needs.
- Limiting automation design due to real or assumed technology capabilities (Art of the Possible)
Maximising the benefits of existing capabilities and tools: Businesses inevitably have “pockets” of existing automation. Where possible and appropriate these should be factored into end-to-end automation. This builds on previous investments and can provide a head start with more ambitious automations. This also provides a unique opportunity for a strategic approach to solution life cycle management.
Adopting an eco-system mindset: Companies often possess a diverse array of Automation tools as part of their IT landscape, but it’s vital to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some tools may offer task-specific Automation, aligning with their respective functions, which is perfectly acceptable. However, companies must distinguish and segregate the end-to-end business processes, or business operations, from the automation pieces within specific tools.
What do you do about gaps and overlaps in Automation?
A CSP will almost certainly have existing automation investments. Some of these will overlap with the strategic orchestration platform. Sometimes, when evaluating the technology you already have, you will also identify the gaps. What do we mean by this?
An overlap refers to the ability to automate a particular functionality in multiple places, offering the advantage of flexibility and choice in deciding where to implement Automation. It is essential not to overly focus on the existence of overlapping tools, as it empowers businesses to tailor Automation to specific needs. An overlap should be viewed as a luxury or advantage to a CSP, as opposed to a problem.
On the other hand, a gap represents a critical concern. It arises when a necessary functionality or Automation capability is absent or unavailable, posing a risk to the overall strategy. There are several capabilities a CSP should expect to exist.
- Local and Task automation
- Tool centric automation (Included in apps e.g., within SAP, Devices, Element Management solutions etc
- Process Automation & Orchestration
- Enterprise-wide strategic platform
- Modification access control
- Version control
- Release management
- Execution visibility
- Long-running processes
- Human –in- the- Loop
- Jeopardy management
- Separation of process logic from integration logic
- Concurrent executions
- Skills required
Addressing gaps becomes imperative to ensure the smooth functioning of Automation, and CSPs must concentrate efforts on filling these gaps to safeguard their Automation strategy.
It can be exceptionally challenging to automate around existing applications, but the focus should always be on bridging gaps to optimise Automation.
Similarly, waiting for a perfect technical application framework or a comprehensive solution is not feasible. Instead, it is crucial to initiate Automation promptly, abstracting business process Automation from applications. Delaying Automation for a perfect solution is not the way forward; taking action and adapting the process is the key.
A comprehensive and independent End-to-End Orchestration Platform like CORTEX becomes essential to addressing all the above challenges. Business operations and process automations are separated and are largely unaffected by the evolution of individual tools or vendor changes. This approach ensures that while the business process remains consistent, the specific tools utilised to execute certain tasks may vary. Adaptability is crucial, and the End-to-End Process Orchestrator must possess the agility to accommodate changes and evolution within the IT landscape.
Embarking on the automation journey is complex, but delay can be riskier as the automation landscape evolves. Start by choosing the right initial use case aligned with your objectives. Embrace the “Goldilocks” approach to find the right balance in scope, and select tools based on business needs and existing capabilities. It’s important to remember that automation implementation is about progress, adaptability, and staying relevant in a changing landscape.
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