Some powerful insights for communication service providers on delivering best-practice automation.
WHY is it so critical to accelerate the automation of your business processes? Well, expectations have changed. We live in a world where nothing less than ‘instant’ will do as a customer experience. And customer experience is the name of the game today. People are no longer prepared to wait weeks for their packages of services. They want them now, at the point of ordering. So your internal operations need to be slick enough to manage that – ‘zero touch’ – which requires automation.
And so WHAT should you automate? All technology service providers face a hierarchy of complexity. First, there’s the technology itself. You have to be able to control a myriad of different pieces of kit – with constantly changing software – and also interact with different databases, share data over any kind of connection, and much more besides.
Next, there’s process. You have to make those technologies dance to the tune of your business processes. So you need orchestration that can transcend your whole organisation and reach into all your different operating domains and silos.
Finally, it all has to work for your people – your business people. (Ultimately, actually, your customers.) And that’s where it becomes a question of HOW to automate. And this question of HOW is the most common reason for automation initiatives failing.
Your automation must support your business processes as they are today – not three months ago when some technical coding project was started. And if, for example, the firmware on the routers you use gets updated tonight, your automation still needs to be future proof so that it will all still work tomorrow.
Agility is critical…
Automation programmes that are led by people that understand the desired customer experience – and so the necessary business process – are always going to be more successful than those led by technologists. People first, then the process, and finally the technology.
Indeed, by the time it’s seen by your business people, the technical details of your equipment shouldn’t really matter. Your automation – and your chosen automation platform – therefore needs to be able to abstract the technology so your people can focus simply on how it enables their business processes.
Moreover, your people need to be able to invent, improve and implement business process automation easily and immediately. That calls for an interface that they can use, with only basic technical knowledge and training, and yet still easily understand what it means for the business.
That’s the only way they’re going to be able to transform operating processes fast enough to support true business agility.
Risk has to be managed…
And, crucially, your people have to be able to do that without causing damage or disruption. The best approach – aligning closely with modern Agile project methodologies – is starting small, controlled trial and error, making incremental changes where possible, and all while maintaining continual human oversight.
By adopting such a modular approach, you can achieve your ultimate vision, but starting with simple, low-risk process automations. Where you’re unsure how to handle something, or where the consequences of failure are too serious, you can automate around it, and leave a human check in place. Then, over time, as your trust and confidence in the automation grows, you’ll want to be able to remove those manual steps. Gradually, you’ll automate more and more of your processes, speeding them up, and generating more and more time savings.
Feedback is essential…
Yet, best of all, the more you automate, the more you will be able to automate. With the right tools, you’ll be alerted immediately whenever unforeseen scenarios – exceptions – arise, so that these can be appropriately handled by your human workforce. And, as you figure out what to do in each situation, you’ll be able to evolve your automation definition so it can handle that exception the next time it happens.
This will all help to build greater certainty. You’ll become better able to see how to handle some of the processes you’ve so-far shied away from, and then automate those too.
Innovation is unleashed…
Ultimately, you’ll reach a state where you have a rich catalogue of automated business process elements. And, if that’s set up in the right way, you’ll be able to ‘copy and paste’ these from one task to another, adjusting them as you do so.
That makes it incredibly easy to do all kinds of powerful things. You can implement new hardware almost effortlessly by re-using and adjusting automation profiles for similar equipment. You can launch whole new services much more quickly by adapting automated processes for provisioning, service assurance, billing, support and so on. Indeed, you could quickly ramp-up the automation of technical support for a new service by taking a profile from a similar one and using exception handling to help fill in the gaps.
And best of all, you can do all this – or at least lead it – from each of your operational lines of business, using a highly visual, user-friendly interface.
CORTEX makes it possible…
CORTEX provides a very intuitive, graphical process definition environment that enables your users to configure automated processes across your organisation. Its powerful, role-based access controls keep you firmly in charge of who can change which parts of the automation.
So, your technical people get access to what they need to abstract the equipment, for example, and present it for use in other processes. Similarly, your billing team will be able to construct automated service offerings for other parts of the business. Indeed, that’s true for all your lines of business. Product managers will then be able to pick and choose from the resulting catalogue of automated services as they build new service offerings.
Everyone shares in the ownership of the end-to-end process, yet from within their area of expertise. And everyone can make changes – in real time, that can be implemented immediately, yet within a comprehensive version control and release management environment – to ensure your automated processes are always ready for business.
CORTEX enables immense technical agility in setting up your process automations:
- Understand your current automation definitions at all times.
- Easily modify and validate existing definitions without impacting on operations.
- Make multiple unrelated changes at the same time, independently.
- Release your changes into production in a controlled yet fluid way.
CORTEX is safer by design and so circumvents many of the risks of automation:
- No creating or modifying automations by people without the relevant authority.
- No accidents or malicious changes being activated on live production systems.
- No failures in recognising what versions of automations are actually operational.
- No misunderstandings over what already exists, and so what needs to be created.
The fact is that, as well as the complexity faced by communication service providers, we live in an imperfect world of poor data, uncertain information and unclear objectives. CORTEX enables you to address those complexities and imperfections, from within the most relevant part of your business, without being slowed down by complex and inflexible hard coding.
More than that, however, you can get started quickly and easily. You’ll have full visibility of your processes at all times, which will stay completely transparent. Your technical people will be freed up to focus on innovation. You’ll manage errors more effectively and reduce business risk. Your release-management processes and audit trail will improve. You’ll be able to handle data sovereignty issues effectively and near-effortlessly. And, overall, the spread of incremental automation across your business will empower it to innovate faster and become more competitive.
Read more detailed explanations of how CORTEX enables all of those powerful outcomes in our coming series of articles: managing risk, working with uncertainty, tracking and reporting value, and planning for Agile automation. Alternatively, get in touch to find out more.