It seems that everywhere we look people are talking about automation and the future of this technology for the IT organization and for IT Service Management. New technologies will always be part of IT and this process of renewal never stops. However, some new technologies will have a bigger impact than others—the internet and smart phones are two that come to mind—and today we have every indication that automation will join this high-impact group to the degree that this will change everything. 

Automation is a broad category in which we can include AI to keep things simple. For this discussion and in keeping with this theme of simplicity, we will broadly consider automation to be a technology that effectively renders automatic what was previously a human executed process. And of course, manual work dominates the daily rhythm of ITSM today.

With this, the role of Automation in ITSM for the future can’t be overstated.

Taking the idea that automation has the ability to change the world of ITSM, let’s look at three examples of what we can expect from this technology in the years ahead:

1. Automation creates strategic speed. 

With the realization that products in a given market will naturally commoditize over time, we look at other differentiators capable of creating a real advantage for any given business. And raw speed quickly becomes a key consideration for every organization—how quickly can daily tasks and business processes be completed? This speed then creates velocity across the business that will translate into shortening the lead times required to deliver any product or service to a customer. 

In many cases, this reduction of lead times will be dramatic, with 80% to 90% faster performance being realized by businesses that have taken on a commitment to automation. 

This creates a virtually limitless set of benefits that change how the organization operates internally, the level of employee productivity, and how customers can be served. A couple of examples of where automation in ITSM is saving time today are self service and service catalog. 

These automated experiences enable employees and in some cases customers to log incidents or requests without the need to speak with an agent or communicate with a person. A simple, fast, convenient, effective and fully automated model that has become popular in the domain of ITSM in the past five to ten years and there is no going back in how we think about these experiences.

2. Automation frees our people to work on new projects and in new roles. 

For decades the people of IT have sought to find precious time to work more proactively and on projects that are more strategic and more impactful to the business. Unfortunately, the daily demands of the organization have blocked this shift and made it all but impossible to escape the tactical and daily pull of escalations, outages, daily changes in priorities and much more. Now for the first time, automation creates the opportunity to free our people from the repetitive daily tasks that have demanded our time throughout the history of IT. 

Currently, the typical level of automation in IT ranges from 20%-30% but a big change is coming. We should expect the level of automation in ITSM to increase dramatically over the next five years, and likely to approach 90% by 2025. That is a 60%-70% net increase in the level of automation for the typical IT organization—these are compelling numbers.

This level of increase is not just helpful, it is a true game-changer for IT and the business.

The exciting news here is that every minute saved is a precious minute freed to reassign our people to innovation, strategic projects and customer-facing work. Taking our example from the first point forward, self service and service catalog are offloading demand from the ITSM team and this time savings will enable us to reassign talented staff to new projects or in some cases into new roles that can focus on innovation and better serving customers.

3. Automation naturally creates agility. 

The strategy of an agile business has gained increasing attention of late. This certainly has some value when we consider the basics of what agility provides—a competency around rapid change, the ability to scale, an iterative approach to key initiatives, rapid feedback mechanisms, and a focus on business outcomes and value. Sounds great, but exactly how do we make this happen?  One way we can bring agility to life is by nurturing this strategy across IT and thereby making the assets and systems of IT more agile. 

These actions by IT will create agility for the business from the inside out. 

With the dependency every organization has today on technology, systems, and data, the IT organization finds itself in the highly leveraged position of managing these systems, and thereby creating agility when these systems are enhanced and evolved with this strategy as a goal. Automation is a natural fit here and with every task or business process that is automated, we take another step forward in creating faster execution, more scalable systems, a more natural ability to manage change and much more. All of this then drives improved agility in every part of the business.

Finally, don’t be fooled by a belief that only the automation of the biggest blocks of work will bring value. This is certainly not the case and every simple task we can automate, every simple business process we can capture with automation, will have an impact and bring immediate value. Create the mindset that every minute saved is critical and every unit of waste eliminated is priceless. 

Automation at its best is fast, convenient, perfectly accurate and inexpensive. What’s not to like? Regardless of the measures we might choose to focus on, the advancement of automation and other intelligent technologies for ITSM will ultimately help to propel us forward in a manner simply not possible with the hard work of our people alone.

Keep the faith my friends.