When it comes to digital transformation, teams need every advantage they can get. This blog post examines process automation—the less glamorous, but crucial building block of digital transformation—and reveals some of the key requirements for success.
In our industry, there has been a lot of talk about digital transformation and the extraordinary benefits that customers have been able to unlock by deploying appropriate technologies. We’ve all seen the headlines about companies that have created whole new revenue streams or that have dramatically reduced their costs while gaining the agility to handle whatever the future throws at them. What isn’t covered as frequently are the less glamorous, but crucial, building blocks of these transformations—including process automation. This unsung hero is the key to unleashing all the benefits, as it essentially removes the need for IT teams to physically handle every single process manually.
When you start to think about how many processes that a typical IT team is responsible for, you start to see the enormous difference that automation makes. Not that long ago, every time a new user, printer, or piece of software needed to be accommodated, to name but a few examples, the process would be handled manually—requiring a huge amount of manpower.
Process automation reduces much of the required effort to just a single mouse click. And this automation can extend beyond simple processes. There are now data centers that use sensors to track everything from computing power to local temperatures and even the water level of nearby rivers. Should an emergency situation arise, for example, the water level rising enough to threaten the building, a full contingency plan to switch IT service delivery to a secondary location can be activated automatically.
Establishing these processes does require time spent up front—first to map the processes themselves, then to identify any dependencies, and then to set up the automation itself. While well designed, automated processes generally require very little technical expertise to run, automating them in the first place does require considerable skills. Consequently, Fujitsu works closely with customers to facilitate every part of the process to ensure they derive the most benefit possible. The processes are truly co-created—our customers bring the in-depth knowledge of their business, processes, and requirements, while we contribute our technical expertise.
A great example of how we work was a project we recently undertook with a large German public sector company. This company is responsible for managing the information technology and service delivery for public sector organizations in several German states. This project presented a number of challenges as it involved a large number of users across multiple locations, with entirely different processes and infrastructure in every state.
We worked closely with representatives from the customer’s individual departments, first to help them model all their processes using Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) 2.0. This essentially creates flow charts to identify all the steps involved in each process and their dependencies. The next phase was to examine these processes across the entire organization and then optimize them, minimizing complexity by standardizing them across all sites where possible. Once the new processes were planned, the Fujitsu development team sprang into action to develop all the relevant interfaces and connections that would be required to make it work. We extensively tested the new system and trained the organization’s IT team how to use it. The master processes are now run from the company’s central library in their data center—which now governs the processes for all sites.
The platform we use to manage these processes is from Broadcom. This platform allows us to automate IT processes that span multiple organizations and diverse systems, reduce the time it takes to deliver services, and allows us to enforce standards and compliance policies across departments. We have of course added connectors to all of Fujitsu’s products—from servers and integrated systems to storage devices. Technically minded customers can write their own code to add processes, but this is absolutely not a requirement.
The solution automated a significant number of previously cumbersome and time-consuming tasks. For example, historically, the company received many hundreds of support requests every day from users relating to simple tasks, for example password resets—each of which might require several minutes to solve. With the new system, these tasks are not only automated but also self-service. Now employees can access the user-friendly online interface to handle many of these tasks—and can reset their own passwords at the click of a mouse.
Now, onboarding new employees and setting up their identities, permissions and passwords is also child’s play to handle, and the same applies to shutting down accounts when people leave the company. As our customer is also responsible for facilities management, they have also been able to automate many aspects of this, from managing the lifecycle of not just IT equipment but also furniture, coordinating spare parts and warranty processes. Moving teams between buildings or from one floor to another is a breeze as everything possible is automated—short of actually moving the furniture itself.
Of course, for any project to be successful, its users actually need to take advantage of the services. Our customer’s IT team loves it as it frees them from handling many mundane but time-consuming tasks, and their customers love it as IT issues can now be solved almost instantaneously. Furthermore, we all know how easy it is to forget to check the right box or select all the required options—now the chances for human error to creep into processes have effectively been eliminated. Staff with no technical expertise can now manage their own technology requirements.
So, by investing some time upfront, and by working closely with us to co-create a powerful solution to automate the majority of their processes, our customers save time and effort every day. And there are always opportunities to take things even further. Consider the effects that automating backup and recovery processes will have on your stress levels. Imagine what it would be like to establish entirely automated contingency plans.