It’s ironic that IT remains amongst the least automated functions in many organizations today, given the last decade’s increases in digitization and other technological innovations. But it’s true, traditional IT teams — whose resources are overstretched by time-consuming, routine administrative tasks — often do not spend their scarce time on optimizing their own operations with high-impact strategic projects.
The potential for automation in IT services is considerably high. And despite the fact that many IT professionals take a suspicious stance towards Robotic Process Automation (RPA) (on the prejudice, among others, that it’s just Macros with a different hat on) this disruptive software category is perfectly able to deliver tangible results to improve IT performance levels.
- Improved service quality and consistency (up to 70%) by reducing human error and taking actions automatically in response to user requests;
- Reduced Mean Time to Restore (by 50-90%) that results from the accurate and agile response to downtime IT events, particularly during off-duty hours;
- Increased regulatory compliance, a consequence of automatic auditing and reporting;
- Enhanced IT resources productivity through effective allocation of resources by allowing staff to focus on value-adding IT initiatives.
There are various use cases where RPA can be applied to automate IT processes in order to improve operational efficiency, process quality, and service delivery time. Some pertain to enterprise computing and have to do with the back-end (servers, security measures, infrastructure, and databases), while others concern processes that the end user touches, such as common service requests and other help-desk operations. Consider these examples:
Automating password resets
Given the high transactional and repeatable nature of such requests, the password reset process can be 95% automated when software robots are provided with standardized, pre-formatted templates (e.g. for service request and acknowledgment notifications) as well as the required access to the ITSM (IT service management) tool for active directory activities. As a first step, the user creates a password reset request per phone, through a support portal, or via a mobile or digital app. The password reset service request is then created and marked as either urgent or non-urgent.
While urgent requests are handled directly by the global service desk, the others are picked up from a work queue by one of UiPath’s robots. The robot then logs into the Citrix app, starts the virtual desktop, and opens the active directory to find the user. From there, the robot resets the password, sends the updated password, and changes the request status to “solved”. The service desk team also deals with any unprocessed service requests placed in a queue for manual work. With its automation capabilities, an RPA robot is able to handle 600 tickets per month (with a handling time of 12 minutes per request). This can save up to 120 hours of manpower, or the efforts of one full-time employee, each month.
Streamlining user management
With access to the necessary IT-related programs (e.g. email exchange, ITSM), RPA robots are able to use HR employee onboarding templates and pre-captured information for account creation in order to automate the process by 70%. Before the robots step in, HR captures the information that is required for an access request. A service request is then generated. If the requests are marked as non-urgent, a robot initiates the creation of a new user account following the generation of an End of Day report. The software robot validates requests and exceptions, creates an exchange account, and provides default access provisions.
HR and the relevant manager are then notified of the account creation, and the robot changes the status of the request to “solved”. The service desk team finally verifies that the account is working and closes the case. Any exceptions and urgent service requests are immediately dispatched to a global service desk. By handling 1000+ requests per month (with a handling time of 15 minutes per request), the automation provided by a robot can result in 200+ hours of saved manpower and the efforts of two employees.
Optimizing three-strike-rule user notification emails
Because the user notification process involves structured information and predetermined rules, it can be automated end-to-end. Activated by a task scheduler, the unattended robots log into the ITSM tool, run reports, and capture pending cases using a standardized process. Throughout the automation, the software robots send emails in the preferred language of the user, update the ticket status, and send audit reports. When encountered, exceptions are sent to a global service desk per email.
With RPA you can start small and scale fast, but only with the proper planning.