Using configuration management data to drive automation
Blog posted by: Richard Josey – Lead ITSM Solution Architect, AFJ Solutions, 26 August 2021.
Automation in service management has a number of advantages for how organizations deliver value.
The most obvious benefit is saving time, while another key one is improved reliability. Ultimately, automation overcomes human error – the missing information that occurs when the brain switches off, something computers don’t do.
The more simplistic and structured the task, the easier it is to automate. So, something linear – like opening a door automatically – should always work if the environment is clear of obstacles. This is why self-driving cars, with many dynamic variables, have been a much more long-term ambition for automation.
Conversely, when automation goes wrong, it will do so a lot faster and in multiple ways. For example, if an automated instruction to create a new software user is allowed to run constantly (clearly, in error), it will consume all your software licences within minutes.
Successful automation means you can use people for the more human elements in service management; asking pertinent questions and using dynamic thinking about what the user/customer wants. Having human interaction also makes the user feel better and more valued, rather than dealing with a chat bot operating some form of sentiment analysis.
The role of service configuration management in automation
Service configuration management in ITIL® is the foundation that translates what humans understand to what computers understand.
For example, when creating an MS Office 365 user, there are numerous questions based on who the user is, which machine they use and how far an installation can be automated: is it the small business version of the software or a premium version, does the user need add-ons such as telephony, Visio, Project, etc?
With the right service configuration information, you can automate new user licences, installations and accommodate needs with different nuances, such as user languages.
The requirement for well-structured and maintained configuration data applies in the same way to everything you want to automate.
ITIL 4’s service configuration management practice
One of the key service configuration management challenges is data that is managed by more than one person or team. This needs governance and guidance to enable people to do it properly.
ITIL 4’s service configuration management practice offers such guidance and this begins with asking the question: what are you using a configuration management database for?
For example, if you want to monitor and route problems to the right team, that’s a clear purpose for configuration management and affects the data you need to gather and how to use it. Automation of standard, repetitive tasks as well as automatic issue resolution are also things which needs configuration management. Managing and maintaining data become essential to enable that to happen. Data becomes the oil that greases the wheels of automation.
The more you can bring a benefit back to the people responsible for managing the data, the easier it is to get them to do it, and do it well. Therefore, understanding their needs and promoting the benefits become important activities, which need attention.
Service configuration management data in practice
There are a number of automated service management examples that each rely on a bedrock of data, knowing stakeholders and gathering the right information:
- Monitoring ticket routing
What are you monitoring with your tool? What information is relevant? What is a benign error or what will cause a loss of service and how will this affect the human resources you deploy to resolve a problem?
- Automated resolution scripts
These scripts can, for example, remove certain types of file to create more disk space without having to tell humans. For this, you need to have the data structure in place to make the right, automated, decisions.
- Automated Request Management
For example, automating approval for MS Office is relatively easy. However, what if the software in question is expensive but is not essential for the user requesting it? In this instance, you can flag anything that needs human approval.
Clearly, automation offers major benefits in terms of consistency and reducing human error. But gathering and managing the data that exists behind the ability to automate will make all the difference.
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