It’s hard to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by the rise in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies. But figuring out which automation solutions are right for your business, and how to achieve a full digital transformation of your business processes, can challenge even the most forward-thinking teams.
Here’s what you need to know about operations automation, and how to implement a successful business process transformation using the latest IT tools.
What Is Operations Automation?
Operations automation is the process of automating repetitive tasks that are part of your everyday business operations. This can include time-consuming manual tasks like data entry and form-filling as well as more complex IT processes and procedures.
Operations automation is related to, and may include, any of the following:
- Business process automation (BPA): Business process automation focuses on automating recurring tasks that may be used in multiple workflows, for example, sending out email notifications or automatically creating calendar events.
- Robotic process automation (RPA): Robotic process automation uses “bots,” or specialized pieces of software that can replicate manual processes and even perform tasks across multiple applications. They can cut-and-paste data from one place to another, helping to reduce or eliminate data silos.
- Workflow automation: Workflow automation aims to digitize and automate an entire workflow from end-to-end, such as an employee onboarding process or leave of absence management process. A workflow may still require human intervention, but automation can streamline and simplify manual tasks.
If you’re just beginning your automation journey, these definitions can seem needlessly complex. The truth is, how you apply automation in your day-to-day operations is more important than what you call it. Your approach to operations management may include some or all of these techniques using one or more automation platforms.
3 Kinds of IT Operations Automation
IT operations automation involves using automation to streamline tasks related to your IT infrastructure or services. Your IT operations team handles everything from server provisioning and password resets to patching security vulnerabilities.
By automating IT operations processes, your IT team can spend less time on tedious manual tasks and more time on other responsibilities.
Here are the three main approaches to IT operations automation:
DevOps is an approach that merges software development with IT operations. Instead of maintaining distinct roles, your software development and IT teams work together to deploy new systems and keep your IT services running smoothly.
A DevOps approach allows for constant innovation and improvements, since your team can solve problems and release software updates more quickly. Low-code automation tools can reduce your IT workload even further by facilitating collaboration between teams and empowering non-technical employees to be part of the process.
AIOps uses artificial intelligence to assist your DevOps team with security monitoring, resource optimization, and other aspects of IT operations. For example, you can use predictive analytics and machine learning to look for patterns in large data sets.
AI tools can identify problems in real-time, long before your IT team does. From there, you can use automation to streamline the incident management process.
NoOps is a forward-thinking approach that isn’t yet realistic for most organizations. It basically assumes that your AI tools are advanced enough that you can do without a separate IT operations team. Instead, your development team oversees operations, while AI tools do most of the heavy lifting.
Although fully automated IT operations may be the goal, for now, it’s best to strike a balance between workflow automation and human intervention.
What Are the Primary Benefits of Automation?
Operations automation can be used to simplify even the most complex processes. But an effective digital transformation requires buy-in from stakeholders at all levels of your organization. Here are five ways your team can benefit from operations automation:
In the simplest sense, operations automation saves time. By eliminating manual tasks from your day-to-day operations, you can get more done and free your team members up to focus on more meaningful responsibilities.
Even when human intervention is required, automation saves time by notifying team members when a process is awaiting action, reducing backlogs in your workflows.
Lower Operational Costs
Automation can result in lower operational costs as processes take less time and use fewer resources. You can also use automation to reduce downtime and improve the reliability of your IT systems using DevOps or AIOps practices.
Reduced Human Error
Humans make mistakes, ranging from minor typos to major software bugs. Automating processes can help to reduce human error by copying data directly from one place to another, filling out forms automatically, and identifying any discrepancies.
It can also identify errors that humans can’t see, by using natural language processing, machine learning, and other capabilities to analyze large data sets.
Better User Experience
Operations automation offers a better user experience for employees and customers alike. Whether it’s an onboarding process guided by an AI chatbot, or a self-service portal that employees can use to update their bank details, automation makes for a more consistent employee or customer experience.
Plus, you can use APIs to link multiple software tools together, and IT automation to deploy new IT services and software updates faster.
Whether you need to comply with PCI security standards or with HR regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), operations automation can increase compliance by ensuring that your team follows standardized protocols for each situation.
You can use a rules engine to perform an initial assessment of incoming requests, and route tickets to the appropriate department or team member.
How to Implement Operations Automation
Automation solutions can vary widely in terms of scope and pricing. For the best results, you’ll need to choose a system that’s right for your budget and use case.
Here are three different approaches to operations automation to consider:
The first option is to build all of your tools in-house. If you’re a large company with your own software development and IT operations team, then you can design your system from the ground up, customizing it to suit your existing workflows.
Of course, this may be the most time-consuming and expensive option, since you’ll need to spend additional money on infrastructure and upkeep.
Existing SaaS Platforms
Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms come with some degree of automation built-in. Internal communications tools like Slack, task management tools like Asana, and accounting tools like QuickBooks can all automate some tasks.
However, you may need to use different tools to automate different types of tasks or processes, resulting in a more convoluted workflow.
No-Code Automation Tools
The next option is to use a cloud-based automation tool like Pulpstream. Low-code and no-code platforms like Pulpstream offer the flexibility of a custom build, while still being able to set up integrations with SaaS tools that you already use via an API.
With their easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, no-code tools are intuitive enough for all of your employees to navigate. Use them to visualize complex business processes and enhance workflow automation across multiple teams and departments.
Streamline Your Business Operations With Pulpstream
Operations automation makes use of a wide range of technologies, from robotic process automation to machine learning and artificial intelligence. But at heart, it’s simply a way to streamline your workflows by automating or eliminating repetitive manual tasks.
Pulpstream is a cloud-based platform that can automate everything from HR workflows to complex IT processes. Our platform integrates with everyday tools like Salesforce, DocuSign, and ADP, helping to reduce complexity and eliminate data silos.
Request a demo to see how Pulpstream’s capabilities can help your team!