IT operations (IT Ops) is the portfolio of processes and services that belong to the IT department within a business. Typically organized as a separate working group within the IT department, IT Ops is responsible for managing and support the basic technology used by the business's employees for quality assurance (QA) of the technology produced by the IT development team and for managing the infrastructure that all the enterprise’s technology requires to operate.
IT Ops is usually considered separate from IT application development. Even so, the degree of separation depends on whether a business follows the newer DevOps IT methodologies or adheres to the traditional IT structure of keeping IT Dev and IT Ops separate.
Yet, it falls organizationally, IT Ops has depended on legacy automation tools for decades. Yet, these older technologies were difficult to deploy and to use, required custom software coding, were inflexible, and took a long time to deliver value.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is changing all that. By replacing legacy automation tools and automating the remaining repetitive manual tasks, RPA is helping IT Ops significantly reduce costs while increasing the quality of service that IT provides users.
Following are four ways RPA is transforming IT Ops:
Manage patches and upgrades
Unpatched systems are low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals in terms of accessing your enterprise IT systems. It’s difficult to stay on top of patching manually, but if you don’t keep your enterprise endpoints up to date, you’ll be a cyberattack victim sooner than later.
Patching software across multiple operating systems and third-party applications is precisely the sort of job meant for RPA. It requires meticulous attention, yet the work is repetitive, mundane, and offers little to no job satisfaction. It’s also prone to (lots of) human error.
How can RPA help? Software robots (“bots”) can precisely track all relevant updates and patches, no matter when they are released, from whom, or from where. Bots are always “on,” never need a vacation or sick days, and can keep vigilant for patches issued to cover newly found vulnerabilities 24/7. Bots can also send alerts, cache patches before installing them, and automatically retry failed patches until they succeed. They also keep precise records, so you always know where you stand with regard to your operating systems and applications security.
Users forget passwords. All. The. Time. According to the Gartner Group, 20% to 50% of all IT support desk tickets annually are for password resets.) Having to manually respond to requests for resetting passwords couldn’t be a worse use of your IT Ops staff’s precious workweek, as requests for password resets are repeatable, have a consistent structure, and require few exceptions.
You can easily build a bot that uses pre-formatted text templates to collect users’ requests for password resets, make the appropriates acknowledgments, and provide confirmations that the reset is successful. All that remains is to give the bot access to the appropriate IT service management (ITSM) tool for Active Directory changes. Nothing could be simpler—or save you more time and money—Forrester estimates that each password reset costs you $70.
The good news about all the email notifications that have to go out every day—audit reports, ticket updates, and various reminders about IT matters large and small—is that they are sent out based upon rules, they consist of structured information, and they rarely require human intervention. This makes them perfect candidates for end-to-end automation using unattended RPA bots.
All that is needed is a task scheduler to prompt a bot to log into the ITSM tool to pick up any tasks and to run the required reports. Any problems? The bot can send a notice to a human IT Ops professional to take whatever action is needed. The benefits include less processing time, no omissions or mistakes, and freeing up IT Ops workers to focus on higher-value work.
Onboard, manage, and offboard users
This is an area where IT Ops intersects with HR: when a new employee is hired. Many tasks have to be completed to onboard new users before they’re ready to start working. They need a corporate email address. And assets rights have to be granted to all the systems and software that are appropriate given the new hire’s role.
Bots just need to be fed the new user’s basic information. Then, they can take over the task, getting the necessary requisitions and signatures and sending the right notifications to the right people.
During the time that the user is finally gainfully employed, IT Ops needs to ensure that the principles of least privilege are maintained. Bots can do that as well, performing audits based on titles, departments, and role-based access profiles. And when the employee parts with the company, compliance with regulations can require that the company follows a specific offboarding procedure, which bots can also be programmed to do without errors or omissions.
RPA can transform IT Ops
RPA has long been seen as a key technology for freeing human workers from manual repetitive tasks. Across the business, bots are being used in business departments such as finance, HR, and supply chain, which represent 79% of deployments, according to a recent study. And from that study, 21% of deployments—a percentage that is steadily growing—are happening within IT. RPA can help make IT Ops operate better. See for yourself.