The IT Process Automation Landscape

In respect to ITIL’s lifecycle approach, EMA also recognizes two other general areas of process automation: lifecycle application development and service management. The former is evolving to support application developers with more automated tools and process for working to support real-world infrastructures in collaboration with operations and QA/Test. The latter, service management, is actually familiar ground, with capabilities such as automated discovery, application dependency mapping, automated cross-domain analysis and diagnostics, and automated impact analysis.

The benefits of automation are striking, even given the fact that most automation has heretofore been largely tactical and siloed in nature. According to our research, the top realized benefits of process automation are in ranked order are: reduction of human errors, improved security and reduced risks, cost reductions, reduction in operational complexity, improved compliance and security audits, and freeing up of strategic resources.

In other words, the dominant realized values are supportive of governance and reduced risk. This, I think, is telling in terms of the future of process automation and its immediate values today. Also of interest, is that EMA research shows that an integrated approach to process automation versus the more siloed, tactical approaches, demonstrate a three-times improvement in terms of Mean-Time-to-Repair and an improvement in availability of from 99.95 to 99.99. And while this data is directed mostly at systems specifically, the implications for a more service-oriented approach are significant.

And this leads me back to, as you may have already guessed, CMDB. Ultimately the future of strategic versus tactical process automation will depend on CMDB investments. As these become modularized, more flexible, and more extensible to respond to individual domain requirements as well as a centralized strategic vision, process automation and CMDB should become increasingly two sides of the same coin. Not only will CMDB provide the ultimate context for process automation—to avoid those automated train wrecks, they, themselves will empower (as they are today) certain process automation capabilities—such as more comprehensive and effective automated audits, more effective automated configuration and patch changes, lifecycle asset management with increased levels of automation, and reduced MTTR by capturing asset-to-owner-to-service impact interdependencies.

And finally, CMDB are themselves dependent on process automation. EMA consulting engagements have already revealed that CMDB deployments without creative attention to automating repetitive tasks may prove very difficult to sustain.

If all this seems like a whirlwind tour I apologize but maybe that’s in keeping with process automation itself. It is evolving both from the bottom up, through grass roots technologies supporting individual professionals, and from the top down, through strategic, service-oriented, cross-domain initiatives. As these two areas meaningfully begin to converge, tighten your seatbelts and hold on for the ride. The promise is huge, as long as it’s coupled with common sense and attention to process planning.

Dennis Drogseth is vice president of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at [email protected]