Orchestration – Automate your efforts or lots of efforts to automate?

Orchestration – Automate your efforts or lots of efforts to automate?

ASP is delivering its managed services activities within a light ITIL model. The platform and tools used for our IT service management, including ticket & case management, escalation, monitoring and KPI reporting, are Salesforce Service Cloud, combined with Nagios and PRTG, or Microsoft System Center Suite. A previous blog by my colleague Dany discussed the key questions to ask before selecting a Managed Services Provider.

Since a couple of months, I’ve been working on a project automating service requests for one of our customers in order to improve service delivery and easing meeting our agreed SLAs. To achieve this, we’re using the Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 suiteService Manager for logging tickets and Orchestrator for executing them.

I’m not going to lie to you: it’s a fidgety little endeavor that’s opened my eyes on several occasions. But I’ve grown to be very excited about the entire project and this is why I wanted to share it with you.

Naturally, automation has some great advantages to it

  • Tedious and repetitive tasks can be a thing of the past
  • Time within the operational team can be spent on more interesting matters and projects
  • Your SLA’s and SLO’s will thrive
  • Your user community or business will be pleasantly surprised by the speed of execution of their requests
  • The improvement is very clearly measurable and can be easily presented to higher management

So, how to start an automation / orchestration project?

1) Service Catalog

Define your Service Catalog:

  • What will you offer as a service request to your user community or business?
  • What will this offer entail?

2) Procedures

  • Define the procedures behind the offerings: creating an e-mail address in Exchange may be easy, but define the naming convention and the configurations that are standard to your company.
  • Use PowerShell wherever you can ! It’s a fast and easy way to get the same results time and time again.

3) Candidates

Scrutinize your Service Catalog and find suitable automation candidates:

  • Is the request standardized ? A request for information cannot be automated, unfortunately…
  • Does your offering and its procedure have clearly defined inputs and outputs?

4) Possibilities

Check the possibilities of your choice of automation tool. Check which connectors are available and what can be done out-of-the-box vs scripted.

So, is this the magical solution to your operational dilemmas? No … but it will get you a long way already. Just be prepared to put in a lot of effort to gain even more. You will be spending a lot of time tweaking and optimizing your automation runbooks, you will become a PowerShell guru by experience and you will hit a couple of walls. Fortunately, in orchestration, there is always a way around any issue for the more creative souls among us.

Want to know more on how to start building your runbooks ? Stay tuned or give us a call!

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