Fast and flexible

Developing and delivering the perfect presentation is a goal that I have striven to achieve for 30 years. It continues to elude me but last week was close.

The Service Desk and IT Support Show at Earl’s Court is the largest conference of its type in Europe. Over 4,000 attendees and nearly 100 exhibitors. Once again I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak and choose to talk about agility in process automation in the data center. I called the presentation “Fast and Flexible” because those are the two key elements of any process automation effort. The slides are online (to see the slides click here) and were the top rated slides on Twitter over the weekend.

The point is a simple one but it needs making on a regular basis. Process automation is there to serve us: if it makes more work for us to do it needs to be changed an if it cannot be changed it has to go!

Here is the talk track to the slides:

  1. Purpose of the talk is to look at how we can make the best choices when we are automating processes
  2. In an ideal world processes follow a simple path that gently meanders to the destination
  3. But the reality is that our processes are all highly integrated and they have humans involved in them who demand high quality information be delivered to them wherever they are
  4. Some parts of the process are held together with pieces of string and you take your life (and your data) in your hand when have any part of the process that is manual (by the way this picture is the Carrick a Rede bridge near the Giant’s Causeway I blogged about in my last post)
  5. And some parts of the process are often very old and set in stone and they seem to work OK but because they are in stone doesn’t mean they don’t need to be updated (and this picture is the Giant’s Causeway)
  6. The point of this presentation is to give the audience a blue print of the features that matter most in the selection of modern process automation technologies
  7. But, before we get to that, let’s think about what the strengths of humans are over computers
  1. Humans are great at problem solving and dealing with exceptional circumstances
  2. Computers are great at repetitive tasks and moving big chunks of data around
  • So let’s look at the requirements for different kinds of automation
  • For human to human interactions the issue is all about the interface. It needs to be able to personalizable for each user so that the information they need is available in a form they can make immediate use of. This means user interfaces designed for each role in the organization – one size does not fit all. In addition the user should be able to create their own alerts as well as subscribe to published ones so they can manage their work and time by having the system alert them to bottlenecks or tasks coming due. Finally the system should be able to make decisions when humans can’t by first letting the user know there is a task needing completion but also letting the user know that if they don’t respond default actions will occur (to approve or disapprove, to escalate to the boss, etc) and this is what I call nag-ware
  • When systems talk to one-another they have to be integrated. Too frequently the integrations become the weakest link in the automation as they can be quite brittle. Integrations of the future have to be based on web services interfaces and anyone buying an automation technology should include support for web services as a mandatory requirement. Modern technologies also need to be process centric in their design: it is no longer acceptable for a vendor to dictate the process. Tools which adopt a common open standard and which allow the integration to evolve over time are ideal
  • When the system communicates with the human and needs a response it should focus on delivering the information necessary packaged in the form the human can comprehend it most effectively. We tend to focus too much on the infrastructure that  delivers the information and not on the information itself. Do not organize the information based on where it comes from, or what format it is where it is stored, instead think about how the data can become information with the addition of charts, maps, scales and any number of visual clues that make comprehension easier. Of course all of this needs to be done in a Section 501 compliant manner too
  • When humans have to direct systems they need to be able to do it from wherever they are: we all live a highly mobile lifestyle now so we each need to be able to interact fully with our mobile devices interacting with our corporate systems and processes. Modern automation tools must manifest full fidelity functionality on the glass of your mobile device as well as your PC
  • Serena achieves this in the Development and Operations space (DevOps) through Orchestrated ALM (Development) and Orchestrated Service Management (Operations) which means having integrated DevOps workflows that are easy to implement, change and extend.
  • Serena’s vision is to automate as much as possible and this is achieved through having a completely configurable platform that allows for the integration of many disparate systems that creates complete and transparent access to information irrespective of where the data source exists
  • Serena achieves this through the Orchestration Engine at the heart of Orchestrated ALM and Orchestrated SM which is called Serena Business Manager
  • Heraclitus said, around 500BCE, that “everything flows, nothing remains the same” and this is especially true process
  • And Gartner recognizes this too with their research showing that most organizations turn over their service desk solutions about every five years
  • And the reasons they  do that typically come from one or more of these:
    1. The business starts to demand change in process and deliverables at an ever increasing rate
    2. The business wants to adopt best practices, like ITIL
    3. The business is placing increasing burdens for audit trails and compliance on the systems
    4. In order to run the business more effectively the business is looking for dashboards, alerts and notifications delivered into their handheld devices
    5. With increasing compliance comes the need for recorded accountability and this often means keeping electronic signatures
    6. More and more systems need to be brought together to deliver the insight the business needs
    7. Many systems doing the same thing as a result of mergers resulting in rationalizing the list of systems going forward
    8. When new executives join they often want to go with solutions that they have become familiar with and in which they have experience of success
    9. Many systems are expensive to maintain and difficult to change so newer faster and cheaper solutions are being sought
    10. Too many solutions from too many vendors often leads to a process of simplification of the number of providers
  • Serena is your Orchestrates Your World in Development, in Operations and in the Lines of Business
  • Serena’s solution extends throughout the complete lifecycle of Application Delivery
  • Serena has been rated highly by industry analysts from Gartner and Bloor
  • Serena is a proud and longstanding partner to many customers, in many industries, all around the world
  • There is a great Forrester webinar coming up on the DevOps Perspective. It is on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:00 am PDT.

    Development and Operations have a common challenge – to institute new applications and changes to existing applications in order for businesses to grow faster and stronger. Decades of the “us-versus-them” mentality is being erased as DevOps teams come together to solve release challenges. New technologies, such as release process management and release deployment automation, will help DevOps teams overcome the release bottleneck and release failure challenges.

    You can register here.

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