How to Build an Automation Strategy and Roadmap
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin. These words cannot be overstated in most business fields, especially when it comes to automation. Process automation has the potential to enhance operations in most organizations, but problems can emerge when they don’t plan and strategize around their automation objectives. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to integrating automation into business operations, automation is still a potent tool that offers high efficiency, effectiveness, and ROI. By using the right automation strategy and implementation roadmap, businesses can achieve digitization and innovation. Continue reading this post to learn how to create an automation strategy and roadmap.
What Is Automation and Why Does It Matter?
Automation, as used in technological transformation, is the process of using tools and practices to carry out tasks, workflows, and batch processes repeatedly without human intervention. It defines and executes a series of incredibly complex actions that would otherwise be carried out manually using software tools and a set of instructions. The majority of process automation involves discrete sequences of processes spanning multiple systems as well as single actions. Automation has the added benefit of removing manual intervention, allowing businesses to better utilize their workforces.
Some Examples of Automation Include:
- Incident management and alert remediation: Traditionally, enterprises had a delineated perimeter where security alerts were mainly triggered at the endpoint or either inside or outside the organization’s firewall. Organizations can use automation to investigate these alerts and remediate the incidents faster.
- Application development and deployment: With DevOps and CI/CD pipelines, organizations can automate their processes using systematic integrations and collaboration.
- Identity lifecycle management: Automation can be used for authorization and authentication by centrally managing accounts and system access policies. It allows you to, for example, automatically update device, network, and other access policies whenever a user is added, changed, or deactivated in your identity provider.
- Security and compliance: Organizations can use IT automation to define and enforce security, compliance, and risk management policies as well as create standardized workflows for remediation procedures. This streamlines auditing and keeps infrastructure in check by ensuring that consistent workflows are followed.
The Benefits of Automation Include:
- Reduced costs: Workflow automation saves on the cost of labor and energy. It also reduces the cost of human error, since it increases the accuracy and quality of work.
- Increased productivity: When more mundane processes are automated, teams can spend more of their precious time focusing on other tasks. This increases their productivity due to easy integration and faster releases.
- Better performance: When software tools handle complex processes automatically, organizations have enough time to continuously refine their processes. This promotes operational efficiency.
- Scalability: As your organization grows, automation software allows you to scale without having to worry about manpower capacity. You can continuously monitor your automation rules, track wins, and identify pitfalls to adjust to growing business needs.
- High availability and reliability: Automation helps mitigate potential risks that may cause inadvertent damage to system objects due to human error. The continuous visibility into automation tools also ensures that they are highly reliant and available, since threats are identified earlier.
What Is an Automation Strategy?
An automation strategy defines how organizations can optimize their operations using automation technologies so that they can move from simple process improvements to achieve enterprise-wide process transformation. Simply put, it answers the “who, what, when, where, and how” of achieving automation. It is a plan made by the key stakeholders and managers for identifying automation opportunities and defining the business goals of those opportunities. It also identifies the tools for implementation as well as the metrics and scope of the automation.
When designed, agreed upon, understood, and implemented efficiently, an automation strategy will make a lasting impact on the business in terms of higher ROI, increased availability, high reliability, faster time to market, and greater overall operational efficiency. Additionally, an automation strategy ensures that all teams are on the same page in terms of the ways in which they can optimize their processes to achieve the organization’s goals and vision.
How Do You Develop an Automation Strategy?
The first step in putting an automation strategy into action is to plan. You can’t even start unless you define the relevant tools, execution goals, and an efficient approach. The following are the top five questions to consider when developing an automation strategy:
- What will you automate? This helps you examine the complex processes within your organization (which usually take a lot of time and effort) to see if they are candidates for automation.
- Who are the automation stakeholders? The next phase in your automation strategy is to identify the teams that will be impacted the most. This will allow you to communicate to the stakeholders and update their new workflows.
- Who “owns” the automations? Automation is complex. Assigning roles to different teams ensures that they assume responsibility for managing, tracking, and dealing with any unintended consequences.
- Why are you automating? This question helps you define the goals that you want to achieve through automation – such as speed, reducing toil, scalability, or cutting operational costs.
- Do you have the skills to automate? Your teams must possess the expertise needed to deploy and maintain automation tools.
After developing the automation strategy, the next step is to devise an implementation plan in the form of an automation roadmap.
How Do You Create an Automation Roadmap?
An automation roadmap is a model representation of the different steps or sub-processes that will be used for the automation. It shows the phases involved in the execution of the automation strategy and ensures that all of the goals are achieved. To create an automation roadmap, you must include the following phases:
1. Design the Automation Plan
The first step in creating an automation roadmap is to build a pilot project model, then identify the tools you will need for the initial implementation. This will help you align your automation goals with your business’s vision while bringing all the necessary tools on board.
2. Establish a Governance Structure
For every automation roadmap and process implemented, you need to validate whether the goals of your automation are being met. You need to design and adopt a working review and governance structure that measures the efficiency of your processes. A good governance framework will ensure that you check your goals against a set of key performance indicators for feedback and continuous improvement.
3. Build Process Automations
At this phase of your roadmap, you begin your actual process automation by either coding task scripts or integrating with third-party vendors. You may start with sample projects that typically automate a few given tasks, then continuously add on the load. The development process will include its own set of back and forth steps to perfect the automation.
4. Test and Deploy Project Automations
Testing is an essential step in automation, since it ensures that the tools are working as they should without much human intervention. User acceptance testing (UAT) also ensures that if the tests fail, further development is done to correct any errors. Once all the tests pass, the automation project is then deployed to production for live usage.
5. Monitor and Manage Automation Updates
Automation is an ongoing process that requires maintenance and a continued focus on optimization. At this phase of the automation roadmap, teams need to visibly monitor the processes to track wins and identify anomalies for regular remediation and updates. For a business, this is the most important step in ensuring continued rollouts and the scalability of your operations.
Automation roadmaps are critical for the success of an automation strategy. While developing an automation roadmap takes some time up front, the potential advantages to your business include increased productivity, efficiency, and process optimization, as well as reduced costs and time spent on manual work. As explained in this article, your organization can maximize resources and increase efficiency by implementing automation strategies using a roadmap.
One way to implement automation in your organization is to partner with a reputable vendor like Torq. Torq is on a mission to reinvent automation for security teams. Most businesses consider security to be crucial, and with Torq’s SOAR, you can reduce manual work, optimize response times, and offer your clients the highest level of protection. For both security experts and novices, Torq also provides a visual dashboard with a no-code method of authoring automated data. To start automating your security, sign up with Torq today.