Thought Paper:IT Strategies in a Tough EconomyWhen budgets are shrinking or constrained, IT has to shift its focus.Joe Kos...
IT Strategies in a Tough EconomyIntroductionIn good economic times, success simply means keeping pace. After all, the mark...
So, with intra-company demands as high as ever and business survival at stake, a new andfundamentally different approach i...
And remember, the business process above impacts other business processes. For example, if thewidget is out of stock and c...
To err is human, but taking the blame is a whole ‘nother thingThe next place to look for inefficiencies and opportunity fo...
engages in more than two times is a ripe candidate for automation. Gone should be the days whensomeone performs a repetiti...
The real answer is business process automation software. The right software package – an automationplatform, really – can ...
Microsoft Excel, etc.). Don’t limit yourself by choosing a package that simply meets your needs now.Allow yourself the fle...
those similar to yours. Purchasing software from vendors who have no proof that their software iswidely used, scalable, re...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Review of the Diet Solution-Get an Honest Review of the Diet Solution!


Published on

I lost 18 pounds using these diet solution program.Easy step by step by step guiding.check it out now.

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Review of the Diet Solution-Get an Honest Review of the Diet Solution!

  1. 1. Thought Paper:IT Strategies in a Tough EconomyWhen budgets are shrinking or constrained, IT has to shift its focus.Joe KoscoChief Operating OfficerNetwork Automation, Inc.654 South Western AvenueLos Angeles, CA
  2. 2. IT Strategies in a Tough EconomyIntroductionIn good economic times, success simply means keeping pace. After all, the market is demanding yourcompany’s products and services, and your responsibility is simple: keep up with the demand no matterwhat it takes. Most managers, whether they are business managers or technology managers respond tothis situation the same way. They hire more people to shoulder the increased load. Sales managersseek out more sales reps. Foremen bring more assembly workers online. Customer service beefs up thecall center. And IT managers hire more administrators to maintain the constant flux of demands fromusers, applications, systems, and networks.In tough economic times, hiring your way out of a jam is not an option. There simply is no budget foradding people. And for whatever reason, the workload never seems to wane the way business can. Thecompany’s revenues may be in decline, but the number of server crashes remains the same. Andsomebody has got to fix it now!To make matters even worse, a certain moodiness can pervade the workplace that makes users evenmore demanding and less patient when the server is down, or their data isn’t ready, or the network isn’tup, or they can’t send an email. People are naturally on edge in downtimes, especially when the whiff oflayoffs is in the air, so anything that gets in their way or prevents them from doing their job – ahem, IT[cough] – will take the brunt of their frustration.So what is a CIO or IT Manager to do?The obvious answer is to do more with less.How We Got HereIn a way, this has always been the case, even in the best of economic times. No department hasenabled more change and dynamism than the IT department over the past 40 years, and yet it rarelygets the credit it deserves. Remember that project to improve the cash collection cycle in accountsreceivable … “Good job, Accounting!” Oh, and how about that system that provides customers withfaster response and better service … “Marketing, you really outdid yourself on that one!” That remindsme … we need a system that can better track the flow of goods from our suppliers so we can reducewaste and slash inventory costs … “IT, get me ROI on that project that will pay us back in six months.”As these scenarios showcase, IT is seen as a necessary burden for making the rest of the business workbetter. But when the company is focused on weathering the storm of a depressed economy rather thanexpanding and enhancing operations, large IT budgets and expenditures are no longer viewed asnecessary. Instead, they are prime candidates for the proverbial paring knife.But while IT faces the prospect of cutbacks, its core responsibilities are not going away. The legacytechnology infrastructure put in place over a period of decades must be maintained and supported, andin many cases, modified so other departments can accomplish more with less. 2
  3. 3. So, with intra-company demands as high as ever and business survival at stake, a new andfundamentally different approach is needed. Naturally, CIO’s and IT managers are interested in knowingwhat options they have. They need to know how to accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of doingmore with less.There is a silver lining here. With all the improvements IT has been working on in Sales, Finance,Accounting, and Operations, it hasn’t had much time to look inward. Consequently, there is a hugeopportunity for improvement, and needless to say, there is a lot of low hanging fruit.Where to Begin?When deciding where to focus attention on improving efficiency and effectiveness, the first step is tounderstand your business processes (also referred to as work processes). Business processes aredefined as the series of actions that must be executed to deliver a benefit for downstream employees orcustomers. Business processes can be small (i.e., involving one IT worker) or far-reaching (i.e., involvingmany workers, servers, applications, departments, and end users).And lest you be confused, business processes are not merely simple tasks isolated in a vacuum fromother business processes. Business processes are inherently interlinked, so a deficiency or problem inone area can have a rippling effect, causing errors, delay, and downtime in other business processes.They have a reach and impact beyond themselves. The opposite is also true: streamlining, fool-proofing, and automating a small business process can have a dramatic positive impact on other,seemingly unrelated, larger business processes.Regardless of business process size, reach, and impact, IT managers must do a much better job ofunderstanding them than they have historically. In the past, a thorough understanding of businessprocesses was unnecessary; managers could simply throw more resources at any problem to fix it.However, this option is no longer available. Now, managers must understand their business processesso they can then improve them. They need to understand these processes “as is”, so they can visualizethe weak points and eliminate them.So, more specifically, where does one begin in this quest for understanding business processes?First, you have to understand that business processes (whether they are manual, automatic, or acombination of both) are composed of events, decision-points, and actions. Events are the shotgunstart for business processes. They are the way in which business processes are initiated or triggered. Anevent could be an end user needing help; it could be the receipt of an order via fax; it could be theappearance of a specific file on the network; it could be a server freezing up.Once an event triggers a business process, a series of actions and decision-points ensues. For example,if the event is the appearance of a file that contains important data, actions involving reading the dataand parsing the data for specific information would follow. Now, let’s imagine that the important datacontained in the file is the inventory level of widgets at warehouse Z. A decision is now necessary –whether to order more widgets or not. To make that decision, we would want to know how manyoutstanding orders for the widget we placed previously, and how many orders have been placed onbackorder by our customers. Once we collect that information from other systems (via another set ofactions, of course!), we can make the decision whether or not to order more widgets. 3
  4. 4. And remember, the business process above impacts other business processes. For example, if thewidget is out of stock and cannot be reordered immediately, we would want to inform backorderedcustomers that they should expect delay in their shipments. If we fail to link these business processes,we will leave customers in the dark regarding their orders, leading to their ultimate pique andfrustration. We will also dramatically increase the amount of time customer service representativesspend on after-the-fact damage repair activities. Well coordinated and integrated business processesproactively prevent many undesirable situations, and the resulting resource drain, from arising in thefirst place.What to Scrutinize?Understanding your business processes isn’t just busy work. It is an essential step in identifying what isinefficient, broken, or even wrong with the process. Your work here will not be in vain.The waiting is the hardest partThe first area of scrutiny (and potential opportunity) in any business process are its “waits” or delays.These are points in which workers, machines, and applications are waiting for some event to transpireor some threshold to be attained before the business process can begin or proceed. For example, aworker (let’s call her Madge) might be responsible for entering faxed orders into the ERP system.Perhaps Madge waits until 3:00 pm each workday before beginning this task which usually takes aboutan hour to perform. This means that orders collected in Madge’s in-basket can “wait” for nearly a daybefore they are entered. And what happens when an order arrives at 4:30 pm on Friday? Well, that canwait until Monday. And what happens if Madge calls in sick on Monday? And who steps up whenMadge goes on vacation?My advice to you: Look for the waits and delays in your business processes first and foremost, for thereyou shall find opportunity for streamlining, automation, and process improvement (no offense, Madge).In the process above, one can easily imagine a system that routes faxes to email with a PDF of the order.This service is extremely inexpensive, and adds the addition benefit of an electronic copy and audit trailcompared with traditional faxing. Next, common automation software can detect the email, downloadthe PDF, and automatically scan it with OCR technology. Key information from the order (customer,address, SKU, quantity, price, etc.) can be gleaned from the order and automatically entered into theERP system.While the IT department isn’t usually responsible for order entry, it is responsible for accelerating thetimeliness and flow of information. How information is received from outside corporate walls, to how itis transferred within via files or databases, is the domain of IT. IT must be on the lookout for situationswhere data, files, and information wait for batch processing. These are potential business processpoints that should be streamlined and automated.As a general rule, reducing and eliminating waits will vastly improve a business process and lessen thenegative impact that can often result from excessive or abnormal waits. 4
  5. 5. To err is human, but taking the blame is a whole ‘nother thingThe next place to look for inefficiencies and opportunity for improvement is business process errors.The tricky thing about process errors is that they might not occur very often. They might even occurrarely. But when they do happen, errors are very disruptive, costly, and time-consuming.Talking about Madge, she really is great, but every once in a while, she enters 100 for the order quantitywhen the customer only orders 10 units. Then, the factory goes wild. They hire people to workovertime to keep up with demand. Purchasing buys a slew of raw materials. The place really ramps upbecause – you know – the customer is #1.In IT, lost data or a server going down at exactly the wrong time can have enormous consequences.Look in areas where errors (human or machine generated) have happened in the past, or where a futureerror could cause severe damage. Here you will find significant opportunities for automation andbusiness process improvement.Should I stay or should I go now?Some decisions require thought. They require the collection of data and facts that cannot be knownprior to the decision. The decision-maker must analyze this information, identify unknowns andambiguities, mull the pros and cons of each decision scenario, and ultimately take a course of action.For whatever reason, human beings (most of us anyway – no offense Madge) evolved brilliantly in thisdirection. Human beings are vastly superior to machines when it comes to thinking.Examples of business processes involving thought include analyzing reports and business intelligence.Another one that comes to mind is understanding and optimizing business processes.Other decisions only require rote logic. The facts, at least the variables and their importance, can beknown in advance. All one needs to do is set up the decision tree, and let the data make the decision.Human beings are mediocre at this skill. Machines are incredible.Examples of business processes that only require facts and logic include restarting an importantcomputer service that has stopped working, extracting data from a file, and generating and distributingreports.The key here is to let the humans do what they do best, and let the machines do what they do best.That means IT managers should look at the types of decisions their people are making, and they shouldask themselves which ones require thought and which ones require only logic. After separating the twotypes, the focus should turn to automating the latter.Working in a coal mineAnother font of promise for generating enormous productivity gains lies in eliminating repetitive,manual tasks so many IT workers engage in each day. Any computer-related activity that someone 5
  6. 6. engages in more than two times is a ripe candidate for automation. Gone should be the days whensomeone performs a repetitive, manual task “because that’s my job.” Machines can perform theseactivities much better than human beings.Repetitive, manual activities fall into two categories: monitoring and execution. In this day and age,nobody should be monitoring anything. Employees need to be notified when key events take place,threshold limits are exceeded, or exceptions/deviations occur. These can all be known in advance andplanned for, and automation can be relied on to monitor, notify, and if you get really crazy,automatically respond to and rectify any situation outside the norm.Execution should also be automated. If you do it more than twice, you do it using a computer, and youcan lay out a logical sequence of steps to executed – the process should be automated – end of story.You and your people have more important things to do – thinking and planning.Going the extra mileStreamlining, automation, and process improvement often lead to unexpected opportunities topositively impact a customer’s experience and other interconnected business processes. In theconventional order entry example discussed above, Madge never gave customers a written confirmationof their orders, complete with a tracking number and details about order quantity and SKU numbers.She never even called them to confirm order receipt. This is just too time-consuming and complex to doover the phone, and most legacy ERP systems are not designed for this functionality. Yet we all knowthat customers value the piece-of-mind that comes with updates and confirmations. Customers want tobe in the loop – whether that means receiving good or bad news – because this knowledge manifests aspeace-of-mind. Good news is reassuring; bad news is actionable and provides enough time to rectify asmall error before it becomes a big problem. So in either situation, the customer comes out ahead.In the automated order entry process, however, it is very easy to add the benefit of transparency. Withautomation, it is very straightforward to send a confirmation email to the customer with the trackingnumber and order details. This would make customers feel more confident and provide them theopportunity to make a change in the event anything was entered incorrectly. This small changerepresents a huge boost in the business process’s value in the eyes of the customer.Automation, properly planned and implemented, does more than merely automate a given businessprocess. It allows for orchestration of multiple, complex, interconnected business processes. In thiscontext, orchestration is defined as the coordinated, intelligent execution of business processes thatspan departments, applications, and computing resources. As such, orchestration enables organizationsto think in terms of the macro business processes that deliver value to customers, partners, andemployees – and provides a pathway for optimizing and enhancing these macro business processes.Business Process Automation SoftwareAs the arguments above suggest, IT organizations need to pursue aggressive business processautomation strategies in order to increase productivity, slash costs, and provide better customer service.In many cases, people inside the organization understand what needs to be accomplished. The problemis that they don’t have the tools necessary for successful execution of the strategy. 6
  7. 7. The real answer is business process automation software. The right software package – an automationplatform, really – can provide the IT organization with the power it needs to start streamlining andautomating time-consuming and costly business processes quickly, be they simple or complex. Thepayback on selecting the right platform can be immediate upon the first implementation, so choosingwisely is paramount.But choosing the right software package can be an extremely daunting task, especially in hard economictimes when budgets are hogtied. That is why the 11-point evaluation checklist detailed below should beextremely helpful.11-Point Evaluation Checklist for Choosing the Right Automation Software Package1. Cost JustificationYou are in a very tight budget position, and any expenditure must be examined very closely. You simplycannot spend a fortune on an automation software package. Here’s a benchmark to consider: RedmondMagazine’s 2008 Salary Survey shows the median base salary for an IT worker is nearly $80,000. If youare considering an automation software package with a price tag more than half that amount, or$40,000, you are probably making a big mistake. The software must pay for itself in weeks or months,not years.2. No Code RequiredYou need to start realizing the benefit of automation immediately. You can’t afford to hire scriptdevelopers, and you don’t have time to train your people on an entirely new set of skills. You need toprocure automation software that does not require your people to learn a new programming language.Consequently, you need “no code” automation software that provides drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank,plain-English tools for comprehensive automation.3. Visual Interface to Harmonize Business Processes with IT InfrastructureYou need software that bridges the gap between IT’s physical assets – the servers, applications, systems,and networks – and your business processes. Leading software packages include components that allowpeople to design workflows, or flow charts, of business processes. This greatly helps in understandingcurrent-state business processes and how they will be automated, as well as communicating the desiredchanges to other team members or non-technical users outside of IT. The best automation packagesprovide a graphic mechanism for enhanced collaboration as well as tools for managing collaborationbetween team members.4. Wide Range of Tools for Automating Common TasksNo-code, graphical automation does nothing if the capabilities are limited. Make sure the package youchoose is feature rich. It should contain many tools – in the hundreds – for automating common ITbusiness processes. These include tools for event detection (file, system, event log, etc.), dataautomation (SQL, XML, data within files, etc.), data and file transport and integration (Windowsnetwork, telnet, FTP, HTTP, etc.), and support for commonly used applications (Active Directory, 7
  8. 8. Microsoft Excel, etc.). Don’t limit yourself by choosing a package that simply meets your needs now.Allow yourself the flexibility to have the application grow with your future demands and ever-changingbusiness processes.5. Support for StandardsYou need an automation platform that will integrate with your existing environment, as well as supportand enable future changes in IT infrastructure. Consequently, it must support the common standardsfor applications and networks including FTP/SFTP, OLE/ODBC, HTTP, XML, POP3, SNMP, SNMP, WMI,and more. Some applications offer direct tie-ins to specific applications but only support some of thecommon standards listed above. Make sure you choose a solution that can support your entireinfrastructure, not just a few applications.6. OrchestrationChances are that you have more than one server that will be involved in automation, so you will need tointelligently coordinate automated execution across these machines. The platform you choose mustenable you to assign and execute the basic building blocks of automation – events, tasks, and decision-points – to the correct resource or server.7. Multi-User SupportYou may have a team of people responsible for designing, building, testing, and maintaining automationthroughout your organization. You need a tool that helps administrators delegate work and trackprogress of team members and their automation projects. This also ensures that only authorizedindividuals are involved in the process.8. CentralizationYou don’t want automation scripts and batch files floating loose across your organization. It simply isn’tsecure, and it cannot be controlled. You need an automation package that enables you to centralizeautomation and its management, but at the same time, gives you the capability to execute automationin a decentralized manner. The only way this can be accomplished is through a sophisticatedclient/server architecture, whereby information and communication is centralized at the server andexecution is performed by the clients.9. Automation Reporting and InformationYou need a package that provides you with meaningful and actionable intelligence regarding importantautomation events. You don’t want to be bombarded with noise. You need to quickly detect errors sothat you and your team can proactively respond to and fix any problem. The platform you chooseshould provide alerts for events you define as critical, plus a reporting component that summarizes andsynthesizes the wealth of data generated by leading automation solutions.10. Installed BaseYou want software that has been stressed, tested, and put through the wringer – not only by themanufacturer, but most importantly by thousands of installations with different environments, including 8
  9. 9. those similar to yours. Purchasing software from vendors who have no proof that their software iswidely used, scalable, reliable and accepted is extremely risky. You can’t afford for this decision tobackfire on you given the current economic climate.11. Third Party EndorsementsAnother way to reduce your risk is to look at product reviews from knowledgeable third parties such astrade publications and analysts. You can also ask vendors for case studies showing how they havesolved various automation issues. If the vendor doesn’t have this information readily available, you willbe taking a leap of faith to move forward with their software.SummaryBusiness process automation is the answer for many organizations and IT departments struggling withtough economic conditions and constrained budgets. Planned and executed properly, it will lead toenormous costs savings, productivity improvements, robust processes, and better customer service.Organizations that embark on this path must choose a comprehensive software platform that will helpthem achieve these goals without breaking their budgets. Those that follow the common-sensestrategies outlined in this white paper will succeed.About the AuthorJoe Kosco is the Chief Operating Officer for Network Automation, based in Los Angeles. NetworkAutomation, Inc. is the mid-market leader and innovator in automation software designed toorchestrate, integrate, and automate processes in IT and across the organization. NetworkAutomation’s sole focus is creating tools that reduce the complexity of building and maintainingautomation solutions. The company’s flagship product, called AutoMate BPA Server, is known for acombination rarely seen in the software industry – power and simplicity. Over 15,000 customers realizethe value of Network Automation’s software every day. This includes hundreds of large organizationslike NASA, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Verizon, FedEx and thousands of small companies you have nevereven heard of. 9