How to Choose the Right Problem for Service Desk Automation

Service desk automation is one of the hottest topics in ITSM today. Organizations have understood the importance of automation and how automating manual tasks in a service desk can help their IT teams stay lean and perform better. 

According to a report published by SDI, 75% of respondents highlighted that their top service desk priority within the next 12 months is to use more automation to streamline their internal processes, automate reactive incident handling, improve knowledge management, etc. 

Automation tools also play a crucial role during the selection of an ITSM tool. 55% of the respondents said that the automation capabilities of an ITSM tool influence their decision while selecting an ITSM tool. 

Considering the current scenario, we can see a lot of organizations implement some form of automation in their service desk within the next 12 months. But, the most important question organizations and IT teams should ask themselves is, “What is the right problem for automation?”

Choosing the right automation problem

Bill Gates once said: 

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

When you look at your service desk for possible problems for automation, you would be tempted to automate every problem that exists. But, automating the wrong problem would cost you a great deal of time, money, and resources. 

You should make sure that if you spend more time and resources to implement an automation process, it should also bring in a greater impact. If not, then the problem you have chosen to automate may not be the right one. 

To make things easier, here are a few approaches you could use to choose the right automation process. 

Understand the pain

Talk to IT agents and service desk managers to understand the operational pain points involved in a service desk. As the key stakeholders, they will be able to throw better light on what they actually need and areas that can be automated. You need not do this in a meeting room. It can be a casual conversation at the cafeteria or near the watercooler. Try to understand the pain and the amount of impact it will bring if the process that causes this pain is automated properly. 

One good example is assigning of ticket fields for incoming tickets. Assume that you’re talking to an agent and come to know that she roughly spends 13-15 seconds to manually select ticket fields. Imagine an agent doing this for a hundred tickets. Wouldn’t automating this make the life of IT agents easy? 

So, the best approach before deciding on what to automate is talking to as many people in the IT team and understand the pain they face on a daily basis. This will set you on the right track. 

Use appropriate metrics

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in your service desk can serve as a medium for you to choose the right automation candidate. KPIs like first response time, CSATs, most frequently received service requests, knowledge management metrics, etc. can be helpful in identifying the right candidate for automation. 

Let’s take an example where you’re looking at a report on service requests and you realize that your IT team roughly receives a hundred service requests every month, with 50% of those tickets being service requests for CRM access. 

This could be a good candidate for automation. You can use the CRM’s API and build a workflow using webhooks to automatically grant access to requesters who are from a particular team or department. It will reduce the time spent on 50% of the incoming service requests and free up agents’ time. 

Look for areas with business impact

Sometimes, you should look beyond IT for automation candidates that could have a bigger business impact. It could be a problem in the HR team or the finance team. 

Let’s take an example where the finance team in your company is receiving several hundred tickets every month under accounts payable and the entire finance team overwork every day to stay on top of all the tickets. And yet, a majority of their time is spent on manual tasks like forwarding tickets for approval, initiating a fund transfer, etc. If this goes unchecked, the finance team might end up hiring more people to do these manual tasks. 

But, if you could automate the approval workflow and initiate fund transfer automatically after approval, you would not only be reducing a great deal of time spent on these mundane tasks but also obviating the need for additional hires. In this case, implementing an automation process reduces the cost of the finance team and keeps them lean and productive.  

Don’t forget to validate

After you zero in on a problem for automation using the aforementioned approaches, validate it with the relevant stakeholders. Collect information such as the number of times the particular task is being performed (say, in a day or in a month), number of hours spent on the task, which team or people are affected by it the most, etc. 

Gathering these additional data points will help you strengthen your decision to automate the chosen problem. If the additional data points do not support your choice, it is better to look for the next best automation problem to solve. 

Automation is powerful. It can save you a great deal of time, keep your team lean and efficient, and make your agents more productive. But, the key to getting these outcomes, lies in taking enough time to analyze, understand, and implement automation the right way. 

Design by Nidhi Shah