• Garfield Vaughn

Improve your process by Automating and Orchestrating

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Documented instructions can be easily read and then followed (executed) by a person. For companies that have their IT recovery procedure documented, it’s expected that, in the event of a disaster, one or more members of the organization assigned the task of executing each documented step in the recovery procedure will actually do it. The manual execution of documented IT procedures is not isolated to the IT Disaster Recovery space. As an example, an employee may be asked to manually execute a series of steps as part of a process in order to achieve some expected outcome; manufacturing a part, analyzing lab results, data analysis, report generation, or any number of other use cases. The process of manually executing these steps can be quite time-consuming, laborious, risky, and costly.

The actual mechanics of reading, understanding and then executing (typing, copying and pasting, navigating, etc..) are activities that can be easily completed by a human. These procedures may not be done frequently enough by an individual to have the procedures committed to memory and may then require a lot of time to execute. This is risky because, as humans, we make mistakes; person(s) may become distracted and miss a step in the process, or misinterpret an action and end up performing it incorrectly. It’s costly because these processes change and for each change the procedures need to be updated and then tested to ensure the expected results are achieved. Testing typically requires team members to devote some amount of time to focus on testing, during which time they are away from their primary job, negatively impacting their productivity.

One way to minimize the negative side effects of manual process execution is to use automation and orchestration. To make this happen, executable instructions are defined in a runbook. A runbook, commonly used in IT, is a set of procedures typically defined by a technical professional that is used to maintain specific operations of the computer system or network. The runbook is likely to contain all the information a support team would need to perform the needed operations. Runbooks can be in a physical form on printed pages that are organized in a binder or available through a user interface on an electronic device; laptop, tablet, smartphone or any similar with display capabilities. Automating and orchestrating these steps can significantly reduce the time to fully execute them.

Process steps can be automated by using various techniques; a command, script, job, or function. When executed, the automated function will complete one or more steps that are defined in the procedure document which are typically executed one at a time by the employee. Thus, by automating, we reduce the number of manual steps needed to be performed and therefore reduce the time, risk, and cost. Although automation provides improvement over manual execution, it still requires a person to execute and monitor the results of each stem and determine what can and should be executed next, and when it should be executed.

To take it one step further, automated steps can be orchestrated. Orchestration in this context is nothing more than the automatic execution of each step in a runbook; starting each step at the right moment and doing it without human intervention. For this to happen, additional information is required for each step and an Orchestration solution is required to execute each step. Knowing the success pattern, failure pattern, and interdependencies of steps allows the orchestration solution to determine when and how to proceed based on the results of each step. Automate your processes and see improvements of up to 45% -- or, even better, orchestrate them and realize process improvements as large as 95%.

Garfield Vaughn

IBM Integration Architect

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