Automation Processes for a Distributed Workforce
Even in industries like banking and finance, automation is a critical part of making applications more functional and more efficient.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
When it comes to automation, it can be challenging to know where to start and how to roll it out across the business. For organizations with a distributed workforce and multiple locations, the challenge is compounded.
At Coastal Community Credit Union, our IT department recently implemented new automated processes and technologies across our 660 users and 830 devices across 24 branches, 16 insurance offices, four business centers, and administration departments to modernize our systems and streamline operations.
As our company has grown, we’ve learned a lot over the years when it comes to adopting new technologies and ensuring the success of every employee, and we wanted to share our learnings about optimal places to start when it comes to rolling out automated processes across the workforce.
Automating the Imaging and Ticketing Process
Automation in IT is critical to optimizing tedious tasks that would otherwise eat up time for IT admins. With automation in place, IT can be freed up to think about actually driving innovation rather than just keeping the lights on. Automation can also cut down significantly on man-hours required to implement software upgrades, but how and where should you start?
For Coastal Community Credit Union, the migration to Windows 10 was our big forcing function to seriously consider automation. We had experienced the time-intensive process of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7, and everyone involved wanted to avoid the pains a system-wide upgrade can bring.
The first time around, we had a replication device that could image five hard drives in an hour, but with the added work of opening up computers, swapping out hard drives, driving to each location, setting the drives up and returning to the office – it added up to countless hours to actually implement. Each location had about a dozen computers that each had to be upgraded, and we could spend entire days imaging hard drives.
As we were evaluating solutions and approaches, we knew automating the imaging process for our devices would be critical. Our automation process meant addressing the most time-intensive process for IT to alleviate man hours and resources to make it more manageable. Quest Software’s KACE Systems Deployment Appliance (SDA) for automated imaging and KACE Systems Management Appliance (SMA) for IT asset management and control were such solutions that enabled us to streamline imaging and the overall automation process.
Another impactful area to implement automation is the ticketing system to streamline problem resolution for the IT team. Having a ticketing system that can easily manage multiple queues and display problem resolutions in an easy-to-digest way is critical – and can optimize what is typically a manual, confusing and time-intensive process for employees. As users across offices and regions encounter troubleshooting issues, whether with upgrades or in day-to-day issues, it’s important to meet employee needs so problems can be resolved and time isn’t spent digging around for the right contact or solution.
The ticket desk benefits tremendously from automation, as we have a mySolutions Centre that makes it easy for users to identify and open a ticket in the queue. This results in increased efficiency for IT, and delivers an overall better experience for end users who can then carry on with their day.
By implementing a robust, automated service desk, our IT department has been able to use the increased efficiency to allocate time for corporate implementations, in-branch training and innovative projects that improve the employee and member/client experience. An added benefit? No longer having to deal with an endless stream of inbound tickets.
If You Can’t Automate It, Find New Ways to Add Value
While automation is a strong goal to shoot for, sometimes streamlining processes simply means cutting down on manual processes – and in our case, that meant optimizing inventory and asset management.
But some manual processes can’t always be streamlined because of certain ever-evolving complexities, such as meeting compliance requirements. It can be challenging to understand and meet compliance for one office, but ensuring multiple offices, branches and regions are compliant with the latest regulations and industry standards can add even further complexity.
Rather than automating this process, we implemented deeper visibility into our hardware and software to be able to track our assets efficiently. As a financial institution, Coastal Community must always know the status of its IT assets. We’re accountable on several levels: internal and external auditors, the information security officer, the security committee, and Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM).
We need to be able to see what is installed on each computer across the entire network to ensure systems are compliant and locked down, with all security policies in place. It has helped us to instill processes to adhere to guidelines and timing, but we’ve also found having our IT functions tracked within one platform helps as well.
Looking Forward: Automation is the Future, but Start Small
Managing IT for a distributed workforce adds additional complexity that can be challenging for IT if it doesn’t have the right processes in place, especially as it pertains to automation, ticketing and compliance. As organizations look to system-wide upgrades or to streamlining IT in general, it’s important to start small and automate the processes core to your business. Eventually, automation can trickle into more and different departments, and over time, help drive innovation and cut down on the manual tedium.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.