Looking to Increase Automation?  2 Simple Steps to Start Off Right!

automateI talk to MSPs a lot about automation and how important automation is to increasing efficiency, productivity, and IT performance.   Research from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) determined that implementing automation reduces operating system deployment time by 68% on average, and time spent managing virus and spyware systems by 83% on average.

So it’s not a surprise that MSPs often ask me, “How do I automate?”   My answer is always, “Well, it’s not that simple to tell you.”

Which isn’t the answer they’re looking for.

What makes this such a hard question to answer?  I thought about this a lot recently, and realize it’s because figuring out WHAT to automate is very different for each MSP.  So much depends on their particular customer base, services, and in-house IT expertise.


For example, if an MSP is doing a good job of handling disk space, automating disk clean-up might not be as critical for them as automating malware removal.  However, there could be an MSP where the exact opposite is the case; and a third example, where patch automation is more critical than either disk clean-up or malware removal.

Don’t Begin with Automation – Begin with a Decision Framework

At the end of the day, you might want to automate as many common maintenance and remediation tasks as possible.  But if you’re just starting to automate, take a small amount a time – a few hours of analysis spread over, say, a week – to make sure you’re creating a framework for automation success.

  1. Identify the Processes You’d Like to Automate. How do you identify which processes you should automate? There are two ways to start that list:
    1. Identify your top 10 tickets. By evaluating these high-frequency tickets, you can ensure that the first project you automate will have a big impact on your business. Ticket reviews shouldn’t be a one-time event, either.  Plan on reviewing your top tickets at least once a year.
    2. Identify time-consuming recurring processes. List the ongoing processes that your technicians do over and over.  I call these recurring processes.  Outside of ticket resolution, what do your technicians spend the bulk of their time doing?  What are the tasks that either come up regularly or, if they happen irregularly, take a lot of time to complete?  Examples could include onboarding new clients, updating software or patches, or consistently cleaning up bloatware on laptops.
  1. Prioritize Your Resulting List. Next, put some cost estimates next to each process. Ask at least these two questions about each process:
    1. How many technician hours (per week, per month, per client) do the various processes take?
    2. How much client goodwill do you lose for the various ticket submissions?

Don’t get too concerned if you find that you can automate only subsets of certain processes.  Depending on the types of tickets you receive, you may not be able to automate more the 30% of them.  However, even freeing up technicians for that 30% could still have a huge impact on your business.

Automating as many mundane and recurring tasks is well worth the effort.  You will be rewarded with more productive IT staff, happier end users, and more confidence in your processes.  Just remember to not jump in with the first project that comes to mind.   Take time to make a plan – and that will help you keep powering through any temporary setbacks or roadblocks you may come across.

Next month, I’ll discuss the best way to break down any single process to make automating it as direct as possible.

Looking for more inspiration on what other MSPs automate?  Download this complete automation checklist of how you can leverage automation for remediation, maintenance and measurement.

*Originally posted on MSPAlliance.

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