Automation journey

Don’t bypass the automation journey business case (Part One)

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Just do it!

Service automation and orchestration are buzzwords that everyone agrees on. Inmanta has heard many times the following mantra when meeting service providers or large enterprises: “let’s shift gears and move to the implementation stage”. As if all automation projects generate by default equivalent benefits with similar expenses.

The concept of service automation and orchestration has a lot of supporters in technical teams. Yet, a company usually has numerous projects in its automation roadmap. So how to identify high-priority projects? And to obtain full support from the management? If rainy days happen, this support may be critical to avoid a project de-scoping or worse its cancellation. After all, automation initiatives follow the same rules as any other projects involving company Opex and Capex.

Take care of the TCO

Although involving executives is not a must for all automation projects, it is strongly recommended when the total cost of ownership (TCO) is significant and for instance requires VP-level approval. Actually, many orchestration and automation projects fall into this category faster than initially foreseen. This is due to high manpower costs in Western countries. Hence it is important to ensure a reasonably good TCO calculation prior to the project kick-off. And share it with all stakeholders to ensure that there is a buy-in from different organizations. In doing so, the risk to prematurely close a transversal automation project will be minimized as all costs have been diligently documented first hand.

Lastly, even if automation and orchestration initiatives could be disruptive, there is no real point in trying to break the financial rules of your company. For-profit organizations commonly use business cases as a tool to get executives’ approval. The strategic nature of automation projects does not give them any blank check. Some form of business case is the best way to convince your C-level (usually a group of not too technical executives) about their benefits.

Any crystal ball to forecast project costs?

The project scope and its timeline are not immutable in practice. Contingencies have become the norm these days and unexpected intermediate potential benefits will impact the product backlog. Due to these uncertainties one should not wait until finance teams have fully identified all the costs to kick off an automation project. It is likely that the predicted cost will not materialize as planned anyway.

So how to solve this conundrum? Our next blog will help you to understand why a “traditional” approach of costing is not always appropriate for agile projects. Identifying the main TCO drivers and how costs scale may be more important than the exact value of all the business case components.