CA says BPM tools could assist ‘human shepherds’

Implementing a business process management tool can get rid of the “human glue” that is often needed to bind processes in an IT environment, a CA Inc. executive told the company’s user conference this week.

IT managers and their staff are what makes IT processes work, be it human to human, human to system, or system to system interaction, said Vinay Gidwaney CA’s vice-president of product development.

“There’s usually a human shepherd through all of this – someone holding the hand of the process and making sure each step is confirmed and figured out,” said Gidwaney, who with CA’s manager of development Tina Wang, spoke at a CA World 2007 session about demonstrating the business value of IT by using business process management technology.

Given that such processes are not automated, they are generally inconsistent, and prone to errors that make accurate reporting tricky, said Gidwaney. In addition, doing away with the nitty-gritty can mean more time to focus on longer-term initiatives and strategies.

But part of business process management is amalgamating responsibility across IT environments, he said, and recognizing that processes stretch across disparate disciplines (network systems, desktop management, support, security, etc.)

“It’s not as simple as saying that managing storage is backing up desktops, laptops, and servers. There’s more to that. There’s an approval process, user involvement, support process that all tie together,” said Gidwaney.

Deploying Microsoft Vista, for instance, is one such task that can be facilitated with business process management tools, said Wang. Process and rule templates are used to design the steps, which might include: notify user, open service desk ticket, back up machine, load Vista image, and close service desk ticket.

Contingencies can be built into the process definitions, to account for a user being out of the office.

Software asset attestation, or the process of managing application software licenses on users’ machines, can also be automated by defining steps and contingencies, said Wang.

The process steps might begin with an automatic e-mail to the user asking whether particular applications are used. If an application is not used, the next step would be to open a service desk ticket that will notify someone to remove the software.

“This brings in real information – not just that licences are there, but that it’s actually being used,” said Wang. Besides a cost savings on the purchase of software licences, automating the attestation process saves time and provides the ability to audit license use across the company, according to Wang.

Such a process, she added, can be set up to automatically run every six months.

For many CIOs, the challenge is marketing IT’s wares because often, IT is perceived as the organization’s support group or a supplier, when in fact, it needs to show that it is “an enabler of business strategy,” said Kevin Salvadori, executive vice-president of business transformation & CIO at Scarborough-based Telus Corp., at a recent event in Toronto.

“It’s important to frame your strategy in terms of what’s important to your business partners,” he said.

One way this can be done is to explain the business value of IT’s deliverables in terms of a tangible return on investment. For instance, a plan to shorten the average product development cycle from 12-15 months to 90 days is clearly relevant to the business.

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