Outsourcing consultancy and research firm Information Services Group (ISG) this week unveiled a new research report to quantify the cost savings and productivity gains from automating IT services.
The inaugural Automation Index shows improvements in productivity fueled by automation can more than double the cost savings typically derived from outsourcing IT. Total cost reduction ranged from 26 percent to 66 percent, depending on the service tower, with 14 to 28 percentage points of these savings directly attributable to automation, according to ISG. (The typical cost savings from labor arbitrage and process improvements alone range from 20 percent to 30 percent).
The report is based on cost and labor data from ISG’s database covering outsourcing agreements with an annual contract value of $10 million or more in which service automation is a core component. The index is one of the first to quantify the impact of automation on IT services. Automation-related technologies and platforms improve the productivity of employees by enabling them to do more with less and prevent problems before they arise, translating into lower costs for buyers by not only reducing the number of provider employees needed to perform the work but also by reducing the amount of work that needs to be performed.
The result, says Steve Hall, partner with ISG Digital Services, is a buyer’s market that’s putting tremendous pressure on services providers to deliver more and more savings to stay competitive. “As automation moves up the IT process value chain and into business processes, it will eliminate a significant amount of work through problem avoidance and self-healing, and with it, a significant amount of the headcount needed to deliver large-scale ITO services,” Hall said in a statement accompanying the report.
Where automation has the biggest impact
Automation is having the biggest impact on areas in which employees manage physical devices, such as network services. Most IT towers see an average 25 percent decrease in the number of resources required as a result of automation, but certain IT services experience a 50 percent headcount reduction, according to ISG. ISG found that network and voice costs are declining by 66 percent mostly due to the convergence of voice, video and data solutions built on highly standardized and virtualized capabilities, an environment ripe for leveraging automation. Service desk and end user support costs declined by 26 percent due to increased adoption of self help and remote support, the introduction of self-healing functionality, and significant automation of level one and two incidents.
Most of today’s automation is focused on computerizing repetitive tasks based on standard operating procedures but more complex automation is beginning to emerge that takes advantage of more advanced data mining and machine learning capabilities, says Stanton Jones, ISG director of research. That higher-order automation can make operational decisions with no human involvement.
In order to seize the benefits of increased automation and plummeting IT services costs, however, buyers will have to transform to more standardized technology stacks across the IT organization. “The more clients standardize things like operating system instances, application interfaces, ITIL processes, and network infrastructure, the easier it is to automate operations,” says Jones. “Standardization means less interfaces, less complexity and fewer decisions that need to be made, therefore, it becomes easier to automate.”
Buyers should also approach process automation tools with standardization in mind. “Service providers are driving increased productivity into their services by using data mining and machine learning to aggregate and correlate data and then improve the quality and timeliness of decision making for routine and repetitive tasks,” Jones says. “Clients can enable and execute these transformations by accepting standard processes and technologies providers bring to the table.”