What is Runbook Automation & What Can it Do for Your Team?

Erica Hayton
August 4, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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Runbook automation empowers any team member to tackle complex operational issues and problems. Ready to get started?
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Here's something you likely already know, but maybe haven't thought of. If you want your business operations to run efficiently, you need proper automation.

But when most teams implement automation, they focus on how to streamline simple busy work, time-consuming admin tasks or frustrating, repetitive processes. 

While this kind of automation is crucial for increasing team productivity, it can only do so much. 

Traditional automation falls short when tackling complex tasks or contingent processes — leaving subject matter experts to do the heavy lifting. When a problem only a skilled employee can solve arises, other processes get put on hold until the SME  can solve the problem. 

Employees become frustrated, customers get fed up and high-performing team members can’t allocate their skills to more complex tasks. 

What these teams need is runbook automation. 

What is runbook automation?

Runbook automation empowers any team member to tackle complex operational issues and problems by providing self-service access to resources, tools and automations, including incident management, service requests and more. 

Runbook automation tools go beyond copying and pasting data from one tool to another or calling APIs. It pulls the appropriate information and resources so your team can support various DevOps processes without depending on a subject matter expert. 

Basically, it helps you get the most out of your employee’s skills and empower all team members to level up. 

If a process or procedure doesn’t require human interaction, a runbook tool can automate it to allow teams to get more done in less time. 

Automation allows your team members to focus on more complex tasks without compromising efficiency.

🎓 Related Resource: How to Create a Runbook

Benefits of runbook automation

 We’ve already addressed how runbook automation can improve team efficiency and help solve issues faster — but how exactly does it accomplish this? Here are some of the biggest benefits of using runbook automation: 

1. Improved incident response time

Accidents happen — but when they’re not corrected quickly and adequately, they can lead to lost revenue and a damaged reputation. Without the assistance of the right tech stack, responding to incidents can be overwhelming and expensive. Rushed team members can make mistakes, further complicating already complex situations and creating even more frustration.

Runbook automation improves incident response time by automating simple processes and providing lower-level team members with the tools they need to solve problems only more skilled employees could solve previously. Issues are solved faster and team members have more time to fix problems.

2. More productive and engaged employees

One of the biggest benefits of automation is that your employees can be more productive. But as we mentioned earlier, traditional automation tools can only take your team so far. Runbook automation increases team productivity across the board, freeing up highly skilled and entry-level employees.

Runbook automation tools empower your team to operate at the next level, accomplishing tasks that push them outside their comfort zone. Employees can work more productively while feeling more challenged and engaged with their work. They’ll spend less time waiting for support and more time making progress.

3. Happier and more satisfied customers

When issues arise in your operations, they disrupt your customer experience. Customers or users need to wait until someone solves the problem to continue on their day-to-day — and if you’re running a platform or tool crucial for their success, their patience is probably pretty low.

Improve incident response time and increase team productivity to create stronger relationships with your customers. While runbook automation won’t prevent issues, it helps your team solve them quickly and efficiently. 

Customers can get back to using your service, product or tool as intended. You've improved your customer relationships, and now everyone wins!

3. Consistency and improved brand reputation. 

When customers know that your team can solve issues well, they’ll see you as a reliable brand with a strong reputation. Solving problems the same way each time is a consistent way to strengthen your brand reputation.

Runbook automation provides the instructions or automations your team needs to solve problems the same way each time, regardless of who is resolving the issue. 

Your customers will learn to depend on your team and your reputation as a reliable brand will grow. 

How to use runbook automation 

As with any tool, proper implementation is key. If you’re considering a runbook or playbook automation solution, here are the best practices to follow to ensure you’re getting the most from your new tool. 

Create auditable interactions and guardrails 

While runbook automation software gives resources and tools to team members who need them, you want to ensure only the appropriate team members can access specific resources and functions. 

Your runbook software should have guardrails that limit what team members can do with built-in checkpoints and an auditable activity log so administrators and supervisors can keep an eye on what’s happening. 

Optimize processes for maximum efficiency

 Runbook automation software helps you identify process steps that could hinder your productivity. Get the most out of your operations by streamlining efforts and maximizing performance and efficiency. 

Support fast-moving environments with knowledge distribution 

As methods and procedures change, you have to keep your team informed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Runbook automation software helps you stay on top of changes by facilitating knowledge distribution and sharing so your team always works from the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

Encourage collaboration for faster problem-solving 

Before runbook tools, teams had to solve issues based on only the knowledge of the person tackling the problem. When all that knowledge lives in one person’s head, it’s almost impossible to get things done. 

With runbook automation software, your team can collaborate to solve problems the right way — the first time around. 

Transform written process documents into code 

Written process documents outline how to execute certain systems or procedures — but following them manually is time-consuming, and often leads to error. 

 Use runbook automation to turn those processes into executable code. You’ll improve operational efficiency and reduce human error or confusion. 

Capture and store knowledge to prevent loss

When only your skilled employees can solve issues, that knowledge leaves when they do. 

If an SME accepts a new job outside the company, you risk losing vital institutional knowledge forever. Runbook automation software captures that knowledge and stores it securely — so when employees move on, you’ll retain their insights. 

Maintain industry standards and ensure data security 

The right technology can protect sensitive information to meet industry standards and regulations. Take the pressure off your team and allow self-service automation to take control so you follow essential processes or procedures correctly each time. 

When to use runbook automation 

Runbook automation works for teams that need to build a runbook for better systems or streamlined operations processes.. It’s particularly useful for growing teams that need support while scaling — adding more highly skilled team members. 

Runbook automation is also helpful for companies that experience delays when responding to tickets or find that their team frequently runs into complex problems that only a few team members can solve. Teams that struggle to fill knowledge gaps through training or hiring can also benefit from using runbook automation. 

But runbook automation isn’t designed to replace all your automation tools —pair it with the systems and processes you already have in place (or are designing) that help with day-to-day tasks — like calling APIs and moving data from tool to tool.

 Runbook automation is excellent support for the automation processes you’re already building that don’t provide enough support for your operational needs. 

Introducing runbook automation to your team 

Introducing runbook automation to your team requires proper implementation and tool adoption. 

If you prioritize getting things done the right way, that software will become a daily support tool for your team. 

Remember, in order for it to be effective, your team must know the appropriate way to use it, how it can support them, and what the constraints of the platform are. 

Proper tool implementation leans on process documentation and onboarding. Scribe can help you automatically generate step-by-step guides and process documentation that can lead your team through the various use cases, implementation phases and instructions on how to use the new runbook automation software you choose. 

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